FRANKFORT — From eggshell to earring, brooch, or pendant: The hens living at Lally Broch Farm provide the most important part of the exquisite jewelry designed and crafted by Sonja Twombly.
The secret ingredient? Eggshell. Twombly crafts mosaic eggshell jewelry that’s gaining a statewide market with Maine women.
Sonja and her husband, Sean, operate Lally Broch Farm, located on 4 acres on Loggin Road in this northern Waldo County town. Last January Sonja started carefully making and selling her jewelry. She also worked as the full-time marketing director for D & L Management, which owns McDonald’s restaurants in Hancock and Waldo counties and elsewhere.
Sean works full time as a maintenance man for apartment complexes in Holden and Winterport.
Then there’s the farm, which the Twomblys are expanding. They raise goats (Lamanchas, Nigerian dwarfs, and Oberhasli), more than 100 fowl (including chickens, ducks, geese, guinea keets, and turkeys), and Angora rabbits. Sharing the farm are Jasmine, a 33-year-old horse spending her golden years in paddock comfort, and Ebony, a 9-year-old registered Vietnamese potbelly pig.
“We’re not a rescue farm,” Sonja stressed as she milked Ruby, an Oberhasli dairy goat registered with the American Dairy Goat Association. “We’re a business … that doesn’t eat or cull our animals.” The Twomblys, who are not vegetarians, buy their own meat from a local farmer.
At Lally Broch Farm, “everything has to pay its own way and make a little bit of profit,” Sonja said. By carefully breeding their hens and goats, the Twomblys can sell chicks and kids that bring higher prices than non-breed offspring. The dairy goats provide milk that Sonja makes into goats’ milk soap bars sold as far away as China. She also makes and sells Lally Broch Farm Scent Shots.
All these critters require care, from feeding to milking (the goats) to egg gathering. By midsummer 2013, her mosaic eggshell jewelry was becoming so popular that Sonja “realized I had to make a decision.” She left her full-time job in August to concentrate on the farm and her craft.
Roosting at night in a coop built by Sean, the chickens spend each day looking for food inside their large pen (formed with 6-foot sections of chainlink fences) or in the farmyard. The hens and roosters can fly over the fence, as several demonstrated while the Twomblys milked their dairy goats on this cool, overcast November morning. All the chickens return to their pen each evening.
Among the chicken breeds living on the farm are Rhode Island Reds, Buff Cochins, Easter Eggers, and White Leghorns. Hens lay “cageless eggs” wherever they want, “and finding them can be challenging at times,” Sonja said. Eggs are gathered daily; those eggs that the Twomblys want to hatch are placed beneath a brooding hen. The chicks are sold to other farmers; unhatched eggs are purchased by area residents “who like the taste of farm-fresh eggs,” Sonja said.
“In our high season we get 17 dozen eggs a week,” she said.
And yet other eggs go into her carefully crafted jewelry. Sonja works “with a dozen eggs at a time,” eggs colored brown, white, light blue, and even green, depending on the breed of hen. Without giving away her craft’s secrets, she explained that “I can make more than one piece [of jewelry] at a time,” and “every piece is going to be different.
“No two pieces are exactly the same,” Sonja said. “I create what I feel like creating that day. I paint when I feel like painting; it makes a huge difference.”
She uses three primary colors — marine blue, ochre, and vermilion — to paint her jewelry. Because Sonja mixes a fresh batch of paint each time she paints, the shades are never exact, which adds to the jewelry’s appeal.
Colors vary in popularity; red and orange are “big in the fall,” blue and green in the summer, Sonja said.
Her product lines includes earrings, pendants, and letter jewelry. While exhibiting her jewelry at a Nov. 2 craft fair held at Anah Shrine in Bangor, Sonja fielded several questions about brooches; responding to a perceived market for such jewelry, she has started designing and crafting colorful brooches.
“We have a special line of jewelry” introduced after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, Sonja said. “It’s ribbon jewelry. I paint the ribbon on the jewelry. The pink for breast cancer is very popular,” but other colors are available.
“The color of the ribbon” depends “on the cause it symbolizes,” she said.
“Twenty pieces [of ribbon jewelry] just went to a Philadelphia hospital” that wanted to give the jewelry to cancer survivors, Sonja said.
The jewelry’s unique designs and colors are catching on with women. “At a craft fair, everybody walks by the table and says, ‘Jewelry, oh, nice,’” Sonja said. “When we tell them [that] it’s [made from] eggshell, that draws more interest.
“I’ve found this is a product that sells well when we are there to explain it,” she said.
Two local stores, Out of the Woods in Belfast and Celtic Moon Rising in Brewer, carry her jewelry, which also is available online. The Twomblys display the jewelry at different Maine craft fairs; so far Sonja has shown her jewelry only in Maine, but she hopes to place some examples in Florida stores this winter.
Customers are asking for customized pieces. “One women wants me to make her an owl,” Sonja said. “Another would like a fish.”
For information from Lally Broch Farm, call 323-4982 or go to lallybrochfarm.org or etsy/shop.com/LallyBrochFarm.