Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
I saw lady apples today in the market. You know, those miniature yellow and red apples, about the size of a ping-pong ball. Every time I see them I am reminded of my grandmother. She loved those lady apples. I never buy them, but I always linger for a moment and remember her. My grandmother had a great influence on my life and I like to think that I resemble her - if not physically then in terms of certain traits and characteristics. I named my first daughter for her and I cherish the times when I daydream about her presence in my life.
My grandmother had one of those amazing life stories. Born in Russia (now it is Moldova) she was poor, persecuted and suffered a great deal of loss early in her life. When she was young her father owned a bookstore where famous philosophers and writers were known to hang out. But at an early age her mother died. When she was not yet a teenager her father and older brother came to America to make money and later send for them leaving his three daughters with their elderly grandmother. And as so many stories like this go, the grandmother died, World War I broke out and for many years my grandmother never heard from her father and brother. She and her younger sisters survived purely by their resourcefulness and will.
My grandmother had a striking sense of style and was a talented dressmaker. When she came to the US, she never worked in a sweat shop like many of her generation of immigrants to NYC. She worked on fine dresses, deftly able to hand roll a silk hem, or hand bead a dress bodice. She had amazing talent and an incredible sense of style. My grandmother lived with us when I was growing up from my tween years until I left for college. I spent many hours sitting with her and watching her work, talking, answering her inquiries about my day, my friends, my adventures.
Later in her life she started making exquisite life-like beaded flowers from tiny seed beads. She made orange and black poppies and fresh white daisies. Her hands were never idle - even when she sat and talked with you she was always folding her skirt fabric or apron or purse handle into different fan patterns. She could make something out of nothing. A gown from a piece of cloth. Fabulous embroidered table clothes from ordinary fabric and thread. And flowers from beads and wire.
My grandmother lived to be 96 years old. She was vibrant and with-it until her very last year. Even in her early 90s she had a great wardrobe - pant suits, dresses, blouses that she always “tweaked” in some way to express herself “just so”. Some days when I am working at my workbench, especially beading, I think of her. I think that maybe, just maybe, my work creating jewelry, stringing beads and working in patterns ties me back to her. I only hope that I possess some degree of her talent and style. I am grateful for her influence on my life and for the warm, well-worn memories that I have of her.
Saturday, October 03, 2009
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Layering necklaces is a technique that has been around for years and is still going strong. It is understandable as it allows you to vary your look, be creative and create custom looks. So next time you are trying to decide which necklace to wear, consider wearing them all. OK, not really, that would be overdoing it. But with some editing and experimentation you can accomplish some interesting looks.
On this Fall’s runways designers showcased layered and stacked jewelry, really piling it on. Nested bib-necklaces closely circling the neck and stacked bangles from wrist to elbow were most dominant.
Here are a few pointers to consider when layering up:
- Start with a long necklace and then add a shorter pendant.
- Layers of stones work best if you stick to one color story. Definitely mix stone necklaces with metal chains for a textural look.
- It is safest to stick with one metal - silver with silver, gold with gold. If you mix, which can be a very sophisticated look but harder to pull off, combine similar finishes, ideally antiqued gold and antiqued silver.
- If you want to be more subtle, try layering delicate chains of various lengths but similar widths or thicknesses.
- Wear all of this over solid basics to highlight the jewelry and not overdo it.
- Remember, long necklaces create long vertical lines which offer a flattering look.
If you are uncertain, then look for necklaces that are already layered for you. And then, go ahead and pile it on!
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Pearls, the gem of Queens and the queen of gems. These little spherical gems, grown in oysters (or mussels in freshwater), are amazing accidents of nature. Pearls are the natural reaction of the oyster to an irritant. A genuine pearl (whether occurring naturally or cultured) starts with a grain of sand or a small foreign object that becomes lodged within the oyster. As a reaction, the oyster secretes a substance to cover the irritant and soften its edges, making it less irritating. This substance is called nacre. Over time, layer upon layer of nacre is applied to the irritant and thus a pearl is born. The more layers of nacre, the larger the pearl, the deeper the shine and lustre on the surface - the more beautiful the pearl!
Both naturally occurring and cultured pearls are genuine pearls (vs. imitation pearls which are man made beads of glass or other materials which are made to look like pearls). Natural pearls happen by accident in the oyster and are found by accident as well, making them rare and valuable. On the other hand cultured pearls are “farmed”. Oysters are suspended on racks in ponds, irritants are inserted, time passes while the oyster covers the irritant with layers of nacre, and then after a number of years the pearls are harvested. As a result of this human intervention cultured pearls are more plentiful. And that means that what used to be the exclusive purview of royalty and aristocrats is now more abundant and affordable.
The quality, size and shape of freshwater cultured pearls vary widely with the depth and quality of the nacre being the greatest determinant of quality. Some pearl farmers pull their crop too early (trying to cash in) before the nacre layers have gotten deep enough and hard enough. This impatience creates an inferior pearl. Oysters require two or more years to create a beautiful pearl.
Once pearls leave the belly of the oyster, they need people in order to remain beautiful. If they are left unworn in a vault or a drawer, they can turn yellow and brittle. But worn on the skin they become more luminescent. Stories abound through history of palace servants warming their mistress’s pearls by wearing them while doing chores during the day so that when the mistress donned them in the evening they would be warm and luminous.
Here are a few of the dimensions to consider when assessing pearls:
Size - ranges dramatically from small seed pearls to 20mm or larger.
Luster - is the depth and glow on the surface of a pearl. It is an indication of the amount of time the pearl spent in the oyster and the number of layers of nacre that the oyster applied to the pearl. Pearls should have a luminous glow and depth.
Shape - can vary greatly, especially with many of the newer cultured pearl processes. As for round pearls, one rarely finds a perfectly round pearl. In fact today many interesting shapes add value and interest, such as baroque, stick or coin shapes.
Surface - the surface of a pearl, while never without a blemish, should be smooth and without cracks or peeling. Again, some pearls have unique and interesting surface bumps and textures that can make them more valuable and interesting.
Color - natural pearls are white, cream or black. Otherwise, there is a huge industry of dyed and color treated pearls. Today a cultured pearl can be had in almost any shade of any color!
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
If you haven't yet heard about The Uniform Project, then you must check it out. The adorable Sheena Matheiken has committed to wearing the same dress for an entire year (don't worry, she actually has seven identical dresses, one for each day of the week), making it interesting and different each day with accessories and creative ensembles. She is using primarily vintage, hand-made and hand-me-down accessories to vary her look each day as an exercise in sustainable fashion.
Thursday, July 02, 2009
Boy, it sure was hot last week in Dallas. Exhibiting at the Dallas Home and Gift Market was one thing, but the outside temps were over 100-degrees each day I was there. Had a great time, opened some new accounts and met some great folks. Oh yeah, and ate some really good food!
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
"I like to think of them as something a woman buys and wears to express herself and her style," says Altman, who fashions large, distinctive pieces from gemstones and artifacts collected from around the world.
"It's just a personal passion that I've always had and wanted to do myself and found that it worked for me," she says.
And has it. Since launching her own line, Altman has sold her jewelry as far away as Saudi Arabia.
"In many ways, it has exceeded what I thought it would be and, in many ways, it's been enormously more challenging than I thought it would be," she says.
With her signature collection retailing for between $300 and $600, Altman sells most of her work in galleries, art museum stores and high-end boutiques across the country. But for Altman, the sale isn't savored as much as the connection to her clients.
"The most rewarding thing is to see someone putting a piece of my jewelry on. It's not just about me and my creative process, but now I've connected with another person and it makes them feel good, so that's the reward right there," she says.
Another reward for Altman is traveling the globe to find the many components her imagination calls for. Otherwise, you'll find her in her Greensboro studio, creating world-class jewelry made right here in North Carolina.
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Monday, May 04, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
For the past year-plus I have had the pleasure of working with two very innovative women, Sheryl Bryan and Patricia Chrisley, on the launch of their new company, JuJu. They are offering a fabulous new product - jewelry for your home! Beautiful gem encrusted ornaments that you can drape over a headboard (or on an armoire, or mantel, or...anywhere) to add a gorgeous detail and focal point to a room. These pieces are encrusted with pearls, amethyst, garnets, turquoise...and are punctuated with carved pieces of jade and cinnebar. They are covered in hammered metals and lucious metallic printed leather.
I have thoroughly enjoyed working on these designs and with the fabulous team that Patricia and Sheryl have pulled together. Hopefully you will see my signature on these pieces. I am certain that if you enjoy my jewelry you will enjoy these JuJus! These pieces are all individually produced and hand- made in the USA.
Their website is www.myjujustyle.com and they have a facebook page (become a fan!). They will be at highpointMARKET at Villas at Showplace, space 1101. So definitely stop by and see this exciting new product.
Meanwhile, here are a few photos.
This last photo is of a pair of curtain tie-backs with a hammered copper center (don't they look like cufflinks?). These are the result of an exciting design collaboration with Lyn Hurst of Lyn Hurst Designs. In addition to the JuJu furniture jewelry pieces, JuJu is offering a coordinated collection of headboards, cornices and tie-backs -- all jewelry-inspired and gemstone encrusted!
Really folks, these things are beautiful so if you are in High Point stop by Villas at Showplace, or just keep track of this on the web, on my blog, and in the inevitable media coverage.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
We spent most of the trip in Vietnam. First let me dispell any notions that you may have about the Vietnamese having bad feelings toward Americans. While the older Vietnamese don't want to talk about the war (they call it the American war), the Vietnamese in general have a particular affinity for Americans. They love Americans. In his wonderful book titled "Vietnam Now", author David Lamb says about the relationship between Vietnam and America: "...Americans and Vietnamese share an almost inexplicable bond. It is not the bond of natural friendship that Americans might feel for, say, Australians...rather it is something deeper and more mysterious. It is a liaison woven in tragedy and common suffering...perhaps as much as anything, the bond is rooted in the realization that the war changed the United States as much as it did Vietnam"
This trip was enormously rewarding, challenging and curious. I enjoyed time with my family, and met interesting people along the way.
We trekked among the rice paddies...
and climbed to beautiful waterfalls...
We ate street food...
Vietnam is a country full of promise, filled with people who are hard working and industrious. Unfortunately there is still grinding poverty, disease and many undeveloped ways. But since the Doi Moi (the government's free market reforms) everyone is an entrepreneur of sorts and with this the standard of living is rising, albeit slowly. I was happy to see that so many artisans are relying on their skills to make a living. While there are factories going up, and most Vietnamese are farmers, there is still a great pride among these artisans that they are able to use their craft to support themselves and their families. I will close with pictures of various artisans - weavers, potters, silversmith, wood carver. They were truly inspiring.