Friday, April 29, 2011

Prince William's Uniform

So much has already been said about Kate Middleton's wedding dress. Sarah Burton, of Alexander McQueen designed it. It's reminiscent of the gown Princess Grace wore in the 1950's. The deep-V lace bodice was made from French and Chantilly lace. There.

Now can we take a look at what Prince William wore? He wore a red Irish Guards uniform, to signify his honorary rank as Colonel. On his sash were his Royal Air Force wings, and Golden Jubilee medal. It was gorgeous! I don't use this word a lot, but he certainly does look dashing.

And red, blue, black and gold happens to be my favorite color combination. Visually, I find it more interesting than Kate's wedding ensemble. There's no denying she looks beautiful, but can beautiful be boring? I say yes.

What can I say, I guess I'm a sucker for a man in uniform. Congratulations to Wills and Kate, and happy Friday!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Color Turquoise

When you walk into my house, you're instantly greeted with a shot of turquoise. When I first moved in, I asked my friend Janet, a former interior designer, to come over and advise me on paint colors. Among the many good advice she gave me, one was the recommendation that I paint the entryway with a color that would give the house its character and mood. What better color, I thought, than turquoise?

I have a mild obsession with the color turquoise. I think it's the perfect color. It's the sexy cousin to the color blue. It looks good on just about everyone - from fair redheads to dark brunettes. It's a strong color, but somehow not overbearing. It looks as good during the day as it does at night. And it looks girly-feminine and cool and sophisticated at the same time. Not many colors can do all that.

Given the way I feel about turquoise, it's not surprising that it's painted on my walls at home, accented with the color red. And this combo has creeped into my jewelry and logo as well. What can I say, when I see a good thing, I stick with it :) Some pics of my house and jewelry below.

The entryway:

My office, looking into the entryway:

Turquoise beaded flowers, work in progress:

Turquoise leather charm bracelet, with red silk ribbon (soon to be for sale):

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Inspiration: Alexis Bittar the "Wizard of Lucite"

Alexis Bittar makes beautiful jewelry. It's not particularly edgy, or quirky, or funky, it's just beautiful. Twenty years ago, when Alexis first came out with his Lucite collection, which was inspired by the 1930's bakelite jewelry, people didn't really see the value back then. Lucite is, after all, plastic, which is not known for its material worth. But, oh, what he can do with lucite! Creamy flower petals, intricately painted details, realistic ruffled edges... each piece is created from his proprietary seven-step process, that includes producing, cutting down, carving, sanding, and hand-painting.

According to his biography, Alexis started out making jewelry when his parents gave him a lot of antique jewelry on his 13th birthday. When he made his way to NYC, he started selling his one-of-a-kind pieces as a street vendor. His colorful and bold designs took off, despite the prevailing minimalist trend at the time. He soon grabbed the attention of designers and museums, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Alexis has come a long way from being a street vendor in NYC. He'll help Lucite International commemorate their 75 year anniversary with a design discussion, scheduled for streaming on YouTube May 11. I'll be watching.

Some of his amazing pieces from his Spring collection, from

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Andrea Wearing the Lucy Necklace

It always feels great when someone buys a piece of my jewelry. It's incredibly flattering. There's nothing quite like the feeling of making something with your hands, and someone liking it enough to pay you for it and wear it. It feels great whether the purchase is from someone I've never met before, or if it's from a friend. Although if it's a friend that buys from you, it feels even better. Plus, I get to take pictures :)

My good friend, Andrea Boudewijn, chef and owner of Superfine Bakery, is a recent customer. If you're in the market for a wedding cake, or knows someone who is, she's the one to call. These are not your run-of-the mill cakes. A rising star, she creates gorgeous and modern wedding cakes that will surely wow your guests. Visit her site to see what I mean.

She chose the Lucy necklace, which was also one of my personal favorites. Here are some pictures of her wearing it. She looks fabulous, doesn't she?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Downtown Brewery Artwalk

There is culture in Los Angeles, you just might have to look for it. And the good thing is, you don't even have to look that hard. Over the weekend, we went to the Brewery Artwalk, a twice annual free event in downtown Los Angeles. The Brewery is, according to their website, the world's largest art complex, with over 100 participating resident artists. The artists open up their studio over the weekend in the Spring and Fall to whoever is interested in coming by to share what they're working on. I love this idea and have gone to this event for about the last six years. If we're lucky enough to be invited into the homes of these innovative artists, I feel like we should go.

You definitely start feeling like you're about to experience something different as you walk into the complex. You're greeted with these sculptures and dolls:

We always stop by our friends Claudia and Ren's studio. Claudia, of Claudia Endler Designs, designs stunning, modern and architectural jewelry. You must visit her site to see what I mean. They've been renovating their studio for a few years now, turning their loft into an impressive living and working gallery space. They were gracious to give us a tour.

We popped into a few more studios, one of which was the studio of Bruce Gray. Bruce creates sculptures of metal, wood and found objects. The objects in his entire studio, other than his couch and tv, looked like they were created by him. Some of his notable pieces were his life size steel motorcycle, with the wheels coming from a train, and his huge(!) high heeled shoe sculptures. Fabulous.

Bruce also had the most interesting fish tank I've seen in someone's home. In the background of the fish are tons of live anemone:

And then we headed over to James Hill's studio. James creates large, modern sculptures from stainless steel. His work is featured in many public places, such as libraries and hospitals. I think one of his large sculpture would look fantastic in my garden, if we had one large enough to do it justice!

I hope I've given you a taste of what the artwalk is like, but if you're in the Los Angeles area, you should do yourself a favor and experience it for yourself.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Top 5 Statement Necklace Looks Worn by Celebrities

When Anna Wintour first put Kim Basinger on the cover of Vogue in 1991, she introduced us to an entire new culture of style icons. It makes sense, we can't help but be influenced by the people we feel we know, whose faces we see everyday on our movie and television screens, and larger-than-life stares from 100' billboards.

Today, entire publications and blogs are dedicated to celebrity style, with sprinkles of their jewelry thrown in. If I had it my way, the focus would be reversed, with more attention to jewelry and accessories than their clothes. To me, the jewelry is the outfit and the clothes are the accessories. Imagine the outfits in the list below without the necklaces - not the same is it?

So here's my top 5 list of statement necklaces I've seen worn by celebrities.
1. Malin Akerman wearing vintage Miriam Haskell:

2. Kate Moss wearing Fiona Paxton (I know, technically she's a model, but I consider her bordering the model/celebrity line)

3. Amanda Seyfried wearing Tom Binns (love the blue/magenta contrast):

4. Rihanna wearing Burberry:

5. Michelle Obama wearing Fenton Fallon (Michelle gives Carla Bruni, France's First Lady and a former model, a run for her money!)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Scandinavian Design

When people think of vintage jewelry, they might think first of American costume jewelry designers like Miriam Haskell, or European designers such as Givenchy. But Scandinavia, known primarily for their designs that are sculptural in nature, has some beautiful works as well.

Many Americans are familiar and fond of Danish design in furniture or mid century modern architectural design and decor, including me. Being married to a Dane and having been fortunate to visit Denmark on a few occasions, I've seen homes that have the typical Danish design look - clean lines, not overly designed and very chic.

Similarly, Scandinavian vintage jewelry tends to be minimal with just enough design flair. Usually in silver, the pieces are fluid and look like miniature sculptures. And because of their pared down designs, they generally never go out of style.

Here are some beautiful Scandinavian pieces:
Ring by Bjorn Weckstrom c. 1969, via Modenus:

Swedish necklace, c. 1958, via Collector's Weekly:

My brother-in-law's Danish designed living room:

My parents-in-law's Danish designed living room:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ayana Designs on Wedzu

We're excited to have been accepted by Wedzu launched late last year, I believe, and it's a curated marketplace for indie and handmade weddings. We'll soon have our storefront up and running but meanwhile, check them out, they have some great handmade wedding pieces.

Elizabeth Cascading Down Pearls Necklace

I know, you've heard it before - they don't make them like they used to. And in the case of Elizabeth Taylor, that's certainly true. She was a Movie Star. She made no pretense or apologies that she was Glamorous and Beautiful, and we loved her for it. But she didn't rely just on her beauty, this woman had acting chops. Who could forget her in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, in which she received her second Academy Award?

And I may not be in the majority, but I loved her marriage to contractor Larry Fortensky, who she met while they were both in the Betty Ford Center. It reinforces the idea that she made her own rules and did whatever the hell she wanted.

And in my humble tribute to her, I've named my latest necklace, after her. This necklace is for the woman doesn't follow any other rules but her own. This necklace is big but not overbearing - it doesn't wear you, you know what I mean? Each piece is hand beaded or hand set, then wired together to create a cascade of pearls, crystals, rhinestones and filigree. It would make quite a statement as a bridal necklace, or it would glam up your basic jeans and tee.

The Elizabeth necklace is now available on etsy :) thanks for looking.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Antiquing Stella the Dress Form

A vintage modern jewelry line calls for a vintage dress form. I love how an antique dress form instantly lends a romantic and moody feel. She's been places. She knows things. She has history. She's... pricey!

A search on ebay for a Wolf dress form, my brand of choice, shows these ladies going for $300 - $500 with some going for $1000. One day soon, I will have one of these ladies, but for now, this jewelry designer will need to recall her painting skills used as an art student and create a DIY version.

Here she is before the antiquing. Respectable enough, if a little bland.

I've found that most people love to graciously share their techniques on various things online, but surprisingly, how to antique a dress form showed few results. The most helpful I found was this post on My French Dress Form. She even took a picture of her supplies. Fabulous.

Off to Lowe's to buy the supplies, other than the primer and sandpaper which I already had. As the blog post suggested, I bought Valspar's Antiquing Glaze in Asphaltum (about $5):

And Valspar's Churchill Hotel Wheat paint (about $15 for one pint):

Now it's just a matter of painting and dabbing. First apply on the primer, wait to dry, then the paint. I used a sponge roller brush and really covered her thoroughly. One coat seemed like it was enough. When the paint dries, apply the antiquing glaze, which I watered down to thin. I was unsure whether to paint or to sponge, so I opted to sponge the glaze one area at a time, then rub into the dress form in order to blend into the paint to give it a more natural look. I applied in the areas where I thought she might naturally age and darken, which included around the seams and the curves. I focused on the front / neck  / bust areas first, since that's where the necklaces will be featured, then did the same for the back. To continue the antique look for the cap, I took some sandpaper I had in the garage and sanded down the edges and rubbed some of the glaze on that as well.

Now for the stamp... so many options. Should I try to mimic the shield across the chest, as on the Wolf and J.R. Bauman dress forms? Should I personalize the form by getting a custom Ayana Designs stamp, like this cute one by myrubberstamp on etsy? Or a 'Paris' stamp, to mimic the French dress forms?

In the end, I decided to get a simple fleur de lis stamp with a 'grunge' effect. I decided I wanted a simple stamp, small enough to put on her neck so it doesn't distract the necklaces. I think it worked out fine.

The stamp I got was from They were the only site I found where the cost of shipping wasn't more than the actual item. Plus they notified me when the item was shipped (the next day), and I received it in good shape. Am very pleased. And, btw, because I did a lot of research on stamps, I found these very cool ones by Tim Holtz, which I may get at some other point.

Fleur de lis stamp ($3.69 - ink pad not included. I got mine from Staples)

And the finished product - my vintage dress form Stella, wearing an Ayana Designs necklace, of course (soon to be up for sale). I'm already spotting some thin areas on the jersey where hopefully it'll begin to tear to really create the antique look.

Romantic, moody, and a touch of mystery. You'll be seeing a lot of her on my soon to be launched website.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Inspiration: Miriam Haskell Vintage Jewelry

It's a conversation that I have frequently with my friends who create: who or what do you get inspired by? I believe that most designs, whether in clothing, furniture or jewelry, are derived by designs that have already been created. The inspiration can come by way of a certain technique, color or style and you make it your own.  It's no coincidence that the world of fashion frequently pays an homage to a previous era. The current trend for this spring? It's all about the seventies!

One of my many inspirations come from costume jewelry designer Miriam Haskell. Her company designed stunning pieces of jewelry beginning in the 1920's. With $500 in her pocket, she opened her first boutique in NYC in 1926, with partner Frank Hess joining that year. Together they designed gorgeous pieces and put costume jewelry on the map as a viable option for women to have luxurious, stunning and affordable jewelry.

Miriam Haskell's name still lives on with new designers, and their pieces are works of art. They frequently use the cagework technique, which involves beading with wire onto pieces of filigree base. They then collage these pieces together, creating totally unique and beautiful arrangements. These are not pre-made brooches they stick onto necklaces - every piece is handmade and unique. While I incorporate this technique into my own necklaces, I am humbled by the years of experience and history of Miriam Haskell.

Here are some of her gorgeous pieces:
1940's brooch, early Frank Hess design (via Collectors Weekly)

Statement flower necklace, from the new La Boheme collection:

Flower silver cuff, from the new La Boheme collection:

Friday, April 8, 2011

Lucy in Crystal Flowers and Pearls Necklace

I've mentioned below that I'm working on a new line of vintage modern jewelry. In my previous style, you might recall, I weaved seed beads into designed panels. While I loved doing this, and still may incorporate this technique in the future, the call of using different materials like crystals and pearls were too strong to ignore.

After a few months of researching vendors, buying materials and designing and creating, my new line is about ready to be shared. I'm now in the process of getting photos taken and building a site. Still a lot to do, but in the meantime I thought I'd share this piece that is ready.
I've named her Lucy. Something about the crystal flowers and large pearls mixed with the small ones made the name seem appropriate. I hand-beaded the crystal flowers with Swarovski rose montee crystals. The beading technique is called cagework, which involves wiring crystals or beads onto a filigree base. In the center of each crystal flower is a freshwater pearl. The gold flower is a dogwood flower. I like how it doesn't take itself too seriously. In the center of this flower is a 10mm Swarovski crystal.

You can view this piece on etsy. More pieces to follow! Thanks for looking.