the blog of jewelry designer

November 14, 2011

Recent Trip to Asia and Our Thoughts Are With the People of Thailand

I have recently returned from another trip to Asia. This will be a recurring theme in my blog being that my jewelry is produced there. Plus each trip is such a new and unique experience I have to share! Erin (my operations person) and I first flew to India on our most recent trip to Asia. We recently started new product development with a great group in Mumbai of whom we are very excited about! My first morning there, I tried several different types of Indian breakfast food at the buffet--one of which was called uttapam served with 3 different types of chutney--coconut, tomato, and yogurt chutney--all very yummy!

We had wanted to see the city on the day (Sunday) we had free, but literally our hosts and everyone of whom we asked at the hotel said you cannot leave the hotel area today because it was a major holiday...there were massive celebrations in the streets making it impossible to get around easily. A taxi driver also refused to take us to the areas we were interested in seeing. This holiday (the "Final Darshan") was about processions of priests and devotees escorting their idols in statue form to reach various "Chowpatty" (means beach in India) for immersion of the idols into the water.

While I so desperately wanted to see those processions, everyone discouraged us, so our focus became eating Indian food in our immediate area, then resting and watching news which included the moving footage of the 9/11 10th anniversary happenings in New York.

Our last night there, our hosts took us to a great Indian restaurant called Peshawri. They encourage you to only eat with your bare hands and also to wear an apron--while this is possibly a bit touristy and a little gimmicky, we loved it and loved the food! Here is Erin with her apron.

I typically get at least 3 or more foot massages during my trips to Bangkok--they are so wonderful and so affordable. This last trip was the busiest working trip I have ever experienced, but I was able to fit in 2 quick foot massages--a 30-minute one at the Bangkok airport on my departure home; and the other was fitting in a 15 minute foot massage prior to a business dinner at Sala Thip at the Shangri-La Hotel. This massage therapist caught our eye with her extra-friendly smiling face through the window as we were pulling into the hotel for dinner.

We spent 3 days at the Bangkok Gem Fair--this booth was full of all types of gemstones in their rough form and primarily from Africa. (take note of the bags and bags loaded with gorgeous rough...a jewelry designer's heaven!!)

Here is a new stone we are introducing in Spring 2012 in its rough form and as cabochons. I won't say yet what it is...but it's gorgeous!

Our thoughts are with the people of Thailand right now with the devastating flooding that they are experiencing. The U.S. news has not been posting much about these floods, but I am familiar with the happenings because it is affecting the several places where our jewelry is made...fortunately, about 80% of our artisan groups have not been affected as tremendously as others. But they all have been setback in a big way. One of the workplaces experienced 4-5 feet of flooding waters and now it's down to about 1-2 feet. And in places where the workplace is halfway up and running, the workers have trouble getting to work--many areas can only be reached by boat. Their water system is greatly contaminated because of septic tanks being flooded. Electricity is out (has been out) in many places. People who would normally stay in their homes (to protect them) although they are flooded are leaving because of the stench. There are countless sad stories that are reminiscent of the stories of Hurricane Katrina. The flooding began in the country in late July and has killed 529 people, mostly by drowning.

On a personal note, here is Lexi--a cute little Cairn Terrier mix of whom I am fostering. Whitney (my pug mix) and I are still getting to know her. We love her and highly likely will keep her. Rather, I should say I love her. Whitney is very jealous and working on not being the only dog/only child in the household--tough times. My poor calico cat Meadow is freaking out right now.

November 1, 2011

A little bit of schooling....

I decided to refresh my knowledge on colored gems by taking a gemstone course at the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts in San Francisco about 2 months ago. I wondered if I would be bored in the class being that I have 15 years in my jewelry business, but I ended up learning so many incredible things. The earth is full of so many surprises in the way of gems!

One of my favorite things I learned....

(angelio batle graphite sculptures and gorgeous pile of diamonds)

Graphite and diamond are two of the most interesting minerals. They have the same chemical composition: both are composed of carbon, but physically, they obviously are very different. When you look at the graphite and diamond, it is hard to imagine that they are identical chemically, for they are so different physically! Graphite is opaque and metallic to earthy-looking, while diamonds are transparent and brilliant. Another obvious physical difference is their hardness. The hardness of minerals is compared using the Mohs Hardness Scale, a relative scale numbered 1 (softest) to 10 (hardest). Graphite is very soft and has a hardness of 1-2 on the scale. Diamonds are the hardest known natural substance and have a hardness of 10. No other naturally occurring substance has a hardness of 10. Either way, each are beautiful in their own right...I could go on and on because I find this so facinating!..but I won't. ;)

I get asked all the time who takes the gorgeous photographs of all my jewelry. So I thought I should finally share...John Parrish photographs all of my work, and not only is he an incredible jewelry photographer, but also an amazing person with whom to do business! National magazines have even used his photographs of my jewels (Town & Country Magazine for example). I have been in this business for a long time, and it is essential to have great photographs of the jewels..thus, I have tried and test many, and by far, John is the best. Below are some of his most recent images of my Fall sterling silver and 18 karat collections.

August 9, 2011

Nature's Inspiration

Once again, I am inspired by nature. These beautiful waters are very different from the turquoise water of the Bahamas. I recently visited Jackson Hole and these waters are from Yellowstone National Park's Caldera or Supervolcano, which is an area of lots of geothermal activity. Apparently it is a result of a great cove of magma located below the caldera's surface--these waters are so hot, that some of them are boiling--so they are not for swimming! The vivid colors in the spring here are the result of pimented bacteria in the microbial mats that grow around the edges of the mineral-rich water. The bacteria produce colors ranging from red to green. Love the contrast of colors...gorgeous right?!So much in nature influences my design decisions and especially stone choices: london blue topaz, chrysacola, dendritic quartz, pearl, abalone, aquamarine, rutilated quartz, and turquoise..the list could go on and on...all stones I see reflected in this one body of water, and at one point or another, I have used in my designs. It is nature that draws me to travel and it is these experiences in nature that inspire a majority of my work. This is another hot spring from a beautiful.
If you can believe it, I am off to Thailand again to finalize my Spring 2012 collection! I am sure I will have much to share from this trip...

Until next time...



June 29, 2011

The Bahamas

I just returned from a family trip to Harbour Island in the Bahamas. The pink sands and turquoise waters truly inspire me. It was actually on a trip to the Bahamas 15 years ago that inspired me to start my business!

Eliza, my niece, and I are sharing a yummy virgin pina colada at the Blue Bar at the Pink Sands Resort. I actually named some of my most recent designs in gold after Eliza, and they just so happen to have become best sellers! Turquoise Eliza pendant on strand of 18" pearls

You must check out our website (or a retailer near you) for our latest turquoise pieces in the 18kt and sterling silver collections...perfect for the summer season! 18kt mirabella earrings, sterling silver simone stacking rings, and coco ring.

Eliza and I built our own bakery on the beach. I "baked" quite a few "Pink Sand Cake Balls." The gorgeous beigy pink sand is made up of bits of coral, broken shells, and the tiny bright pink shells of a tiny microscopic animal--this is what gives the sand it's beautiful pink color.

My brother-in-law took us snorkeling on my first day there, and we found this sea biscuit (no worries, we made sure that it had no marine life inside of it). Someone dropped it and it broke into what you see here--I had no idea that the interior of a sea biscuit looks like this--it is very reptilian looking inside. Nature is incredible. Beautiful isn't it?

The view from my room at sunset. I am really looking forward to return hopefully very soon!

I am off to Jackson Hole, WY for a trunk show at the cutest store, Goodie 2 Shoes, and for some vacation time for the 4th. If you are going to be in Jackson Hole you have to come by for the trunk show and to visit this great store. Hope everyone has a safe and happy 4th of July with friends and family!

Until next time...xoxo, Elizabeth

May 9, 2011

Thank you Mom

(Elizabeth and her mom, Jan in 1971)

I drove to my home town on Sunday to celebrate Mother's Day with my parents. We ate yummy fried chicken and butter beans along with cold asparagus and tomato salads - good southern comfort food that reminds me of all my growing up years. I still feel so "at home" in this house in which I spent the first 17 years of my life. I know this has so much to do with the way that my mom has designed each room there...while she still constantly makes changes to the house inside-and-out, I always feel safe and secure there as if nothing has ever changed. She truly knows how to capture our family's essence within the home.

I was 7 years old when my mom started her design business...I remember sitting in the sunporch with her when she was designing her first business card-there was a hand-drawn butterfly on the card-I thought, "my mom is so cool!".

My dad recently sent this photo to me and called it "Days of Hair and Smokin'" (the "hair" reference is due to his slight hair loss in recent years and "smokin" is for the Kool Menthol in my mom's hand - I know my mom would want you to know that the "smokin" ended almost 40 years ago!).

She and my Dad just celebrated their 50th anniversary. WOW! How time flies! They are an example of an incredible partnership to me.

I am so fortunate and grateful to have the mom that I have. I wouldn't be the woman I am if it were not for her. God only knows what career path I would have chosen if I had not had her amazing influence. Most importantly, she has blessed me with strong values of humility, being a good listener, compassion for others, and love. Thank you, Mom!

Check out the fun interview Modern Luxury Dallas did for their May issue with my mom and me! We had such a great time answering all of their questions together.

Until next time....xoxo Elizabeth

April 27, 2011

Bangkok Trip

I just returned from a product development trip to Bangkok, Thailand. While Erin (my operations manager) and I were super-busy every day finalizing my Fall Collection (which I CANNOT WAIT to share with you..not now..but soon!!), without much time to explore the city, we arrived early enough to have a day of reprieve from the long flight(s) and the 12 hour time difference.

We had a yummy lunch at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which sits on the Chao Phraya River--this is probably my favorite hotel in Bangkok. Here is a photo of the beautiful flowers of Thailand creatively suspended from the ceiling in the lobby of the hotel. If you have never seen the flowers of Thailand they are truly amazing...stunning really

While at lunch I asked to be served a salty snack that I had noticed when we walked past their bar--while they quite possibly might not look appetizing to you in this photo, it's my new favorite yummy crunchy salty snack...they are fried and salted lima beans!! I later bought a little package of these little treats at a 7-11 near our hotel (you should see the huge difference in food and drink items between an American 7-11 and a Thai 7-11).

Here is Erin above (after our lunch) standing in front of the Chao Phraya River, which is a very popular area to visit when traveling to Thailand. We left this area to go to the Chatuchak market--which is a weekend shopping market with 8000 shopping stalls on 35 acres...needless to say, we visited just a few booths.

On Monday, we started working. Here is one of our Thai artisians making our Simone hoop in chrysoprase along with a photo of chrysoprase in its rough form.

The next picture is mother of pearl in its raw shell form--pretty cool, huh? We use a very thick piece of white mother of pearl for our large Simone Hope Star earrings, so as you can see, not many of these earrings can be made from one shell because there is only one part of the shell that's thick enough from which to cut this shape.

What looks like chopsticks are actually setting sticks used to set these tiny Simone-shaped stones into the Simone stacking rings.

This is lavender chalcedony rough...seeing gems in their rough form always reminds me of how my jewelry comes out of the earth, and then I just add a little design to it! Beautiful, isn't it?!

This is right outside of the building where some of our stones are cut, carved and polished. It's a great representation of how many people have a motorcycle in Bangkok--it seems to be the primary mode of transportation, and there doesn't seem to be any law about how one can drive a motorcycle...believe me!

Erin and I had to book a horrible route for our return from Bangkok, as it was during the Thai New Year holiday, thus good flights were hard to get with how late we booked our tickets. Therefore, we took FOUR FLIGHTS to return with a 6 hour layover in Korea in the middle of the in preparation for this long 32+ hour journey, we scheduled a half-day of facials and massages on the morning before we departed. Health Land (pictured below) is a spa that I typically go to at least a couple of evenings per week after a long work day--you can get a Thai massage there for about $20 for 2 hours! I have discovered less expensive options, but with Health Land, I know that I am always guaranteed a good massage therapist.

And because she belongs in every blog entry... this is my sweet dog Whitney on the morning of my departure for Bangkok...she knew what was going on...and very unhappy about it. But she is always well taken-care-of and loved on while I am gone!

It was a fabulous and successful trip to Thailand but it is always good to be home! Until next time....xoxo Elizabeth

March 30, 2011

It has been a whirlwind since my last blog post! We have had so many great changes around here. With the biggest change being an additional sales person, Michelle Mims.

My other salesperson of 3 1/2 years, Karen Bates Novakowski, took maternity leave for 3 months to focus on the arrival of her little girl, Eva, and just returned this month.

Personally, I have been busy designing Fall 2011. I took a trip to Tucson in early February, and had quite an amazing adventure. It was unlike any experience I've ever had shopping for gems. Something new has switched on within me, and I am nerdily becoming obsessed with rocks and fossils. If I could use dinasour bones in my jewelry I would. I just haven't figured out a feminine way to do it yet, but I'm sure I will. I went into a trance while shopping and became lost in it. It's truly incredible what comes out of our Earth! These are just a few things I found during my trip. I cannot wait to incorporate some of these beautiful stones into some of my one-of-a kind pieces!

My designs for Spring and Summer are so feminine, like these clothing styles for the season. Our gemstone choices are the perfect fit with the current color pallette. Rather, I should say our gemstone color pallette not only fits "now", but also will remain lasting options moving forward...that is to say, while they work with the current trends, they are not "trendy"!

On a recent trip to New York I spent time with my mom and sister. We are now making an annual trip together. Here is Susanna and my mother at The Waverly Inn.

I'd been wanting to check out the Waverly Inn, especially since I'd seen, "Public Speaking", a Martin Scorsese HBO documentary, which examines the life and work of author Fran Lebowitz. It was filmed almost entirely in "her booth" at The Waverly Inn with Martin Scorsese interviewing her. I highly recommend this film. To say that she is quite hilarious would be a gross understatement. Her favorite thing in life is basically being asked for her opinion on anything.

After my mom and sister left New York, I worked for a couple of days meeting with editors in the city, so this put me in New York on Valentine's in aniticipation of wanting a dinner date on Valentine's Day night, I had called my sure-to-make-me-laugh friend, Ray Griffiths (a fellow Jewelry Designer who in his previous life designed and hand-crafted tiaras in his homeland of Australia. Yes, that's what I said, tiaras!). We ate a yummy dinner at one of his favorite restaurants, Almond, on East 22nd and 5th Avenue.

I am leaving for Thailand in just a few days to finalize our Fall 2011 Gold and Silver Collections. We are testing a form of making gold jewelry that is new to me and my company--I am excited about this new adventure.

To be continued upon my return....