Principles of Design

I doubt that one of the people with the biggest influences on me would even remember my name.

Study the basic concepts of figure, ground, line, contrast, pattern, proportion, color, symmetry, movement, unity, and balance. Students learn the principles of two- and three-dimensional design and develop language to analyze product design, plate presentations, decoration, and packaging on visual, tactile, and conceptual levels.

In 2004, I was quite young, yet already three years into my culinary career, and already terribly jaded. I had an associates degree in culinary arts, and had worked in several restaurants of varying quality, back of the house, front of the house, a little bit of everything. And I was accepted to what is probably still considered “the Harvard of culinary schools” into the baking and pastry program.

I had started out my culinary career as wanting to pursue the savory side, and that the sweet side was all wedding cakes, bread, and bakeries – nothing I was interested in. It was midway through my associates degree that I fell in love with pastry. With pastry, you could make anything you wanted utilizing several fundamental ingredients – namely sugar, butter, eggs, flour. And suddenly it was like my world opened. With savory food, you were tied to ingredients and keeping those ingredients recognizable. Who would want to eat a chicken thigh that looks like a flower? Baking did not have aesthetic limits.

Boom.

Which is how I found my way to The Culinary Institute of America, and specifically to Bruce Ostwald’s Principles of Design class, the first college level art class I ever took. Sure, the curriculum was based around food, creating plates that would have interesting textures and colors, as well as incorporating different complementary flavors and temperatures. But at the heart of this class was design – art. Visuals. Contrast. Texture. Negative space. Color. Movement. So while I was trying my hardest to continue cramming knowledge about food into my brain, my heart was learning something else – creativity. Expressing myself through a variety of mediums.

 

The problem was, sugar and chocolate couldn’t hold my interest. I was too interested in people, and when you make food, you have essentially no contact with the people you’re making it for.

Less than two years later that I returned to school, and this time I was aiming for art history. I had picked up some culinary French, and I had always had an interest in architecture, so art history made sense.

Until it didn’t.

At 22, I had just spent five years working towards a career that I really enjoyed, but that felt somewhat lacking in the practicality department – the restaurant world is very difficult to have a family in, and making a living wage seemed downright impossible – I had the best culinary school in the country on my resume and was only able to command $9/hour with no benefits. What sort of career could a bachelor’s degree in art history give me? On top of that, I felt like an anomaly – my peers were just graduating with their four year degrees, and I was already well on my way to being career changer.

So while the practical side of me chose something that was somewhat more useful – a bachelor’s in psychology is applicable in a variety in positions, though not exactly a career jump starter – I used everything in the rest of my background’s arsenal, including my interest in my father’s long time career, to gain enough momentum to create another career for myself. Which, over the years, I have turned into my day job.

And then there is the creative side, which you see here, where the spark that was discovered through Mr. Ostwald’s design class has been a glowing ember and has turned into a bonfire. Only, it’s in jewelry, rather than food. Because I can work one on one with my clients, and hopefully create something that they hold dear for years, or even generations, to come.

My most memorable piece in my principles of design class was mixed media on blue background, with diamonds cut from magazine ads exploding outwards. I should have known.

 

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The Hermit from the Pacific Northwest

When we moved from California, we really had no idea what we were getting into. The first months after moving to Washington included massive wildfires, a broken limb, hitting two deer in quick succession, and plenty of other trials and tribulations.

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Don’t worry, I was stopped. 

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Roses at the Post Office. 

But it also included incredible sunsets the colors of padparascha sapphires and Vietnamese spinels, fields of yellow gold wheat as far as the eye could see in the fall, fields of brilliant green springtime wheat, and then the sparkly white of a frozen snow-covered tundra.

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I don’t miss the call of California. I don’t miss the palm trees (they are so much work!), the swimming pools.  I don’t miss the heat. I don’t miss the traffic. I don’t miss the helicopters hovering overhead nightly. And shockingly I don’t miss the high heels or the fashion or the shopping.

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I love digging my hands in the dirt and growing my own produce. I love that when I drive five minutes in one direction and I’m surrounded by empty space. I love going to the Post Office where everyone knows my name. I love the stillness of the air right after it snows. I love the wide blue skies. I love the rolling hills. I love the pine trees. And again, I love those sunsets.

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I realize that the major jewelry centers are in New York and Los Angeles. Maybe some day I will move back to a big city, and be happy to be among the bustle and the glamour, but for now I’m delighted to spend my time alone with my dogs and my family, breathing in the clean air and enjoying all four seasons, and living more simply than I did before.

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Besides, living here means more opportunity to travel to big cities!

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Updates and an Announcement

I feel like it’s been a while since I blogged. And there are a lot of good reasons for that. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

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I recently nabbed a trio of gray spinel asschers. I’m thinking about making a three stone with them, if they match well enough and look good together. I will see once they arrive! If I don’t love them together, they will probably go into the etsy shop.

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I did several earring design sketches for a client, and I’m considering turning some of the unused ones into designs to go into the etsy shop. Especially since I have a ton of green garnets that really should be used for something fabulous.

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Upcoming projects: a necklace for a friend, a Rubellite ring, a smattering of three stone rings, a five stone ring, a couple of fancy halos, and a handful of solitaire rings. Plus who knows what else will pop up in the next few weeks.  I have several ideas for necklaces that I’d like to make, but those may take a while to bring into fruition.

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The biggest announcement is that I have taken an outside opportunity, and as a result, I won’t be able to devote as much time as I have been to my own jewelry design.  There won’t be a ton of changes that stem from this change, my website will stay the same, my stock designs will remain available, the Etsy shop will remain open, and I will still be available to do custom design.

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The big changes are going to be: I won’t be able to devote as much time to hunting down gemstones and I’m going to have to be stricter about custom projects that I take on. I will still have accounts with Gem2000, Mayer & Watt and Pala International/Gems, and their stones will be available for purchase through me. Shipping will only happen once a week, probably Mondays or Tuesdays. Unfortunately, blogging will have to take more of a backseat, and will likely turn into a once a month occurrence. I will still try to respond to emails within 24 hours, but I may not be as swift as I was before.
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Ombré du Soleil

They just wanted to be made. – Elle

I had posted these on instagram the other day, just a small macro shot, and immediately got requests to see more. Well, the thing about that is that these are ridiculously difficult to photograph for one simple fact – they are huge.

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A couple years ago, when we were still in California, I had an overseas collector send me a great number of stones to sell on consignment. That’s the reason my etsy shop was initially opened. There were a handful of stones that I knew immediately that I didn’t want to sell – I wanted to create something with them.

My starting point in this particular project was the largest pair of spessartites. They just glowed, in an almost unearthly way, with this ridiculous neon orange that photos don’t really do justice, as orange is one of the hardest colors to photograph accurately.

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Now, this collector had sent along literally about 40 carats of spessartites, including a handful of smaller round oranges with fantastic color, and a pair of bezeled round spessartite earrings.

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Spessartite, as with most gemstones and colors, goes through bursts here and there of popularity and trendiness. Unfortunately, just as I got this package, spessartite was hitting a slow spot, so most of the loose gems that I had never even hit the market. Instead I started to have big dreams for them, all brought upon by the incredible color of that large pair. I created a sketch of the initial idea, which included using the bezeled studs as is and then later amended it to add a few details, involving a change to the stud.

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About six months ago I went to visit my favorite gem shop and one of the first things on my mind to pick up were gems that would fit the ombré  color scheme I had dreamed up.  I needed to find exactly the right graduation of color and size to match cohesively with the overall concept. Luckily I was able to find that in some sapphires from Madagascar.

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As soon as I had all of the stones collected, I sent the picture to a friend.
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And a couple months later, she asked me when I was going to make the earrings? Why hadn’t I made them already? I had all of these beautiful stones, why not make use of them already? So I turned around that week, and sent them off to the jeweler, along with a picture of the sketch.
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As I mentioned before, the sketch went through a couple of revisions. The final version ended up being so large that the entire thing wouldn’t fit on one page of my sketch book, so I had to improvise a little bit, and drew the stud separately from the rest of the earring. A quick note: I draw everything at 5x scale.
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 So, lets talk specifics of the finished product.
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The bottom 5 stones are spessartites, the top three in the bottom section are sapphires. The top stone (the stud) is a spessartite and then the rest (second stone in the stud and then the little connecting section) are all fancy yellow diamonds.
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These are definitely more hefty than I usually make, but the one thing I wanted out of these is that I wanted to have that heft, and I didn’t want them to feel cheap. I feel like they easily could have gone the costume jewelry route, but the setter managed to avoid it, keeping the walls between the stones quite thin, and the edges from stone to outside rim thin in most areas . The largest stones are 7mm and very deep so we really had to have a lot of metal to hold them all in place.
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The settings are open in the back to let in a ton of light, even though they are bezeled. The emphasis for this project was really on the stones, the ombré effect and the concept of light. Seeing as how it took about two years to find the right stones in the right sizes, tones and saturation to I really wanted to not detract from the concept as a whole and keep the ombré effect in the metal that’s holding the stones together. As you will see in the images below, the color of the stones change from one image to another – the most accurate devices for color viewing are Apple products, iphone, ipad, Mac computers, and images with the brightest colors and least amount of brown are the closest to real life.
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14 grams of 18kt yellow gold

.16 carats of yellow diamonds
.41 carats of yellow sapphires
14.13 carats of orange garnets

14.7 total carats

They measure just over 2.5 inches long.

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Everyone keeps asking me, “why did you make these? Are they for yourself, or to sell?” and my answer has been, “They just wanted to be made.”

At the moment, I don’t know what the future holds for them. But absolutely something bright.

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Incoming Gemstones

Whoa! Gemstones ahoy!

I got a couple of packages from a couple of collectors looking to consign items, and there are some really awesome gems, and a couple of finished jewelry pieces.

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Some of the stand outs include:

40+ carats of green garnets: tsavorite, demantoid, mint, including melee!
2+ carat blue spinel pear
1.89 carat neon pink spinel
Green zircon
6+ carat blue zircon
Light teal-blue tourmaline
Pink Vietnamese spinel
Ruby studs
Handful of diamonds, rounds and cushions
Precision cut Mahenge garnets
Lavender tourmaline

Plus more!

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Also expected this week, a precision cut gray spinel antique cushion with a certification from AGL.

And I still have more incoming in the next couple weeks!

All of these will be listed to my etsy shop in the coming weeks, while I’m hoping to have everything up by Thanksgiving, but that just depends on how things go, and how much sun I get for photographs! If you are looking for anything in particular or if any of the above sound interesting, please reach out to be added to the interest list!

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If you haven’t found my coupon code on my Facebook page yet, you should go check it out because it expires October 31!

Also I have accounts with some wholesale dealers, so if you’re looking for anything in particular, let me know!

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We are getting very close to the holiday season. I will be releasing deadlines for holiday ordering within the next week – where has this year gone?! I cannot believe the holiday season is upon us!

So many custom projects going into production right now, I am so excited to see them come to fruition!

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My Office

If you have been following me for a while, you will have noted that I dropped the ball for a while and didn’t blog or have many jewelry updates. Well, that was due to the fact that I was moving offices. For some time we were about 30 minutes outside of town, and this spring, we finally finished renovations. I don’t know that my office will ever be actually finished, per se, but I feel like it’s a good start and definitely functional! I consider my office to be a very personal space and I’ve been a bit reluctant to share a space that I’ve spent so much time creating and creating in. But people ask, so I thought I’d share a bit about it, with pictures of some of the details.

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Catching rainbow inclusions in my amethyst paperweight, macro.

Furniture

I have no fewer than 5 parts to my desk. There is no way that I could manage with a traditional desk, because I really like to have everything in plain sight when I work. I also have multiple jobs that I have to fulfill, and my desk set up has to reflect that. Each desk has a primary function, and other secondary and tertiary functions. I have an antique desk for photography and storage, a drafting table, a shelving unit, an antique table for miscellaneous items (typically items being shipped out or notebooks and paperwork), and a desk for my laptop and photography. This doesn’t include another shelf that stores books and items that aren’t necessarily used every day or a small silver table that is home to a cobalt blue lamp.

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Color

Of course I had to choose the color of my walls carefully. Since most of the surfaces of my office area are dark wood, I had to keep it light and airy. The walls are two different shades of a light cornflower blue, one color is so light that it almost appears white depending on the sun’s position, while the other is a couple shades darker. The curtains are a medium silvery gray – reminiscent of brushed white metal. Silver accents abound! Two silver tables, a chrome and black leather chair, silver frames for almost every picture, and a eclectic mix of modernity and antiquity.

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Lighting

My office has one large window that looks out to roses, flowers and fruit trees. It is also, most importantly, south facing. So no matter what, unless it’s rainy and cloudy, my office is completely flooded with natural light. When picking the space, this was absolutely crucial considering how many photos I can take on an average day. However, I also have several lamps – a couple decorative lamps with incandescent lightbulbs, an Anker Lumos LED lamp (which is awesome because it has several different colors of lights that it displays), as well as a magnifying fluorescent lamp, and thats not even counting the actual ceiling lights!

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Details

Of course I wanted to surround myself with items that are not only beautiful but also calming, inspiring, functional and of things I love – family, friends, and deeply sentimental items.  I have a Pricescope “diamond” paperweight that I got from a JCK event, an amethyst crystal paperweight that was a gift from my husband, and a paperweight that was a gift from my dad when I got my first job out of college. I have a “Diamond Terrarium” in copper from Lonesome Hobo, that sits on my antique desk that is beautiful and functional – I use it to store rings for short periods, as a photography backdrop, and as a object to stare at sometimes.

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Picture frames with loved ones are all over, as well as two Angie Crabtree prints – the “Dominique” and “Elle” and the centerpiece of the decor is an antique mirror that my mother once designed an entire luxe bathroom around (it had this incredible beeswax Venetian plaster on the walls, among other things.) I have a “wall of women” – it holds both of my diplomas, a stunning photograph of my grandmother with her hair grazing her derriere sitting at a dressing table and a picture of my mother’s family – she was the youngest of ten. I also store pens, pencils and markers in a piñon wood bowl that has inlaid turquoise – a gift from an old boss, that represents so much and is a good reminder of home, New Mexico.

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I hope you enjoyed seeing some of the details that I look at every day!

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Gem Blast: Vivant Earrings

If you follow me on social media, you’ve seen these earrings before. They have been all over Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat.

Inspired by the Vivant necklace, I got the idea when I found these incredible step cut cushion Mahenge spinels, and had to put them together. I then paired them with a pair of Mahenge round brilliant spinels that I had purchased years ago, tweaked a few details to make the combination of stones work together and elongate the shape to flatter the wearer, and added a post back.

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Showing off a bit of their red fluorescence in the sun.

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Looking a bit blue, reflecting the sky in the stones.

Some of the finer details:

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Mahenge spinel, diamonds and 18kt white gold.
2.40ctw spinels, .30ctw diamonds, 2.70ctw total stone weight.

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Finding a pair of spinels is exceedingly difficult because the stones in general are so rare, but to find some that are the same color, size, shape and cut magnifies to difficulty level thousandfold. Finding two pairs that go together and match on color isn’t exactly easy either, and often is a matter of waiting until the right stone or stones comes around.

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Now, the next time you see them, they will be a bit different. A client took a liking to them, but wanted them changed just a touch, and asked me to make the alterations.  I can’t wait to see them when they are done!
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