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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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.

wall decor

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!

Anker light

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.

Terrarium

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.

turquoise pen cup

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

Elle signature

Lessons in Gemstone Buying

Back in January, I had posted about what to look for in looking to buy a gemstone.  This is kind of an addendum to that.

– Don’t be afraid to ask too many good questions. One of the problems I often come across is that people are asking questions, but don’t understand the answers they are getting. If you don’t understand something, you should ask the vendor. I often will take massive amounts of time explaining things, so that even if a person walks away without buying something from me, they are more educated. A lot of vendors aren’t willing to do that, so you should take advantage of a person who is willing to share their knowledge. I’m a firm believer in “Leaving a place better than how I found it” which means if you ask me a question, I’ll do my best to educate you even further than just answering the question you’ve asked. Get educated about your purchases! You’ll make better, more informed purchases and likely save yourself time and money!

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Treatment. Size. Clarity. Origin. Modifiers. Things like that.

– A better understanding of general colored stone terms (as opposed to diamond terms) and terms when describing rings and pendants. Again, and I can’t reiterate this enough, ask questions. If you don’t know what something means, ask! If they don’t know the answers to your questions, walk away until you find someone who does.

– Not verifying the return policy because sometimes what’s online isn’t current or detailed enough. You should always verify the return policy before you make a purchase.

– Not seeing the gem in various lighting conditions. Different light temperatures are going to make the stone look different. You need to make sure that you are happy with all of the stone’s different looks. Or, if not all of the looks, at least most of them. A stone isn’t going to look nice in a pitch black room if you can even see it at all!

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Incandescent.

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Diffused daylight.

– Always put something on hold before discussing it publicly. There are people out there who might see what you are looking at, and buy it out from under you. Most vendors work on a “first come, first served” basis. If you don’t put something on hold, and then post about it publicly it might just sell out from under you.

– Expecting flawless or loupe clean clarity, especially in gems such as spinel, emerald, ruby and sapphire. If you want one of those to be flawless, buy synthetic.

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Not flawless, but it is eyeclean. Green Garnet.

– Don’t go to multiple sources looking for the same stone. This industry is very small. It is nothing but frustrating if you ask multiple people for the same thing, and they happen to start talking, and discover that they are looking for the same stone for the same client. Often, they will both give up on the search.

– Depending on the type of gem box that your vendor uses, you will probably want to open them upside down, above a soft surface, such as a low pile carpet, or best, on top of a made bed.

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I know of too many people who have opened a box outside, and the gem falls into the grass or through slats in a deck, never to be seen again. Also, use something thin and flat to open the gem box.

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I typically grab whatever is available, in this case, a ruler.

They put little slots on the sides to slide something in, and twist it to open.

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Little twist of the ruler and it pops right off!

The end of the gem tweezers are best, but you can use thing like paper clips just as easily.

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These spinels are safe and sound, in the lid of their box.

– You should look at a gemstone on your hand. I don’t have any gemholders, and I don’t suggest that people use them either. The spring type (the ones that look sort of like a ring) can very easily and very badly damage a stone.

I know that there are more tips and tricks for gemstone buying, but these are a good start. The absolute best tip I can give though is to buy what you like, and don’t be swayed by the “trade ideal”. If you don’t like what the trade finds to be ideal, you’re more likely to get a better deal on what you do buy.

Random note! Since I’ve been getting a ton of inquiries about the coupon code for my etsy store I decided to post it again, so here it is: “AUTUMN2015” (no quotes). It is good for 15% off purchases of $100 or more until November 1.

Next week is going to be all about the new line! By next Monday, all of the pages should be up for six of the rings, so make sure and keep your eyes peeled this week – Aurore, Exaltée and Feuilles Dorées will make their online debut!