Be good.

In the last week, we had some family in town. Some of that family is young and small. Thus, we took in a lot of family-friendly sights and activities. Twice, we ended up at an aquarium. I guess that stands to reason in San Francisco, what, with all that water. One of them was the impressive aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences. It was there that I spotted some information about coral.  Coral, as I am sure everyone knows, is often used in jewelry.  That, as the California Academy of Sciences explained, is not a good idea for our precious underwater ecosystems.  For more on this, there is this little piece from the amazing designer and all-around jewelry goddess, Temple St. Clair, whose name I only utter in hushed tones.

Declaring Coral Too Precious to Wear — by Temple St. Clair. handmade and vintage goods

While we are at it, check out this fun, beaded play on coral!

Faux Coral Beaded Necklace with Matching Bracelet

Beaded faux coral by Threadsandpins on Etsy.

This doesn’t hurt anyone.  This is better.


Hello All:

I had meant to announce the hiatus of the B + C blog.  I really had.  But, like so many things, it got away from me.  I just didn’t write anything for weeks and weeks with no explanation.  So, now, with great delay, here is my story.

In my other life, I am an attorney.  I work in California but I am licensed in Ohio.   My current job, for various reasons, does not require a California license.  Nevertheless, I got it in my silly little head to become licensed in California.  So, over the last several months, I invested a great deal of time, energy, and sanity that I could ill afford to spend to take the dreaded California Bar Exam.  I won’t know until November 16th if it all has paid off.  Wish me luck.

All that said, I have missed this activity and all that it represents for me — the looking at jewelry; the thinking about jewelry; the writing about jewelry; and the making of jewelry.  It is my life-line to the creative world.  Soon new, full blog posts will be coming.  In the meantime, check out these fun Etsy finds!

Guilty Pleasure

I’ve found a place in this blog to confess some things about my taste and sometimes my character.  It seems it is time for another one.  While I am not one for a lot of clutter or silly characters, I love garden gnomes.  Just for the record, I loved them before they became cool in that ironic sort of way.  I have a collection of garden gnomes figurines given to me by my dear husband.  And, hear this, I own this collection in a decidedly non-ironic way.   That’s right.  Like somebody’s grandma.  I’m even a garden gnome snob … to be in my collection they have to adhere to illustrator Rien Poortvliet‘s gnome aesthetic (see above).

I must not be alone in my obsession because there is a growing availability of, yes, gnome jewelry.

Here’s a little sampling of what is available by the reliably creative Etsy merchants.

Then, inexplicably, there is this – an interesting enamel gnome charm by Juicy Couture.  I sort of love it.

It does not appear that the charm is available anymore from Juicy but there are a number of them out there on the internet for sale.  The photo here was from Polyvore.

Damn right.

In the fall of 1993, I started college and became friends with Marianne Brown.  Through Marianne, I was introduced to many things that would become mainstays of my adult life — art galleries, thrift stores, and jewelry making.  She helped form my concept of joy and she is a huge part of who I am today.  She once made me laugh until I peed.  Under Marianne’s direction, I first held a pair of jewelry pliers and put beads on a string.  I recall that I had given her some old costume jewelry of my mom’s and those components came back to me over and over again having been re-purposed into new creations.

Marianne has an endlessly creative mind.  She is true artist.  She is an artist in a way that I am not — she cannot stop being an artist, she cannot stop being creative.  She cannot stop being who she is.  I admire that more than she’ll ever know.  Her soul positively glows with the need to sculpt, draw, paste, string, or otherwise give birth to things that did not previously exist.

Her artwork lives somewhere in the neighborhood of folk art but with an edge.  When she makes a piece depicting a face — human or angel — I find that I can’t look away.

Today, she is Marianne Clouser, mother of two, and continues to meet life with both bravery and style that, frankly, puts others to shame.  Today, I am sorry to report that she is also very sick.  While I am very far away, my heart and soul are with her.

She told me on the phone, “My plan is to live.”  Do you hear that Universe?

Damn right.

Marianne Clouser - looking fabulous.

“There’s a certain shade of limelight …”

(Extra credit to anyone who can name the movie from which I took this post’s title.)

When I first got engaged, I would come home and report in what light my ring looked best.  I experimented for a while but, as it turns out, it was the elevator in the building where I was working at the time.  It had that low-bright light of a good jewelry store.

The memory of my early engagement got me thinking about jewelry photography.  While I am sure that there are people who specialize in photographing jewelry, I am not informed in that regard.  So, I will have to leave the topic of famous jewelry photographers for another day.  Instead, I would like to talk about some of the things I like to see in photos designed to sell jewelry — the information I think the pictures should impart.

As the pictures below make clear, I think jewelry should be modeled on a person.  As I have mentioned, as far as I am concerned, the fact that it is worn is what makes jewelry a special art form.  It is an extension of the human body like nothing else.  Secondly, when photographed on a person, the jewelry’s scale and proportion becomes clear.  Of course, the up close, magnified shots are useful to show quality and I understand why jewelry designers take them — it is damn hard to make a piece of jewelry and one wants to the show the detail.  But, at the end of the day, that is not how we truly experience jewelry.  We experience it on people and in the world.  Movement.  Light.

Silver Custom Initial Ring by Soo on Etsy.
English Rain Necklace by Sarah Rock on Etsy

Hi Dad!

My sweet father reads this little blog every day.  This one is for him.

In various ways, I have ink in my blood.  For his entire career my father worked in the newspaper business.  My mother (an artist) and her sister (a writer) had a great love of amateur printing.  They had both been members — my aunt a life long member — of the shadowy, sinister organization known as American Amateur Press Association.  (I kid, I kid.  Check out their website and you’ll see how funny that is.)

Marge (Adams) Petrone, Writer & Ginny (Adams) Powell, Artist
My mom, Ginny (Adams) Powell

In honor of the family love of printing, my dad once played jewelry designer with this ingenious idea.

These are pieces of type once used in a newspaper printing press.  I imagine that my dad got these from work when old equipment was being replaced.  (If I am wrong, I am sure that he’ll let me know and I’ll issue a correction.)  In any case, dad saw the beauty in the shape and the symbolism of the items themselves.  He selected a “V” for my mom, Virginia, and a “M” for her sister, Margaret.  He had the type plated and a bale added so that they could be worn as pendants and, indeed, they were both worn by two stylish, strong women.  Beautiful, stunning, unique items.  I am honored to be their caretaker.

Audrey Hepburn 1929 – 1993

Today’s post is a sidestep from jewelry.  Although Audrey Hepburn’s image in popular culture became intertwined with one of the great jewelry houses of all time, this post is about what she, and her most iconic role, have meant to me. 

Audrey Hepburn died 19 years ago today.  She resides in our collective imagination and, perhaps, always will.  There isn’t anything that I can say about Audrey Hepburn that hasn’t been said before and said better.  Of course, she was a style icon and devastatingly beautiful.  She was made all the more beautiful by her humanness and kindness and generosity, which are all well-documented.

The only thing that I can add to the world of sentiments about Audrey Hepburn are my own.

Like so many people, for me, the line between Audrey Hepburn and Holly Golightly is a blurry one.  I first saw Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 1985 with my dad.  I was ten years-old.  We were able to see it on the big screen because the old, fancy theater, where the local orchestra played, had started also showing classic movies.  At that time, I did not appreciate what a rare treat it was to see Breakfast at Tiffany’s in a theater.  I fell in love with the movie.  I was young enough to forgive the movie some of its flaws, such as Mickey Rooney’s horrendously racist portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi, and I just focused on the chic, yet goofy, world of Holly Golightly.  I think it was also lost on me that she was a prostitute.

Seeing Breakfast at Tiffany’s for the first time was more than just a cinematic experience for me.  My little, ten year-old, mourning heart became helplessly attached to Audrey Hepburn or Holly Golightly or both.  At that point, my tall, thin, stylish mother had been dead about two years and I couldn’t help but draw comparisons.  I felt like I had been thrown some sort of life-line in the form of Audrey Hepburn.   It’s strange, I know, but Audrey Hepburn and my mother have always been a little blended in my mind.  I hope they know, wherever they are, that it is a credit to them both.

As an interesting aside, I read once that the character of Holly Golightly is a motherless daughter archetype.  I think that goes for both how she is portrayed in the movie as well as how she was written by Truman Capote in the novella of the same name — perhaps that is the only similarity.  From what we know of the character’s life, which is not much, she’s a survivor but basically feral.  In addition to the fact that Audrey Hepburn reminds me of my mother, the character of Holly Golightly as a motherless daughter resonates with me as well. There is just something disorienting about losing one’s primary example of womanhood.  Once an adult, you can end up feeling a little like you sprung, fully formed, from the ground and there you are — a woman — and not entirely sure how it happened.  Holly Golightly acts as if she feels like that.

I maintain that I can pick out a woman who lost her mother in childhood at a hundred paces.

I’ve seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s countless times.  I know every Audrey Hepburn line and, when drunk, I’ve proven it more than once.  As a result of loving the movie, I began a love affair, from afar, with Tiffany & Co., the brand, as well.  Honestly, Tiffany is not something that would normally appeal to me.  While it’s true that their quality is legendary and their customer service unparalleled, it just isn’t something to which I would naturally gravitate, as it would strike me as too elitist.  But, because of all that I have written here, about Audrey Hepburn and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Tiffany has always pulled at me from the heart.  Successful branding?  Perhaps.  But, I don’t care.  It’s part of my internal world and always will be.

Knowing what all of these things have meant to me, my sweet husband gave me a less complicated reason to be emotionally attached to Tiffany.  He proposed at the Tiffany here in San Francisco and, right then and there, we purchased the beautiful engagement ring that sits now on my hand — bringing a long and sentimental story about my childhood, my mother, an actress, and a movie full circle.  The ring didn’t come out of a Crackerjack box but I love it all the same.

Feel Good Jewelry

I think that most of us want to feel good about what we wear.  Generally, we want to feel as if the materials were responsibly harvested and that our lovely possession was made by people happy in their work who are well compensated.  I was recently saved from buying something that, deep down, I would have felt bad about owning.  It was an antique ring that happened to have a piece of (alleged) ivory in it.  Well, when I went back to consider it, the store had gone out of business.  It’s probably best.

But, I digress.

The use of recycled materials is one really good way to feel good about your jewelry.  Kathleen Plate of Smart Glass Jewelry has certainly made a name for herself using beautiful recycled glass to make smart designs indeed.

So, don’t make my mistake — get this stuff instead!

All Jewelry Needs a Home

So, I wonder, if have I encouraged anyone to buy a new piece of jewelry or make something?  If so, perhaps that next question is:  “What do I do with this lovely new piece?”  If you are anything like me, you have faced the problem of jewelry storage more than once.

Enter Jessica Farmer, of the Etsy store Bluebirdheaven, with her ingenious solution.  She makes beautiful, display-worthy jewelry storage pieces out, wait for it, vintage printer’s drawers.  What a great idea!

You can have it all.  You just need somewhere to put it.

By Hand

In this blog, I have used the descriptor “hand drawn” a few times.  By that, I mean that the jewelry designer has created a three-dimensional object — an unyielding form — that also manages to have the charm and spontaneity of a drawing.  It can mean that the designer has tactfully left something looking less finished or added details in a way that seems so fluid and casual.  For me, it is among the highest design compliments.  While, of course, I didn’t make up the words hand drawn, I sort of feel as if I made up its use in this context — I suppose it was time to define it.

Laura from Octopus Studio has a line available on Etsy which displays the best of what it means for jewelry to have a hand drawn quality.