By my calculations, about three years and four months ago, I walked into Manika Jewelry for the first time and struck up a conversation with the owner, Peter Walsh.  I went on and on, as I do, about how much I love jewelry and that, in another life, I should have been a jewelry designer.  Peter, as a I recall, listened patiently to my ravings and then mentioned that there were places where one could take lessons in metal-smithing and jewelry-making.  In particular, he mentioned a nearby school, the Revere Academy.  It was a startling revelation that jewelers — these magicians of art and science — were not born with pliers in one hand and a torch in the other.  Someone taught them … that was something that could happen!

So, my obsession having been seriously ratcheted up by my conversation with Peter, in due course, I began to take jewelry classes at Scintillant and I started this blog.  I am sorry to say that I had forgotten how all this began.  However, it all came back me to me two days ago while out for a stroll in the middle of the day with a coworker friend of mine. (Did I ever mention that I’m a federal employee?)  It was on our walk that we stumbled upon Manika’s new, gorgeous location at 645 Market Street, San Francisco.  As Peter Walsh recalled that I had been in the store before, in a flash, I realized that it all started with him.

With that, allow me to tell you about Manika.

41f1f9_47858a8ca27da20495c931dd0ddc9740The new location is stunning with lots of light and spacious cases that show off the collection in way that is not overwhelming.  The collection itself has a nice variety.  There is something for everyone but it all hangs together — fine craftsmanship being the running theme.

The real secret to the Manika experience is Peter.  He loves what he does and it shows.  He is welcoming and kind.  He seems to genuinely enjoy discussing the collection with those who wander into his store and not simply for the purpose of making a sale.  Call it being a nice guy or call it stealth salesmanship, his time with customers like me is an investment and it is how businesses should be run.  While one might not always be in the market to drop money on fine earrings, when the time comes, he’s the guy you want to give your money to.

During my recent visit, Peter said, “I could talk about what I love about jewelry all day.”  He says it like a fact without a hint of forced enthusiasm.  It is that clear enjoyment of the art that allows him to curate the store so beautifully.  He obviously connects with jewelry artists who are thinkers.  They work the details and take a creative approach to function.

While much can and should be said about each and every designer carried at Manika, I leave that for another day.  Those posts along with one about Manika’s new custom designer GiGi Gruber — a delightful presence in the store — yet to come!

Ancient Wisdom

I’m like a ferret.  Dangle a shiny thing in front of me and you have my attention.  It could be a button or it could be a diamond.  It doesn’t really matter.  I have numerous childhood memories of rifling through sewing boxes, old jewelry boxes in attics, or long-forgotten purses under beds. All in search of something that might adorn.  Strung on a string or wrapped around a wrist.  Anything might be possible.  I spent a good deal of time in the care of other people as a kid and letting me search for treasure (read: junk) was the way to engage me.  Looking back, engaging me might not have otherwise been the easiest thing to accomplish.

In my personal psychology, the drive for things of adornment might have been about a lot of things.  A creative outlet or even a way to bond with women who were not my mother but nonetheless my temporary caregivers.  But, I think we all know the desire to create and wear jewelry is not unique to me or our time.

A brief search of Ebay easily bring up items such as these:

While I cannot verify the authenticity of any of these items, I have no reason to doubt it.  Of course, there are places all over the world that buy and sell antiquities and, certainly, sometimes those items are jewelry.  For me, setting aside the flat-out weirdness of being able to buy, from Ebay, the personal item of someone who died centuries ago, it is interesting to connect with the idea of adornment as simply a human thing that refuses to be defined by time or place.  It is just something we do and, seemingly, something we have always done.

For more on this topic, check this out:

Egyptians Created Jewelry From Meteorites

Pierced Through The Heart

I was not allowed to get my ears pierced until I was eleven. Eleven! The shame. It took an all-out campaign to get my dad to acquiesce.   Even then, he wouldn’t take me.  Having acquired permission, I had to talk a babysitter into it.  Once pierced, I quickly accumulated a collection of crappy earrings.  I loved them all and no morning was complete until I worked a pair until those elusive holes.

Every so often I will notice an adult woman who has never had her ears pierced. As important as it was to me as kid to have it done, now, I sort of admire the restraint it took to not mutilate ones ear lobes in order to wear Claire’s finery.  Admiration aside, when I see such a stalwart, I wonder: “How did you make it through your adolescence that way?  Did your parents just never give in?  Did you ever try bargaining for it with a good report card?”

These days, and I am not sure when it happened, I don’t wear earrings very often.  Usually, I forget to put them in.  And, when I go looking to expand my now meager earrings collection, I come away disappointed.  It all seems so done and predictable.  Ultimately, I think earrings have a tall order to fill.  They are, after all, next to one’s face.  The can’t just be pretty objects in and of themselves — they have to be flattering. 

But, I looked hard, dear readers, and I found signs of life.  In particular, I found that Heidi Daus’ earrings have a great deal of life.  She has a wonderful line jewelry that is all worth a comment.  But, today is about earrings — so here we go.


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!

Texture and Context

Textured metal in jewelry can be a bit predictable.  But, when it is good it is very, very good.  The designers at the Etsy store, Mika Scott, do it very well.  Their unexpected and bold textures take the next step and become essential design elements.

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.

I’m a Lyric Person

I’ll be honest – I’ve sort of been putting off writing this post.  Why?  There is just too much to say and, somehow, it seems like the pinnacle of my blogging experience and it is just too early for that.  On the other hand, the mental pressure is building up and I can’t hold in my love for Jeanine Payer‘s work much longer.  So, here it goes.

When it comes to music, I am basically a lyric person.  Ultimately, it is the words that move me and stick with me.  Perhaps that is why the work that has made Jeanine Payer famous speaks to me so — it combines words with beautiful, delicate jewelry.  Jeanine obviously has a great love of words which enables her to find the music in quotes that are worthy of being worn.  Beyond that, though, she is a design genius.  She brings subtly and taste to each piece — pure poetry.

I met Jeanine Payer once at the grand opening of Alexis Bittar‘s store in San Francisco.  She was so kind to take a few minutes to talk with me and, truly, I was in awe.  I recall that she mentioned that she wanted to work bigger and begin to stretch the aesthetic of her line a bit.  (I felt so honored to have a discussion with her about her amazing line of jewelry.)   Indeed, her fall 2011 line began to introduce some new elements.

Wearable Sculpture by Katie Johansson

Katie Johansson, as the creative force behind Dollybird Jewelry, is flat out fearless in her designs.  They are sculptural and bold.

This necklace in particular puts me in mind of modern art mobiles with its open metal structure and artistically placed stones.

Particle Necklace

Lapis Temple Ring

Katie’s creative use of materials in her line is admirable.  She selects unusual stones on a large scale for a huge visual impact and, occasionally, ventures away from stones and uses other objects as the center piece of the design.

Vintage Horsehair Earrings

Many of Katie’s designs are available in her Etsy store, Dollybirddesign.

A World of Two

This post isn’t strictly about jewelry.  It’s about behavior around jewelry.

There are two women who I see often around Market Street in San Francisco.  They may be twins but they are, at least, most certainly sisters.  I would estimate them to be in their 60s but it is difficult to say — as it sometimes is with those who have lived complicated lives.  My impression is that they have somewhere to live but they are always endeavoring to transport several boxes, plastic bags, a suitcase or two, and other sundry items and they give the appearance of transience.  With long grayish hair and layers of baggy clothes, they live in a world populated by only two. I wonder what they talk about.

There is one thing more to notice about these women — earrings.  Both women wear different earrings every day.  I find this fascinating. They are not particularly noteworthy earrings but they are usually a good size and clearly visible.  It appears, from a distance, that they are wearing perfectly nice costume jewelry — not handmade, not fine family heirlooms.  I find the presence of these little fashionable touches to be so incongruent with the overall vibe of this pair of people.  I find the fact that these women take the time, on a daily basis, to select earrings sort of touching.  I try to imagine the process.  It seems that this gesture says to the world, “What we are doing with these boxes and things is important to us.  It is a real task and we get up every day to do just this.”

All that from a couple pairs of earrings?  Yes.

Metal in the Right Hands

Metal in the hands of the right person can be an amazing thing.  Metal can bend, stretch, take on a texture and more but, to make it do these things and produce a desirable result, takes talent — talent for handling the metal and a vision for the design.

Manya Pickard makes metal sing in a way that says raw talent perfected by countless hours of practice.  Her pieces are created with tasteful design concepts and a mastery of metal.

These beautiful pieces are available in Manya’s Etsy store, Bob’s Whiskers, along with many other designs.

I love Manya’s consistent aesthetic in her pieces.  While she manages a lot of dimension and depth, there is something that gives her work a lovely hand-drawn quality.  Her painterly style, for me, calls to mind things such as storybook illustrations and Japanese screen paintings.