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.

The Mark Poulin Interview!

Hello Readers:

The very talented and prolific jewelry designer, Mark Poulin, kindly agreed to answer some (slightly odd) questions for Bread and Cake.  I think you’ll enjoy this window into his jewelry-designing mind.  His work can be found in his Etsy store and on his website.


B + C: How would you define “jewelry” to someone from another planet?

Jewelry is an object we wear on our bodies as an adornment, it can range from the simple and understated to the flashy and attention grabbing. The wearer uses this as an extension of his or her fashion sense and an as expression of their personality.

Jewelry satisfies so many of an earthlings needs. First off, so many of us have a need to collect, and with so many styles of jewelry it is easily collectible. Also we earthlings are a sentimental bunch and jewelry can mark so many of our occasions from our births to our weddings to our deaths. Jewelry also gives us a sense of style and allows us to express our personal taste and sometimes flaunt our status. There are some of us that wear the same jewelry every day of our lives and others who change it multiple times a day.

B + C: Please describe the place where you make your creations. What do you like to keep around you for inspiration?

I love my West Oakland workshop. It has the space to spread out. Separate places for soldering, polishing, enameling, photographing, designing, and for my piles of unfinished projects. All I really need for inspiration is a good sound track and a sketchbook.

 B + C: Do you have a favorite type of jewelry (e.g. ring, bracelet, necklace, etc.) to make? What is it and why?

 I love rings. I really love rings. Even though I’m known more for making necklaces, there is something about rings that fascinates me. They seem to carry an intimacy with them.

B + C: What is your favorite piece of jewelry that you ever made? Where is it today, if you know?

The first ring I ever made. I still have it. It was a simple cut out of hammers and nails on a wide band.

B + C: What is your favorite technique to use in your jewelry making and why?

I just love enameling. Fusing glass to metal will always amaze me, as will the possibilities that that can produce. I think this passion comes from all the years I worked as a ceramicist, clay and glaze, enamel and metal.

B + C: What theme or vision do you feel that your line reflects?

I feel like I’m trend based, but not in a shopping mall kind of way, rather in an underground crafty kind of way. I appeal to the people who like quirky. Everything I make is a little off kilter, made to steal hearts like an old dog at the pound you just have to take home and love. I am that little bridge between the cartoon world and the jewelry world.

B + C: Do you have a favorite jewelry designer?  Who is it and what do you like about his or her work?

I’m more inspired by illustrators and painters than jewelers. Right now I’m obsessed with Deth P Sun and with Luke Chueh. In my opinion both painters have elevated a cartoon style to a higher art. Both are prolific and draw all the time. Both are very down to earth.

B + C: Predictions? Plans? Are there future projects, shows, or sales that you would like to share with us?

I’m excited about 2012. I’ll be releasing ten new sterling silver mother and daughter charm sets, a new cartoon glass jewelry line. I’m really expanding my pure-modern jewelry shapes and adding some exciting color combinations. I’m also drawing some images for a puzzle company geared towards kids. That should keep me busy.

A Pop of Color

Oh, how I love enamel!  I took an enameling workshop and, turns out, that I don’t really enjoy enameling but I’m sure glad that other people do.  People like Michelle Mahler of Teka and Zoe on Etsy and

Typically, I am in favor of a subtle addition of color in jewelry.  But, in the case of Michelle Mahler’s work, I love that she really goes for it in terms of color because she does it so well.  There is so much more than just a little hint of color — her jewelry is all about the color.  I think one should also appreciate that in terms of skill.  From my brief experience with enameling, I learned that it is not easy to know what color you are going to get when enameling. The color does not come out of the container as it will turn out once fired onto metal.  In order to get such vibrant, consistent color as Michelle Mahler does, you really have to know what you’re doing.

I’m No Expert

I’m no expert but, as they say, I know what I like.

Look, I don’t really have any bona fides when it comes to art or fashion or jewelry.  I dropped out of my art major one semester in to pursue other academic interests.  I’ve never been very good in art classes and I don’t play well with other artists generally.  Although I am a fairly compliant person and I have no issues with authority, if you put me in an art class, I turn into an eye-rolling, huffy, obstructionist pain-in-the-ass.  I don’t know why.  It’s not that I think I’m that good — I just don’t want to do it their way.  Ever.  So, long ago, I found that making my strange art by myself was the best way to go — or at least the best way to not get asked to leave a classroom.  That leaves me, however, with absolutely no authority to comment on anything aesthetic, really.

But, here, I do make such comments anyway because I think I have something to say when it comes to jewelry.  Why?  Sheer exposure.  I have spent so much time looking at jewelry that I think it can safely be called research.  When I see something that is new and different to me, I know that it is new and different, period. In the world of jewelry, I think I know special when I see it.

I have said all that to say this:  There are some people whose work I respect so much that I don’t really feel worthy to comment or even compliment.  But, if I am to continue with this little blog of mine, I must, in order to be true to the mission, which is to highlight excellent jewelry design.

So, here it goes. I give you the absolutely genius of April Higashi:

April Higashi Yellow Gold Rings

April Higashi Stone Rings

April Higashi Patterned Enamel

There’s not much that I can say.  It’s breathtaking.  All of it.  There is such a clear vision that she brings to her line.  I feel that her designs say that she knows what jewelry should be — it can’t just be a pretty item that sits by itself, it has to be a pretty item on you.  It is design with such subtlety and restraint.  I want to live in a world designed by April Higashi.

On a personal note, my husband and I visited April’s Shibumi Gallery in Berkeley, CA for an opening one Sunday afternoon several months ago.  Either she or someone on her staff brings an infallible eye to curating the gallery.  Everything that is displayed is both complementary and reflects a consistent sense of style.  We were greeted so warmly by the gallery manager, Fiona, and April casually chatted with us (as if not aware of her greatness!).  April’s husband, the incredibly talented sculptor Eric Powell, was there as well.  Given my obvious interest and perhaps because I had commented that I had just begun jewelry-making classes, we were offered a peek at April’s studio.  It was wonderful.

Great concept by Yellow Owl Workshop

I’ve been eying these super-cool necklaces by local San Francisco company, Yellow Owl Workshop, for some time.

I’ve seen these pieces around town and, last weekend, I spotted them on a display at Madewell at the San Francisco Shopping Center, which I would think is a great thing for Yellow Owl Workshop.

I just have to comment on this clever idea of crests and flags.  I think, as an idea, it could have all gone terribly wrong and awkward but it didn’t — it works beautifully.  I think that design is saved by the scale.  It had to have been tempting to overdue it in terms of size but, thankfully, they resisted.  The pieces really shine, though, because of the colors and the hand-drawn quality of the images.  It is also a nice touch that the bale is cut into the shape and the chain is tied on.  (As a general proposition, I really like the casual connection of jewelry to its functional component — a pendant to its chain, a bauble to its earring wire, etc.)  As a side note, I have to applaud the glass vial packaging.  All in all, I love them.  Nicely done, Yellow Owl Workshop.

I’m not much for floral design but …

I’m not much for floral design, especially in jewelry.  However, when I see some of Klara Markova’s work on Etsy, I have to sit down and catch my breath.  Klara’s work is so creative and detailed.  You can almost hear the breeze rustling the silver, flowered vines that accent so many of her pieces.

She appears to mix fabrication, enamel, and found objects and she does it really well to bring forth a unique vision. She has definitely presented some interesting pieces and I find at least two of them worth a comment.

I mean, seriously, look at this Poppy Doll necklace:

Poppy Doll by Klara Markova

I spend so much time looking at jewelry that it isn’t often that I see something so different and quirky that it stops me in my tracks.  It’s adorable and yet talisman-like.  Are those wings?  I have no other way to say this … but the Poppy Doll necklace has a nice thing-ness to it.  It’s just a beautiful little item that I can imagine fiddling with as it swings around my neck.

Here is another of Klara’s pieces, the Little Castle necklace, that just blows me away:

Little Castle Necklace by Klara Markova

The addition of the skyline (or castle, I suppose it is) here gives it the same vibe as the Poppy Doll necklace … it’s a piece of a scene that you get to carry with you in the form of stunning jewelry.  I love that.  Visually, it’s beautiful but it is also something more difficult than that — it’s clever.

Klara’s collection on Etsy is a good size and very reasonably priced for the work that has clearly gone into each piece.