Playful Textiles

We are going to venture beyond metals once again with the playful, sculptural, fiber pieces from Mandy Besek‘s Etsy store .  I didn’t think that I’d write something about non-traditional jewelry materials again so soon.  But, Mandy’s work really caught my attention with its bold forms and flowing spontaneity.

OK, I know this last one is a purse but just look at those colors.  It would be like being able to carry your lipstick around in a watercolor painting.


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.

Many Words Come to Mind

Clever, tactile, real, polished and raw.  These are all words that come to mind when viewing Vicki Pellegrini’s work in her Etsy store Alegra Jewelry.  Her work displays a great sense of shape and scale.  Every design has the kind of visual punch that only comes from good design — each piece is surprising but remains wearable.

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 Like This Stuff

Hello All:  Yesterday, I posted by 50th post!  Just saying. Thanks for reading, sharing and re-posting!

So, on to today’s post.

Normally, I try to find a theme for my posts — bracelets, enamel, lost wax casting etc.  Maybe, I am just tired but I’ve found this wonderful designer who I’d like to write about but I can’t find a unifying theme.  So, rather than try to create a tortured context, I will just share some of the beautiful pieces of anatomi in her Etsy store.

Maybe it is the awesome selection of stones.  Maybe not.  I just like this stuff.

Brass and Silver Cloudburst Earrings

Cloudburst Earrings - by Noelle Powell

These little guys are very familiar items to anyone who knows me.  I made them myself and, ever since their creation a couple months ago, I have worn them frequently.  To an experienced metalsmith they are very simple pieces to fabricate.  For me, not so much.  I sketched out a design that was small and would require some tiny torch work specifically to have a reason to experiment with that skill.

The bottom of each earring, the “cloud,” was simply cut out of brass.  As I have worn these, the brass has turned several different shades.  I haven’t polished them and I just let them go until they finally landed at the patina you see today. When I cut out the brass, I left little tabs which were then looped over and the ends soldered down. Thus, the tubes were made that the earring wire goes through.

The earring wires are silver, of course, and they gave me the chance to practice using the torch to ball the silver.  On these, a good eye would notice that the silver is a bit pitted, which, as I understand from my teacher, means that I let the torch stay on the metal just a nanosecond longer than I should have.  Practice, practice.

What was I thinking when I designed them?  I was trying to achieve that casual functionality that I appreciate in jewelry.  The functional component (the earring wire) as design element.  I wanted to create something that worked with negative space and that had some movement.  In the end, I really like them but I think it could be done better.  I intend to make another version in the future with, perhaps, a focal point that has a more fluid shape.

Negative Space to a New Level

The use of negative space should be a consideration in jewelry design.  When earrings hang from ears — suspended in space — how are they interacting with that space around them?  How does the shape of a pendant appear against the backdrop of skin.  Filigree, of course, a style that has appeared throughout the ages, is all about making shapes out of negative space.

Lorena Martinez-Neustadt brings negative space to a new level with her line of jewelry (available on Etsy in the shop Gemagenta).

The first two pieces below, designed to be two-dimensional renderings of three-dimensional things, like faceted stones, are so clever.  Lorena made the wise choice to leave some of the piece undisturbed.  Perhaps, to suggest a glare off of the stone or even just to let our imagination do some of the work.  Either way, it strikes me as well-considered design element.  In a way, by leaving some of it “blank,” she is using negative space in two ways.  (Does that equal a positive?)  Those little omissions are also what set Lorena’s “gem” pieces apart from some other similar concepts that have shown up in the mass produced market in the last few years.

Faceted Brilliant Pendant - by Lorena Martinez-Neustadt

Faceted Emerald Pendant - by Lorena Martinez-Neustadt

Beyond these gem pieces, Lorena’s collection has a consistent use of negative space that feels fresh.  I especially love these:

Lingerie Elongated Pendant - by Lorena Martinez-Neustadt

Lingerie Ring - by Lorena Martinez-Neustadt

The designs are lacy, yet clean.  Inspired by lace and lingerie without overdoing the concept.  The pieces are flattering against the skin and appear to be very wearable.