Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Bead Bazaar Bonanza!

Bead Bazaar --Los Angeles Bead Society

Silk strands from Class Act Designs

Can you see the tiny face in this ancient bead?

And the God face in this bead?
Ancient Beads from Ancient Beads and Artifacts

You wouldn't know the country is in a recession by the buzz at the Bead Society of Los Angeles' Bead Bazaar this past Saturday. People were cramming the aisles and fighting (politely of course) over strands of beads. I felt like I was at a bargain basement sale!

The Bead Bazaars are held twice a year in April and October. With almost 100 vendors at each Bazaar, these events have become famous in Southern California. The event is a fundraiser for the Bead Society of Los Angeles, and is the main source of funding for the many projects of the Society supports.

This year, a few of the highlights included the booth for Ancient Beads and Artifacts with rare coins and a few extremely rare beads; some valued up to $3,500. Owner, Bassem Elias was friendly and passionate about his wares and it was a pleasure meeting him. I bought some ancient coins which I plan to build into some rings and necklaces. I'm already excited about how great I know they are going to look!

On the other end of the spectrum, but equally gorgeous was the colorful booth by Class Act Designs which sells beautiful handmade and hand dyed silk ties for incorporating into artisan jewelry. I met co-owner Judy Solomon and was entranced by the stunning colors of their silks. I'd love to take a class one day on ways to weave these silks into my pieces!

It was a great event and once again, I left with less money in my jeans, but lots more sparkle in my life!
Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

David Heston Designs: Bold and Masculine

David Heston

During my trip to NYC a few months ago, I stopped by the Chelsea jewelry boutique, DVVS where co-owner, James Corry showed me several talented jewelry designers including the work of David Heston that they had recently started carrying. I like David's work because it is bold and striking. One of his most unusual line uses black diamonds combined with black rubber cord that is particularly sophisticated, strong and masculine.

My style is best described as contemporary with bold clean lines. Sophisticated with an edge. I approach my work like an architect in respect to forms and space. Paying attention to negative and positive spatial relationships. I continually incorporate new mediums into my work. I actually used rubber cord in my designs over a decade ago.

Like so many other jewelry designers, David comes from a fine arts background, originally trained as a sculpture. In transitioning to jewelry design, he also earned a graduate gemology degree from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).

GIA provided me a solid understanding of gemology, how gems are formed and cut. I am able to grade diamonds and identify colored stones. I garnered a solid knowledge of the industry from GIA. I decided to pursue jewelry design because its a more lucrative medium. And I felt it was much easier to travel and show jewelry as opposed to large scale sculpture.

In his 18 years in business, David seems to have been particularly successfully marketing his work which has resulted in numerous celebrity clients including Eddie Murphy, John Lithgow, Janet Jackson, Diana Ross, Rene Russo, Cedric the Entertainer and Ken Griffey Jr.

I have had success meeting and marketing my designs to celebrities and stylists through a number of my retail outlets. My work is fashion-forward and this garners attention.

And his advice to fledgling designers?

Find and develop your true style and stick with it. Be true to your original style.

Aside from DVVS, David's work can be found at Neiman Marcus, Bernie Robbins, Alvin Goldfarb and Topeo Gallery among others.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Contemporary Jewellery From Italy: Touring Exhibition Coming to the U.S on May 1st

Velvet da Vinci
San Francisco
Alessia Semeraro
Brooch, Iron, Silver Gold Solder

Ute Kolar
Ring, Silver

Adrean Bloomard
Neckpiece 18ct Gold, Crushed Turquoise

During a quick trip to San Francisco this past week, I stopped in to Velvet da Vinci, a gallery of contemporary art jewelry. I was blown away by the quality and uniqueness of the work represented by artists from the US, Europe, Latin America and Japan. For anyone interested in seeing just how far some jewelry artists are stretching, this is the place to visit! I hope to add a few profiles on some of the artists that most intrigued me--so watch for those soon.

While I was there, one of the shop owners, Mike Holmes, mentioned that Velvet da Vinci will be the only U.S. stop for the touring exhibition of Italian contemporary jewelry, titled, Contemporary Jewellery From Italy which will be on display at the store from May 1st-June 8th.

The exhibition is put on by the Associazione Gioiello Contemporaneo (AGC) which is a non-profit organization with the mission to support and promote the culture surrounding contemporary jewelry. This exhibit will show some of the best of contemporary Italian designers, many of whom according to the AGC, use ancient techniques and traditional materials to speak a new language. The exhibition has just finished touring in London, Kracow and Barcelona before it arrives in San Francisco for its final show.

If you are in San Francisco over the next month, this is a "must see" stop! And, be sure to say 'hello' to Mike, whose enthusiasm and passion for contemporary jewelry is contagious!

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ancient Gold Necklace--Oldest Ever Found!

Although this story was widely reported worldwide in late March, I thought the necklace so beautiful and the story so amazing that I just had to include it as well.

This gold necklace was found near Lake Titicaca in Peru and dates back more than 4,000 years (around 2100 BC) , making it the oldest artifact found in the Americas.

The necklace was found in a burial pit and was all the more surprising because it was found among a society that was in the beginning stages of agriculture, meaning that they were just starting to settle in one place, rather than roam in search of the next meal. So, to find the time and means to make such a necklace meant that they had more time on their hands than just to hunt and gather for food and general survival.

The nine gold tube beads were made from local gold that was hammered flat and then rolled, perhaps around a twig, and strung, alternating with round stones identified as either greenstone or turquoise, on wool string. The result is a certain amazing sophisticated beauty!

From the earliest civilizations, it seems that people have yearned for adornment. So I guess it shouldn't be surprising in the least, that we all still love shiny, pretty jewelry!

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Jeanne Johngren: Shimmering Elegance in Living Color

Jeanne Johngren

I first saw Jeanne Johngren's work at a tiny, 19th Street shop in the Chelsea district of NYC called DVVS. One of the store owners, James Corry, showed me around, pointing out some of his favorite artists. When we came to the Jeanne Johngren display, he mentioned that one of his clients wanted to "just live in that case". I knew what he meant. The rich bead colors, gorgeous metals and fine workmanship combine to make sumptuous, beautiful pieces.

In reading more about Jeanne, I was surprised to learn that her path mirrored my own...a first career in the TV/film business with a switch along the way to jewelry design and creation. Although Jeanne is now very well-established and I am just starting out, her ability to successfully make that transition gave me renewed optimism!

Here's what Jeanne had to say:

Before becoming a jewelry designer I was a film and TV producer, based in NYC at the Tribeca Film Center. I made the decision to change careers because I wanted to have a family. Life in the film industry is about long hours where the myriad problems at hand overshadow outside life. I had many friends in the film business, few of whom stayed married. No matter what their occupation -- sound man, cinematographer, or actor, the long, intense hours meant that it was very hard to build meaning outside of that context. When I met the man whom I decided to marry, I went looking for my next career. I had certain criteria I had to meet -- I needed something creative, where I could make an aesthetic statement and I needed flexibility.

How would you compare the making of a video or film to the creation of jewelry?

I think that there are a lot of similarities between making jewelry and making a film.

In both mediums:

A)- you are realizing an idea, you are involved in an act of creation.

B)- you are working with a team of true artisans. In the film world it is cinematographers, sound designers, editors and art directors. In the jewelry world, it is CAD/CAM design people, gemstone dealers, gemstone setters, casters, finishers and polishers. In both worlds, you have to motivate the individuals involved to give the work their best effort.

C)- there is a strong relationship between left and right-brained thinking --Precise measurement and artistic gesture play complementary roles in the jewelry business, as in film and TV. The exact duration of a piece of music may need to correspond to the measured distance/ length of time it takes to film a scene and go through the dolly motion to cover it. That's a lot of choreography. Jewelry can go through many hands before it is a finished piece requiring serious choreography as well. Balancing cost and the achievement of the desired "look" are paramount concerns in both arenas (pun intended.)

D)- selling plays an important role. In the film industry people are always moving toward their next project. If you are the producer, you have to sell your ideas all the time -- to the cast, crew and financiers. In the jewelry industry, you have to sell to individuals at trunk shows and to stores at trade shows (or on appointments.) You can't be afraid of selling in either field.

How did you first get into jewelry making and where did you learn your techniques?

My first foray into jewelry making actually happened when I was in my early20's, before the film industry was paying my bills. I made items out of plastic and applique, paint and passementerie purchased from odd and wonderful places in Manhattan like Canal Plastics and M+J Trimmings. I sold the items I made to friends on the film sets where I worked. But soon my film producing career took off and there wasn't time for jewelry-making. I circled back around to jewelry-making after I had my daughter. She was in nursery school and the school was having a fundraiser. Someone was going to make earrings and I joined that team. My desire to make jewelry was re-kindled quickly. Within a week, I had bought and re-finished a roll top desk which became my workbench and took over part of the house for my hobby, which became a business 5 weeks later, after I made 3,000 dollars in a weekend at a local craft show.I learned some hand techniques from a local bead shop. But soon, I wanted to move into more stone-set work. The pieces that I am doing now are the result of my drawings and the understanding I have gained from working with wonderful masters in the fields of gemstones, CAD/CAM, stone setting and finishing. I have also applied my perfectionist tendencies and all of these talented, patient people who work with me know that I am a stickler for detail.

Jeanne has described her work as a "marriage of opposites" which I asked her to elaborate on.

I enjoy investigating marriages of opposition in my work. Hard gold becomes supple in the form of a granulated bead chain, as in our Strata Collection. Finishes, both shiny and matte can be combined to pleasing affect, as in our Mandala Collection. Faceted stones can be combined with cabochon, to add another dimension of light and color variation to the effect of our stacked rings.

How would you describe your style?

I would describe my style as shimmering elegance in living color.

Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere. Truly. Most obviously, perhaps, architecture -- stained glass windows, carved lintels, the curves of buttressed arches and their relationship to the human form. But, perhaps, not so obvious, the shape of pasta, television sitcoms from the '60's, Greek Tragedy, wallpaper, reflections of the sun and clouds on skyscrapers, the rainbow of refracted light from the city (NYC) at night. I have a pattern recognition brain. I'm always cataloguing what I see.

You made a decision early on to move to high end stones and metals. When did you know that you were ready to transition to these expensive materials?

I transitioned to expensive materials because I wanted to make things with long-lasting resonance. Items that are more valuable are less likely to be"throw-away." I transitioned early, as soon as I felt I had the skill set.

It appears that you have been more successful than most jewelry designers in the marketing of your business---including getting celebrities to wear your designs.

We have been successful at getting the jewelry onto some celebrity personalities. I think this is a key to some early acceptance in the marketplace.

What do you think is the key to running a successful jewelry business?

I think there are many keys and many different kinds of successful businesses. First, you must have work that strikes a chord in the audience. Second, use tried and true methods to reach your intended audience -- trade shows, trade publication coverage, consumer publication coverage, consumer advertising, celebrity placement. Third, perseverance. Fourth, willingness to learn from your mistakes.

What advice do you have for fledgling jewelry designers?

Design what you love. Find an audience. Decide what size business you want and GO FOR IT! What do you have to lose?

Jeanne's work can be found in over 40 stores throughout the country. She's grown her business to such an extent that she no longer makes the jewelry, but instead oversees a group of skilled artisans who see that her visions come to fruition. Jeanne Johngren seems to me to have reached the ultimate achievement of developing and marketing her jewelry passion into a viable and successful business. Hat's off to her!

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Melissa Finelli: Manipulating Metal-An Evolving Art Form

Melissa Finelli in her Boston Studio

Photos by: Peter Harris

Perusing http://www.metalcyberspace/ again, I came across some jewelry that appeared to me to be futuristic, ancient and outer space like...all at once. The pieces seemed almost eerie to me so I just had to find out more about the person behind this unusual and special work. Meet Melissa Finelle of melle finelli jewelry who has a studio in Boston. I asked her about her almost supernatural appearing work:

Sometimes I see my style as nature from another planet, sometimes I see it as architectural. I am process oriented so sometimes it's the tools that dictate what I make. I do not sketch; my pieces come to life organically as I form each shape. I see the "planetary", "futuristic", "ancient" thing going on in my work. I'm not sure where it comes from... maybe it has to do with the spontaneous way in which I work. I think i need to think more on that one.

On your website, you mention that you "feel lucky" to have discovered metalsmithing. Tell us about that.

I discovered metalsmithing while sitting at my dull job in a jewelry store that didn't get much business. I started examining the jewelry and all the little mechanical parts that made each piece move. I was curious and wanted to know about the process. I ended up looking in the phone book and found a school that offered jewelry making in Boston's north end. The school is the oldest trade school in the country and has people from all over the world attending (North Bennet Street School). This place intrigued me so I set up an appointment for a tour later that week. Basically I was so fascinated with the school, i decided to apply. I was accepted and started my jewelry training cold turkey. Ten years after I graduated, I went to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and studied sculpture. This changed the way I worked on a smaller scale. I feel lucky because I've finally found a material that is challenging to me. It always keeps me curious and ready to keep exploring.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I think my inspiration comes from a combination of acquiring new tools and trying new ways to manipulate metal, as well as all the interesting little details I see while I'm walking around town. I always find it so curious to see green growth growing out of a knocked over stop sign planted in the concrete. Now that's determination! When I'm struggling creatively I take a walk.

How do you balance the business of the work with the creative process?

The balance between making my work (enjoyable), and the business side of things (not so enjoyable) is a hard one for me. Each year I've become more organized which is so important. I write everything down that needs to be done and tackle it a little each day. I keep my office separate from my studio. My workspace is my sacred place to experiment and be creative. There is no computer at the studio, and no tools at home. In fact when I want to hang a picture or something at home, I use a rock!

What advice do you have for fledgling jewelry designers?

Advise for jewelers to be... this is not a glamorous career choice. It's work. It's not easy to make, promote, and sell your work. It takes time and dedication to the craft. Get your work out there. Never say no to an opportunity to show your work. and don't let any rejection get you down. Keep at it!

Melissa's work can be found in more than 30 galleries throughout the country. Visit her website to check them out!

What fun it was to have a virtual visit with Melissa! I think her work is quite spectacular!

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Moche Beads From Ancient Peru

Christopher B. Donnan

Christopher Donnan Lecture at Bead Society of Los Angeles

Re-constructed Shell and Copper Pectoral

Monkey Bead
Spider Bead

Catfish Cuff Bracelet
(which took 18 months to reconstruct)

I had the privilege this past Wednesday to attend a lecture at the Bead Society of Los Angeles by archaeologist, Christopher B. Donnan, on the Moche beads of ancient Peru. What a fascinating presentation!
Christopher Donnan, one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Moche culture of Peru, is a Professor of Anthropology at UCLA. Donnan has spoken at the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., The Metropolitan Museum in New York, and the Art Institute of Chicago, so we were thrilled to have him visit us. Christopher's lecture included captivating stories and stunning photos which drew "oohs and ahhs" from the crowd of bead aficionados.

The Moche civilization flourished on the north coast of Peru between 100 and 800 A.D. Although they had no writing system, they left behind, in the tombs of their rulers, a vast treasure of gold, silver and turquoise ornaments demonstrating superb craftsmanship and exquisite detail.

This elaborate adornment was reserved for the elite men and women of the Moche society. Found among the tombs were pectorals, bracelets, earrings and necklaces including a magnificent pectoral (pictured above as a reconstruction) of shell beads in narrow, triangular patterns with copper spacers.

Many of the Moche ornaments were derived from nature and animals including images of catfish (thought to signify fertility and water), owls, monkeys and even spiders. And, often their beads were created with small balls/objects inside to make rattling sounds with movement--bringing the beads almost magically alive.

Like ancient Egypt, the Moche nobility took their adornments with them to the afterlife so this ancient society's need for these elaborate pieces must have ensured that skilled artisans were in high demand and constantly employed. This focus on the artistry of making ever increasingly beautiful adornments gave rise to the creation of some of the finest jewelry in the ancient world--and a glimpse of one of the most remarkable civilizations to inhabit the earth.
A more comprehensive article and pictures on the Moche civilization can be found in a back issue of Ornament magazine (Autumn, 1993).

Thanks for stopping by!


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Bead Contest--Bead Star Challenge!

Last night at the Bead Society of LA meeting, we learned of a new bead contest sponsored by Bead Star, a new annual beading publication comprised entirely of prize-winning designs. The winners are chosen by beaders worldwide through an online forum on and the lucky grand prize winner receives $5,000 in cash plus other great prizes. There are several categories to enter, but the deadline is fast approaching on May 6th, 2008. Contest rules are online at: Good luck!