Friday, December 19, 2008

9th Day of Christmas Feature on Gracie

Today I am featuring the sterling Gracie with hand cut chocolate nu buck leather. The poem is by the talented and gracious Kate Richey. I have been fortunate to have been able to use her words on several pieces for many years. People really love the poem on this piece. Kate has also become one of our most enthusiastic collectors.

You are nothing less

than a work of art.

-Kate Richey

The Gracie is relaxed and casual, yet elegant. The shape of the silver pendant is classic and the beautiful nu buck leather has a lushness about it.

My journey to learning how to work with leather initially brought me all the way to Bologne, Italy in 2001 to the Linea Pelle leather show. I was in search of this specific cording that Jil Sander used one season. It was so soft, shiny and inky black. I even bought a belt from that collection that was made of 50 odd twisted strands of the stuff and cut it up for necklaces. Unlike the Prada Group, I didn't have the gravitas to get anyone to ship to me small quantities to San Francisco from Italy. This was one of those long processes where I found out that you had to know the secret handshake to be let into the world of leather--a very tricky and nuanced endeavor. How do you pick a great hide, how do you make it thinner, how do you glue it?? I visited several factories in New York thinking I should find someone to make things for me, an 'expert', but wasn't finding the quality I wanted. I also wasn't making hundreds of any one thing so I realized it made sense for us to do it in our shop, piece by piece. In New York I found a 'consultant' who promised to share the process and tools but he always left out some crucial step while trying to teach me over the phone. This had cost me a small fortune by this time. Eventually my shoe repair guy told me about Beatrice Amblard who owns April in Paris, a luxury leather store here in San Francisco. I marched in holding my sad, falling apart leather prototypes and begged for her help. When I went in I really did not know the full extent of Bea's expertize, her 14 years at Hermes and the hushed respect she commands in the highest of San Francisco's social set for being the leather authority. Only Bea can make by hand the perfect bag, interior of a Bentley or a gorgeous French desk set. She was so kind and generous to show me and my metal smith, Elvedina, how to work properly with leather and all the small details that make it hold together beautifully. Now we are proud to say that we got to work with the Master after a long road of trial and error. Eventually this friendship led to a collaboration on a limited edition belt--Bea did the belt and I did the buckle. I am so happy to have gotten one while we still made them! We learned so much and really appreciated her help and friendship. I now have even more respect for the rarity of the Bea Amblards of the world and how they carry on the old world craftsmanship one person at a time.


  1. This is really cool and interesting, Jeanine. Thanks for sharing your heart and a peek behind the scenes.

  2. I'm flattered! I once met a woman whose shop was selling JP jewelry and I introduced myself to her. She was overcome with emotion. She had just given the Gracie to her daughter for graduation. I felt unworthy of her admiration, but it was a small glimpse into how touching words can be sometimes. I know the pieces I have collected and treasured have meant a great deal to me.

    All the best,
    Kate Richey

  3. These are the MOST original, creative and really fun posts...actually the teaser emails are great - I can't resist following the link!

    Robyn Hawk
    Tucson Gem Show - Live

  4. I adore this necklace. I remember buying earrings that you made for my mom, back in Mill Valley, must've been mid to late 90's. She loved your work and I used the money I had earned working at the local coffee shop to buy them for her. She still has them and loves them equally now, as she did when she first saw them. Keep up the great work!