Monday, December 22, 2008

12 Day of Christmas Feature on Dale

The Dale was made back in 1999 and it was in a small collection called Boites D'argents. It was originally part of a three box nesting set that hung from a very long chain,and over time the design was simplified into one elegant solo box. The simplicity of the design combines powerfully with Rumi's words to create a design that has endured and become a part of our repertory of favorites.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there.

-Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

This piece is named after my dear friend, Dale Lindholm. When I first started making jewelry my work caught the attention of the wonderful actors Kyle Mclaughlin and Lara Flynn Boyle who had worked together on the legendary television show Twin Peaks and were a couple at that time. In San Francisco shooting a movie about Jim Morrison and The Doors, they came into a shop where my designs were featured. When they found out I didn't yet sell to any stores in Los Angeles they gave me the card for a small store on Melrose and told me to be sure to tell the manager that they sent me. This is the backstory to how I actually got my work into THE jewelry store in Los Angeles at that time. Dale was the scary and intimidating manager who ended up ordering every single piece in my mini Russian suitcase...I still have that thing. At my first appointment I was so nervous that I couldn't take my necklaces out of the suitcase due to my trembling hands and had to have my best friend there to help me. I also remember wearing a tragic outfit---that may have included a cape or a floor length velvet dress, I'm not sure--it was the late 80's. As time went on I remember Dale telling me that Brad Pitt was always coming in and buying up my things to give as gifts, especially for his then girlfriend, Juliette Lewis. The funny thing is that back then Brad Pitt was just the hot cowboy from Thelma and Louise, who knew?. Dale and I remain great friends to this day and he never lets me forget that his namesake has remained all these years one of our top sellers. I think it is perfect to close this special 12 days with a nod towards Dale and all those who have been so helpful along my journey as a designer; you just never know where the angels are in this life; they turn up unexpectedly and they help you along in ways that are pure magic. And to those of you reading, thank you as well, and may you all be blessed with good friends and happy holidays!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

11th Day of Christmas Feature on Emily

The Emily was made in 1998 and it has been a great necklace for both women and men. The heavy cable chain is a great weight for a chunky and casual statement, perfect for jeans, sweaters and boots. It is straightforward in its simplicity and the polished finish really make the words the star attraction.

A mountain keeps an echo
deep inside itself.
That’s how I hold your voice.

-Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

I love the visual one gets from these words—the powerful image of the mountain juxtaposed against the intimacy of holding a voice, an essence, in your hand. Contrasts are always important to me; the grand in the particular, the place where the edge of one thing meets with another…the delicacy of the echo that lives within the strength of the mountain…the echoes of so many of the voices of my own past influence me constantly; teachers and friends and mentors who I keep “deep inside myself” and whose wisdom informs my work to this day. I am remembering particularly one of my teachers, Kevin Radley, who encouraged me to go on and to make my statement as an artist and as a person. These echoes are precious, and during this holiday season, when we are all so prone to personal reflection, we hear them in our quietest moments.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

10th Day of Christmas Feature on Duane

I made the Duane back so long ago that I don't even remember the date. It was a simple piece that just came out like a little sculptural form using build up wax, which was my modus operandi when I started working with wax. I used a little alcohol lamp for heating the wax and dental tools.

For example, the new Griffin box with tiny leaves on the lid was made using this same process. I actually worked on that lid years ago and it sat around my studio until this last collection. A lot of work went into that crazy piece. I am not sure I could find that kind of focus these days, the detail was so great. Now I tend to do more carving of hard wax combined with fabrication out of metal sheet.

An example of this technique would be the Mizu and Titania necklace. You can see the huge difference in both styles compared with the Wabi Sabi simplicity of the Duane.

The soul is here for its own joy comes from a much longer poem by Rumi translated by the poet Coleman Barks.

We are so proud to have a relationship with Mr. Barks, who translates the words of the great poet Rumi. His translation is considered to be the finest for its own poetic merit and beauty. It is because of Mr. Barks that the curtain was lifted on the words of this great ancient poet.


An eye is meant to see things.
The soul is here for its own joy.
A head has one use: for loving a true love.
Legs: to run after.

Love is for vanishing into the sky. The mind,
for learning what men have done and tried to do.
Mysteries are not to be solved. The eye goes blind
when it only wants to see why.

A lover is always accused of something.
But when he finds his love, whatever was lost
in the looking comes back completely changed.

On the way to Mecca, many dangers: thieves,
the blowing sand, only camel's milk to drink.
Sill each pilgrim kisses the black stone there
with pure longing, feeling in the surface
the taste of the lips he wants.

This talk is like stamping new coins. They pile up,
while the real work is done outside
by someone digging the ground.


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.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

8th Day of Christmas Feature on Allison

I made the Allison in 2002 and was inspired by the shapes and curves on drawer handles on Japanese cabinetry. I also wanted to make a necklace that didn't hang from the chain like an ordinary pendant.

I wore this necklace during what proved to be the most stressful time of my professional life. I could literally feel the words, and they helped to sustain me during that difficult time. I had gone to court to defend my designs against being knocked off, and ended up in a protracted court proceeding, actually held in the same room where Martha Stewart was tried.....a place loaded with painful vibrations and implications, but a place where I learned that I could get through most anything. Have you ever been knocked off? It is a shocking feeling to see your own ideas, and in my case, designs, literally taken and appropriated by someone else. I did learn a lot, not only about what it means to go through a real 'trial', but about what it feels like to stand up and do the right thing, even if it is difficult, and even if the risk is great. I wore the Allison every day for nine days, and it served me well, reminding me to remain strong.

The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide.

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I am proud to have stood my ground and represented myself and all the other artists who are routinely knocked off by those less creative and original. I could control my own actions, but not the outcome, and I lost the case but kept my integrity. I came away from the experience with a deeper understanding of the concept of attachment and the belief that my creative energies are my own; they are the most precious gift, and they can never be knocked off. And I also got a full blooded experience with the notion of "that which does not kill me makes me stronger." And I really do get the term, "don't make a federal case out of it."

It was because of this experience that I can relate to and understand the stories I hear about the talismanic power of jewelry, the way in which beautiful things and powerful words become touchstones that bring us comfort, hope and strength in difficult times, and in happy ones too. The wedding ring, the commemorative medal, the heirloom pin that has been in the family for so long...these things connect us to each other and to our deeper selves. The Allison did this for me every time I touched it and remembered its message of strength and hope.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

7th Day of Christmas Feature on Dante

This piece is special to my heart. I made it using my finger prints into melted wax back in 98. The collection was called Microcosmos and I used a lot of fingerprints and different interpretations of books. I always have made more involved book pendants but this one is just so tiny and dear. The words are private and hidden...

Infinite goodness has such wide arms.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

6th Day of Christmas Feature on Trixie

This necklace started out as a smaller part of a larger more involved necklace and through natural selection it became the lovely simplifed version you see now. That happens a lot here. For example, the Wolfgang ring started out as an unsuccessful necklace and ended up a great ring.

The idea to thread the chains through the piece actually came from looking at Japanese Inro boxes. I have a collection of books on Netsuke and Inro and one of my favorite things to do is to go to the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and look at their collection. I visit them at the Met, too, when I am in NY. My dream is that in another life I was a Netsuke artist.

The poetry used for this piece is by Casey Haymes. Casey worked here as our much loved shipper a while back when we realized he not only spoke several languages and was great fun at a party, but that he was a very talented writer as well. He now has a huge fan club. We miss you, C. Haymes!

I believe in everything

the heart can stand.

--C. Haymes

I gave the Trixie in 18k to the talented artist Rae Dunn when she was getting married earlier this year and she actually wore it IN here wedding along with her Erica Tanov dress. She already is radiant but on that day she was utterly herself and so beautiful---she was Rae Extra. I feel happy knowing that she also wears her Trixie for more casual occasions like working in her studio or walking her dog, Wilma.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

On the 4th and 5th Day of Christmas we experienced technical difficulties...

3rd Day of Christmas Feature on Wallace and Francesca

The Wallace and Francesca are huge hits in Japan since the time when I first made them in 2002.

I have a feeling they have stuck around and have maintained their popular status due to the beautiful tiny stone hanging from an 18k wire and because of their sentiments:

On the Wallace: Nothing is worth more than this day.--Goethe
and on the Francesca: The spirit is the true self. --Cicero

Megan, one of our engravers, gave a Wallace in 18k to her sister for her 30th birthday and it was a hit. I was told her sister is very hard to buy jewelry for but that, in this case, she never takes her Wallace off whether she is being fancy or casual.

I personally think the Wallace or Francesca are great gifts for someone being introduced to my jewelry for the first time...

Friday, December 12, 2008

2nd Day of Christmas Feature on Edmond

I wanted to make something that had the scale and heft of an old pocket watch--a piece that felt very pleasing to the eye and to the touch. The Edmond just feels good on and the shape is inviting, like a worry stone. I made it in 2006 and it has become a favorite among our collectors. The Apache blessing makes it a powerful talisman and I like the idea of wearing it so close to one's heart.

I gave the Edmond in 18k to my mother for Christmas one year and she loved it, although she didn't have it long before Grandpa Bellmer took it over. I would describe his style as 'Harley Guy with Pony Tail.' He now wears it everyday which really drives the point home that many of the styles work beautifully for both men and women.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

1st Day of Christmas Feature on Palmer

We have decided to feature a special piece each day, over the next 12 days. The first day we picked the Palmer cuff handmade in sterling silver. Each Palmer is hand engraved with a passage from Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke… the Stephen Mitchell translation is the best in my opinion and deeply moving. This book was very important and inspirational to me as a young artist in my early 20's.

I will never forget one Christmas season Barneys New York featured it in their holiday catalog and we were here into the wee hours engraving what felt like hundreds of them. I engraved 7 in a row before realizing I’d left a word out on every one! In the recycling bin they went!

When I first opened my tiny retail store the owner of De Vera came in and bought a Palmer for himself. I was so flattered and honored. Federico De Vera is a kind man known world wide for having impeccable taste and talent. I am also honored to have my candle snuffer among the objects so reverentially displayed in his store.

I designed the Palmer in 2004 and it has since become a classic. This bracelet is easy to wear and is a bold 'statement piece'. It is larger in scale compared to my usual work yet there is still a feeling of intimacy that the smaller pieces carry because of the subtlety of the thoughtful and meditative passage.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


sou ve nir n. A token of remembrance; a memento. [French, from Old French, to recall, memory]

The 'Jeanine Payer Souvenir' is being rolled out today. It is our version of a 'gift certificate' and since we are hand engraving each one with the recipient and the giver's names, you can also choose any amount you wish to give. It is presented in our beautiful box with a green gingham ribbon. Sometimes it is challenging to select the perfect piece, the perfect poem, the perfect ring size or chain length, and this is an extraodinarily beautiful solution.

I love the French word 'souvenir' and the idea of having a memory of the moment of the gift---a tangible memento that sticks around, ends up hanging on your Christmas tree, used as a book mark, or at the very least a cool gum scraper.

In our weekly meeting last Tuesday someone here jokingly suggested creating sterling silver gift certificates; each one hand engraved in our signature style. How about taking a punch and hammering them upon redemption?...more hilarity...but then I looked around to see the room go silent, with people looking up in the air, biting pencils...scratching their heads...I guess this is the way the best creative ideas come about. Upon reflection this was an inspired idea!

It was one of our most productive meetings in a long time; one where we had FUN despite this new economic climate that is affecting all cottage trade manufacturers...see: 'jewelry' and 'discretionary income.' Our decision to hand engrave a silver gift certificate, usually a throw-away normally printed on paper for pennies was born of this crazy time, where all decisions are made in response to entirely new needs. How does what we create become a communication of beauty and hope for the makers and the wearers? I hope everyone loves these 'souvenirs' as much as we love making them!