December 27, 2010

Spring Inspirations

Spring has sprung in my studio and I'm having fun creating delicious gemstone charms that drip from delicate chain. Here's my inspiration board for some of my new designs currently available at The Shop at JulRe Designs.

November 8, 2010

The Sporting Life

Left to right: US Open Tennis, NY Jets Football, NY Yankees Baseball, NY Knicks Basketball
You could label me a sports-aholic, sports addict or sports fanatic and be very accurate in your assessment.  Year-round, I'm mesmerized by athletics of all kinds.  From boxing to tennis to track and field, at any given time of the year I'm finding a way to be in a stadium, arena or glued to the TV for the next game, match, race or set.  ESPN is my TV channel of choice and their ScoreCenter app sits prominently on the first screen on my iPhone.  My significant other and I host semi bi-weekly NFL viewing parties during football season so our fellow fanatics can come together for great food and raucous analysis of every pass or fumble.

This year alone, I've attended the Barclays Golf Tournament, the US Open Tennis Tournament, a NY Yankees regular season baseball game, a NJ Nets basketball game on Wednesday and a NY Knicks game yesterday.  Add the NY Jets football game my other half recently attended and you can understand why our friends say we live a sporting life. (We're working on future vacations with Super Bowl, NCAA Final Four Basketball Tournament, Olympics and World Cup Soccer themes)


I find it funny that some people are surprised at my veracity for sports.  They assume that I come from a family of athletes, was one myself or my Dad must have encouraged it but the truth is that no one in my family was what I would consider a true athlete.  It was probably more my Mom's love of high school football, wrestling and gymnastics that influenced me early on. I grew up happily braving the cold weather to watch teenagers run up and down rock hard fields laced with snow to catch pigskin balls and gladly sweated it out in over-heated gyms to see young men contort their bodies on mats to pin an opponent or young women fling themselves into open air and balance themselves precariously on long, thin blocks of wood.  At my Mom's insistence, for many years my parents had season tickets for Philadelphia Flyers hockey and Phillies baseball.  My Dad owns enough team paraphernalia to open a storefront.  

Call it the thrill of competition, the camaraderie I experience being with others who appreciate the unique nature athletics, a latent desire to be an athlete or just to be a part of team play, I can't imagine my life without, as Jim McKay, legendary ABC Sports announcer once said, "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat."

October 25, 2010

Strong Images & Warm Sensations


This weekend, a customer visited my studio and while perusing my current collection of jewelry, she picked up a particularly colorful necklace and began to stare at it intensely.  After a few minutes, I began to wonder if she felt a special connection to the piece, if it reminded her of something or someone or if she was repulsed by it.  Actually the necklace was conjuring up a series of strong images and warm sensations for her, sort of like the inspiration boards I create when I design.  Obviously, she took that as a sign that the necklace was made for her and purchased it immediately.  I believe jewelry is a very personal expression of who a person is and is an outward expression of their inner self.  

Above is a vision board that includes some of my creative inspirations for my Fall 2010 jewelry collection as well as a few of my favorite designs.  What colors and images create an emotional response or inspire your creativity?

Some images courtesy of Hermes.com, Anthropologie.com

October 4, 2010

Color Commentary

I may often dream in black and white but I live in color. I've consciously chosen entrepreneurial ventures that have allowed me to surround myself with a wide range of beautiful hues and patinas.  During my years as a Fashion and Personal Image Consultant, one of my jobs was to advise people on how to make an impact and present the best of themselves for career success.  I was trained in the classic "Dress for Success" and "Color Me Beautiful" theories which I subsequently railed against because those philosophies seemed one dimensional, structured and left little room for personality or creativity i.e. in professional settings, to seem authoritative and competent, always wear a dark, conservative suit OR everyone falls into one of four seasonal color palettes.  Just when does one get to express individuality in these concepts?

I recently read a special report on the Monster.com website entitled "What the Colors of Your Job Interview Clothes Convey" by Monster Contributing Writers, Gladys Stone & Fred Whelan and while I agree that how you dress in professional situations has an effect on how you are perceived, I'm not sure I completely buy into the whole thought-process that certain colors elicit specific visceral perceptions.  I would like to think that we are beyond labeling an individual as stable or trustworthy simply because the blue suit was the only one that made it back from the dry cleaners in time for the interview. Granted, I do believe that colors have the power to evoke certain emotions and I will say that some colors may be considered overdone in certain business milieus.  I'm not advising a professional wardrobe of circus colors but as a former Corporate Recruiter, it is my opinion that how a person is regarded in interview situations has much more to do with how substantive the interviewee is including relevant experience, credentials but most importantly, attitude. I say wear that tailored black jacket with a crisp red shirt if that is who you are and you are comfortable in it. Being the authentic YOU is what gets the job.

August 30, 2010

The Pleasure of Pleasing

Last week I got a phone call from a very loyal customer who asked me to join her for lunch.  This wouldn't be something so unusual since many of my customers invite me to dine with them or attend special events except this customer is notoriously private and would never be mistaken for a social butterfly.  She's quite proud of her exclusive life and enjoys the privacy that she works very hard to maintain.  She became my customer because a close friend (also a customer) told her I designed custom jewelry and that she would never see anything  I created especially for her on anyone else.  I have kept my word and she has continued to commission me.  Over the years, we have developed a very cordial relationship, one that is business oriented, has room for occasional light-hearted frivolity but I would not say was any more than an artist and a client connected by our love of fashion.
 
So imagine my surprise when I met her yesterday at one of those fabulously hot NYC restaurants that's booked solid for the next year and as we were feasting on Tomato Sorbet and Grilled Corn Cakes, she told me that she gets great pleasure from just talking to me.  She told me her reasons, details of which are much too personal to share here, but that gist of it all is that she rarely gets "listened" to.  It turns out that contrary to my belief, my creative process held special meaning for her.  Before I can even conceptualize her jewelry, I want and need to "hear" about what she wants and needs.  As with all of my customers, its important that I really listen to what they are saying in order to give them a satisfying end result.  I've always felt that the more I know about a person, the more personal the design I create for them becomes.  I also want them to know that they are important to me, not just because they are paying for my work but because I appreciate them as people.  

Jewelry is such an intimate piece of art and it is my opinion that through its beauty it can speak to you and for you as it can evoke a visual image of your essence.  I really enjoy hearing the stories of grandchildren being born, the marriage proposals and the trips abroad.  I also hear about the deaths of loved ones, the divorces and the vacations that can't be afforded and that's OK too.  It all helps me to connect with who I'm designing for and what will make them happy.  Sometimes these connections last.  Sometimes they fade away.  Regardless, I hope that my jewelry can brings smiles and joy to all who receive it.  The lunch turned out to be my customer's way of saying "thank you" to me for caring enough to make a real connection with her.  I was truly honored.  In this manner, it will always be my pleasure to please.

August 23, 2010

Art on a String

Those who regularly read this blog know that I am a big fan and huge supporter of indie artists.  I've written about my carefully curated handmade coffee/tea cup collection.  My home is lovingly filled with wonderful pieces of handcrafted furniture.  Being an artisan myself, I have great respect for craftspeople because I understand the heart and soul that these creative people pour into their work.  After hearing the story of the Quilts of Gee's Bend and the incredible women who make them, then seeing the quilts while on exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2008, I became intrigued by the intricate work of Fiber and Textile artists.
 
I've discovered the fascinating embroidery work of Elaine Reichek, the crocheted brilliance of Xenobia Bailey and the sculptural magnificence of Karen Searle.  The juried artisan shopping site, 1000 Markets hosts a number of fiber art showcases including the extraordinary work of my new favorite, Susan Sorrell of Creative Chick Studios.  (Her Twitter background is a must-see)  If you are in the New York City area, you won't be disappointed if you visit the Museum of Art and Design to see Intertwined: Contemporary Baskets exhibition, a revered collection of baskets and fiber sculpture.   


So I think Art on a String is an appropriate name for my next artistic collection/obsession.  Now excuse me while I figure out where it will all go....

August 16, 2010

Color My Cardigan

So I was playing around on the ColourLovers website as I often do when I'm trying to design a new piece of jewelry and I decided to put my loss of focus to good use by designing a color strategy for my fall wardrobe.  The palette above is the culmination of my exercise in procrastination.  I selected rich, wholesome colors that worked well together but are strong enough to hold their own in a complete garment.  Honestly, I don't need any more clothing.  The boutique that is my closet is stuffed to the brim with years of shopping therapy.  But each season, I like to add one or two pieces that keep me in line with the latest me-appropriate fashion trend. (NOTE: I will not be doing leggings, no matter what.)

Karoo by Marc Eisen Sweater
Since I'm a sweater lover and the cardigan has returned as the the must-have item of the season, I decided to troll the interwebs for fab finds to match my Fall Fabulosity color range.  The versatile khaki MICHAEL Michael Kors dolman sleeve cardigan  is the perfect carryover from warmer weather to Fall.  I found this vintage tomato red sweater from Stacy Leigh Atelier on the fab shopping site, Etsy.  I adore the cable knit and classic wrap styling.  The drapey chartreuse bamboo cardigan by Gloria Gaudette that I found on Sarah's Universe  is not only eco-friendly but the price tag is easy on the wallet.  My dark chocolate pick is this sweet wool blend sweater by Karoo by Marc Eisen (shown here).  As ruching is one of my favorite fashion details, this one may be the next addition to the Juliet closet boutique.  And I saved my jaw-dropper for last.  I am head over heels in love with Stella McCartney's chunky cardigan in slate gray.  So chic, yummy and so me, I'm hoping that some extreme hinting will make it appear in the form of a gift for me this holiday season.  

The next time you're looking for a diversion, have some fun.  Try developing your own fashionable color palette and see how easy it is to work the cardigan trend into your own Fall wardrobe.

Photos Courtesy of colourlovers.com and bluefly.com

August 9, 2010

A Foodie's End of Days

I've begun to mourn the loss of Summer even though the almanac says that the Fall equinox doesn't occur until September 22nd this year.  For this foodie, the best part of this warm weather season has been the abundance of fresh fruits available at farmer's markets and food stands in my area.  As a true lover of all berries including blueberries, strawberries and blackberries, I've been enjoying the plethora of colorful, plump little bundles of sweetness that have filled bowls and baskets on my kitchen counter.  The aromas that have filled my home during the slicing of strawberries for a simple fruit cup sprinkled lightly with Turbinado sugar or the blueberries and raspberries whipped together in a blender with yogurt or ripe bananas for smoothies, have all elicited big, happy smiles on the faces of those who have enjoyed coming to eat with me.  So it saddens me that I am already seeing a decline in the availability of berry life - a sure sign that the end of fresh local fruit days are near.  Sure, I can buy berries all year round that were grown in other states and countries but meeting and supporting local growers in person has been a pleasure I will surely miss.  Until next year.

Fruity Gems:
My favorite fresh berry dessert recipe
A local (NJ) farm find where picking your own berries is de rigueur
A necklace I designed inspired by my love of berries

August 2, 2010

No Means No. Really.

Lately, I'm too frequently reminded of an old Odd Couple TV episode in which Tony Randall's character, Felix explains to Oscar, played by Jack Klugman that "One should never assume. You'll make an ASS out of U and ME."  Often some of those closest to me assume that because my entrepreneurial venture allows me the opportunity to work from home on occasion that I'm available to do favors, run errands and be a sounding board for life's big decisions.  Sometimes these very people who are oblivious to my hectic work schedule will attend my company's jewelry events and marvel at how they all came together.  They'll go on and on about the setup, food or the wine.  They'll exclaim "Oh, your jewelry is so beautiful. When do you get the time to do all of this?"  Yet, they will not hesitate to ask me to pick up a bottle of lotion at Saks if they know I'm headed into New York City for supplies or they'll call in the middle of my peak production time to ask my opinion on a critical career move. 

Now, I care deeply for these folks and some were the only ones who stood by me in the early formation of my business.  They listened to me moan and occasionally bawl my eyes out over my painstaking efforts to build a company I could be proud of.  A lot of them are still listening and for that, I am forever grateful.  But there is currently a major disconnect.  I believe some assume that because there is an outward illusion that my business runs itself (a direct result of my business manager's years of excellent advice, extremely careful planning and a Goddess Assistant from the planet Wonderful) that I have an overflowing well of free time .  I take full responsibility for some of these assumptions.  I have, at times, agreed to pick up something or listened to unscheduled tales of woe in the middle of the work day.  However, I'm now committed to regaining control of my working life through the power of saying "no" when these requests are made.  Yeah, I get these slightly dumbfounded stares or very pregnant pauses in phone conversations.  And inevitably it will take two or three no's to some before it sinks in that things are no longer the same.  I've worked out ways to bypass the feelings of guilt nor do I feel I owe anyone an explanation.  I am more vocal about my schedule and obligations.  In the long run, those who really care for me understand that I'm on a mission that requires as few distractions as possible.  Those that don't are not my responsibility.   No has to really mean no for now.

July 5, 2010

In Honor and Humor


"You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade with guns tanks and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle but with family picnics where kids throw frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness.  You may think you've overeaten, but it is patriotism."
~Erma Bombeck

I have always been among those who believed that the greatest freedom of speech was the greatest safety, because if a man is a fool, the best thing to do is to encourage him to advertise the fact by speaking.
~Woodrow T. Wilson
  
The Fourth of July weekend was approaching, and Miss Pelham, the nursery school teacher, took the opportunity to tell her class about patriotism. 'We live in a great country,' she announced. 'One of the things we should be happy is that, in this country, we are all free.'  
Trevor, who was a little boy in her class, came walking up to her from the back of the room. He stood with his hands on his hips and said loudly, 'I'm not free. I'm four.' 
~Unknown
 

June 28, 2010

Getting Rubbed the Right Way

Swedish, deep tissue, sports, reflexology and hot stone are all types of massage therapies that I have received over the years to combat high levels of stress, migraines, and a recurring lower back problem.  They've become a necessity.  I'll sacrifice a meal in order to squeeze in a session no matter what's going on in my world.  Tough to do when you're on the move but thankfully, massages are easily accessible with mobile spas, neighborhood beauty salons and even shopping malls getting on the feel good bandwagon.  To find the right kind of massage for you I would suggest you first check in with your doctor for a medical perspective.  Finding the right masseuse, one that creates a warm and comforting environment, understands that not every one has the same needs or intensity level desires may be more elusive.

MassageEnvy.com succinctly says "Therapeutic massage is the manipulation of the muscles and tissues of the body to prevent and alleviate pain, discomfort, and stress" but I can't help but feel while the physical benefits are obvious, the longest lasting benefit of a good massage is the positive emotional state one can leave you in.  Now herein lies the "rub".  I've found that not all massage therapists care about how you actually feel.  As the timer begins on what you hope will be a 60-90 minute slice of heaven, things can go terribly wrong.  Any masseuse that doesn't take the time to ask even the most basic customer care questions, like "are you comfortable?", "do you have any medical conditions or injuries that I should be aware of?" or "how much pressure do you like?" has never seen my back on their table again.  There must be a certain sensitivity given to a person splayed vulnerably on thick white sheets.  The perfunctory rubs we get from our significant others are not meant to be any more than expressions of love but when you're aching, fried and opening your wallet to watch anywhere from $60.00 - $200.00 fly out, you should have certain expectations.  Incredibly high expectations.  

Doing your research pays off.  When I was faced with moving from a day spa where I'd had standing monthly massage appointments with for many years (my 2 favorite therapists moved away at the same time!!), I asked my friends for recommendations, read online reviews, even interviewed day spa staff members before I wrapped myself in any new towels.  My diligence paid off and I found a wonderful, no frills, full service spa where the masseuses don't treat you like a number and your comfort is of the utmost importance.  In soothing tones, they ask all of the right questions, expose only body parts that are being worked on while keeping the rest of me covered in warm sheets.  The cool glass of lemon water that I'm given at the end of my cathartic experience is a tiny, simple gesture that goes a long way in assuring my return.  And it's sheer bliss that the physical and emotional effects of a massage from this special place lasts for days.  I've pretty much guaranteed that I'll continue to get rubbed the right way for a long time to come.

June 21, 2010

The Fresh Factor

The Raw Food Diet, vegan-ism and the Pure Food and Wine restaurant in NYC are all eating concepts I've dabbled in and enjoyed - in little bits and pieces. Eating well has become a healthy obsession for me but I'm not at the point where I can get into any extreme eating plans.  In fact, the word "plan" really freaks me out.  Structure and food do not make an appealing pairing.  Having the flexibility to bend, stretch and indulge my palate is a right I'm not willing to part with.  Constant worry about calorie counts and fat percentages just zaps the enjoyment from feeding oneself.  But I'm not jaded enough to believe that eating any old thing without concern for your well being is any more sensible.

About a month ago, I went to my first Farmer's Market of the season and while walking from tent to tent filled with homemade breads, sweet preserves and plump, juicy vegetables, I had an eco-friendly light bulb moment.  Instead of limiting the kinds of foods I can eat, how about eliminating as much of the artificial, processed stuff as possible, cooking almost every meal and using the freshest ingredients available?  This is nothing new nor is it revolutionary.  It's just makes basic good health sense. We so often reach for easy, fast and cheap because we're tired, overworked or wallet challenged.  But we always seem to find time and money for the things that are most important to us, don't we?  I've been buying fresher foods and cooking a lot lately using more organic ingredients.  I find the time to do it by just eliminating the excuses and putting my health at the top of my to-do list. I'm trying new and exciting recipes while learning that experimentation with flavors and textures is a whole lot of fun.  I feel better, look healthier and an even better added bonus is that I'm losing a few pounds without giving up the foods I love.  Oh I still eat out, a lot.  I just pay attention to what I'm taking in and probably annoy a few waiters in the process with my many menu questions but living your best life is about making no apologies for taking care of yourself, isn't it?

FRESH FIND: This Roasted Tomato Basil Soup recipe from my favorite TV chef, Ina Garten, was a big hit at brunch this weekend.  Serve cold as a refreshing summer treat!

June 14, 2010

An Important Play Date

If there's one thing I've learned from running my own business is that in order for your life to work while you're building your empire, you must schedule regular play dates with yourself and others.  A lot of entrepreneurs, myself included, have a tendency to be delegation-averse, fearing that no one can do what you do as well as you do it.  That's just fine but it's the surefire, fastest way to a full fledged burnout.  I've been there, I've done that.

Taking time out and time off for rejuvenation just makes sense.  Think about it - you must feed your body when it's hungry or eventually it will stop working for you.  You must feed your soul too or it will betray you with a full arsenal of negative thoughts and emotions and act as Kryptonite to rob you of your super powers.  Don't attempt to fool yourself into thinking that you are immune.  You may feel like you can handle any combination of life's random onslaughts now because you've told yourself that you must be resilient and roll with every punch but over time, your mind and body will speak and what they have to say may render you speechless or worse.

This year, since I'm so very fortunate to have work to do for my business, I'm unable to take a traditional vacation.  Last year, I was able to take an entire month to replenish my creative juices, so to speak.  But since I know the value of a soothed mind and a tranquil spirit, I've declared all Summer weekends big, happy play dates.  My significant other and I just had an incredible one where we unabashedly acted like the kids at heart that we are.  We did big things, little things, silly things, thought provoking things.  We screamed and yelled, danced, held hands and sat very still.  And for it all, we know we are much better people for ourselves and others.

June 7, 2010

Confessions of a Quirky Collector

Since I was a small child growing up in southern New Jersey, I've always had a penchant for multiples.  As a gangly pre-teen who reached my current height of 5'8" with size 10 feet by age 12, my fashion choices were limited by what was available in that obscure world between the Juniors and Misses sections.  My clever and imaginative mother would go on search and find missions in her favorite specialty department store, somehow always able to identify the appropriate styles for my age and then bulk buy them in every color available.  I still shop like this today, especially for shoes and J. Crew cardigans.  Old habits....

I think that childhood experience, in some roundabout way, is the reason I started collecting.  My need to see similar items all lined up is undeniably strong.  Early on, I was obsessed with tiny porcelain shoes, all made by a singular artist.  That morphed into paintings of flowers a la Georgia O'Keeffe.  For the past few years, I've been fixated on cups.  Tea cups, coffee cups, espresso cups, mugs.  Not just your everyday Fiesta cup either.  Quirky, eclectic, highly unusual cups.  My most recent drool-worthy find is the handpainted espresso cup and dessert tray (above) discovered in an art gallery in Washington, DC.  The artist is unknown but what drew me to the set are the brilliant colors used which remind me of my own jewelry design aesthetic - vivid, bright, fun.

And I'm on a discovery roll!  Take a wide-eyed look at my recent handcrafted Etsy finds by 4 amazing artisans:
Do you share my love of quirky collections?  Leave a comment and share your discoveries.

May 31, 2010

Taking Advantage

As many Americans in the United States honor the memories of the men and women who gave their lives in military service to our country on Memorial Day and celebrate the unofficial start to the Summer season with parades, BBQs and informal family and friend gatherings during the extended weekend, my man and I took some time to pay our respects and enjoy a much needed slower pace, doing only things that gave us quiet pleasure.  Friends who unexpectedly came into town and a medium-sized family crisis didn't deter us as we were on a mission to keep our promise to ourselves that the weekend would be about grabbing some true stress relief, the kind that didn't involve a lot of unnecessary interruptions, moving, talking or thinking.  

 Newport Marina, Jersey City, NJ
To our credit, we didn't make it complicated.  We found our peace in the simplest ways.  Enjoying homemade ice cream sundaes in a neighborhood park among chirping birds and lush plant life.  On a semi-secluded beach reading long forgotten books the old fashioned way, in paperback with folded pages as bookmarks as the waves crashed along the shore line.  A bountiful breakfast at a riverfront boite overlooking the New York City skyline, indulging in buttery Cinnamon French Toast while watching weekend boaters set sail on aquatic adventures.  We didn't say a lot to each other for fear we'd disturb the peaceful groove we'd created but we smiled a lot as we marveled at how each path we walked took a bit of stress away.  It's not often we get the chance to totally orchestrate consistent moments of stress-free living so we're taking full advantage of the rare opportunity before the reality of life (otherwise known as Tuesday) fades it away.

May 24, 2010

My Fab 5

You know how satisfying it feels when you find an insightful book, a time-saving product or just about anything that makes your world feel less like it revolves on a tilt as the ground shifts beneath your feet?  Then you and I have a lot in common.  I'm always on the hunt for ways to help make my daily life simpler, safer and saner.  I'm a big time sampler of all things fabulous but once I make a discovery of impact, I'm loyal to a fault.  Here are five I-can't-live-without things that have helped me at least maintain an illusion of togetherness:


My eyes are wide open to coffee coming from this sleek brewer that uses ingenious K-cups that come in so many amazing high-quality roasts and blends.  My kitchen is my coffee house and I've become my own barista.






The effects of too many late nights, stress and the ticking clock of time show up on my eyes first but are easily smoothed away with regular use this ultra lightweight treatment eye cream.  It won't add lines by breaking the bank either.


  


Never drink water from environmentally unfriendly plastic bottles again.  I fill these beautifully designed, BPA and phthalate-free vessels with filtered tap water and place them around my house, design studio and in my tote bags so I never have an excuse to not reach my 8 glasses a day goal.  They're so fashionable, I've also started collecting them.





Listening to wonderful music every day is so important to my well-being so it's kind of amazing that such crisp, clear, concert quality sound comes from this powerful little box.  It's iPhone/iPod compatible too!





With the unpredictable weather in the Northeast, even in the spring and summer one must be prepared for a wave of cool temps or unexpected rain showers at any time.  The trench coat has become a fashion staple but the ones designed by Elie Tahari are so stylish and crafted with such attention to detail, I just couldn't resist making a wise investment.  Perfect for day-to-night, they fit as if tailor-made.  Although I impatiently paid full designer retail for mine, you can purchase a few styles at Bluefly.com at great prices.

What are the 5 things you just can't live without?


Note: Product reviews are the opinions of the author and were not solicited in any manner.
 

May 17, 2010

Creative Audacity

This weekend I was very politely asked by a customer if I could really make a living at what I do.  She'd always assumed that people just couldn't walk away from well-paying corporate jobs to become artists or craftpersons and expect to sustain themselves in any meaningful way.  I did.   "You must have benefactors."  That's the only way a creative lifestyle and career can ever work, she implied.  This all coming from a woman who after stating her presumptions, proceeded to buy a substantial amount of my "creativity" and encouraged the friends who accompanied her to do the same. Ironic isn't it?  At the end of the day, it puzzled me more than it probably should have as to why she supposed my inability to support myself by making jewelry.  Funny thing is, I encounter this viewpoint often.  I think some believe the movie stereotype of an artist as some eccentric, lazy, egotistical, tortured tyrant that rises at the crack of noon, drinks nothing but black coffee and vodka, eats rarely and chain smokes cigarettes.  It also doesn't help that there are many who feel products that are made by hand equal low quality therefore are inferior to those that can be purchased in the big-box stores.  Truth is, some are.  But the many wonderfully talented artists and designers that I've encountered in my journeys put so much of themselves into every item they create that putting forth a purposely inferior product into the world would be an act of artistic character defamation.  The handmade/handcrafted artisan industry surely deserves a lot more respect. 

As for myself, I took this dramatic turn into a creative life first to fill big, whopping holes and cavernous gaps in my soul.  I went into this knowing that it would not be easy nor would it always be a safe, secure way of living, especially as I established myself.  My comfort zones had to be obliterated.  I took risks and I continue to take them every day because what I now do to earn a living is also what I love.  And because I wake up in the morning with this incredible passion for my work, I'm able to create a life that is truly rewarding.  Yes, I work harder now than I ever have and not all days are lined with puppy dogs and beds of fragrant red roses. But all that I have done to date has afforded me the ability to live a happy life.  I am firmly rooted in the fact that my success or failure, however I choose to define that, depends on what and how much I'm willing to do to support my dream.  I've chosen to have the creative audacity to do what's necessary to live in a manner in which I can hold my head high and share what gives me so much joy with those that can appreciate it.  I couldn't ask for a better way to live.

May 10, 2010

Feeling a Little Ruched

No matter what the "happening now" fashion trend is, there are two distinct clothing detailing features that I reach for on the racks time and again: eyelet lace and ruching.  I believe, my love of eyelet started with a trip to a senior center to visit a relative.  As I sat in the lobby, a woman next to me was actually embroidering eyelets into a handkerchief.  The careful detailing of her hand-stitching was impeccable. It was art on fabric. The image of that fabric stayed with me and I unconsciously began to gravitate toward clothing that featured the beauty of the embroidery.  I now own an eyelet skirt, several blouses, a few dresses...I could go on.  One warning: Eyelet has the tendency to look a little "cutesy" if too much of it is worn at one time.  When I bought an eyelet dress, I made sure that the styling and shape of the dress was simple and less dramatic, like a sheath, for instance. 


My love of ruching came from a straightforward fashion crisis.  I really wanted a dress that I could wear and not have to suck my stomach in while standing so straight that my back hurt.  While walking around in endless stores, I came upon the perfect garment and at the same time, my fashion dreams came true. Ruching is essentially the graceful, loose gathering of fabric in a manner that, if done properly, can camouflage whatever you perceive to be your figure flaws.  For me, an important event, one too many cupcakes coupled with a week without a workout (the deadly 3W's) equaled either a new set of Spanx or a dress that skimmed the body but took away the focus of my sinful ways.  The delicious red dress by Teri Jon (above left) is a classic example of ruching but in my opinion, Donna Karan is the queen of draping and gathering lush fabrics (right).  She understands a woman's body and designs to celebrate it with truly wearable, stylish garments.  Since ruched separates are readily available at all price points for day and evening wear, you can easily incorporate a few comfortable options into your wardrobe.  Feeling a little ruched from time to time is just fine.

Photos courtesy of saks.com

May 3, 2010

When Life Gives You Lemons....

....make lemonade!  We've all heard the saying.  Dale Carnegie, the writer, lecturer and author of "How to Win Friends and Influence People" coined the phrase many years ago albeit with slight differences (It is believed that the exact quote begins "When fate hands you a lemon, .....")  Nevertheless, I believe his intent was to tell us to get over ourselves and keep moving when life throws stink bombs.  I got that message loud and clear during this past particularly trying week when it began to feel like I was playing dodge ball with the devil.  I tried to move through the obstacles in a manner that honored his sentiment.  After recalling Carnegie's quote and since my words and actions tend to be very literal at times, I decided to drown my sorrows in, well, real lemonade. 

When I imagine this sweet/tart drink, visions of sandy beaches and warm breezes automatically come to mind and stress seems to dissolve into puddles at my feet.  Images of bright yellow slices of sunshine floating freely in sugary sweetness.  It's such a "happy" beverage.  The homemade Cucumber Lemonade I get from my local Espresso Bar is fantastic but I decided I wanted to try my hand at making my own for an impromptu Saturday night party where I could use my guests as guinea pigs.  Since I try to be a good hostess by accommodating the tastes of everyone and party drinks are commonly alcoholic, I wanted to find a fun recipe that would satisfy the non-drinkers, like myself as well as the imbibers. I searched cookbooks, Food Network TV shows and called friends who cook for a living for the perfect recipe and found this spicy variation of the traditional version from talk show host/chef Rachael Ray.

By the way, I'm inclined to believe a really good glass of lemonade, which ironically symbolizes life with it's precarious balance of the sweet and the sour, can help to resolve some of our biggest issues including relationship disputes, business strategy conflicts and world peace.  Sip, swallow, breathe, chill.

April 19, 2010

A Colorful Celebration

There's nothing that gives me more pleasure than designing jewelry and seeing smiles on the faces of happy, fashion savvy women when they put on one of my bold, bright necklaces or shoulder-grazing stiletto earrings.  It's a pleasure and a privilege.  It's what gets me up every morning.  So as I entered this, my 10th year of creative bliss, I wanted to design a collection of Summer jewelry that is truly my aesthetic - chunky, color-filled pieces (like the Flower Garden Necklace, above left) that make more than a statement. They scream "Hey, I'm here!"  Reaching into my overflowing bead drawers and pulling out strand after strand of gorgeous gemstones, cloisonne, crystals and meshing them with porcelain, lucite and wood with sprinklings of precious metals was like being in my own brilliant, fanciful candy store every day. Designer ecstasy at its best.

I'm pleased to announce that select items will be available online at The Shop at JulRe Designs beginning April 26, 2010 but if you are in the New York City area,  join me and see the entire Summer collection as I celebrate a decade of my company, JulRe Designs at my Launch Party and Trunk Show.  Click here for event details.

April 12, 2010

Meditation Schmeditation

Eyes closed, legs crossed into contorted pretzels, chanting spiritual verses until my mind numbs had not been my ideal state of being.  Endlessly repeating mantras or intensely focusing on inanimate objects with palms in prayer position was an undesirable way of finding nirvana.  I wanted to truly master the art of meditation but I could never get beyond the uncomfortable stillness of the practice.  My mind was never quiet.  Literally.  I was always thinking about at least 3 things at a time and it is for that very chaotic reason that I sought some sort of solitary, peaceful practice that would help turn down the volume on my everyday existence.

Wikipedia says "Meditation is a holistic discipline by which the practitioner attempts to get beyond the reflexive, "thinking" mind into a deeper state of relaxation or awareness."  Yes! That's what I wanted!  I didn't believe any book, DVD or lesson could actually teach you how to achieve it.  Let's face it - it is a practice that requires some traits I sometimes have difficulty with:  dedication and extreme focus.  After reading the popular novel Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and identifying with some of the struggle she described having with hitting the mute button on life during her studies in India, I realized that perhaps my difficulties with meditation didn't lie in the superficial, half-hearted attempts I was making so much as from the lack of identifying the real reason why I felt I needed to meditate.  As we all search for a sense of peace in this crazy world, it's obvious our coping mechanisms will differ.  After a lot of soul searching, I came to understand that while I craved a quieter life, my actions said otherwise.  I fed into the whole "rapid pace of the city" thing by over-scheduling myself, taking on more projects that I could realistically handle, saying yes when I should say no.  Once I came to terms with my self-sabotage and consciously made an effort to live a more peaceful existence, meditation became much easier and more effective.  Now, without my daily practice, things start to spiral.  With it, I'm more productive, centered and balanced.  Meditation is not a panacea. It's not the answer to all of life's trials and tribulations.  It definitely isn't right for everyone but for me, its a sensible, sane, richly rewarding practice in my quest to continue to live a happy life. Om.

April 5, 2010

Writing Gems

I've been writing the great American love story.  I took advantage of a perfect opportunity to dust off the cobwebs on it while I was in a relaxed state this past holiday weekend.  I don't talk about it too much and when I do, those that know me scratch their heads and wonder if I've taken that final leap into insanity. They make not so subtle comments about my life already being filled with uncontrolled levels of complexity and then offer backhanded support like "if anyone can do it, it's you". The fact is I've been writing this book off and on for 8 years, trying to fulfill a childhood dream. Without giving away too much of the premise, it's a fictional tale about two people who meet through the infatuation a mutual friend has for one of them. And of course jewelry plays a huge role in how all of the characters connect. Here's the thing. In this case, writers block is not my issue. For a change, procrastination is not my excuse. It's not really a lack of time or any of the common excuses one gives for not completing a project. It's my unnatural obsession with making sure the locations, the scents, the surroundings I write about are factual. I've been drawing on so many resources: the Internet, encyclopedias, conversations with residents of Chicago, IL (where the story takes place). I'm hopelessly lost in the research! The one source I've called upon time and again to expand my knowledge of jewelry and gemstone lore is the book Jewels, A Secret History by Victoria Finlay.  I made a humongous mistake.

The rich, impassioned stories that Ms. Finlay so eloquently tells about those "sparkly trinkets" we ogle in Tiffany's or drool over on the glossy pages of Vogue are fascinating. From Cleopatra's Emerald mines to the scientific factoid that Peridot sometimes falls from the sky, this book is filled with alluring legends and written in such a compelling manner that the historical facts actually captivate and do not bore you to tears. In my humble opinion, this book should be in the library of every aspiring and established jewelry designer. It will help artists speak about their craft from an uncommon and rather glamorous perspective. Fashion buffs will absolutely love it too for its understanding of how gemstones have influenced trends throughout history.  The book will also serve another purpose.  Someday, perhaps it will help me move my novel off of my computer and into the land of full-blown realities.  That is if I can ever detach myself from the details long enough to actually write it.

Photo Courtesy of Amazon.com

March 29, 2010

March 22, 2010

'Tis the Season to be Moisturized

It's not that women don't think about some aspect of their appearance all year round.  It's just that Springtime usually elicits a more concentrated look at how the dry air and cold temperatures have reeked havoc on our hair and skin. My annual quest for the best body moisturizer picks up pace when the birds start to chirp and the flower blooms come out of hibernation. With its vital role as protector from damage to our internal well-being, skin deserves supreme pampering.

Brightly colored bottles and jars of lotions, creams and body oils line my bathroom shelves.  As
a confessed beauty junkie, I make it a point to try as many products as possible in search of the one potion that will keep dryness at bay and bring back the soft, suppleness of my younger days.  I've been known to fall for the hype on any number of outrageously expensive miracle serums but I've also seen tremendous value in some really effective drugstore brands.  I'm an equal opportunity beauty consumer but I'm keenly aware that no amount of pretty packaging or glitzy commercials featuring high maintenance Hollywood actresses or supermodels will substitute for quality, true-to-its-claims products.

So while I doubt that my quest for that one perfect body moisturizer will ever be over, here are 3 current favorites that have earned front row status on my bathroom shelf:

1. Not really a moisturizer, Dove's Deep Moisture Nourishing Body Wash (above right) is so creamy rich that you may find that you have absolutely no need to apply lotion after your shower.  The secret: an all natural moisturizer formula. All that and a budget friendly price. $8.99 at drugstore.com.


2. I'm normally not a fan of body butters in warmer weather due to their thick consistency but the
Sea Marine Triple Butter Body Cream by H2O+ (left) is an exception.  Don't let the texture fool you - it virtually disappears on the skin, hydrates like crazy and has a pleasant, fresh scent.  Available at h2oplus.com for $25.00.

3. The Big Kahuna.  The Piece De Resistance.  The Creme De la Creme.  All of these cliches apply to the absolute best moisturizer I've ever had the pleasure of dipping my fingers into. Fresh's Creme Ancienne fixes all that ails ya.  I saw increased firmness in my skin after using it for almost 14 days.  Blotchiness has gone and smoothness has reappeared.  I think it even healed a slightly above minor cut on my hand so completely that no scar was left.  (That's big for me since jewelry making can often be hazardous i.e. sharp pliers, metal wire) This moisturizer seems to do it all.  Here's the catch....wait for it....a 1 oz. jar costs $135 at Sephora.  Worth it?  You decide.  Me?  I have a little left in my jar.  I'm guarding it with my life and using it sparingly.

Bottom line: No matter how much money you can spend, you can afford to treat your skin with tender loving care.  Along with a few healthy habits like good nutrition and exercise,  our largest body organ will glisten, glow and remain up to its very important protective tasks.



Images Courtesy of Drugstore.com and H2Oplus.com 

Note: Product reviews are the opinions of the author and were not solicited in any manner.

March 15, 2010

Brunch, Anyone?


While it is said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, weekend brunch is the meal I look forward to the most. Typically, it's the one meal that brings my favorite things together - the leisurely consumption of wonderful food and the amazing people I'm so fortunate to have in my life. Whether I'm cooking brunch for a group of friends, hosting a catered buffet in my jewelry design studio for my customers or enjoying a romantic dining experience with my significant other at a fantastic cafe, brunch always seems to be the meal that unifies us, de-stresses us and gives us a moment to just Be. 

And let's not forget about the food.

I'm fortunate to live very near New York City where dining
out is an art form. I do it so often, I now consider myself somewhat of a combination foodie/connoisseur/critic. My list of favorite restaurants for dinner are a carefully chosen, select group that I rarely stray from but I'm a risk-taking road warrior when it comes to finding new places for brunch. Right in my own neighborhood we discovered the classic American pub, Light Horse Tavern where you can get the absolute best Eggs Benedict around. My girlfriends swear by their Bellinis (made with pureed peaches) but I'm partial to the fresh Blueberry Lemonade when it's available. After a late date night with the man in my life, when all we want is a great cup of coffee and a place to "roll" into without much pretense, we cross the river into the Tribeca section of NYC and join the crowd at family-friendly Bubby's for Sauteed Banana Walnut Pancakes or Grilled Turkey Zucchini Burgers. Yesterday we were coaxed into leaving our dry, cozy home to brave the cold, drizzling rain by well-meaning friends just to try a new brunch place with a taste of French flair in the Meatpacking District called Paradou. Unlimited champagne was the original draw, yes, but I found the food to be very good, especially the Omelette Paysanne with thick bacon, creamy potatoes and flavorful goat cheese. Full disclosure: I initially had some doubts about spending money in this establishment because of some rough reviews it received on Yelp but our experience was pleasant, the service was attentive and overall I'd give it a thumbs up.

Whether it's the superbly posh gastronomic experience at Nineteen in the Hyatt at the Bellevue in Philadelphia, PA or the comfort of family and friends in my home enjoying my favorite quiche, brunch will always be my quintessential happiness meal.

March 8, 2010

Deep in Color Therapy

I think one of the many reasons I became a Jewelry Designer is because of a life lesson my mother unwittingly taught me many years ago.  She said simply "Always surround yourself with color".  The context in which she made this statement had more to do with a lifeless outfit I was about to wear than some profound life change she was prescribing for me.  But I've always held those words close and have recalled them at various times in my life.  For instance, when things may have looked bleak.  Instead of wearing a shroud of gloom, I always try to fill my mind space or any room I'm in with a sunshine attitude or at the very least some of my favorite bright, cheery colors - lemon souffle yellow, tangerine orange, bubblegum pink - in the form of fabrics, flowers and/or food.  I've learned that even the smallest dose of color has the power to change the darkest of moods.


The alternative medicine practice of Chromotherapy makes claims that color can be used "to balance energy wherever a person's body be lacking, be it physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental." (ref. Wikipedia)  While there is no real scientific evidence to support these claims, as a color specialist in my image consulting firm, I personally worked with clients who walked into my studio depressed for various reasons, with long held fashion beliefs that certain colors were not meant for them because of their auburn hair color or pale complexion.  They were "told" by TV, fashion magazines, their closest friends and family that they should stay away from that brilliant chartreuse green or royal blue but held secret desires to buck the naysayers.  The beauty of color is that it's multi-dimensional.  My own theory is that anyone can wear any color, as long as it's the right shade for their personal attributes and more importantly, it makes them feel spectacular.  I've draped color-filled fabrics around women who'd only felt comfortable and safe in sedate neutrals - beiges, browns, grays.  I've seen demeanors uplifted with the addition of a golden-bronze scarf, blue-violet sweater or cherry red lipstick.  I've seen introverts become extroverts, the risk averse become risque.  It may not be scientific, but I believe it's quite evident that color therapy works wonders on the fear of living out loud.

I design jewelry with colorful gemstones, using palettes that evoke rich emotional reactions and stimulate my senses.  My hope is that my work elicits the same spiciness for my customers.  I love getting inspiration from fashion trends and nature's bounty but also from my pencil box, fabulous foods, the COLOURlovers community, Pantone and good old Benjamin Moore paints.  I guess you can say I live my life deep in color therapy.

Art Stix Image Courtesy of DickBlick.com

January 25, 2010

It's All On The Wrist


Some say the origin of the bracelet dates back more than 6000 years to ancient Egypt and throughout Africa in the cradle of civilization as well as in ancient China. Bracelets in Egypt and Africa were initially made with wood, stones, bones, and plant fibers and later copper and bronze while China produced the first known innovation to this popular jewelry with jade bracelets and elaborate gold bracelets starting in 2,000 B.C. (credit: bracelets.com)

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of a bracelet is "an ornamental band or chain worn around the wrist" but I don't think you can oversimplify this piece of jewelry.  While I adore necklaces and earrings, a beautiful bracelet can be the perfect expression of individuality.  There's no better accessory for well defined arms than a strapless dress or sleeveless blouse and chunks of colorful gemstones like the ones I've designed for The Shop at JulRe Designs  (above) or a simple, singular row of exquisite diamonds.  And bracelets are the perfect adornment for those expressive souls who love to speak volumes with their hands. The flashes of color or sparkle have the power to distract you from a compelling conversation or completely occupy your mind during a boring one.  Some find them annoying.  They can be quite noisy when piled on in sets.  I wouldn't suggest an armful of bangles for your next interview.   And true, they do get in the way when you're trying to write or type but that's a small price to pay for true arm glamour.  I never leave home without one....or six.

BONUS: View delicious arm candy from 3 of my favorite indie jewelry designers: Anne Maa, Laura Timmins and Sharon MacLeod


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