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.

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