Painting with coffee

In photographing my jewelry collections, I haven't been completely satisfied with the background textures behind the pieces themselves. In product photography, every little tiny detail counts—and it counts for a lot! The photography is a vital piece in continuing the story of a brand. 

Photography of the Simpla Collection in progress

Photography of the Simpla Collection in progress

In the realm of handmade objects, there is a world of difference in holding and feeling a physical thing versus seeing it in a photo on a computer screen. With jewelry, a less detail oriented photo may not capture the qualities of the stones and handiwork; it may miss the nuances of character and intention in the way a piece of metal has been hammered, or the indescribable depth a piece of labradorite or moonstone flashes when the light hits oh so right.

Final photo of the collection

Final photo of the collection

Final photo of the  Kyanite with Ruby  necklace

Final photo of the Kyanite with Ruby necklace

The background sets the scene for this part of the brand experience, this chapter in the story. If I used a piece of gray slate or steel, how cool and modern the photo—and so the jewelry—would feel. A backdrop of fabric woven with a heavier thread gives a warmer and definite handmade look, but it's too heavy, and so it lends a look of less refinement than I'd like to achieve. A great amount of precision and planning is involved in the creation process of a piece and any detail that does not perpetuate these qualities must be discarded. That's my design philosophy anyway, and it led me to painting a gigantic piece of watercolor paper with coffee. Offsetting the seriousness of the design process with childlike fun is always imperative. 

First I gathered my tools: coffee, paintbrush, and scrap paper. I like minimal setups.

Next I tested the strength of the color in relation to the amounts of coffee and water within the brush. With French press coffee, some "sediment" settles to the bottom of the cup and this gave me darker colors (and some grit). 

Once I stepped over that small learning curve, I set out to cover my piece of 22x30 inch paper. It made me miss painting with watercolors, but I cannot get sidetracked with another endeavor at the moment!


So, you may wonder what did not satisfy me with the Simpla photos. For one, keeping the fabric from wrinkling, and thus ironing (both with a real iron and with Photoshop), is a job I do not wish to add to my plate. I'd rather spend that time building other parts of this wheel. White fabric betrays every speck of lint that floats over it and lands within the weave. I felt the crisp color looked too new for the story I am trying to tell. I'd like for the aesthetic to stir feelings of something more timeless and classic. I think I am getting closer to that with this stained paper that looks almost like windblown sand—as if you might find a necklace with gleaming jewels laying in the sand at the foot of an ancient temple, waiting just for you.

Hobbes is the boss around here, the Creative Director. His approval consisted of a sniff, a look that said  Good, keep working , followed by his departure. Like any good director.

Hobbes is the boss around here, the Creative Director. His approval consisted of a sniff, a look that said Good, keep working, followed by his departure. Like any good director.

So what will the new photos look like? Let me finish up the collection I'm working on, Mare, and we shall sea! (Do you see what I did there? Oh I did it again.)

Deserts are not empty

A man said to the Universe:
’Sir, I exist!’
’However,’ replied the Universe,
’The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.’
— Stephen Crane
Owens Valley, through the Sierra on the way down to Death Valley

Owens Valley, through the Sierra on the way down to Death Valley

Dear Indifferent Universe,

You know that I am intrigued by coincidences, and also that I am a problem solver. You've probably noticed the satisfaction I feel in that bright moment when connections happen, when things make sense. The connecting of dots stirs within me an almost primordial sense of joy. That is to say: it runs very deep. Through the life of a problem, question, or exploration, my mind holds a timeline from the beginning and it adds thumbtacks to hold clues when they emerge along the way. An elephant never forgets.

In this journey of creating jewelry (because it is something more than putting beads on a string, but that's another chapter in this story), a timeline has formed. The beginning swirls around those moments as a very small child when I would go and dig for shiny rocks in the dirt around my home. My parents, sister, and I spent many summer days looking for fossilized shark teeth and whale bone in the cliffs of the nearby riverbank. I remember the elation over a pile of gravel that was to be used for fancying up our driveway, but only so I could dig amongst all the gray stones for the few pieces of quartz that lie hidden inside.

My father and I on the Irish Sea, hounding the beach in Bray, 2014

My father and I on the Irish Sea, hounding the beach in Bray, 2014

I have always been intrigued by stones and crystals. I may have looked normal going about my childhood, but I frequently wondered about things that, had I voiced them, were probably quite odd. I would wonder as I sat on a playground: What sort of shiny rocks are in the earth, under my feet, at this very moment? I would imagine them in their foreign textures and colors. I dreamed of being an archaeologist. Now that I spend time with stones unearthed by someone else, I suppose that is the next best thing.

Later on the timeline is a moment when I first traveled through the Mojave desert. A quick survey of the landscape painted a story of desolation. I saw myriad hues of brown with endless bare mountains and immense, empty, valleys. I wanted to get out of the car and feel the sun on my skin so I parked it next to a dune covered in rocks and cactus. As I sat in the dusty earth, I took note of the things lying around me. I became mesmerized by all of the colors within the rocks—they were purple, blue like the sky and turquoise as the sea, brown was flecked with gold and fiery orange. These colors were all muted, the rocks sitting in the sun and taking many windy sand scrubs over time—but they were all there. My lifelong mantra arose in my mind: What else lies inside the earth? I made a huge heart out of rocks on the side of the road for passersby and continued on my way.

The descent into the valley; cacti in Palm Springs

The descent into the valley; cacti in Palm Springs

A new moment on the timeline has emerged. I've learned of other people who enjoy digging for rocks, and in the Mojave no less. I am not a geologist and I do not pretend to know each location around the world where various rocks are found. To learn that some of my favorites are under all of that sand, here in California—a land I hold so dear—leads me to see dots being connected. Joy.

The Mojave palette of colors

The Mojave palette of colors

Universe, I would like the opportunity to explore that land with a fellow rockhound or two. I need a guide as I have no idea where to begin, and cacti are not always the best conversationalists (though they do have their moments). I want to go treasure hunting in the most primitive sense!

Yours truly,


Ancient Mediterranean

I have a daily ritual of laying in the sun for ten minutes. During these ten minutes, I allow my mind a break from the day. I begin by releasing hold of anything that stresses me, and for whatever arises, I tuck it away to worry about later. As I breathe out, I send the worry away. That is how these ten minutes begin. As unwanted thoughts disappear, I replenish that space with an image of something that is beautiful to my mind—a meadow with spring flowers, a long warm beach, a damp redwood forest. I walk through these places and try to see how deeply I can experience them with only my imagination.

Maybe I'm weird.

1-  Flickr , 2- Unknown, 3- Unknown

1- Flickr, 2- Unknown, 3- Unknown

But! It's pretty relaxing, and as I practice this daily, I find it becomes easier to hop over to these places in times that may be a bit less peaceful. Living in a city where there is traffic, many people, and a fair bit of perpetual chaos, it's nice to have some source for a reprieve. It's a way I practice patience.

As I lay in the sun today there was a breeze, and I caught the scent of our coastal trees. The aroma is deeply green, of sea fog and bay, cypress, and pine trees—with slight twists of citrus and sage. I have not been to the Mediterranean but we have a similar climate in this part of northern California, so my mind began walking around a coast in Greece.

Here I felt the midday sun, it warmed the dirt on stones of ancient ruins as I grazed my hand on them. I imagined the people who built these mathematically perfect columns and decided to top them with spirals and stone garlands of flowers. Did they notice the breeze as they labored, by hand and for years, to complete this architecture? Did they notice the way stones warmed from the sun feel alive? Did they walk down to the water and wonder about waves?

1- Unknown, 2-  Flickr , 3-  Met

1- Unknown, 2- Flickr, 3- Met

Having a slight interest in jewelry, I tried to see what they wore. I discovered organic shapes formed by ancient hands still learning the alchemy of metals. There were stones, obtained by way of long dusty trade roads from India and Africa—how many stories they must have told of camel rides, gem traders, and landscapes along the way.

I became inspired by these thoughts; ideas for jewels and writing and art ran wild. The creative spirit was illuminated, a ten minutes in the sun well spent.