When the publicist for Joyo jewelry, a company based nearby in Scituate, Massachusetts, contacted me to see f they could send me a sample, I told them I’d prefer to pass it along to one of you. They were game with the idea of a giveaway.
The designer behind Joyo, Jenn Liddiard, who started the company in 2012, creates wood earrings, necklaces, and bracelets in modern geometric and naturalistic shapes, laser-cut from real walnut and birch. Liddiard laser cuts everything herself, and does all of the design, sanding, oil finishing, and assembly by hand.
Liddiard is inspired by architecture, history, and nature. She likes transforming natural materials into unique, intricate, and unexpected forms. She says, “I have a habit of looking for patterns in ordinary places, like storm drains, sidewalk bricks, window grates, and fences–things that normally blend into our everyday surroundings.
E N T E R t o W I N t h e s e E A R R I N G S
Tell me in the comment section of this post about an interaction with nature you had this summer. Did you climb a tree? Grow tomatoes? Make seashell mobiles? Swim with dolphins? Pick flowers? Gaze at the super moon? The simplest gesture will do.
Deadline to enter is Thursday , August 21 at midnight EST. (Don’t forget to include your email address so I can contact you if you win!)
Earlier this summer, Shelley Simpson, designer and founder of tabletop line Mud Australia, visited Boston for the first time. Natalie van Dijk Carpenter, owner of South End boutique Lekker Home, hosted her for an evening. I was out of town, but was able to catch up with her a few days later by phone.
Shelley Simpson and Natalie van Dijk Carpenter at Lekker Home in Boston.
Mud Australia porcelain is handmade in the company’s Sydney factory by in-house ceramicists, from Limoges porcelain, sourced directly from France. Unlike much tableware, to which the color is applied after the fact, Mud Australia tints the porcelain beforehand, which provides a distinctive depth of color. (It also means if a piece chips, the exposed portion isn’t white.) The interior of each piece has a vitrified stone-like surface that becomes smooth with handling, but the interior is hand-brushed with a clear glaze. The look and feel is organic and the colors neutral, punctuated with a few brights.
When did you first start making pottery?
When I was 28, I moved from Melbourne to Sydney, where I rented a house with a woman named Joy, who had a kick wheel in her back shed. She was always harassing me to have a go with it. One weekend when she was away, I got some clay and played around. She was very cross with me because she said my things were prettier than hers!
So you didn’t start out as a ceramicist?
I’m creative, but I’m not trained in art. I draw now, but nothing like my 13-year-old son, who has a natural gift for it. But I have an eye for color and form. My schooling has been throwing things away.
How did you decide to pursue it as a business?
I had applied to manage a theater, but they looked me over, in part because I was a woman. Joy and I started Mud Australia together in 1994, though she left the business after a few years and I’ve continued on.
Mud Australia has 70 shapes and 18 colors. We’ve been focusing on new shapes lately more than colors. The latest is a series of mixing bowls and baking pans. We’re doing pendant lights in three sizes, and have a mortar & pestle in production. That really shows the durability of porcelain, so you can feel confident you’re not buying something fragile.
Are there pieces that are distinctive to certain regions?
The shapes work for anything. You can eat Yorkshire pudding, sushi or Middle Eastern food from the same bowl comfortably. That said, we have a distributor in Korea with three shapes specific to their market, including a kimchi pickle dish. We also make exclusive pieces, like vases, for restaurants.
Gwen Hanson Pygget, an Australian potter who created art pieces rather than functional ones. They’re absolutely beautiful. We’re in New York City now, and just went to the Judd; his color is exquisite.
What influences you when it comes to creating pieces for Mud Australia?
I love to bake, which is how we came to add the new baking pieces. I make Pavlovas and exotic birthday cakes for my kids and other family members. I once made a snake covered in marshmallows. Almost sculptural stuff. I go all out when it comes to baking a cake. For my daughter’s 16th, I made a cake with eight layers in rainbow colors, covered with white icing. The restaurant we brought it to was very impressed. My husband makes the dinners at home. Food is very important to our family.
What’s your home like?
We live in a top-floor apartment in a four-story building in Sydney that’s an Arts & Crafts style, with an old French lift. There’s loads of trees with a vista to the harbor and a large deck; we do lots of eating al fresco. We’ve never lived in a house or on the ground. We want a garden. We are going to put the house on the market soon and find something new.
And of course you have plenty of Mud Australia dishes?
Yes, everything. And pieces that didn’t work out too.
What do you like most about your line?
Everybody’s Mud Australia dinner set is unique to them, which I think sets us apart from other companies that present full collections. When you go to the store, you can get creative, which is fun. You can buy one piece at a time. Your collection can be a complete rainbow, or blackm white, and gray, or all pastels. Recently, one guy did slate and pink, which I wouldn’t have thought of, but when I was packing it up I thought, “This is amazing.”
On Friday I walked over to the Marimekko flagship on Newbury Street to meet Finnish designer Mika Piirainen, who was in town to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Marimekko’s iconic “Unikko” print. You know, the oversize mod floral that immediately springs to mind when someone utters Marimekko.
Mika Piirainen, who graduated from the Lahti Institute of Design and Fine Arts in Finland, is celebrating his 20th anniversary with the company. He snagged a position with Marimekko back in 1994, after the head of women’s fashion for the brand saw his final student presentation at Ravensbourne College in London.
He says, “The Marimekko people came to critique the show, and afterwards, they told me to call them. I had an interview within a few days, and got hired as a design assistant in the middle of the first meeting.” Then he adds, “I was lucky.”
That fateful collection was inspired by milkmaids in the Finnish countryside, and he reprised it just three months after starting at the firm. He says, “I redid the milkmaid collection in black, navy, and white, using the same shapes and materials. They sold quite well.”
Piirainen worked on staff at Marimekko for several years, and then transitioned into a freelance role, which has been good for both him and the company, which has almost 20 freelance designers on tap.
He says, “At this point I’ve done everything—women, men, kids, umbrellas, towels. I used to do lots of kids, but I’m done with that. Now I concentrate on women’s clothing and bags. “As for how many pieces he puts out, he recalls, “One year I made 140 pieces, now it’s more like 20 to 30.”
He favors simple silhouettes that let the textile designs speak for themselves. And although he sometimes designs his own prints, he also likes to use those created by young designers. He’s also been using lots of archival prints for new pieces he designs. After all, Marimekko has about 3,000 prints in its archives.
Piirainen explains, we have to check in with copyrights, talk to them about scale and color. Some like to have input, others say we can do whatever we want.”
Mika Piirainen and I chatted on the lower level of the Marimekko store.
Then we went upstairs so he could show me some of his designs. Piirainen designed this Silvi dress, as well as the actual textile pattern, named “Sato.”
Piirainen prefers a neutral palette. With “Sato” he used black & white, playing with the positive and the negative. He hand draws his textile designs, rather than designing them on a computer. He makes big swishing motions with his arm to describe the movements he used in the studio while putting these freeform lines to paper.
Marimekko celebrates the 50th anniversary of its “Unikko” floral this year. Love the Unikko bean bags.
The digital edition of Traditional Home, called TRADhome came out last week. This is an online only version of the magazinef that features less established and up-and-coming designers. In 2012′s TRADhome, I wrote about a home designed by Palmer Weiss—my blog post here—and in the 2013 “Great Kitchens” edition, I wrote about designer Liz Caan’s color-filled dining room, blogged here.
Saturday night Didriks and Local Root owner Jonathan Henke and his team invited me to a dinner where we talked about business and design. It was held in the Observatory Hill neighborhood of Cambridge, near his shops, at Austin Architects.
Didrik’s visual merchandiser, Alexandra Boeri, organized the nuts and bolts of the event and was the force behind its creative vision. She picked out all the tableware, and worked very closely with Laura Jean of Laura Jean Floral and Design, who did the flowers, and jewelry designer Nicole Rueda-Watts, who provided some beautifully styled decorative vignettes. Nicole is Laura Jean’s business partner in the new shop Observatory. (Check out Nicole’s old loft here.) Taryn Collins, who works at the shop, cooked the delicious meal. It was a such a nice evening, filled with good food, good flowers, and good company.
Here are some of my Instagram photos of the room, table, and meal, as well as some images from Laura Jean’s floral design portfolio.
Peek inside the portfolio of Laurel Jean Floral and Design:
Portland-based artist and designer, Stephan Alexandr, got in touch recently with photos of his newest work, two-toned zebra skulls, which he describes as “a modern take on taxidermy.” His uses animal skulls, bones, and other natural materials to create one of a kind wall mounts, decor and functional objects. It’s a natural history lesson for sure!
Creamsicle Zebra Kkull Mellow orange and white, two-toned zebra skull and jaw.
Pink Lemonade Zebra Skull Bright yellow and hot pink, two-toned zebra skull and jaw.
Lavender Zebra Skull Green and lavender, two-toned zebra skull and jaw.
More Acid Please Orange, lilac and gold Baltic Roe Deer from Lithuania.
Holy Buffalo Massive buffalo. White skull with golden horns.
I’ve long considered my friend Jessica Biales to have impeccable taste. I learned to cultivate the art of minimalism from her, back in college. She had almost nothing in her closet, yet she always had everything she needed. On the walls hung posters of architectural renderings by Frank Gehry and Phillip Johnson, mounted on foam core rather than taped to the walls. And her duvet was plain black.
Hardly the stuff of college dreams. When I need to cull, I channel that dorm room, which only one year before was laden with images of Monet’s Giverny, an inspiration board laden with Calvin Klein’s ponytailed models and Christy and Linda in Chanel, and a double mattress topped with a floral comforter; home to moi. Jessica was the New York City sophisticate incarnate. And now, reigning queen bee of the style world, Jenna Lyons, has confirmed what I always knew—Jessica Biales has style.
J.Crew, which has been experimenting with collaborations with all sorts of cool kids—including CFDA winners and other under-the-radar labels—has picked up two rings by Jessica Biales. It’s the company’s first offerings in fine jewelry. They are carrying a limited run of two solid 18-carat gold signet styles—one yellow gold, and the other rose gold bedecked with pavé emeralds.
I gave the collab a shout-out in Sunday’s Boston Globe, as “The One Thing” in the paper’s new “Enthusiast” section. Jessica’s work has gotten a ton of press over the past six months. Let’s have a look.
Anna Kasabian, a local artist on the North Shore of Massachusetts working under the name Snowbound Pottery, emailed me in January with photos of her work. I was instantly taken with the delicate shapes and natural feel. The pieces are sweet but not precious or cloying. The white vases and and bowls themselves resemble flowers, with uneven scalloped edges and petal-like feet. I was unsurprised to learn that she makes everything by hand, without a wheel. When I responded to her mail saying I loved her work, she graciously sent me a tiny dish so I could see it and feel it. Her work is even more lovely in person.
Samantha Freedman, a Newton girl whose family is in the jewelry business (Downtown Crossing Boston diamond shop Freedman Jewelers is her dad’s), actually started out as a corporate lawyer before pursuing design. And even then, she did it on her lunch hour. I profiled Samantha (“Sweetest Charms”) in the Boston Globe Magazine earlier this month.
Samantha’s first charm was a clothing hanger. After people bought them right off her neck, she designed five more fashion-inspired pieces which comprise the Closet Collection: a button, a zipper, a key, a knot, a pair of lips, and a bow. All seven are still in production, and the bow has since become one of her biggest sellers. She does all her pieces in sterling silver, gold plate, and rose gold plate.
Boston Globe Magazine January 6, 2013 photos in the magazine by Dan Watkins
After the closet came the Menagerie Collection, which today includes 20 different adorable animal charms, all available in large and small sizes. She started making the animals and matching mini mes when her friends started having kids, thinking they’d be cute mommy/daughter accessories. (She makes charm bracelets too.) They were a hit, but with an even broader audience. Sorority sisters, and all sorts of ladies loved them.
If the large and small lobsters aren’t telltale signs, the Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket island charms, plus the anchor, making up the Islands Collection, gives Samantha away as a New England girl.
Samantha’s newest collection Modern Classic, includes nature-inspired shapes, good luck charms, and other whimsical silhouettes. Again, all available big and small in three finishes.
Samantha behind-the-scenes at the Globe shoot at Succara on Beacon Hill, the showroom that represents her line.