Over a year ago, I found a new blog – Karen Sugarman Designs. You can see my original visit was in April, 2008 – there’s my comment to Karen. Sugarman’s blog was intriguing and caught my attention: an interior designer who specialized in restoring historic properties in Boston suddenly found herself living in Arizona. Not especially versed in doing interior design Arizona style, she decided to dabble in couture jewelry design. Her blog is a unique marriage of the two arts – she uses interiors to illustrate the inspiration behind her jewelry designs.
Sugarman’s “Dreamy Elegance” necklace in pinks and blues.
The inspiration for the Dreamy Elegance necklace was the beautiful, feminine bedroom in pinks and blues.
The Tuileries Collection is based on a necklace designed using pearls from Marie Antoinette. Here pink quartz and pearls were used.
The vignette from the room that inspired the pink quartz Tuileries Collection necklace.
Rene Russo and Kevin Costner in 1996’s Tin Cup: her station pearl necklace started a world wide beading craze.
I felt an instant kinship with Karen – we had similar backgrounds, though in reverse. Before I practiced interior design full-time, I also designed jewelry. It all started with a movie – Tin Cup. After the Kevin Costner film came out in 1996, the pearl necklace that Rene Russo wore throughout the film became more talked about than the movie – much to the dismay of the producers. The “Tin Cup” necklace became one of the most sought out designs in pearl necklaces, indeed in necklaces in general. The design was simple - staggered or stationed pearls knotted an inch apart on a silk cord. Everyone wanted one. The necklace’s designer Wendy Brigode shot to instant fame. A few months after Russo wore her necklace in Tin Cup, another stylist put her in the same necklace for the movie Ransom – without Russo informing anyone that she had worn the exact necklace in her previous, as yet unreleased film. Brigode, the designer, claimed to be horrified by Russo’s reticence in divulging the truth about the repeated piece of jewelry. Regardless, the necklace was forever known as The Tin Cup.
The simple, yet classic station pearl necklace started a craze among women everyone – how hard could it be to knot pearls on a silk cord? Trust me - it’s exceedingly hard to get perfect knots, perfectly placed – it was a skill I never mastered no matter how hard I tried. The Tin Cup necklace started a beading craze in America – and to meet the demand, beads were cut in every size and shape and out of every stone imaginable. Bead Shows were hot, hot, hot and I, a fledging interior designer with lots of time on my hands dove into the jewelry business heart first, because truly it was one of my stupider moves in life. I spent a small fortune on stones and beads and created lots and lots of necklaces and matching earrings. I sold them mostly through friends and family – my sister Cathy was my best salesperson. But Cathy, gorgeous and charismatic (two attributes I surely don’t share) can sell anything – just ask her about her studded-sewn on-bandana-sweatshirts she sold in the early 80s (she made a mint on that haute couture item.)
An original Wendy Brigode Tin Cup necklace in gray pearls sold on ebay for pennies!!!
My jewelry was also sold in a few shops – most notably More Than You Can Imagine, an upscale resale shop in Houston. I’m not sure how much I ended up spending on my jewelry business, I certainly didn’t make a profit. It was hugely labor intensive because after a few years of stringing everything myself – along with Mr. Slipper Socks Man’s help (he could actually knot better than I ever could!) – I hired someone to make all my designs. In the end, she was far more talented than me – and I just bought the stones I liked, handed them over to her and she whipped it all up for me, charging me plenty to do so. I then had to sell all the product and give the stores a percent of the action – it was a small-time financial disaster. Although my sister Cathy and I had tons of fun at the bead shows buying all the stones, after four or five years I gladly gave it up just as my interior design business was really taking off. Running two businesses is not fun. But I had some beautiful jewelry when it was all over, and so did my sister and my mother and we still wear a few of the better looking items.
A necklace from Karen Sugarman, inspired by this zebra print.
So, as you can imagine, reading Karen Sugarman’s blog was hugely nostalgic for me. But her route in business is the opposite of mine. She went from interior design to jewelry design. And then, to be sure, Sugarman has a great talent for designing and making jewelry that I never did. Trust me, I can spot someone with a true beading ability a mile away. Truthfully, some of her designs stunned me – they were that beautiful. Like this one:
This necklace was inspired by one Sugarman had bought in Paris. She felt she could design it better, prettier – and she did.
Another necklace I am crazy in love with is this one from her Flora Collection – it might be one of the prettier necklaces I’ve seen! Isn’t it gorgeous?
This necklace is from the Back Bay Collection. Truly a special piece – shells and pearls and a cameo. I adore it!
And then there was this necklace – freshwater pearls and aquamarine. I was in lust when I saw this after Karen blogged about – read my comment to her:
In June I wondered how much this necklace was – it was just too pretty to pass up. This comment started a dialogue with Karen.
And then, the other day, I came in from the beach and found this cute pink and black box waiting for me.
Wrapped in pretty periwinkle paper, ala John Saladino.
Which I promptly had my 18 year old daughter try on for me – she makes a much prettier model than moi (though she wants to steal it from me, she says.) Isn’t this gorgeous?!!!!! I could scream I am so excited! I tried it on last night for my friend Julie and she could not get over how beautiful it is! It truly is a work of art. Karen’s generosity staggers me – I’ll be grateful to her forever. Yes, I am embarrassed to admit, this necklace was a gift from Karen! I’ve said it before – I’ve met the nicest people ever on the blogosphere. Thank you again, Karen, from the bottom of my heart.
The very sweet Karen Sugarman, quite beautiful herself.
Be sure to visit her web site and see all her designs – there are many different collections and pieces that I didn’t show here, so don’t miss one of them. And Karen actually has two blogs – one on the web site and one on the blogosphere here, so take your pick. One of my favorite stories on the blogsss is this one: http://karensugarmandesigns.blogspot.com/2009/06/social-networking-and-six-degrees-of.html
AND: All Cote de Texas readers get a 25% discount on anything they order from Karen Sugarman Designs. Simply go to the web page – at the top of the Home Page will be a Cote de Texas tab. Click on that tab before you begin shopping. The code is: Texas. The discount will show up automatically then. Thank you Karen for such a great discount!