Five years ago, I was given the extraordinary opportunity to spend 10 weeks in Lacoste, France as part of SCAD’s alumnae residency program. I can’t believe how fast time flies! Despite many changes that have taken place in my life (most importantly, my two wonderful boys!), it still feels like only yesterday that I was strolling through the cobblestone streets and past the bright blue doors of that sweet little village. My experience in France transformed my outlook in so many ways that still influence me today. I’ve also continued to learn, evolve, and build upon the lessons and techniques I mastered there. Today, I’m looking back on my time in Lacoste, including the creation of the Bonjour Belle Collection, and looking ahead to the future.
Go With the Flow
It shouldn’t surprise anyone by now that I am a huge planner. I always want to have a set schedule and a clear vision before I get to work on anything. But I made the decision early on not to plan ahead for my time in Lacoste, and instead show up and wait for inspiration to strike. I’m so glad I did! It’s truly a dream come true for any artist to be plopped down in the middle of a place absolutely bursting with inspiration. Lacoste is a treasure trove of beauty, and I could never have dreamed up the designs for Bonjour Belle without seeing it first.
Lacoste was also the first time that I’d worked in a studio space that was open to the public. At first, I was worried that this would be distracting, but it opened the door (literally) to so many incredible experiences. From the French children who wandered in and were fascinated by the jewelry-making, to fashion designer Bibhu Mohapatra, to the German couple who stopped in and bought one of my earliest cuffs, I met so many incredible people I never would have otherwise. Today, face-to-face is one of the most important elements of my business. Sure, it takes a little extra time, but it is so worth it.
Slow Down and Smell the Flowers
Speaking of slowing down, Lacoste forced me to live in the moment. The French like to take a little break in the mid-afternoon to relax. At first, all the American SCAD students, faculty, and staff tried to optimize that time for checking off the endless to-do list, but that turned out to be pretty tough with everything closed. So, we were forced to take a break, and it made all the difference.
I spent my afternoons wandering the winding streets, discovering secret gardens with stunning views of the valley. I’d pick up my gourmet lunch of cheese and Moules Marinières (mussels) from the so-called “cafeteria” and sit on a bench taking in the sites, or pay a visit to the SCAD cherry orchard to grab a few snacks to go - straight from the source. Lo and behold, these “nonproductive” moments turned out to be the most productive, as I found myself rushing back to the studio absolutely brimming with ideas. I also discovered my fascination with French doors and windows. I mean wow!
Even though it can be a lot harder to slow down these days (did I mention I have two boys?), I know that if I ever get stuck creatively, the answer is to get out and smell the flowers.
Get Back to the Roots
During my time in France, I had to make do without some of the fancy high-tech equipment I normally use at home. I may not have had my set-up of mass finishing tools or pneumatic handpiece, but I did have a historic atelier with stone walls marked by ancient Roman craftsmen, windows open to fresh air, and views of the whole Luberon valley. I’ll take that trade-off!
This set-up helped me really get back to the roots of metalsmithing. I was working without a microscope, practicing techniques I hadn’t tried or incorporated in a long time. This “use-what-you-have” attitude resulted in the quintessential element of the Bonjour Belle Collection, the perfectly-imperfect hand-formed fleurs. It’s a bit time-consuming, but the effect is so much more lovely and full of character than any typical floral jewelry.
Build and Grow
Over the past five years, I’ve done my best to incorporate the lessons from France into my life in Savannah. It’s a life centered around food, family, and fellowship, and that’s something I can really get behind. I try to live in the moment as much as possible, and keep my eyes open to inspiration. At the same time, I’m really glad to have my tools back!
An artist like myself is never through with creating, and that goes both for life and work. The truth is, there was always something about Bonjour Belle that felt a bit unfinished to me. Over the years, I’ve found myself continuing to fiddle with the collection, taking some pieces off the site and adding others, making slight changes in design and just generally obsessing over every detail. (What can I say, I’m a perfectionist!)
Gradually, I came to realize that what was missing from the collection were the fun details that I can only accomplish right here in my Savannah studio. By that I mean COLOR and GOLD and GEMSTONES! After all, these are a few of my favorite things!
Re-introducing… Bonjour Belle!
In honor of the 5-year Anniversary of Bonjour Belle, I’m reintroducing some of my most popular pieces with new features I’ve come to be known for: customization, color, and contrast. Now, you can choose your favorite gemstones, opt for gorgeous gold details, and have fun being playful and creative!
If there’s one lesson from Lacoste that I’d say is most important, it’s to never stop dreaming. Follow that little tug in your heart and take that last turn through the garden gate. You never know what you’ll discover.
Au revoir pour le moment!