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Designers – Squash Blossom Blog
Designer Jewelry and Art in Vail Village and Colorado Springs
Italian designer Federica Rettore does not find interest in making jewelry that is traditional or cute. Rather, she is passionate about transforming her life experiences into wearable sculptures.
This philosophy explains her incredibly unique style, and her pieces that clearly reflect the world around her.
Federica Rettore has a background in sculpture and considers each piece of jewelry a “small sculpture to wear and never take off.” Her cuffs especially, made of Zebu horn, are unique pieces of art that set Rettore apart from other designers. “Each has it’s own story,” she said in an interview, “And for those who wear these cuffs too. Due to nuances in the natural horn patterns, each piece is one of a kind and so each customer has a piece like no other.”
One of a kind pieces are Rettore’s specialty. Many of her pieces may look similar but have variations in the stones or other materials used. She is known for heat-treating steal and shaping it into pieces inspired by nature, including mollusk shells and peach pits. The, ocean in particular, inspires her.
Rettore spends every August with her family on the island of Sardinia. Here, she draws inspiration from natural materials such as coral, sea-worn rock, and mollusks. “We spend many hours of the day on our boat enjoying the rock formations of the sea walls,” she said,
“In the evening, as the sun sets, the sky turns a beautiful shade of gold and red. The stone walls around the sea glow with color.”
Her jewelry reflects the dynamic colors and textures in and around the ocean. As a jewelry designer, she aims to do more than make jewelry that’s merely fashionable or pretty. “How can we frame the sound of the sea? How can we tie to the finger the joy of living? Or how can we . . . make out of each jewel a perfect match with art and nature?” These deeper questions lead Rettore to create elegant, original pieces that women can treasure their entire lives.
Irene Neuwirth, the famed jewelry designer who has captured the hearts of everyday people and celebrities alike, is known for her creative use of colorful gemstones and fanciful settings. On any red carpet, you are sure to see some of her pieces. To get to know her on a personal level a little better, we got this exclusive interview with her in 2014.
SB: Describe the first piece of jewelry you made that you were proud of. IN: My 9 drops. Still a classic.
SB: Was there a turning point in your life that led you to jewelry design? IN: Yes. When my family sat me down to explain to me that reaching horseback riding was not going to be my future.
SB: Is there a piece that you sold that you wish you had kept for yourself? IN: Yes. My favorite opal necklace.
SB: Describe a dream design that you haven’t made yet.
IN:Carved horse necklace. I mean… Why not? It is the year of the horse!
SB: What other career would you pursue if you did not design jewelry? IN: Wow. I don’t know. I really love what I do and feel so incredibly lucky and happy!
SB: What do you consider to be your greatest achievement to date? IN: Ooh. That’s a tough one. Being nominated for a CFDA [Council of Fashion Designers of America] award.
SB: Name your most treasured possession.
IN: My Labradoodle. He feels like more of my family though than a possession.
SB: Name 5 things that you could not live without. IN:
My Labradoodle teddy
My facials with Cristina Radu
My dear friends
My wonderful home
SB: Finish this statement: When I’m not making/designing jewelry, I am…
IN: Cooking, spending time with friends, walking dog, reading…
SB: What is your motto?
IN: Work hard… Nothing comes easy!
See our collection of Irene Neuwirth on our website.
When Mark Alexander started Peyote Bird in 1973, it was less of a business and more of a leap of faith. Having just graduated from college at the University of Denver with a degree in economics, he had little idea of what to do with his life. At the time, Native American jewelry was becoming very popular and he had a noticeable attraction to it. So when he went on a road trip with a friend to Mexico in his old Volkswagen bug with only $300 in his pocket, he decided to stop at a Native American reservation in New Mexico on his way back to buy some jewelry.
Upon return, he sold the pieces he bought on an old Navajo rug at the University of Denver. It was a huge success, so he buckled down and decided to do the business for real. Now after 40 years of success, including working with accounts such as Ralph Lauren, Nordstrom, Ann Taylor, and Sundance, Alexander reflects on his legacy.
“When I first began driving across the country selling Southwestern jewelry in 1973, I never imagined that Peyote Bird Designs would become what it is today—a global company supplying major retailers all over the United States,” he stated on his website. “What is important to me now is keeping the same values I learned as a small business person—open communication, investment in the success of both employees and clients, and production of artistic, high-quality jewelry that I am proud of.” He now plans to pass those values on to his daughter, along with the business.
Watch Alexander tell his story below and visit our online collection of Native American jewelry on our website.
Starting as an admirer of her grandmother’s jewelry box and emerging as an award-winning jewelry designer, Preville has become known for her use of 18 karat gold set with white brilliant diamonds and accented with milgrain and hand-engraving.
Her contemporary yet antique-inspired designs offer a fresh take on gold and diamond jewelry.
Preville has long been familiar with the world of design. She comes from two generations of female artists. “My mother was an artist, an interior designer and an antique dealer. My grandmother painted Art Nouveau motifs on Limoges porcelain,” Preville explained in an interview with Jewelstreet, “Art and creativity surrounded me as a child.”
As she grew older, Preville gained a fine art degree and took up designing jewelry as a hobby.
She sold custom-made pieces to her family and friends. “What started out as a hobby turned into a business,” Preville said, “Word started to spread about my designs and I went on to win the 1978 Jewelers of America New Designer of the Year Award. I always had big dreams, but never thought that 40 years later I’d have an international brand.”
Her success results from the time and thoughtfulness she puts into her pieces, as well as the quality materials she uses to make them. Drawing inspiration from different cultures and time periods, Preville utilizes a variety of techniques to create jewelry that is both fashionable and feminine.
“The historical influences on my collections span from Imperial Russia to Byzantine, Raj to Art Deco. I study past and present cultures and ancient civilisations, along with nature, the arts and fashion. I romance these elements, making them feel fresh for a contemporary woman.”
For Preville, romance is key. “To me, jewelry is the ultimate expression of love,” she concluded. “It expresses a woman’s personality and has a sentimental value like no other luxury item.” Indeed, a piece Penny Preville jewelry is the perfect gift, as well the perfect memory of time spent in Vail.
Hilde Leiss is an internationally known jewelry designer and gallerist. Her gallery in Hamburg, Germany features many different types of art, particularly jewelry, and has made her internationally recognized.
Professor Dr. Wilhelm Hornborstel from the Museum für Kunst & Gewerbe (Museum for Arts and Crafts) in Hamburg describes Leiss as, “a person who lives in the real world, is charming, straightforward, openhearted, unpretentious, and bubbling with practical energy.” Her jewelry reflects that energy, full of life and color.
Her rings, which are made of sterling silver, 18 karat gold, and a rainbow of colorful gemstones, are the perfect statement pieces for everyday. They are big, bold and beautiful without being busy. “For many years rigor, clarity and the avoidance of fussy ornamentation in her designs have been her trademarks,” says Dr. Hornborstel, “She takes as gospel the belief that clarity represents the truth in art. The aesthetic power and beauty of Hilde Leiss’s jewelry lends it a timelessness which forms the perfect antidote to the confusion of different styles which proliferate today.”
Leiss takes simple design concepts and highlights them. She is passionate about uniting apparent contrasts. Dr. Hornborstel concludes, “‘Forma et subilitas’– form and beauty… Appropriate words indeed to describe Hilde Leiss’s ascetic, yet extremely expressive jewelry. The ephemeral and the permanent, experimentation and durability–these are contrasts apparently reconciled almost effortlessly by Hilde Leiss.”
View Hilde Leiss’s jewelry in our store in Vail Village.
Over 25 years ago, Eric Bonecutter created Bonecutter Trading Co to carry on the work his family had dedicated their lives to for over four generations.
Working with a handful of skilled Navajo silversmiths, Bonecutter Trading Co creates jewelry inspired by the classic styles of the 1930’s and 40’s, known for deep stamp work in sterling silver with turquoise stones. Today, Bonecutter’s silversmiths continue to be masters of innovation and artistry.
Bonecutter Trading Co is made up of many different Navajo designers. To give you a more personal look at the jewelry-makers, we have compiled a list of miniature biographies of a few of the artists, including some interviews from Bonecutters.
Sunshine Reeves has worked with Bonecutters since 1989. He has won many awards, including “Best of Show” at the Santa Fe Indian Market in 1997 for an eight piece silver coffee set. He has a wife and grown son, who serves in the United States Marines.
Aaron Toadlena’s favorite pieces of jewelry to create are old-style bracelets and Squash Blossoms. He has place first and second in multiple silversmith competitions, as well as entered pieces in the Gallup Ceremonial. He and his wife, Eve, have four children.
Albert Jake grew up in a large family of eight siblings. He always had a natural passion for art, especially drawing. His sister, Louise, taught him to silversmith and he joined Bonecutters in 1989. Now Jake creates both old-style and contemporary pieces. He enjoys time outdoors with his two daughters. He recalls getting his first job in jewelry:
“I remember driving through Gallup and seeing a “Help Wanted” sign in Ortega’s. I stopped in and was interviewed. They asked me if I knew how to make jewelry and I told them yes, although I really didn’t know much at all . . . The guy said to be there Monday morning to work. I was excited to have a job and remember going to my sister’s house and borrowing (though she didn’t know) three of her tools. I borrowed a hammer, a pair of pliers, and insulated tweezers. I showed up for work Monday making sure that I was the first one there. The guy looked at me and said,”Where are your tools?!?” I said,”Right here in my pocket!” and showed him what I had. He couldn’t stop laughing but I said, “Give me some work and I’ll show you what I can do!’” After making friends with a few of of the workers there I was on my way. The owner was very pleased with what I had done and even asked me who who had done the work for me! I remained there for about three years, and yes, I did take those tools back to my sister that I had borrowed.”
Darryl Becenti grew up in Arizaona as one of ten. He worked in several different industries before finding his love of jewelry-making, particularly stamping. After working for over thirty years with Bonecutters, he has taken numerous ribbons at the Santa Fe Indian Market. He notes the changes he has seen in his work since the beginning:
“The biggest change I have seen is the type of jewelry I make. I can do almost anything , and it sells as before. When I first started all I did was earrings and small items. Now I like to make concho belts, bracelets and rings. I like trying to come up with new stamp out designs.”
Guy Hoskie grew up the middle child of eight in Arizona and Utah. After high school he joined the Army and one year later he met his wife. They now have two sons. Hoskie learned to silversmith in the early 1990’s from his relatives. Now, his favorite pieces to create are bracelets and squash blossoms. While entering his pieces in competitions doesn’t particularly thrill him, he loves the people wearing and enjoying his jewelry.
“Jewelry is rewarding,” he says, “To see something that you have created being worn by someone is quite satisfying to me.”
Happy Piasso and Rudy Willie
Happy Piasso was born in Socorro, New Mexico and raised in Alamo. She and her husband, Rudy Willie, have created jewelry together since 1994. Willie learned silversmithing from his brother, while Piasso learned from her husband. Willie occasionally signs his own name to their pieces, but more often they are known to stamp them “H. Piasso.”
According to Bonecutters, “Harry Begay is one of the few Navajo silversmiths that creates pieces in the true old style using ingot silver. Ingot silver pieces are created by melting sterling silver in a crucible and pouring it out for repeated hammering and annealing of the metal. This process results in more tightly grained and heavier sterling silver pieces than using machined sterling silver products. Harry Begay has been silversmithing in this fashion for over 35 years.”
La Rose Ganadonegro
La Rose Ganadonegro, who grew up in Crown Point, New Mexico, has been doing silver work since 1984. She works alongside her husband, Archie.
Ronnie Willie is a renaissance man. He is an excellent silver smith, making his own tools and focusing on antique bracelets, inlaid crosses, and concho belts. In addition to silver work, he makes Kachinas, rock sculptures, wood carvings, and sandpaintings. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
See our Native American jewelry collection on our website.
Designer Mattia Cielo has stepped into the future of jewelry. Incorporating ideas from aerospace to micro-mechanics, Cielo focuses on creating pieces that are ergonomic and dynamic, utilizing movement and flexibility. He achieves this feat of engineering using a titanium core, allowing for both tensility and strength. However, he does not consider jewelry as merely technical.
In a “philosophical manifesto” for his jewelry, Cielo states that his jewelry is, “A tangible expression of thought. Made of stone and metal, of synthesis and poetry. Of instrument elements which interpret and portray life.” Going beyond object, Cielo transforms his pieces into “word and sign.”
And he does not do it alone. From the synthesis of his company, Cielo has designed with partner Massimiliano (Max) Bonoli. Together, they drew inspiration from the industry’s lack of modern, avant-garde jewelry. In an interview with JewelryIcon, Cielo described, “We were immediately intrigued by movement and industrial design applied to jewelry. We believe that it is possible to revolutionize the jewelry world, taking it to the third millennium. . . Jewels are the most human of man’s creations. They are symbolic signs for our feelings, an external messages of who we are.”
Cielo has dedicated his life to these signs and messages. He aims for women to be able to express their femininity and personality through his jewelry in the present time, and in the future. The flexibility of his jewelry reflects that. “We live in a moving age,” he said, “We move in space, globalization, time, and the web.” His brand, like his jewelry and like his philosophy, keeps moving forward. Not only does he wish to continue with designing and creating jewelry, he feels strongly that he must.
When asked about how his love and obsession with jewelry began, Cielo said, “It is a destiny, a call that you must embrace.” His jewelry represents how he has embraced his calling so fully, and inspires his many admirers to do the same.
Fall in love with Mattia Cielo jewelry on our website.
Todd Reed is a Colorado designer who has championed a movement he calls “Raw Elegance.”
Setting one of a kind naturally colored diamonds in recycled metals, he has been a master of innovation in his Boulder studio for over 20 years. He gave us this exclusive interview.
SQUASH BLOSSOM: Was there a turning point in your life that led you to jewelry design?
TODD REED: I got deep into jewelry design while making leather clothing in Durango, Colorado. I loved making something that someone was going to buy and wear and love and talk about. It was and still is a great feeling.
SB: Describe the first piece of jewelry you made that you were proud of.
TR: I remember loving this bracelet so much that I made for Krista Messina. This was 1994, maybe. Silver, turquoise, Navajo-style with bezel set cabochons on the piece. Wide tapered cuff. I really loved that piece.
SB: Is there a piece that you sold that you wish you had kept for yourself?
TR: I do not get upset when I sell a piece. I am happy to get the piece into the hands of the true and rightful owner.
SB: What other career would you pursue if you did not design jewelry?
TR: If I did not make jewelry I would simply design small objects, make art, design architecture, spend more time with family, and play more golf.
SB: What do you consider to be your greatest achievement to date?
TR: My greatest achievement to date has been the creation of my fabulous daughter. But in the realm of my jewelry business, I’m most excited about building such a unique and innovative company.
SB: Name your most treasured possession.
TR: My most treasured possession is my home.
SB: Finish this statement: “When I’m not making/designing jewelry, I am . . . ”
TR: When I am not designing jewelry, I am running the company, spending time with my family or getting outside.
SB: Who is a historical figure that you identify with?
TR: I like Henry Ford. I like when he said, “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse.” I think being an innovator is a great honor and the field of innovation is so fertile, I connect in this way to these other innovators.
SB: What is your motto?
TR: If I used a motto it would be something like “Go with passion.”
The Squash Blossom in Vail Village now features San Francisco jewelry designer Rebecca Overmann.
Rebecca Overmann’s jewelry is both simple and unique, showcasing high-quality metals and hand-selected gemstones. A team of highly-skilled artisans carefully crafts each piece of jewelry in her San Francisco studio. She says, “While I’ve had the honor of working with many fine casters and stone setters through the years, the care and control that we have when it’s done in-house by our own people is irreplaceable.”
The supreme quality of the materials measures up to the supreme quality of the design. Each detail is meticulously thought through, and each thought shows. But rather than creating jewelry overwrought with busy details, Rebecca Overman fashions refreshingly subtle jewelry, letting the beauty of the materials shine through. Because of its natural feel and its simplicity, it is the kind of jewelry you can wear everyday: “The goal of Rebecca Overmann jewelry is to create incredibly special pieces for our customers who value thoughtful design and fine craftsmanship.”
Whether for daily wear or special occasion, a gift for someone else or a gift for yourself, you cannot go wrong with a piece of Rebecca Overmann jewelry.