Prerecorded and posted: November 18th, 2021
Rachel Elspeth Gross
Rachel Elspeth Gross 00:01
Hi, everyone, we're here today with another episode. #ICanDoThat. And we have with us stage Newt who is one of the globe's best, most interesting jewelry designers and we are so excited to have you today with us. Thank you so much. Wow. No, I mean, your your stuff is amazing. And it's so artistic as well as, obviously, well put together. Um, could you start by telling us just a little bit about, you know, how you got started with glory?
Well, I've been obsessed with jewelry and with stones and jewels, since I was like a child. Literally, since age three, four or five, I can remember being fascinated by jewelry and stones. And I never did anything with it. It was I used to edit a magazine and I, I'm a good writer, but you know, a fake writer, because I didn't, I didn't love doing what I did. And then I knew I wanted to do something with jewelry. So when I turned 30, I said, I'm doing my starting a jewelry line. I was completely untrained. I took a loan for my family. And I started my first collection, which we'll call Frutti di Mare which are fruits of the sea. And because that fallen madly, madly in love with an abalone shell. Now I was like, oh my god, this is like the cosmos. And this is like the universe. And it's, it's underwater. And it was just, it was just just blew my mind. And so I did my first collection, which was just fruits of the sea. So I just worked and I was totally untrained. So I worked with balls and gold, and abalone shells in different colors of pearls, etc, etc. And I sold out entirely with that show. And so I could pay my family back then I started my next collection. And it just it's been a fully organic growth and experience for me, you know, I chose to do my work in a certain manner, tread my own path kind of thing without feeling the necessity to have stores and everybody said, Oh, you must have a store, you must do this. I just know that I need to do it the way I do it for me to be able to create. I need to feel free inside myself. So that is how I began and it's how I continue.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 02:15
After this. You name your pieces. You have some very beautiful names.
Yeah, I name every single piece but now I've made over 3000 pieces in like 15-18 years. So when people take a name, I'm just like, oh my god, which one was that? But yes, I named every single piece.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 02:30
You have one I saw named Lila. And that's my daughter's name. And so I felt really attached to that.
Yes, yes. Yes.
Jonathan Joseph 02:39
So you spoke on, you know, even as a child being drawn to gemstones being drawn to jewelry. Can you recount sort of one of your earliest fashion memories related to jewelry? Was there like a specific piece that someone who
no my family, my family has beautiful jewelry, they have really like unbelievably beautiful jewelry. So it's always been a topic of conversation. Everybody in the family loves it. I will see my grandpa, my grandmother's were my mother were my sisters were it. I mean? I can't recall a specific incident or anything because it was always part of the lexicon. You know what I mean? We love jewelry. We love jewels. We like talking about them. We like knowing about them. We like the provenance of them when you know all of that. So I can't pinpoint anything specific except to say that it was always part of my world all the time.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 03:31
Yeah, so it's natural.
completely natural. Yeah, nothing forced.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 03:38
So do you think that you got any particularly good advice? When you were starting this line off when you knew that you had to do it? Somebody say something that was really particularly helpful or not helpful?
You know, I'm sure I don't I can't really recollect, but I'm sure to lots of advice to people because everybody's always willing. But the fact of the matter is that how do I explain it to this, it's like a soul connect for me. So I knew exactly what I was doing. I knew how I wanted to go about doing it. I didn't feel nervous or scared or anxious about doing that. I knew what that what I was doing with that first collection was unique. It was different it was artistic jewelry, semi precious because I wasn't really working with diamonds etc at that point. But I knew that it had a feel that the other jewelry didn't have that, you know, that I was seeing or looking around and no so I don't know. A natural progression for me such a natural progression.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 04:46
It's organic. That's what I think of when I see your pieces.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 04:49
and they could have spun to life from nature.
To date. My most favorite pieces to design are organic shaped pieces, you know, honestly and the thing with my jewelry I believe is very niche, I it's not commercial sort of do 40 pieces of this and 20 pieces of the it's, it's it's organic, natural. It's designed artistic design jewelry. And even today though I work with more sort of bigger stones and more important stones and everything, I still will find the stone that is the most organic, or something that speaks to me that something that has a feel, you know what I mean? And that's what fuels me even even now?
Jonathan Joseph 05:31
Yes, what strikes me about your pieces. And, you know, when I look at tennis that you come across as a creator, who has found a calling, and has found that calling
How sweet, thank you. And it's always about paying homage to the stone. So if I'm working with, I get asked all the time, also, what's your design process, it's just very simple. The two design processes for me, one is I find a stone and I'm like, Oh, I fall upon a stone or I come across a stone or I chanced upon a stone and I'm like, Oh, my God, I am in love. Now, what do I do with this? So that's one way. And the second thing is because, you know, with creative people, we always dreaming of things and things are coming into our consciousness. And I may have a design, I may have something that say, Oh, what, you know, like, say I want to do a fan, but I would want my fan to be sort of upturned, or they wanted to have movement. And then I create a design in my head. It's all sort of nebulous, but then I have to start, then I sketch it out, and I'm a terrible sketcher. And then I sketch it out, and then have to find the stones for it. You know, so the first one is you find the stone and you design around it. The second one is you have an idea, a thought, or a design in your mind, and then you hunt for stones for that.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 06:43
Yeah, I'm sure sometimes use you have an idea. And then something appears the right time, the right place kind of falls in.
It's not even right then right place is very focused, because suppose I have an idea, like right now I'm speaking to you and I have an idea, I want to design an arrow. I, I will go out and find the stones that I want to work with for that. You know,
Jonathan Joseph 07:04
right? In line like this is my list of the piece of the stones I need to find to articulate this vision.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 07:12
Jonathan Joseph 07:13
It's similar to me. You know, when I was consulting in the women's wear space, when you would just find the right fabric and you you know, you're going through,
you knew what you wanted to do with it.
Jonathan Joseph 07:22
All of a sudden, you'll touch the right one with the right hand feel and the right kind of you like this is it and there it goes. And it goes from there.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 07:32
So, um, we always like to ask about books. Is there a particular book that you really love fashion book, a jewelry book?
My all time favorite book is a book called Allure by Diana Vreeland? We love her. We love her so much. Yeah, yeah. And in the book, there's a full page spectacular photograph of my grandmother. So that's what I remember. I remember that book from when I was not a child. It came out in the 70s or 80s. Right? It is. And it's that book that book oh my god, it just has such pizzazz and energy and oh my god, it's like, pulsating with. So that's one of my all time favorite sort of picture. Narratives fashion, drama, Jules, opera singers, princesses, actors. You know, the demimonde of Paris. I mean, everything. That that's a pulsating book. Listen, I read a lot. So I'm always inspired by books all the time. I have my favorite books. I have my favorite meditative books, books that transport me travel books, so I didn't even know where to begin. But as far as the coffee table book I loved Allure than most.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 08:41
We love to ask about books because Jonathan and I are both books, junkies and we we always need more we always need to have more reference materials, more inspiration more.
Jonathan Joseph 08:54
These days. These days, my obsession with books and reference material books are all to do with homes, people's homes and gardens. That's what I'm so fueled by like, oh my god, it's like, does more than buying jewelry books and buying books and on homes and gardens, and flowers and plants and different eras and because that conscious of the Spirit as well, because I do believe that my jewelry is a hint of the past and very much of the present and future you know, so. It all I don't know, it all sort of works together home, life, design, feelings, aesthetic.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 09:39
Yeah, yeah. Universal. I can't think of the right word right now. But it matches.
I'm moving around. Is that all right?
Rachel Elspeth Gross 09:46
Oh, you're fine. Totally fine. Okay. Um, so if you were to give advice to a child if there was a kid in the room wanted to do what you do to design jewelry was It was one thing you could say to that kid, what would you recommend to them?
You know, if it's your passion, if it actually you really believe that you want to do design jewelry, or you want to paint or if, if you have a passion passion for it, just dive head on. But do your homework meaning when someone has a passion, I can only speak for myself, when someone has a passion, you just, it just envelops you, you soak in as much you read you look, as Dan Avila said, the eye has to travel, you see, I mean, you can find beauty in anything, I can find it in a stalk of a flower, I can find it in architecture, I can find it in a cushion, I can find it in a piece of furniture, I can find it in a in a painting or something that I've read or if I'm dancing to music, or, you know, be very, be very true to your passion is what I would say I would also say, of course, it may waver at some point or the other but but if you know that, that's something you really want to do, I do believe intrinsically just come you, your soul goes towards it. So you will find the books that you want to read, you will see the research materials that you need, you will see things that inspire you. And then the inspiration just continues and continues. And so I may have been interested in sort of like architectural jewelry and then I wanted to design using insect wings. And then I want to do with waterfalls and abalone and then so you study and you work your mind is churning. You sort of harness that one vibe, then you move to the next and the more you do it. The more you do, the more you do, the more you learn. So it's just it has to be instinctive. It has to be passionate and you have to have all your senses open.
Jonathan Joseph 11:43
I love that it reminds me you know when you think of Miuccia Prada, early collections for products, she would talk about her obsessions. I went from this obsession to discussion to this obsession, and so many creatives.
Boy does she have the most beautiful jewelry. Her Jewelry is insane. Her personal a personal jewelry.
Jonathan Joseph 12:07
Yeah. Oh, absolutely. I mean, she is such an aesthetic force in general. And I can imagine her personal jewelry collection just
oh, that's all I think she has. I mean her clothes and all a wonderful etc. But her jewelry is off the charts. It really is.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 12:26
I mean if there was anyone to go play in her closet, I'm certain she would be the one.
another one who has the most insane personal jewelry is Diane Von Furstenberg. Yeah and be I feel very privileged. She took me into a room. We sat down on the ground, she opened a safe deposit box. I played with all her jewels. Oh my goodness. Oh, boy. Oh boy, that woman knows her jewelry. And she has collected jewelry. And she's had husbands who bought her jewelry. And she had lovers who bought her jewelry and she buys her own jewelry. And from the ad ages 17th century 18th century, the modern masters. And it was so thrilling to see lots of my pieces nestled in there as well. She has great, great jewelry taste.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 13:13
I love her. She's always one of my favorite designers when I was like, very, very young and in college. In fashion school, the very first designer dress designer dress that I bought myself was a Diane Von Furstenberg and it's still, you know, special. She's a special American designer.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 13:33
But, um, so I know we're short on time. Jonathan, do you have another?
No, no. We have we have some we have minutes.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 13:41
Okay. All right. I don't want you to have to rush. Um, so would you talk about, I guess the process. I know, you said that people asked me this a lot about your inspiration or whatever else. But how do you if you find a stone, and you know,
I've already talked about my process initially, but I'll tell you some other new things. Like for example, because now I've been doing for 17, 18, 19 years, I've traveled the world, I've gone to jewelry fairs, I am very blessed that I have sources of stones that other people don't really have. So I'm always collecting stones, you know what I mean? So I mean, I wont work with it right now, but I'll work with it later. Or I know that I have my eye on something or like I'm in New York right now. And I know that I want to go to Robert Bentley, who's this amazing stone person and by he goes he has most beautiful Brazilian quartzs and you know, so I again, I know know what I want to do. You know I'm focused in the in in how I want to approach it. So yes, of course the designs calm doesn't even answer my question, or any question.
Jonathan Joseph 14:56
Great. You know, part of why we do these interviews is to Get that organic, unfiltered creative voice to more kids and the adults in their families so that they can feel empowered through it.
Yeah. so I mean, like I was at the Met yesterday, and I was just walking past and the Egyptian gallery and I just saw these amazing, amazing bits of jewelry and to inspire me in some way, I just ramshead made me make me do something else. I mean, inverted and then, you know, you're you have to always be playing.
Jonathan Joseph 15:30
Yeah, creative play is one of the most important things we try to instill in our viewers especially Yeah, for our viewers. Because that's I think, personally, where the magic often happens is when you're just messing around with do I want to do this this way, this way, that way, all those senses to know that that's.
Exactly. Exactly and then if your take on an idea, you know, frankly, we've all heard before they're known, no new ideas, I'm not sure about that. But you can always have your own interpretation of something and make it very much your interpretation, rather than a Photostat or a copy of a copy of something. So I may be very inspired by the Deco period, which I am. I always do it in my way. You know, rather than rather than be imitative.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 16:18
It's like a lens. It's a way to Yes, it's a new vision, same general concept, but a different way of approaching it or seeing it. Is there a particular piece of yours that you like the best or what moves you the most is there something
there all my babies? Well, I have a baby I have so many things that I'm in love with. So I mean, that's good. So let's break it down. I love doing talismanic things for the neck. Now, you know, I was using the earring game I feel I've done the earring game for a very long time. I've case that I now want to move towards the neck and the fingers and the wrists and all of that so I used to always do that but my focus is always earrings now I feel I want to focus more on neck things that more talismanic things and you know, make that interesting. Make that game for me. Interesting.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 17:12
Yeah, I can see how I mean, your earrings are lovely. But I mean, if you Yeah, I love rings. I usually wear like 12 points. So I'd love to see how you played with that. I would love to see. It sounds magical to me.
I love working with ebony. I love working with organics like beetles wings. As I said, I like finding interesting things. dendrites, fossils, shells, I mean, jewelry people jewelers have done that forever. But it's something that fires me. It really is. I'm always I'm always very interested in working with organic things.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 17:46
Well, that makes sense to me, too, that things would have history things that would be that would last that would stand the test of time. I mean, like you said, there's your family has a similar kind of, you know, been here, you you've been for a long time that makes sense that something that that lasted would would resonate with you and I can see how you'd want to make things that we continue that resonance that we continue to
Jonathan Joseph 18:14
Well, I also think there's something to be said for juxtaposition, right? To position of a gemstone with this, you know fossilized wood or these other precious materials, but they're still precious in their own way. And this idea of juxtaposing them I think is also really powerful. I have loved pieces that will combine rare woods with jewels or the matte and the shiny you know, I'm big on contrast and juxtaposition so
I'm obsessed with working with rock crystal obsessed
Jonathan Joseph 18:47
i have a fixation on lapis lapis systems.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 18:49
Oh, wow. Do you think that there's a particular reason the rock crystal mean something.
Oh my god, it speaks to me it always spoken to me. I have my houses filled with totems and pyramids, and obelisks. And and then I work with super quality jewel quality rock, clear, beautiful rock bottom. I just feel I don't know. It just comes from deep within the earth. It has healing properties. It's it's a magical stone. And you know what? It's so interesting. My clients really respond to that. Really respond to it.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 19:21
Make sense of it. Yeah, it's real fair.
It's like living in New York, which is the fanciest chic boutique that ever was in jewelry. They they carry me and they're curation of my work is primarily rock crystal.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 19:36
Jonathan Joseph 19:38
I think I think rock crystal and those types of I guess you said, gemstones and stones that come from deep in the earth those minerals. I think they just carry a certain energy that resonates with people, and especially those who appreciate the organic and the Bold and the artistic as opposed to your sort of quotidian jewelry that others do. I think it empowers I think jewelry has a unique way of empowering an individual and someone who's drawn to a strong aesthetic. And someone who's drawn to be organic is naturally going to resonate with these sorts of natural gemstones and semi precious stones that come from deep within the earth and carry that resonance with them. I think it's a way for people in our modern age where we're often disconnected from the natural world through technology, to have it with them, and to carry it with them.
Absolutely. And it's talismanic, and it's I don't know. It has a feel.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 20:29
yeah, things are better when they mean something when an object has a purpose.
because I put so much energy thought effort.
Jonathan Joseph 20:40
feeling into things that I design that I would hope that that resonates with people, that when they buy something of mine, which I get that feedback all the time that they really enjoy wearing, and they wear it all the time. And, you know, it means something to them. So that's a lovely feeling.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 20:57
Absolutely I mean, that's how we feel about our books. About everything we're putting together for kids and their families. I think, the best designers of any kind, the best creatives have that sense of translating intentionality to the audience that supports them to invest their energy, effort, time money into moving those creatives forward. And I think that's there's one thing I want to instill in the next generation of fashion leaders and creatives, it's that you have to figure out the things that you can create this reciprocal relationship with within your creative purviews Oh, wonderful. God bless you guys what you're doing amazing. Really amazing.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 21:35
You love it. It's it's very important work to us and.
Jonathan Joseph 21:40
And that's why we're so grateful for people like you who have their own creative experiences to share with our audience to inspire them and say, oh, you know what, I saw that video of Hanut talking to Jonathan and Rachel. And I actually really love jewelry. I never thought about an abalone shell, or what I could do with this piece of wood. But maybe they'll be outside playing in the woods and find this cool rock.
How amazing that would be. Oh my god. trippy. Brilliant.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 22:05
Well, thank you so much for making this time for us. I really, really appreciate you squeezing us in. Thank you.
Not at all my entirely my pleasure, thank you.
Jonathan Joseph 22:15
Thank you so much. All the best. Absolutely. Thank you so much. And thank you everyone for whatching this episode.