This Holiday season I want to remind everyone about how important it is to support small businesses, especially in these difficult times. We really need to think of whose economy we are supporting, the big corporations will be fine, but these are trying times for small businesses, artists and brick and mortar stores and restaurants. When you invest in small businesses you are supporting dreams, and communities. Plus, I truly believe that the love that an artist/maker puts into things is transferable! I am including some of my favorites artists, makers, shops, and yes some movement instructors, as I believe we all need to keep our body moving and strong throughout this, we will be much healthier physically and emotionally! I hope you find some gems in this list, just click on the image to find out more about each one.
Artists & Makers
I am always asked if I get lots of jewelry inspiration while traveling, and the answer is I do, but it’s not in the way people think it is. I have thought about this carefully, and came to the conclusion that I don’t usually get specific ideas, instead get in a creatively inspired state. Because our lives in the West are so fast paced, and there are so many things to keep track of, it is exhausting and life lacks balance. For the past decade I have been spending a couple of months out of the year in Brazil, which is a country that embraces human connections, a country that loves color, music, dance and nature. People make time for each other, are affectionate, and are not constantly rushing. After a couple of weeks there, I start to feel the changes in my body, and after a month I feel like a different person! I realize how much stress my body was holding that I wasn’t even aware of!! This state of relaxation in my body, and the sense of ease lends itself to jewelry making which is very detailed oriented and requires a relaxed, steady, and focused energy. I do a lot of metal smithing (creating new collections/prototypes) while I am there, it’s the perfect environment for me to focus….with no interruptions! The other big component in my work is color, I would say my work is as much about color as anything else. My time in Brazil is deeply immersed in a world of color, I spend a lot of time in Bahia which is a state with very strong African roots, the culture is rich, and the people are joyful, alive, bold, and have a deep love for color and life! I love this area of Brazil, its people, the culture, and geography. After being surrounded by color in every aspect; from homes to markets, food, clothing, flora and geography, it has a deep effect on my senses. I always come home filled with desire to make pieces with bold colors, and indulge in all sorts of wild color combinations in my work and wardrobe. I can definitely tell the pieces I make after my time in Brazil compared to the ones that are made many months later! The same goes for my speech: after I return from my trip I notice that I am overly enthusiastic, using words like “amazing”, “marvelous” casually as one does in Brazil, and I keep telling everyone how much I love and adore them which is normal there. I have to reel myself in a bit, as it does seem out of place in the US where everyone is so measured. In many countries enthusiasm is not curbed, it’s celebrated!
Travel is such a visual and sensory feast, one is exposed to so many new experiences and sensations that it is hard not to be in and inspired state. I believe that everyone, but especially artists, need to refuel the soul with fulfilling and stimulating experiences. Our daily lives can be stressful and depleting in the modern world, so it is important to nourish ourselves emotionally and spiritually so that we can show up with energy and our creative side can be resilient and inspired. I have noticed the incredible benefits to my personal and professional life to get away and be in a place that is nourishing to me, living life on my terms. One of the things I have been focusing on in the past years is slowing down while I am abroad, I find this to be so incredibly good for me. I love living in and urban setting, and the Bay Area in particular, but I can’t imagine giving up my two months of slowing down in a different country/culture, it makes all the difference. If you have considered slowing down, or this is something that appeals to you, I highly recommend it. It really helps to recalibrate, put things in perspective, and to recharge for the urban, fast paced life a lot of us have. After all, stress is a big contributor to illness, chronic pain, and anxiety. In my opinion, performing at a superhero pace in life, is overrated and unhealthy!
As you know from my work, I love color!! I find it to be an incredible source of joy, a life enhancer….everything is better with color!! I make my food colorful and choose colored plates that compliment my food, coordinate my under garments with my outfits and jewelry, organize my closet by color, have colorful art from all corners of the world in my home and studio, and always have colorful flowers at home. All of these things make for a life that has a lot of visual richness. I feel strongly that the details are what life is about, what makes up most of our days, so we need to make them enriching and meaningful. I am very intentional about how I want to experience life. There is a lot of pain in the world, and I get affected by this, so it is a matter of survival for me to find ways to highlight all the beauty that exists parallel to the cruelty and ugliness. I am not interested in burying my head in the sand about all the injustice and destruction, as I find that unjustifiable and feel strongly about standing up for what is right, but I need to uplift myself to be able to show up at my best and not be crushed by all that I find heartbreaking.
As time goes on and we continue to shelter in place, social distance, and with all the social injustice issues going on I am finding myself starting to be emotionally affected by it all. I have had to ramp up my self care in all of the ways I know how to nurture my spirit. I am having to really be proactive about doing things that are nourishing, and make my day to day fulfilling, and uplifting. Color has been a huge tool to uplift, and make life vibrant. I want to share some of what I have been doing and really encourage you to try it, and see if it is helpful to you too! Just try and see….
ARRANGE YOUR FOOD BEAUTIFULLY & SET THE TABLE FOR YOURSELF
I love to arrange my food on a beautiful plate and make it look aesthetic, what can I say I am a visual person. I set the table with beautiful place mats or eat out in my backyard looking at the plants and birds who abound despite my hunter cats. This is something I started doing for myself after I got divorced and noticed that I loved doing that while married and once I was living alone I no longer did for myself. I realized that love was what had motivated me to do it while married, and I was not being loving to myself and needed to change the messaging. As women we enjoy nurturing others, but sometimes forget to do it for ourselves!
DRESS UP IN SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE COLORFUL CLOTHES & JEWELRY
I can’t remember where I heard “dress how you want to feel”, but this has been such a great tool for me over the years. Sometimes I wake up in a great mood and feel like dressing up, but other times it’s the opposite. On the days that I am feeling meh, I find that wearing something colorful and beautiful makes me feel better, and more alive. I usually go to see live music and dance, and these are great occasions to wear something nice. Now that those activities are no longer an option, I am finding that I have to dress up for myself once in a while, as this is a form of self expression that I enjoy. One of the great things about dressing up for staying home is that you can be as wild as you want and will not get all the unwanted attention or judgement, so you can do whatever you want!!!
WEAR YOUR GOOD JEWELRY WITH WHATEVER YOU ARE WEARING
Those who know me, know that I wear my good jewelry all the time. My thinking is that if you don’t wear it, it’s the same as not having it. Sometimes I wear things at home that go in the safe when I go out. I wear things for me first, then for others, it’s about how they make YOU feel! That doesn’t mean I don’t like to go out into the world feeling good about how I am presenting myself, but that is not my main motivator.
TAKE A NEIGHBORHOOD WALK AND TAKE PHOTOS OF ALL THE BEAUTIFUL PLANTS AND FLOWERS
This has been so great, I am discovering so many beautiful flowers and plants. I love all the colors and textures, and am loving getting to see all the gorgeous gardens in my neighborhood. My favorite thing about smartphones is that they have great cameras!!!
BUY FLOWERS FOR YOUR HOUSE
This is something I have been doing for a couple of decades and love. Flowers bring beauty, color, fragrance and life into your home. Do it, you deserve it!!!
These two new styles have just been added to my website, they are so beautiful! I have been having so much fun working with Mother of Pearl lately, it's a wonderful material with a lot of soul. Click on the photo to see them in the website!
When Buying Necklace Make Sure to Write "Lapis/Blue Quarts Necklace" in Note to Seller at Check Out.
I love the Spring Flower earrings, it is such a colorful and beautiful design! It comes in various color variations, but the carnelian and ruby combo is one of the most dynamic and vibrant color combos. Every one of these pieces has multiple layers of enamels in just the right order to make the flower and leaves look as beautiful as they do, it is a beautiful effect, but it takes a lot of patience and precision. I can only enamel for 5 consecutive hours because of the incredibly tedious and detail oriented nature of the work, and I can't enamel for more than 3 consecutive days.
I had the good fortune to spend most of my childhood in the Andes of Peru. We lived in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, about an hour outside the city of Cusco, the capital of the Inca empire. My artist parents always liked living in remote areas with no roads wide enough for cars, our homes never had electricity or running water. These homes where always situated in incredibly beautiful areas, outside of the towns of Pisac and Urubamba. We had ice cold transparent water to drink, probably the best water I have ever tasted, which came from snow peaks. Both of these towns are now fancy and sophisticated towns with breweries, wine bars, Yoga & Pilates studios, chic eateries and hotels. When we lived in Pisac in the 70’s, the town had no electricity, and the market which now occupies the whole town several days a week, was only on Sundays, and was just in the town square. My parents had a booth at the Pisac Sunday market, where they sold the jewelry they made with colonial silver findings, which they embellished with pre-Colombian beads and local ceramic beads. Now the colonial findings are a staple jewelry item all over Peru, but it was started by my parents in the 70’s. I always loved going to the market, and from ages 11 to 13, I made crêpes and clafoutis (baked French desert with fruit) which I sold to tourist at the market every Sunday. Sunday was a day of selling, but also a day of buying as parallel to the craft market there was a produce market where we would buy food for the week. I always loved food shopping, all the colors, delicious fruits and vegetables provided a feast for the eyes. This is also when all the indigenous people came down from the highlands to buy and sell as well, so you could see them with their families in the traditional clothing which is super colorful, it was such a treat. The mayors of all the indigenous communities came to attend church in their best clothes, playing their conch shells as they entered the church. This blend of tourists, mestizo and indigenous people, all speaking their native languages was exhilarating to me. Needless to say, Sunday was by far my favorite day of the week!
Growing up in the Andes of Peru, definitely had a strong influence on my aesthetic sense. I feel that the Spanish Colonial style permeates my work, and my sense of color is very much of the Andean sensibility, but Brazil was where I fully embraced my love of color, and where I learned to give myself permission to celebrate it fully. I am so grateful to have spent my early years in South America (mostly Peru), an area so culturally rich and vibrant, with so much history, such natural beauty, and ancient indigenous cultures. Some people ask me what country my jewelry (my work) is from, and I think that comes from my having grown up in South America, but also from all my travels around the world. I feel like I am a hybrid, a citizen of the world!
Creating new work is always exciting, but very tedious, and requires being extremely focused. Three years ago, I discovered a place that turned out to be amazing for that purpose. I was visiting my mother in Brazil, at her home in the mountains of the Southern part of the state of Minas Gerais, where she spends 2-4 months every year. She had encouraged me to bring my torch, and tools for work, that way I could work, and stay an extra month. It is an incredibly beautiful place, where nature is undisturbed for the most part, and operates at full force. This is a watershed area, green as can be, with incredible flora and fauna including toucans, jaguars, parrots and a plethora of wild flowers and birds. The place is simply put "magical".
At first I was a little resistant to the idea, as I felt "I don't want to be working while on vacation", but I quickly learned that it is ideal! I had never realized how many distractions exist in daily living in the United States. There is always something to attend to that does not allow for full concentration. Whether it's answering the phone, going to the post office, the bank, sorting through all the mail, paying the bills, telemarketers, having to go to the store, placing orders with suppliers, being on hold forever with either the cable company, phone company or some other service, one has to be constantly multitasking. Here in my little Brazilian heaven; I get up, check emails, do some stretches, shower, have breakfast and sit down to work with no interruptions for the rest of the day........it's amazing! I am much more productive, focused, and more inspired as I can really delve into the world of creativity......such a treat and privilege! Because I am not all the other stuff on top of work, I am also not tired at the end of the day, so I get my vacation feel after all!
Since my mother is also a jeweler, and works while in Brazil, we get to work together which makes it more fun for both of us. It is nice to have someone whom I can get feedback from if I need it. We usually go on walks after we are done with our work day, and if it's a nice sunny day, we take a little work brake and go for a swim in the river. Not at all a bad life!
This has been a great discovery, one which I am very grateful for. Since 2013 I have been creating my new collections here, making the original pieces which are then sent to my caster to be molded, and cast. These are the pieces that really require concentration since they will be reproduced. I don't do any production work here, that is something I do at my Oakland, CA studio. I also do all the finishing work on my master originals once I get home, as we don't have power tools here. The humidity is 80-90% here so any motors would rust if not used for several months.
Hi, I am a jeweler/enamelist based out of Oakland, CA. My early years were spent in South America, mostly in Peru, I then moved to California as a teen and have been here since. I love making things from an early age, and tried many mediums before focusing my talent on jewelry when I was 18. I am inspired by nature, ancient and antique jewelry, and the luminosity of gems. I am also passionate about color, which comes through in my work, playing with color is my favorite part of the process.
Vanessa Mellet© 2020