At any given time, we are all at crossroads.
Every day, trying to make decisions based upon what we think we see coming and going and what lies just beyond the bend, invisible for the moment, yet emerging as we move towards it.
Some people seem to have an aerial view of the crossroads and Kathy Grenier, the marketing director at the Cultured Pearl Association of America, is one such person. From this position she can take the long view down one road leading to suppliers from all over the world. In another direction she sees the retailer's landscape. And yet from another view she clearly sees the road that is populated with designers who are inspired by pearls and use them in their designs to point to the future of this beautiful category. She hovers just high enough to hear all the different conversations taking place and to listen deeply.
That ability to listen, both to what is spoken and unspoken, has been honed over a 28 year career in jewelry and luxury goods. Grenier has been a buyer, manager and executive on both the retail and wholesale side. And these experiences have prepared her for her current roles at both the CPAA and Imperial Pearl. Because she can listen, she can discover what’s not on everyone’s radar and share this with retailers to create compelling pearl stories.
We caught up with each other last week and I knew we would have a good time, but had no idea just how rich the conversation would be. So whether you're the avid collector, that retailer who brings amazing jewels to the pearl lovers in your community, a dealer or a designer, I invite you to eavesdrop.
lwM: With Vegas in the rear view mirror, what's on the horizon now for the CPAA?
KG: We want to build on the momentum of the amazing design work that is being done! This year at JCK our exhibit brought to life the annual PEARL magazine supplement. It was a natural extension of the beautiful imagery in the magazine and it coincided with our advertising. Previously we have focused on the vast variety of pearls available and where they come from, so this was a departure that showed the variety of design available instead.
The CPAA exhibit at the JCK show in Las Vegas this past summer.
lwM: I like that natural progression from material to execution. And the annual International Pearl Competition gives you a unique perspective on the design world. What distinct trends do you see emerging from different parts of the world?
KG: We recognize that there's not one type of pearl person and so we seek to create an inclusive environment. Our intention is to cast a wide net, to connect and to encourage.
We want designers to simply enter designs that they love. . . work they are proud of.
European entries do tend to be more avant garde. The work coming out of Asia tends to be more complex and have a higher degree of intricacy. Long earrings and long layered pieces are still strong. More and more, we are seeing an absence of color: People are being drawn to white.
Judges poring over 175 entries at the International Pearl Design Competition (From L-R: Jean Francois Bibet, High Jewelry Production and Technical Manager-Cartier; Claudia Mata, Accessories and Jewelry Director-W Magazine; Amanda Gizzi, Director, Public Relations and Special Events-Jewelers of America; Cheryl Kremkow, Director-Citrine Media; Jennifer Heebner, Senior Editor-JCK Magazine
lwM: How do you stay on top of your game? What cleanses your visual palette?
KG: I crave alone time, the ocean, nothingness. I need to close the door and create physical and mental spaces. Disconnecting is as important as connecting.
I seek inspiration from sources other than jewelry: travel, health & wellness, home & nest, cosmetics. I seek new approaches from lots of different areas. I hate redundancy.
lwM: So true. I love the business culture you’ve developed: the negative space flies in the face of “fear of missing out.” I take it you choose your jewelry connections very carefully. Favorite blogs?
KG: I love the profiles and stories of "The Stone Set." To gain more understanding of what's around the corner there's "The Jewellery Editor." Jen Heebner's blog "Style360" is a wonderful connection for retailers. She's like having a well informed buyer on staff. Lorraine DePasque for InDesign.Jewelry is a thoughtful, creative writer who pours her heart and soul into taking you on a journey. and Rachel Garrahan's work for the New York Times is a great take on the consumer side.
lwM: So did you choose pearls, or did pearls choose you?
KG: Oh pearls chose me. We were meant for each other! From a very young age I was mesmerized by my mother’s pearls and the red velvet box that contained a:necklace, earrings, ring. . . Mikimoto pearls from when my parents were in Hong Kong. She seldom wore the entire suite at one time. I knew from a very early age that she was going to give these to my older sister and I was good with that. But I was delighted when my sister in turn gave them to me! It'a also fascinating to me that the design is as au courant now as they were in the fifties. The earrings resemble the ear climbers that are so popular now!
Kathy dons white gloves and a mink stole at the company Halloween party
while wearing her mother's Mikimoto pearls!
Who knew just how prescient those earrings would turn out to be?
lwM: As a designer, I found the recent JCK article by Jen Heebner on designers bypassing the traditional retail relationships significant in that it was being published by a main line trade journal. What's your take on the situation?
KG: We're long overdue for a market correction! It's really simple: everyone needs to seek balance, equity and true partnerships. Designers need to have their own voice and build partnerships with retailers. There is currently an imbalance. . . an illusion of power. I feel like we are making progress but it's going to require commitment on both sides.
lwM: Agreed. What practical steps do you think can be taken by retailers and designers to restore the relationships between them?
KG: Each party needs to know what they need and not be afraid to ask for it. Surprisingly, you usually get it. Feeling like you don’t have any power is in high contrast to stating your expectations and needs. Be sure you know what you want the end to be and not leave things open ended. You also need to be willing to walk away when things don’t feel equitable.
lwM: What retailers come to mind who really "get" pearls? How do you help them share the love?
KG: There are those who totally get it and are doing great things! A few come immediately to mind and they represent pearls so well to so many different people.
There’s Sidney Garber in Chicago and New York, a fine jewelry retailer who takes pearls seriously and is invested in pearls. Many significant and beautifully subtle pearl creations from around the world can be found there. Designers covet a spot at Sidney Garber.
Elizabeth Blair Fine Pearls in Harbor Springs Michigan is the showcase for Elizabeth’s talent as a designer. Affectionately known as Dilly, she transforms pearls into wearable objects of art.
For a truly Florida feel there’s Wendy Mignot who established the Bohemian “leather and pearls” look over 25 years ago. The moment I met her, I was in awe of her energy, beauty and style.
Finally, Henry C. Reid & Son in Fairfield Connecticut adores pearls and proves it. The showcases are filled with every variety of pearl and pearl jewelry designs giving his customers a panorama of categories and qualities of pearls. He’s also invested in training his sales associates so they’re very knowledgable about pearls and they hosts pearl events throughout the year.
lwM: Let's call it the end of a very good day. What makes it a good day for you?
KG: I've talked to a retailer and opened their eyes to the potential of pearls! When they truly understand the possibilities and decide to take pearls seriously. . . That's exciting. And that makes a great day.
lwM: And may you have many more. I look forward to our next conversation.
In this image driven world, I once half jokingly said (only half, mind you) that the images of my jewelry are more valuable than the jewelry itself. My designs are contemporary and, never being in fashion, they never go out of fashion. So understandably I'm heavily invested in evergreen image content that's used for different applications on different marketing platforms and are "editor ready."
Steve Pelosi was one of the first people I met when I moved to Atlanta as a film producer.
In addition to shooting table top, product and food, he was shooting commercials at the time
and I had the opportunity to work on a few shoots with him. Fast forward many moons, our paths crossed again and we picked up where we left off. Only this time around he's shooting glorious portraits in black and white and though I'm no longer in the film business, I'm working in another collaborative art form: fine jewelry. Immediately, we knew that the universe was conspiring for us!
Both delicious and ranging from the most simple sustenance to lavish feasts that are occasions all their own. Arguably, both are innately beautiful. Adjectives that work for one will work for the other. And both lend themselves to an atmospheric treatment.
Pearls, like people, prefer a big soft light. . . like an overcast sky.
Diamonds a little fussier. And high polished metals offer reflective surfaces that become design elements all their own.
Steve is able to create images that feel effortless. The chain that gracefully puddles, the languid drape of pearls, the insouciant diamond brooch perched in a messy updo.
I quickly learned the worst description possible: "overworked." Which is the equivalent of "trying too hard," the antithesis of cool. And cool, he gets. His love of photography began covering the music scenes in San Francisco and Oakland. He then formally studied his craft at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena CA . His career began in earnest in LA and then in the early eighties he moved to his new favorite city in the whole wide world, Atlanta GA.
I'm often asked for suggestions on how to choose a photographer. There's no one size fits all and there are definitely people you shouldn't work with as much as there are those with whom you should. One person's "high energy" is another's "obnoxious." "Experimental" might make you very very nervous. Or happy. So take your time and talk to more than one photographer.
1. Know thyself. I personally am motivated by rolling up my sleeves and doing as much behind the scenes work as possible to add to the production value of the shoot. I truly enjoy being hands on. However, there are deadlines, finite resources, limited abilities (namely, my own) and people who do things a whole lot better than me. Another perspective, another set of eyes, another set of hands. . .
Tailoring a collaboration that complements your strengths and weaknesses usually results in stronger imagery. And know that you'll get better and better with each shoot that you do.
2. Know thy objectives. Are you building an image library of your work where consistency is key? Or are you working on an image for advertising in a print magazine? Are you working on images for a website that need to tell your story? What images can and cannot be multi-use? How important is this to you?
3. Know thy photographer. Professionals will have portfolios on-line. Look for overarching themes in lighting and composition that make up his/her aesthetic, Not so much a specific shot of jewelry, but a way of seeing. If the artichoke is gorgeous on a cutting board, chances are quite good your ring will be beautiful propped on a surface.
Ask questions. Lots: Is it natural light? Did he use a stylist? How long did a particular shot take to set up? If the shoe were on the other foot, he/she would have questions about your materials, techniques and expertise. And face it, we all love to talk about our crafts.
4. Keep it simple. The more moving parts the more critical organization becomes. Will the shoot consist of just you and the photographer? Or will there be hair, make-up and wardrobe on the set? Needless to say, the jewelry should be cleaned, polished and ready for its close-up!
And it seems appropriate to add that if a photographer's budget seems too good to be true it probably is. It's not gonna end well. Trust me on that one. That said, a high bid does not guarantee a good experience nor a low bid a bad end product.
Lastly, have fun.
It's hard work and with a little luck it won't feel that way.
Chris Gyoury, an English director I was privileged to work with on many occasions said that the actual shoot days were like having a party with your very best friends. He was right. Pre-production can be grueling and is probably the most critical part because the more prepared you are, the more likely that magical things will happen on the shoot.
You can contact Steve directly through www.pelosiphoto.com or on Facebook where you are bound to find pictures of his beloved Dellie: muse and photo assistant-studio dog extraordinaire.
Now go have that peanut butter cookie. You know you want one.
Full disclosure: We have been working together for many years. At some point, it became obvious to us both that I should represent him to other jewelers, manufacturers and agencies. for a commission.
If you have questions specifically relating to photographing jewelry, please don't hesitate to contact me.
Naturally, I have a lot more to say. But I'm really good at listening too.
The studio of Katura Design is a veritable treehouse in a central residential area of metro Atlanta known as Buckhead. Originally a hunting preserve, Buckhead is now known as one of the premier shopping destinations in the Southeast and also home to many fine restaurants and hotels.
Yet this handsome buck was spotted just behind the studio at dusk.
There are other rare sights here as well: natural pearls and the finest cultured pearls available.
Next Wednesday, 10 August from 10 until 7 we'll be hosting The Pearl Event where you can buy direct from the wholesaler. Think New York showroom meets natural history museum because you will not only see an amazing amount of pearls but also rare natural pearls and the rarest of all. . . Natural American River Pearls!
Our studio shares space with PelosiPhoto and they've graciously given space downstairs to house these treasures for your perusal.
We look forward to seeing you there. No guarantee you'll see the buck, but we do guarantee you'll see pearls like you've never seen before. And at prices you won't believe!
Originally posted in August of 2014, the post is still fresh as the color Christian Dior so adored..
Gray is still relevant. And going strong,
We love the gray of pearls and the gray of satin sterling.
We love the gray of doves and black and white photography. We love grays warm and cool.
Looking back, several of these pieces have become Katura best sellers.
Here's the post again updated with some new imagery. Enjoy!
"The most convenient, useful, and elegant neutral color.
Lovely in flannel, lovely in tweed, lovely in wool.
And, if it suits your complexion, there is nothing more elegant than a wonderful, gray satin evening dress. For day frocks, suits, and coats it is ideal. I would always advise it.
And many people who cannot wear black can wear a dark gray. (Remember that if you are big you must choose a dark gray and if you are petite a light gray is better for you.)
It is the most convenient color, too for people who live half in town and half in the country because, with different accessories, a gray suit or coat may be equally suitable, for both. It is a good color for accessories, too --- almost anything goes with gray. White is perhaps the freshest and sweetest contrast but it is safe to say that whatever your favorite color is, you can safely wear it with gray."
"Lovely in flannel, lovely in tweed, lovely in wool..."
And might I add lovely in pearls, lovely in silver, lovely in shagreen and lovely in leather.
In short, I can't get enough of it.
So thank you Mr. Dior for codifying gray. And in such practical ways.
Gray is always rich. Gray in pearls is always a chameleon. When you look into a gray pearl you can see green and violet, pink and blue. Gray is a naturally occurring color in both cultured and natural freshwater pearls and also South Seas and Tahitians.
I do feel as though I have a running Net-a-Porter fashion show as appointments come and go from the studio. I'm seeing a lot of gray these days and it has been on the radar a very long time. Whether in linen, sheer cottons or cashmere... it always piques my interest in wardrobe and accessories and recently I made an excellent buy on some gray pearls that were talking to me. What were they saying? I couldn't say for sure but I think there were murmurings about Dior and I'm pretty sure these pearls had a French accent.
They ended up on my bench and I took his advice to heart.
Dior's "freshest and sweetest contrast" works so well with pearls. Silvery gray and cercle'd white freshwater pearls in these pieces. Lots of contrast: warm and cool, long ovals and squatty rounds, shiny and subtle. One of our best selling pearl earrings was also composed of the gray and white combination. Currently out of stock, I hope to be able to source the gray baroques by the end of summer. Please let me know of your interest if you'd like a pair. They don't linger long in inventory.
" ...it is safe to say that whatever your favorite color is, you can safely wear it with gray."
Pink? Orange? Green? Blue?
Or put another way: Sapphires? Cornelian? Peridot? Sapphires?
Last, but certainly not least... diamonds.
All of the above are on the bench. All work amazingly well.
And here are just a few examples of how delightful gray is with rough diamonds.
There are more musings on gray and Mr. Dior in my drafts folder.
So until we meet again... there's a parting shot that epitomizes the quietness of a monochromatic palette. And what colors do you see when you look into these pearls?