Friday, May 5, 2017

#InternationalMidwivesDay

Today was International Midwives Day, which for me, was bittersweet. I am so proud of all of the birth workers I have gotten to know throughout my pregnancy, and feel so strongly about the quality of care the midwifery model provides. I chose to birth with midwives because I was sure that they would guarantee me the best chance of a natural birth, free from unnecessary medical intervention. I trusted them to allow my body to do what I believed it was capable of.

But it didn't go like that, exactly. Somehow, after 20 hours of unmedicated labor and three hours of pushing, I found myself threatened with a C-section. I signed consent papers for anesthesia as my daughter's head crowned, and was wheeled into an OR across the hall from the beautiful birthing center I had imaged myself crossing the finish line in, "just in case." I watched my husband change into scrubs and my birth plan fly out the window, all because I had exceeded the number of hours I was "allowed" to push.

Did you know that 1 in 3 babies in America are born via cesarean section? That number is not only triple what the WHO recommends, but research indicates only 50% of those surgeries are medically indicated.

I was one of the "lucky" ones. I was lucky because I was able to lie there in that OR, terrified out of my mind, and push my daughter out through "only" vacuum assistance and sheer force of will. I was lucky that the ridiculous hospital protocol, in which a group of people who were probably not even doctors decided that three was the number of hours a woman got to push her baby out of her body, didn't mean that I ended up with a serious and undoubtedly unnecessary surgery to deliver my child. I believe, as much as I was failed by my providers, that had I not delivered with a midwife, I would not have been so lucky.
 
In the birthing tub with my husband and mom supporting me, prior to being transferred. Photo by Nicole Lahey.

And I was lucky that after a birth experience that shattered my mind and body, and fell short of almost everything I had hoped it would be, that I had people around me to support me in my disappointment and anger. People who at the first sign of depression, said, hey, let's deal with what happened to you so that you can move on and enjoy your baby. People who told me it wasn't my fault, that I did everything I could, who shared in my sorrow and pain over what I had lost and didn't just say, you have a healthy daughter, that's what really matters.

I was lucky that our broken healthcare system didn't get the best of me. That in the end, more than one person in my life took the time to remind me that I mattered. That it was ok for me to be open and honest about my struggles without repercussion.

So now, as I watch a group of white men make decisions about that already-broken system, not to fix it, but to make it even worse, I'm shocked. I'm horrified that someone in my shoes, one of the "lucky" ones, could still be considered ineligible for future care, because of things that were out of my control, or because I was brave enough to open up when I faltered in the aftermath.

And what about all the women out there who aren't so lucky?

Women who had c-sections, women who suffer from post-partum depression or anxiety, women who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Women. All. Over.

But especially: Women of color. Trans women. Women from economically disadvantaged communities. Their children. And the  birth and healthcare workers who struggle to provide the best care they can for us all, under unimaginably difficult circumstances.

Today, as I was thinking about the disgusting hypocrisy of it all, I came across a piece of writing from a friend of mine, who is a midwife.

She wrote:

"The hubris of these old white men enacting laws they believe will never touch them fills me with a rage so overwhelming I can taste it. The patriarchy is strong.

But.

We are infinitely stronger. Because we give birth to the next generation. We adopt the next generation. We lovingly raise the next generation, providing safe space for their hearts and their minds to grow. 

In the end all these hateful old white men will die of their own personal pre-existing conditions.

And we won't even stop to dance on their graves because we'll be too busy." (Imogen Minton) 

Me after giving birth to my daughter Rafaela, the next generation. Photo by Nicole Lahey.
For anyone expecting, I strongly urge you to consider finding a midwife to catch your baby. You will find that the philosophy behind midwifery care is directed towards the needs of the individual, all while working to eliminate or minimize unnecessary interventions. Click here for more information about the laws in your state and to find a midwife near you.

xoxo
Angela


Sunday, April 9, 2017

More Than Just A Name: Rafaela Juliette

I recently came across an article about the work of illustrator Emma Block and a collaboration she did with diamond company Vashi about ways to describe love from around the world. Entitled "More Than Just A Word," each offered a nuanced perspective on a few of the hundreds of different ways to express affection outside of the English language, from the way a hug can feel warm and safe, to the tingles induced by running your fingers through a lover's hair. You can read them all and see her fabulous drawings here.
 
Two months ago I welcomed my first child, a daughter named Rafaela, into the world. The article got my thinking about how we agonized over what we would call her while she was growing in my belly. Or at least, I did. Josh spent most of his time vetoing crazy ideas I came up with at 3am (many of which I still consider awesome, and plan to campaign hard for when the time comes for baby number two). Naming a baby makes you realize how many people you really don't like ("Georgia? That was the name of that piano teacher I had in third grade and hated!") and how fashions change with time. I always loved the name Harper, for example, because of Harper Lee, my favorite author. Practically unheard of previously,  Harper is now the 9th most popular name for a girl in America. Go figure.

38 Weeks Pregnant (Image Courtesy of Rachel Gray Photography/Max Grey Studio)
We remained tight-lipped as family and friends asked us if we'd picked a name throughout my pregnancy, mostly because we hadn't. We'd try one on for a size for a few weeks, using it often in reference to my belly, until we'd decide it wasn't "quite right." I consolidated list after list until we narrowed it down to 5 or so, carefully penciled on a clean page of the journal I kept during my pregnancy, and tucked into my hospital bag.

My Promptly Journals pregnancy/baby book and a Louison Fine Pave Diamond necklace with Rafaela's Initials.
If you are like me and subscribe to the idea that children are sentient beings, you can understand how much pressure we felt to make the right choice. I imagined all the qualities I wanted my daughter to have - strength, kindness, individuality, to name a few - and wondered whether the names I liked did justice to the idea of her that had taken shape in my mind, and, more importantly, whether they were elastic enough to fit her no matter who she ended up becoming. I wanted the name we chose to be beautiful but meaningful, unusual but not so out there she'd be teased miserably on the playground. I'll admit that more than a few hormonal meltdowns were had as my due date approached and we still hadn't decided for sure ("She doesn't even have a NAME!" I'd sob to a perplexed Josh). Our procrastination over what word to choose to call her - no big deal, it would only follow her FOREVER - persisted following a tough delivery. She remained "Baby Girl Seidman" for the first day or two as we recovered and got to know her a little better.

"Baby Girl Seidman" on 1/25/17, her first day earthside.
Rafaela has origins in Portuguese, Italian, Hebrew and German, and it means "Healed by God." She is named to honor both of our families. Rafaela, for her paternal great-great-grandmother Rachel, affectionately known as "Ray," following the Jewish tradition of choosing a name that begins with the same letter. Her middle name, Juliette, for my grandmother, Juliette, who passed away a little over a year ago.  
 
Two Weeks Old (Image Courtesy of Rachel Gray Photography/Max Grey Studio)
I struggled a lot with wanting to call her Juliette as a first name. It is such a beautiful name, and so special to our family, there was no question we would use it somehow in tribute. We loved how it sounded with our last name, and I wished every day of my pregnancy (and still do) that I could have had the opportunity to tell my grandmother I was pregnant, and introduce her to my daughter before she died. But I am named for my father's mother, who passed away at a young age, and as much as I love my name, I always felt the weight of that growing up. We ultimately settled on using it as her middle name, figuring she could have something special all to herself as a first name, and have the option of using either once she was old enough to choose.

My sister Laura introducing her daughter Ida Rose, also her firstborn child, to the original Juliette.
For now she is known as Rafa, "Baby Ray," "Little Juliette" and, to her Dad and me, "Toots." Fun Fact: We love that we named her something that translates into several languages, because so many people we introduce her to - whether they be Latin or Italian - excitedly repeat her name with all sorts of rolling "r"s and amazing emphasis, depending on their accent. Unfortunately we didn't take into account that almost no one with a heavy New York accent (like 3/4 of our respective families, for example) can pronounce it properly in English - Rah-Fi-Ella, not "Raffy-yella." Proving, once again, that you win some and you lose some in the game of parenthood.
 
Two Weeks Post Partum (Image Courtesy of Rachel Gray Photography/Max Grey Studio)
xoxo
Angela

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Custom Pavé Diamond Engagement Ring

I recently had the pleasure of designing an engagement ring for one of my oldest and closest friends. I felt both honored and excited when her boyfriend messaged me saying "It's time for the ring!"

Designing an engagement ring without the knowledge of the bride is always somewhat of a gamble - and one that carries even more weight when the recipient is someone you know! As someone who picked out my own ring, I always prefer to have the input of the bride-to-be. Simply put, she has to wear the ring forever, so it's a lot less stressful when you know you are making something she will love! That being said, I always respect the wishes of the groom-to-be if he prefers to maintain the element of surprise, and after years of doing this, I now refer to myself as the world's best secret keeper. I even made my own sister's ring without spilling the beans to anyone in our family (that was a tough one, but her boyfriend swore me to secrecy, and thankfully, we pulled it off). I have now decided I am going to ask every yet-to-be-married gal I know about their idea of a dream ring and keep a book of their preferences juuuuuust in case.

Luckily in this case, my friend HAD discussed rings she loved with her mom, who I immediately called for a pow-wow. Pro tip: Tell your man/best friend/mom/someone what your dream ring would be. It makes the whole process much easier. Don't be shy! You'll end up with something you love rather than something you have to suffer wearing or even worse, broach the subject of changing. I knew she was drawn to pavé and that halos were a bonus. However I wanted to make something more unusual than a traditional ring, because my friend is an artist (we met in college, where we studied photography together), and I wanted her to have something timeless, but with a creative and unique twist. The next day after her boyfriend got in touch I was scrolling through my feed and came across this beautiful Art Deco ring via Erstwhile Jewelry. This is one of the things I love about the jewelry instagram community - I feel so inspired by the people I follow!  

Art Deco Sapphire + Emerald Ring via Erstwhile Jewelry
The first thing I thought of as I admired the ring was "Emily would love that." Adam and I agreed it was a great ring, but perhaps color wasn't the way to go for a surefire, longterm win. We both loved the shape though, so off I went on the hunt for the perfect hexagonal diamond to work with. I contacted my friend Jay, whose company, Perpetuum Jewels, specializes in antique + post-consumer diamonds. Post-consumer means the diamond must meet strict standards of having been worn, so it's truly recycled. He always has the best inventory and often has many unusual finds to choose from, so I knew he would be the perfect person to help me source the right stone. He did not disappoint, and we chose a beautiful step-cut hexagonal diamond (K/VS). The stone had the most beautiful clarity, with rosecut-like facets underneath. Every angle you looked at yielded a different prismatic explosion, the facets were so beautiful. 

A closeup of the hexa we chose (image via Perpetuum Jewels).

To accentuate the diamond's unusual shape, I designed a pavé halo setting with a delicate shank and low profile for maximum wearability. I loved the faceting on this particular stone, so I made sure to have each of the knife-edge prongs aligned to the points of the table. Whenever I make engagement rings I always make a point to practice the proposal moment on bended knee to my husband, Josh, to make sure there's enough of a "wow" factor to garner a yes. He promptly told me this was one of his favorite rings I had ever made, so I felt comfortable sending it off for my best and oldest friend. 

Louison Fine Bespoke Pavé Diamond Engagement Ring
Louison Fine Bespoke Pavé Diamond Engagement Ring - Side View
I waited anxiously for the big moment to arrive and finally got the text I'd been hoping for. He pulled off an epic proposal while on a trip to Iceland, asking her in front of a beautiful, snowy vista. I feel so grateful that the ring I made played a small part in their story, and couldn't be happier for them as a couple.

Moments after the big moment! On a mountain in Iceland.
Holding baby Rafaela with her ring front and center.
If you're in search of the perfect custom engagement ring or piece, have family stones to reset or just a beloved piece in need of a refresher, get in touch! You can learn more about our custom work and process, here.

xoxo
Angela

Monday, December 7, 2015

#GYPSYINUK - Meeting Jeweler Ruth Tomlinson

One of my favorite things about being part of the contemporary jewelry industry is getting to meet designers I've long admired (I try to keep the fanning out to a minimum when this happens...it doesn't always work ;). Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting jeweler Ruth Tomlinson at her cozy studio at Cockpit Arts - a designer/maker collective in Central London. My trip to England was extremely short (and mostly jam-packed with antique buying), so I was thrilled to be able to count her as the only maker I got the chance to meet with in London. She welcomed me and my friend Adrienn into her studio and showed us a range from her collection, all beautifully laid out for us to peruse and try on (#dream!).


A great little video introducing Ruth and her work - via her website.

I've been a longtime fan of Ruth's work, following her on instagram and lusting after the unique stone choices and beautiful textures and forms that have become her signature. She began her jewelry career at age 10 (!), and has since refined her craft to include inventive techniques in wax casting, electroforming and wire work. The results are stunning - her pieces boast surfaces that seem as though they have built up over centuries, with precious stones, diamonds and pearls seamlessly embedded in meticulously finished metal. Being apprenticed to a jeweler who specializes in polishing left me a sucker for good finishing, and Ruth's work did not disappoint. Though I had visited her work in person at stores like Liberty London and Love Adorned in New York, it was exciting on another level  to see and touch so many pieces at once! I was immediately drawn to the almost roman, relic-like quality of her work, like pieces of treasure unearthed from a shipreck. Below are some great examples of how Ruth uses incredible texture + shapes, combined with unconventional stones to create fine jewelry that is both stunning and trailblazing at the same time.


A mix of rings and bangles laid out for us to peruse.

Closeup on some rings - the hand-applied texture unique to each piece is incredible to see and feel.


Her Raw Diamond Ring with Granules show the encapsulated setting style Ruth is known for.

The Raw Champagne Diamond Pendant - an irreverent take on the classic diamond halo.

Those who love to stack as much as I do can rest assured that any of her rings will blend seamlessly within your personal collection - even the antique pieces Adrienn and I were wearing looked at home with everything we tried on. I couldn't help but notice how the settings allow for the creation of some great stacks: they're low, but not so low that it's impossible to combine them with other pieces, which makes for great versatility.


Single Sapphire Encrusted Engagement Ring + Double Beaded Wedding Band.

This Grey Diamond Cluster Ring stacked beautifully with my own antique wedding bands.

A Georgian-era diamond band blends seamlessly with two of Ruth's rings (L), while her Ombré Sapphire Ring fit right in with  Adrienn's own Georgian eternity bands (R), via Instagram.

This Spinel + Ruby Ring looked killer with my own Georgian garnet + aquamarine halo.

While I was there, we chatted about Ruth's history and process as an artist and jeweler, from her early start selling pieces in her family's pharmacy, to what other mediums inspire her. She also graciously answered a few interview questions (below). 

 ...
To put it simply - the magic of minutiae and miniature worlds...I'm captivated by ideas of preciousness and beauty. 
I'm generally inspired by the world around me, and things that have inspired me throughout my life - anything from the feeling of walking along the beach to a Tudor portrait in the National Gallery. As a designer/artist I have quite eclectic taste, drawing from things that inspire me in nature, the arts (from fine art to fashion), craft, and poetry. And finally, I'm inspired by the people that wear our jewels - they are who we make them for, so they can celebrate a special, unique moment in their lives.
Well, I have come a long way since the age of 10, when I started selling Fimo and bead jewellery in my family pharmacy/chemist on the seafront, but I have always been inspired by materials, process, and my surroundings. I think the two main creative influences in my work are nature and historical jewellery, these are things that just flow out of me. And of course I have become more technically advanced, but using alternative techniques I discovered along the way that felt in tune with the work has changed my work as well.

I LOVE making and creating but as creative director of the brand I have to wear many hats. This is sometimes hard to balance, but a great team to help achieve our goals makes it all possible! They allow me the time to design, create and make...I have always got so many ideas for new pieces and collections, and that is what is most important, to keep the work fresh and exciting for our clients, and as a business.
For advice, all I would say is follow your passion, believe in what you do and work hard! You can do anything you like.

As I mentioned, I tend to go back in time when I look for 'maker' inspiration. I feel it's best not to be inspired by other contemporaries in the jewellery industry too much, as it's essential to stay unique and true to my individual vision. However, there are many talented designer/makers in the design and craft work whose work I admire, including my partner, furniture designer Gareth Neal. If I had to choose a contemporary jeweller I would say Karl Fritsch. His work is so free and playful and precious - so many elements I can identify with.  
 ...


All in all, it was amazing experience meeting with Ruth, and one that inspired me to connect more with my surroundings as inspiration for my own work. Below you can find 7 pieces I picked from her collection for my holiday wishlist - I highly recommend checking out her site for more drool-worthy items! 


Top (L-R): Wide Gold Beaded Edge Wedding Band, Gold Beaded Edge Paisley Drop Earrings, Sapphire + Gold Beaded Eternity Band 
Middle: Sapphire Cluster Ring
Bottom Row (L-R): Emerald Beaded Edge Stud Earrings, Beaded Edge 5-Dome Ring, Beaded Edge Gray Diamond Drop Earrings



xoxo
Angela

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A GYPSY WEDDING

This past weekend I got married, which was an incredible experience on many levels. Josh and I chose an idyllic farmhouse on Long Island (circa 1820!), on four acres of property overlooking Conscience Bay. 


Our ceremony: no filter needed, the weather + setting were perfect! And yes, my flower girl is carrying a fairy wand.

From the second that Josh proposed last Christmas (and, let's be real, way before that!) I had accessories on the brain when it came to wedding attire. The clothing, I could have taken or left - I rarely wear dresses and generally invest very little in my outfits (because duh, how else would I pay for all the gems?!). I lucked out when I met the talented Amber Doyle, who made me the perfect, simple silk sheath in an ombré ivory-to-blush shade (my "something new") as background for my jewelry. I am generally NOT a pink person, but the color grabbed me as both romantic and kind of rocker, so I went for it, and I'm so glad I did!


Detail shot of the beautiful ombré effect of my dress.

I chose to adorn my entire right hand and keep my left hand as simple as possible. I love the way rings look with my tattoos, and I wanted to keep the focus on my wedding bands: an engraved gold and platinum band from our visit to Metier last summer, a french-cut sapphire and yellow gold eternity band from my friend Alison of Duvenay, and a simple, split 18k yellow gold band I picked up from an antique dealer here in NYC to round out the stack. 


The evolution of my wedding stack, as it developed over time. I wore three bands to represent past, present, and future.

On my right hand I wore my wedding present from Josh, a rosecut diamond, silver and gold cluster ring, circa 1860 (my "something old"). In the image below, it is flanked by my wedding and engagement rings - you can see how sapphires (his birthstone) are prominently featured! 


My wedding present from Josh, engagement and wedding rings.

In discussing my choices leading up to the day, a lot of people were shocked that I chose to mix metals, and cautioned me that I might look back at pictures and be disappointed I didn't keep it more streamlined. But I love gold! And platinum! And silver! And most importantly, I wanted to have fun with what I was wearing and stay true to my personal taste, not some idea or weird rule about what I should wear. I did try to edit a bit more than I normally do, in order to avoid looking too busy (compromise!). 

I also wore my mother's engagement ring from my father (middle finger, below), an 18k gold half-hoop style diamond band made of a mix of old-cuts that came from a ring of his mother's. She passed away when he was young, and I am named for her, so wearing it was my way of paying hommage to her. My ring finger sported my engagement ring, a 1920s platinum and Old Mine Cut diamond surrounded by a french cut sapphire halo - which also served as my "something blue". On my pinky I wore a Victorian mixed-cut diamond band; I recently sold it to my friend Kate of Heart of Solid Gold, so it made for a pretty and sentimental "something borrowed."

With symbolism already playing heavily into my jewelry selection, I chose to wear one of my favorite rings, a Victorian 14k gold and garnet snake ring, as the only other adornment on my left hand. Garnets are my birthstone, and I loved the idea of wearing them in addition to Josh's. I also loved the symbolism of fidelity that they offered, and the eternal snake/love motif made it an even more perfect choice. I wear this ring almost every day, so it was nice to look down on my wedding day and have something so familiar there to help me feel like myself. 


My rings, pre-ceremony.

Anyone who knows me also knows my long-time obsession with plants and their symbolism in jewelry, particularly for weddings! My bouquet, for example, incorporated wheat I had picked with my dear friend (and talented jeweler) Rachel Eardley for my cousin’s wedding last summer in England. I also used it to make Josh’s wheat boutonniere. Wheat was used commonly in Victorian weddings to symbolize prosperity, fertility and abundance. Victorian brides carried bouquets of it, and even tucked it in their veils!
 

In the English countryside picking wheat used for my cousin's wedding, and later for my own. 



My wild bouquet, picked from my mother's and friends' gardens.

My Victorian diamond + ivory wheat sheaf earrings were a happy accident that came together thanks to a generous gift from my friend Ishy Antiques. They were the first piece of wedding jewelry I bought, and at some point I got it in my head to try and jazz them up a bit from the simple gold earwires they came to me on. I searched high and low for the perfect stones to hang them from, and was thrilled when I came to own these diamond pieces off of a beautiful diamond and citrine brooch he was converting. Suspended from posts with the tiniest 14k jumprings, the old cut diamonds offered beautiful sparkle and movement and totally transformed the perfectly carved pieces of Ivory. I generally try not to play favorites with my jewelry but these were definitely the part of my outfit I was the most excited to wear, and it made them all the more special that they came together thanks to the generosity of a friend. I will without a doubt treasure them forever.


My old-cut diamond + Ivory wedding earrings.

Getting dressed and putting on my earrings for the first time.

I love looking back at pictures from the day and such beautiful statement earrings in almost every photo. Apart from their symbolism, they lent the most beautiful silhouette and helped tie my whole outfit together. I even chose not to wear a necklace (unheard of in my world!) to really let them shine. 


Me + my beautiful flower girl! I love how my earrings peek out in almost every photo.

Though not traditional jewelry, my crown of Myrtle leaves was another favorite piece I wore worth mentioning. After seeing a similar tiara style in a book, I tracked down New-Zealand based artist Anna Doezie of Anna Marguerite and commissioned a similar style. Myrtle has been used in weddings since classical times, where it represented a devotion to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Later used in Hebrew weddings, my crown was based off of diadems popular in the Edwardian era, when brides wore brass versions as a symbol of love “that lasts beyond the grave.” 


Hellenistic paper-thin gold wreath circa 4th century BC Greece, via MFA Boston.

Detail shot of my crown!
 


The crown was a beautiful, unusual detail and really made me feel like I was dressed for a special occasion!

Speaking of accessories, mine weren’t the only ones of note! I carved a heavy, 8mm wide band in wax and cast it in platinum, Josh’s choice of metal, for his wedding band. I confess that this took place at 10 o'clock at night, 5 days before our wedding (priorities, ok?). Luckily, it turned out perfectly.


Me at my bench, carving Josh's wedding band in wax. 

The finished product. I'm a fan of wedding rings that make men look, as I refer to it, "very married."

  

Josh is a man who prefers minimalism when it comes to his clothing and accessories (clearly, opposites attract!). He kept it simple and accessorized his tailored Theory Suit with a vintage Van Cleef Arpels watch I gave him last Christmas and a small, sterling silver tie clip



Josh's accessories.  Note his wheat boutonniere!



My end-of-the-night, finally married #showmeyourrings!

xoxo
Angela