This spring and beyond, consider the thumb ring, says I (and you?)! My left thumb has a special meaning to me (it involves childhood and my mom, as most things do); for years I've longed for a fancy thumb ring and so this morning I fished around in my jewelry dish, plucked out the Serpent d'Eau eternity ring that I love so, and popped it on that special to me left thumb. Thumb ring wearing feels nice and pleasing and unexpected and right. Join me, won't you?
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A winter morning with Sabrina draped in the finest Catbird Classics. These are the 14k gold (recycled, solid gold!) essentials we recommend wearing in layers unique to you.
Made with love in our Brooklyn studio, just down the street ❤️
The Catbird Giving Fund has proudly partnered with The Adventure Project since 2017, supporting the training of local female leaders to become health care agents in Uganda and Kenya, which allows them to earn an income and care for the people in their community. We admire TAP for their dedication to creating new infrastructure within communities, by working with local organizations to build systems and create jobs within them which will ultimately benefit the population as a whole and create lasting impact.
We asked The Adventure Project’s founder, Becky Straw a bit (a lot!) about how TAP came to be, and what their future plans are. Read on!
Tell us about your philanthropic career. Where did you first start and what has your path to founding The Adventure Project been like?
I was drawn towards nonprofits because my parents modeled giving-back really well. We attended a social-justice-minded church, outside San Francisco. They would send us into the Tenderloin to make meals for the homeless, and push us to think globally and progressively. They ensured we understood that even as children, we could make a difference.
After college I volunteered in a group home for children in Romania and worked with homeless families in Denver. Then I headed to Columbia University in NYC to get my Master’s in Social Work for International Development. It was there, while interning at UNICEF, that I connected with Scott Harrison. He had just launched Charity: Water and I practically begged him to let me join him. I volunteered out of his apartment for a few months and then became the third employee. I wore many different hats, but mainly directed our water projects around the world. It was a very formative experience and shaped my vision of starting The Adventure Project a few years later.
The model you use allows The Adventure Project to work with on the ground, locally run organizations to serve the communities they operate within. Why do you support this approach?
We work this way because, quite simply, it’s the most empowering and effective way to help. Flying over people to “help” isn’t a long-term solution. A doctor might fly over to volunteer, but what happens when she leaves? Imagine if you are a mom in the village and your child gets sick the next day, then you're out of luck? That’s heartbreaking.
It takes a bit more muscle, but it’s always better to train people locally with the skills to care for their communities. We intentionally built our organization to support local organizations. They are the experts. They have the cultural expertise to help on a deeper level. When skills stay local, children are more likely to survive and thrive.
What are entrepreneurial driven solutions? And how is this key to TAP’s mission?
Our philosophy is that you can end extreme poverty faster and more effectively by creating good jobs. This way, parents learn a skill, increasing their incomes so they can provide for their children. And because the jobs we create are focused on reducing child mortality, communities begin to flourish. We are supporting “ventures” that “add” lasting impact (see what we did there?). ;)
One example of what we do is training women to become Community Health Workers. Most children die in developing countries of preventable illnesses. The treatments to save their lives cost less than a cup of coffee (malaria medicine, for example). By training women to become skilled health workers and building a supply chain to get meds into their hands, you can drastically reduce child mortality.
What is your 10 year goal for The Adventure Project and how has Catbird’s partnership been a part of this?
We are very honored to have received support from Catbird’s Giving Fund over the last few years. When I pitched our idea for a Women’s Fund, Catbird was the first to raise their hands.
The concept of the Women’s Fund stemmed from what we observed in the field. There are incredible female-founded organizations doing phenomenal work in Africa. Yet, they can struggle to receive the same level of funding as male peers. (Much like what we see in the US with women-led start-ups only receiving 2% of VC funding). The irony is the majority of the poor are women. So we believe women are uniquely qualified to solve problems locally. We want to ensure female-founded organizations have the support to succeed.
Over the next ten years, we hope to grow our Women’s Fund to hundreds of members. Together, we can channel millions of dollars strategically to local organizations led by women in Africa. In turn, helping millions of people out of extreme poverty in the process.
What have been the biggest challenges and milestones over the last few years?
I think the pandemic has hit everyone hard. But what struck me the most was realizing we had spent the last decade creating good jobs, but now those jobs had a name: essential workers. It has been incredibly inspiring to see those workers fearlessly carrying on, taking care of their communities.
We pivoted a bit and went to our supporters and shared, “these essential workers now need some PPE.” Thousands of incredible people joined us in giving. Some people gave even though they had personally lost their jobs or struggled financially. It’s been incredibly humbling to see the outpouring of generosity.
Even though I’ve been incredibly encouraged, unfortunately, things are getting worse. Last year, over 250,000 children died in East Africa of starvation (a staggering 16% increase). Climate change, the pandemic’s economic toil and famine are pushing millions of people into extreme poverty. 2020 marked the first time extreme poverty increased in 25 years. So now is the time for historic action.
Talk a bit about Catbird and TAP’s 5 year history together!
Over the last few years, Catbird’s generosity has helped hire 23 women in East Africa and 13 in Togo, West Africa. Those women are providing critical health care to over 9,600 pregnant moms and children now.
Catbird’s support is now focused on a district in northern Togo, where only 9% of people have access to any sort of health care services. It’s a region with one of the highest child and maternal mortality rates in the world. Catbird’s generosity has helped educate and train women to become licensed healthcare workers, who are focused on caring for pregnant moms and children. Catbird’s support is also providing medicines and prenatal services.
What I am most inspired by is Catbird has pledged $500,000 to help over the next ten years. This is huge! By focusing on this area, we will be able to witness women delivering healthy babies and keeping children healthy. My wish is Catbird’s Giving Fund is an inspiration for other companies and individuals to join us. If you are interested, please reach out here: www.theadventureproject.org/womens-fund
We’ve been lucky enough to know Leo for many, many moons! Leo worked with us in our tiny, shiny Bedford Avenue shop while she studied jewelry design at Pratt. We started carrying her signature Makao Snake Hair Pin and Heirloom Signet Rings when she first launched her own line, and we are so proud and excited to carry more and more LEO BLACK treasures as time floats on. Now based in LA, we were very happy to catch up with Leo to talk about her new collection of otherworldly rings - the colors! The stone settings! We love them, and we know you will too. Read on to learn more about Leo!
We’ve known each other and worked together in different ways for years and years ❤️ Tell us about how we came to work together, your time with us here, and how you landed in LA.
In retrospect one of the most serendipitous moments in my life was an introduction that connected me to Catbird, Rony, and Leigh. I had just moved to New York in 2010 and was studying jewelry at Pratt. I loved Catbird and my then boyfriend (now husband) had a friend who made the introduction (Thanks Leah!). Rony and Leigh have been friends, mentors, and angels in my life ever since. I think of Catbird as a part of my family. The friendships I’ve made in the Catbird world are lifelong and of the truest kind. In 2017, I said a tearful goodbye and we packed up our Williamsburg apartment and moved to LA. The same way I knew that Catbird was meant to be in my life, I knew that it was time for us to venture west to palm trees and sunshine. I just listened to the words of The Pet Shop Boys “Go west!”
What is your first jewelry memory?
My first piece of jewelry was a necklace I made with my Mother. I was 5 or 6 at the time, and we were bleaching animal bones we’d found in the woods. I grew up in the Catskills, so taking walks in the forest and collecting deer bones was a fun activity for my brother and I who loved to collect them. My Mom and I bleached a vertebrae (I think it was a fox), and when it was a crisp white, we stung it on a shoelace and I wore it as a necklace!
How do you wear your jewelry and what is your jewelry uniform?
My everyday pieces are 3 signet rings, one monogrammed Classic Heirloom Signet with my Nana’s initials, one juicy round signet I made while I was pregnant with my daughter’s name, Venus. The inside is engraved “Our Water Girl”. She’s a cancer zodiac and true water babe in every way. The 3rd is a Small Heirloom Signet with a single triangle white diamond on the face; a friendship ring I made for two of my best friends. My wedding band, a bubbly 5mm 18k round ring. I made both my Husband’s and mine to match and we each carved messages into the wax before casting.
My Engagement Ring, a custom Polly Wales with a family diamond. The diamond traveled from Russia to New York in the late 1800s stitched in the seam of my husband's great great great grandfather’s coat pocket. Around my neck I wear my Companion Snake Head Necklace, with a blue sapphire I acquired while having my palm read in India on our honeymoon. A teeny tiny pure 24k nugget of gold on a charm. A chubby pearl pendant. A single orange glass prayer bead, also from India, that I made into matching charms for my husband and myself the day we heard Venus’ heartbeat. Also, a Bittersweets’ Serpent D’eau Ring, a Sweet Nothing forever bracelet, and last but certainly not least: a yellow gold Tomboy on my thumb that I haven’t taken off in 6 years, and will be there forever. Supernova Hoops, and a single J.Lingnua Eternity Emerald Snake earring.
Does baby Venus impact you as a maker, and thinker?
YES. When she was in the womb, I could feel her happiness radiate every time I was in the studio. I felt it said something about how working makes me happy and she could sense that. Now that she’s arrived, I’m super aware of how important it is for me to make the most of each moment. Since time working now equals time away from her, it’s created a big shift in how efficient I am with my making.
What is the most meaningful piece of jewelry you own - where did it come from, and what does it mean to you?
One that needs mentioning other than the previously noted engagement ring diamond that traveled through an incredible amount of time and space to land its way on my hand, are my childhood charm bracelets! They are basically unwearable because they must weigh a pound each. Once one filled up, my Dad would start the next one! With three in total, there is a charm to mark occasions, mundane moments, big feelings, and everything in-between. Some favorites- my Nana’s tooth complete with gold filling, the fishhook I stepped on after my brother’s 11th birthday party (the hooks were sanded and smoothed by the jeweler after it was removed from my foot in the ER), the tiny real dollar bill folded up in a 7mm box (purchased from the gift-shop at the Bureau of Engraving & Printing), a birthday cake that opens with a nearly microscopic enameled candle inside, a the nude fairy goddess charm I found on the sidewalk of Provincetown in 1997.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Everywhere! When I lived in NYC the Egyptian section of The Met was my favorite place, our summer vacations in Europe, walking around Paris and feeling the texture of the lutetian limestone buildings, Brancusi, Noguchi, everything 90s (especially the Spice Girls).
One of my professors at Pratt, Mary Beth, taught us to look for inspiration in everyday objects you encounter. When I’m walking on tiled floors or sidewalks with unique markings or grooves, I often imagine those shapes as gemstones and it opens up an inner world of inspiration for me.
Has your style evolved over time?
Maybe this happens with everyone after they’ve been doing a practice for an amount of time, but my style has gotten much more refined over the past decade. My approach earlier in my career was more maximal and while I still wouldn’t describe myself at all as a minimalist, I find that when I’m more concise with my designs they speak more clearly. That goes for my personal aesthetic and my work. Fifteen years ago I had a bedroom with multicolored walls, now I fill my space with large plants, jewelry and sculpture books, and candlelight.
What is your favorite design to make?
Our newest arrivals from you are so special, can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration and process behind these designs?
The passion and yearning to create Light Years actually began before our last collection, Golden Hour even finished. I wanted to create more rainbows in the form of solitaires. I’d been longing to create silhouettes of this nature and Golden Hour did such a beautiful job of defining our color pallet. Light Years is where we got to expand that pallet in unexpected and asymmetrical ways! Mixed with my love for astrology and light, I found that I was called to outer space. After wayyyy too many NASA documentaries and hours of sketching alongside of them, LIGHT YEARS was ready to take form in the physical dimension.
Describe your work in three words.
Sacred, magical, playful!
Favorite IG profiles to follow
@uglydesign, @object_la_ny, @80smodern, @tortus, @heidiroserobbins
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We're so proud to introduce you to the newest Catbird Giving Fund partner, Sad Girls Club -- an organiation committed to destigmatizing mental wellness for millenial and Gen Z women, girls, and femmes of color through group counseling, 1:1 therapy, and community programming. Since founding SGC in 2016, Elyse Fox has been on a mission to destigmatize the mental health crisis in Black Americans, with a very needed focus on making the wellness space both diverse and accessible. We sat down with Elyse to learn more about her founder's story, little joys, and acceptance.
Tell us about you.
I’m a creative, filmmaker, mama and mental health activist from Brooklyn, NY.
You are on a mission to provide accessible mental health resources and care to Black women. What life events shaped this purpose for you?
After releasing my film ‘Conversations with Friends’ I was immediately connected with black womxn from around the world who saw themselves in my story and were seeking a safe space to discuss their mental health. After hunting for communities both online and in person, I decided to create Sad Girls Club to fill the void so many women need.
Since Sad Girls Club was founded, how has it evolved and pivoted - including within the last two years when in person connection and care have proved more difficult. How did you navigate this?
Since 2017 SGC has been adamant about adapting as the world changes and the mental health needs of our community shift. Since the pandemic began we created N.Y.A. (not your average) Chatroom a community-oriented group therapy welcoming Sad Girls Club members to vent, convene and heal whatever mental health woes they may be experiencing. We know our members need safe spaces to purge emotions more than ever. Navigating this space has been tricky tbh but carving space to actively listen to our community needs firsthand helps to block out the noise of what else is going on in the world
What are you most looking forward to in 2022?
Acceptance. I’m looking forward to seeing how myself, and the world safely pivots as we search for moments of normalcy through the pandemic. Since the pandemic began we’ve all been kind of waiting for others to provide solution but I’m grateful to see so many communities thrive in bespoke ways to support their well-being.
What do you do to recharge?
I recharge by watching Curb Your Enthusiasm, Abbott Elementary and sleeping uninterrupted when I can.
What advice do you have for anyone who may be facing a personal crisis or sadness?
Find someone you trust to speak with. If you’re not ready to share, find spaces (online and offline) where you find solace and peace. Be kind to yourself because no one really knows what the hell is going on in the world & accept that most of us are pretending to.
Where do you find little joys day by day?
Definitely with my son Basel, he’s joy personified ❤️
What are your future plans for Sad Girls Club?
Quiet, poetic, earnest.
We first came to know Imdad’s work when we discovered portraits of their mother and aunt, an often photographed muse, and wrote to them with our wishes to commission a project of our own. The photos Imdad created this past fall come fully from their world of color, light, and shape in nature.
On becoming an artist
The journey has been quite organic and cathartic; lots of turning points because I didn’t always know that I would be an artist one day. I didn’t have any artistic influences growing up, and so I ended up going through the conventional (Indian) path of choosing engineering. In just a year, i switched to architecture, which I did finish. I also tried product, set and garment design, a job with a skincare brand to then finally find my sweet balance with image making. I now make art through images and text; I am a self taught visual artist, my work being a mix of creative direction, photography, sculptures, set design, performance and writing. What I like most about being an artist working independently is the freedom it allows me to choose how I wish to spend my time. I just can’t imagine trading that for anything in the world. Freedom is an elusive thing, but I have some semblance of it and so I am quite happy with the life I have created for myself.
You practice an almost meditative approach to your photography, sometimes waiting hours for the moment you envision to capture. Tell us more about this.
I am actually not waiting for a precise moment or a particular image, I just can't seem to stop. I can spend hours making images of a single flower. To me it feels like a very personal portrait session where I am getting to know the subject, as it gains trust and reveals more and more with time. It does feel very meditative as I lose track of all sense of time and space. When I am shooting outdoors, on the other hand, a market for example where I have no control over my subject, I tend to function on a subconscious level. I am moving around, maneuvering the crowd, deciding what to capture, composing, etc but I am no longer tethered to the physicality of that space. It’s almost like having an out of body experience, guided by the colors, shapes and light.
Where do you most often find inspiration?
In unexpected and often fleeting moments of beauty. Just a certain light, a unique way a petal might have dried, two colors sitting together, in decay and in between moments of movement and intimacy. And always in the plentiful and magical wonders of nature.
How does your culture influence you and your creative process?
I like to think that I am mindful and grounded in my practice; I value the meaningfulness of (and ideas behind) the work and not as much the final work itself. Being here in India has taught me the true value of appreciating whatever I have, being content and managing with limited resources. I believe this has a lot to do with my upbringing and my culture’s inextricable connection with the natural world. My family isn’t very religious or spiritual but I have grown up seeing so many rituals and festivals around me, all based around the seasons and cycles of nature. Our culture is all about acknowledging, sharing and celebrating the true essence of things. This has definitely shaped me as a person and also the way I see the world around me today.
What is your favorite place in India for moments of restoration and calm?
I am most at peace staring into the gentle laps and ripples of water bodies. Udaipur is a really quiet and peaceful ancient city built around lakes, it is my favorite place in India. I have spent countless days contemplating and made many major life decisions sitting next to the lake Picchola, staring into the indelible sunsets there. Temple bells and bird songs, echoing in the valley created by the hills surrounding the lake city. I also love seeing the world from a moving car, i find it very relaxing and inspiring.
What is home for you?
‘Home’ for me is a feeling that I find in many places, people and dreams; I carry this feeling with me and it’s constantly evolving. I feel at home in Delhi for the culture, the city life, the public places but then I soon get homesick and I know it's time for me to come back to my family home, which is in Assam. To my mother, our garden, the slow life here, the river and the gorgeous vegetables.
What draws you towards jewelry? Do you have pieces you wear every day?
We humans love personalisation; we alter, decorate and leave our impression on any space that we occupy. We like to scribble and draw on walls and tables when we are younger, on tissue papers perhaps, as we grow older :) I like to think of jewellery as us doing the same, decorating our bodies with shapes and motifs that we think reflect a little bit of who we are inside.
I wear my pearl earring almost everyday and now the Catbird love letter charm, tinsel bracelet and rings have become my staples. Garnering compliments everywhere, so thank you!
Do you have any young memories of someone wearing jewelry?
Yes, my mother. She loves gold jewellery, especially necklaces and bangles. I remember she had a lovely necklace which was made up of just hollow circles attached to each other, with a line and four dots in the middle. It’s been her all time favorite piece, mine too actually. It broke at some point and she couldn’t find any goldsmith who could repair it because the details were way too minute. It's been years now and she has forgotten about it but I plan to get one made in the same design and gift it to her.
Your photographs of your mother and aunt in a feeling of their girlhood is what first drew us to your work. What draws you towards the nostalgia of childhood?
That was a really special project, one that I will always cherish. As children, our motivations are so pure, we see everything with love and kindness. Our emotions and curiosities are genuine, and I crave that for myself and also in the world around me. So I try to revisit themes from childhood and share that spirit of innocence in my work. I think I am still very childlike in nature, I find delight in the simple pleasures of life. I loved playing with mud as a child, so I am planning to join pottery classes soon.
Desribe a perfect day in New Delhi.
Aww. So it's summer time, I woke up to the light today which is especially sweet and gold, streaming into my space through the sheer curtains. I am instantly in a good mood, I start my day with some french pop. I would water the plants and then have breakfast facing the sun as I plan the rest of the day. I would try to edit some pictures or write something before lunch so I can head out after. I would write to my friends to see if they can join me for a long walk in one of my favorite gardens. Delhi is lovely that way, it’s an amazing city if you like walking and exploring; there are gardens, markets, museums and ancient ruins. We would then head to one of the busy and crowded markets, pick a few things, walk about and end this perfect day with dinner and some nice conversation about our work, feelings and dreams.
Shop Imdad's Edit:
The Poetry of Flowers Collection has been years in the making. What originally began as a quest to make a charm collection to tie in birth stones or birth months, evolved into something much more meaningful (and detailed!) while still also fulfilling the original concept. The new Poetry of Flowers Collection poses the question: you are the flower... but which flower are you?
Comprised of twelve charms, each with its own flower and special shape, all made with 100% recycled 14k yellow gold. Every flower has two qualities engraved on the back, ranging from loyalty & love to joy & remembrance. Let's take a peek behind the scenes of the design journey of the collection with our creative director and design team!
On concepting the collection
"We had been searching for a way to express temporality, or seasons, while not being beholden to something too tied to a specific birth month. After so many years, birth flowers felt like the right framework to hang our collective hats on - but we couldn’t stop there. Each flower poem charm has a small hidden element that comes from our Catbird world: a spider hangs from the rose, daffodils emerge from a basket (we love baskets), a swan bobs behind a water lily, and morning glory creeps up a chain link fence - just like our neighborhood in late summer.
I hope you love the Poetry of Flowers collection as much as we do. I believe there is a flower for everyone, and for all occasions, from sad to sweet. You are the flower."
- Leigh, Catbird Creative Director
On the designing the flower..
"The collection started with a first round of sketches that were just little rough flowers inside tiny oval shapes. We made pages and pages of sketches for each flower and it’s design elements, referencing vintage jewelry, embroidered hankies, ornamental frames and some talking flowers from Alice in Wonderland. We knew we wanted to develop the charms in CAD so we could incorporate our long list of tiny design motifs like a bat behind the marigold, a snake border around the chrysanthemum and Poppy seeds around the poppy. We tried to use a variety of shapes and picked each one according to the flower it fit best."
- Rebecca, Catbird Designer
On developing the handwriting on the back of the charms..
"We went back and forth with our CAD designer trying to find a font that closely matched Jasmine’s beautiful handwriting but nothing felt right and all the fonts just felt too commercial. We decided to make a font out of Jasmine’s actual handwriting and vectorized each letter as its own tiny little drawing to use as the engraving."
-Borah, Catbird Designer
"I collected lots of pens this year, trying to figure out which ones worked the best. My favorite pen was always the Muji brush pen, but for the text in the charm collection, I used a Pantel Sign pen because it gives nice crisp lines. Highly recommend it! "
-Jasmine, Catbird Designer
How long was the design process for the collection?
"Oh man…I don't even know… Honestly, if there hadn't been a deadline we’d probably still be working on them. Each and every detail was thoroughly, deeply considered, like rotating a half millimeter star 10 degrees so it was just askew enough from the one next to it or making sure the border of the snowdrop charm had the same spirit as the lace handkerchief we were pulling inspiration from.
The Water Lily was particularly difficult because it included an entire scene behind it. We didn't want anything overshadowing the flower however we didn’t want to take away too much detail from the swan, the lake, and the night sky - finding the right balance was tricky. Also getting the Daisy just right took many iterations. The face was so small we were worried it would be lost once the piece was polished. Getting it the right size and depth took a few edits but it turned out just as we had been imagining it."
"I love the Daisy smile of course, and any featured creatures that might be found in a garden, like the spider, snake, bat, and butterfly." - Jasmine
"I LOVE the poppy seeds around the border of the poppy charm. This was a last minute Leigh edit and it turned out being my favorite charm out of the bunch specifically because of that detail. And the Daisy charm. That little face kills me." - Borah
"My favorite detail is the chain link fence on the morning glory charm. It reminds me of Brooklyn in the summer." - Rebecca
"Definitely getting a Daisy charm for my Daisy girl! I’m excited to see them all in a jumble - specifically the Daisy/Rose charm with the Little Butterfly / Gentle Spider charm next to it! Like the charms are seeing themselves in a painting, or mirror if that makes sense!" -Jasmine
"I love these on a thin ribbon, or anchoring a long necklace with other charms. I also like the idea of tying a bow onto the bail with a ribbon and wearing it on a choker." - Borah
"I love the idea of getting one for each of my loved ones and wearing them in a jumble on a longish chain or tucking a single charm into the clasp on a bracelet." -Rebecca
Meet the Flowers
We first met Jennie over 8 years ago when we came across her work on a small blog. Jennie (JK as we like to call her!) was new to the world of jewelry, having taken a leap of faith away from her law career - a calling that came alongside new motherhood and metalsmithing classes that ignited her creativity.
"I was looking for an exit strategy from the law. I had been practicing as a corporate attorney and attorney at a big studio in LA for around 5 years, and it really sapped my soul of life. After having my twins, I had to reset and reevaluate what was meaningful to me. During maternity leave, I stumbled upon a metalsmithing class and it really resonated with me- the design aspect felt very organic. I realized that I had a voice of my own and wanted to share that with people."
Over the years, we have carried countless different styles of Jennie's - pieces that style and stack perfectly in the Catbird world.
Read on for an interview with Jennie and a peek behind the scenes of her LA studio.
What is your first jewelry memory?
My first jewelry memory is of my mom buying me a necklace in LA's jewelry district when I was probably around 6 years old. It was a tiny rabbit and I was very much in awe, as my parents were always working their tails off as first generation immigrants and I realized that this was probably a big purchase for them. Little did they (or I) know that it was the Playboy logo that I was wearing around elementary school!
How did you know it was time to take a leap of faith in your career into jewelry?
I came into this blind and for that, I'm so grateful. I didn't know a single jewelry store, designer, trend... coming from a career in law without any connections in the jewelry industry, there was a certain naivete in my designs that I envy now. I designed a spider web because I loved their level of detail, an onyx ring because I loved the statement it made, and on. Just one month in after I launched my very poorly done website, Rony found me through a blog and believed in my designs enough to bring them into Catbird. So there was really no turning point. JKD sort of took on a life of its own.
What does jewelry mean to you?
Jewelry now has a very different meaning than what it used to have to me. It's now a symbol of something I am extremely proud of accomplishing in my life. I never ever thought I'd end up where I am now, coming from a more traditional, academic background. It's also much more meaningful than what it's meant for me in the past, as I was never a collector of fine jewelry. I wore jewelry as a fashion statement. Our clients show us daily, how much meaning is attached to something so preciously diminutive. They've shared stories of our pieces symbolizing a big career move, a child that they've lost, celebration of self in light of a recent divorce, marriage, graduation from college, friendship, and the list goes on. To know that we're making things of so much weight is truly an honor.
Where do you look for inspiration?
This is one of those questions that always stresses me out for some reason. My designs really are just a reflection of what I find beautiful. I don't look in any particular place for inspiration. Oftentimes, I work with stones and want to honor them by capturing their beauty in the cleanest way possible. I love balance and clean design. I love texture and symmetry. I love the miracle of all of the detail and intricate beauty you find in nature.
What do you kids think about your jewelry?
We have a piece named after each of my kids, so of course they love their own namesake the best! They're so proud of their mama.
What are you most proud of in your brand?
The authenticity we project, as we've never been shy about being clear about even our non jewelry viewpoints, and because of that, we have a very solid and large repeat customer base that we truly appreciate.
Describe a perfect day in LA.
I love my city so much. It's where I grew up, and where I decided to grow roots after leaving for school. It sounds cliche, but I love grabbing brunch with my family, then going on a hike. After that, we'd roam a bookstore and grab coffee. Lunch in Koreatown- the best food ever. Then we'll hang out with friends at the beach and that's it!
Advice for young designers or makers who are looking to take the same leap you did.
Make sure to have a clear point of view, as this industry is already so congested with so many pieces looking similar. You want to make sure you come in with something new to offer. Once you have found your voice, just dive in. You don't have to invest a ton into starting a jewelry line- I started with a small handful of pieces and a very modest website. Put it out into the universe and see how people respond.
What future plans for Jennie Kwon most excite you?
Continuing to do what we do. We've grown into a small but formidable team. We now have our own jewelers and are looking to expand into hiring our own stone setters this coming year. Slowly bringing everything in house has been something I'm very proud of.
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Lina Sun Park is a Brooklyn based artist who describes her work as "Edwardian Blythe doll" - and we couldn't agree more. We first met Lina on Instagram late last year, and were excited to see Catbird reimagined in her world.
Pearls and lace and tiny tea sets! Welcome to Lina's world.
"Jewelry to me feels like wearing a little piece of fantasy. It is so special to go about your day and have a glint of a sparkly gem, or an iridescent pearl catch your eye. There is a mystique to jewelry that I so very much love. Wearing a piece of jewelry with a gem that took billions of years to be created deep in the depths of the earth is quite precious. It makes you wonder what the stone has seen and knows!"
"I love how dainty and delicate these pieces are, yet they have a very strong presence. Every tiny detail feels so luxurious and elegant. I also appreciate the customizable aspect of the charms. As someone who loves to collect little tchotkes, it feels like collecting special little things that help create a world of your own. "
Regina Yazdi is a fashion illustrator based in Los Angeles, though we first crossed paths with her in New York in 2014. We first met Regina ahead of our 10 year anniversary and launch of our first engagement ring line, The Swans. Naturally for the launch, we wanted to commission a swan illustration, and her fluid, swooping swan is still an illustration we treasure today - so much so that we wanted to reinvent it for our 2021 Holiday bandana.
For this new design, Regina and our creative director Leigh talked about a closer look at our Catbird Swan, maybe crying some pearl tears or swimming through a pearl bubble, framed in black bows. The background Leigh felt should be a pale blue, and there would be an orange beak, she had been thinking a lot about bits of orange details!
Read on to learn more about Regina, her art, and the Swans of Catbird.
On becoming and being an artist..
The Art life started young. The first images burned into our minds as children are book illustrations and animations so I naturally became curious and obsessed with drawing. I'd bolt home from school and plop my belly on the floor to practice drawing off the screen during my favorite shows. I'd even invent side characters and daydream them into the storylines. I was drunk off the power of creation at 6...stationed in the eye of my paper tornado. You just come out that way I suppose.
As I grew, I dreamed about becoming a designer while poreing over the pages of Vogue, W, Mode Et Mode and streaming Tim Blanks interviews on Style.com nightly. I love the mechanics behind design- seeing what people can do with their hands and imagination is so moving. Fashion was a natural progression as I loved figure drawing so much.
Working commercially as a fashion illustrator over the past decade has brought many beautiful experiences and people into my life. Creating in collaboration allows for experimentation and travel, simultaneously expanding and refining my taste. I have a stronger sense of my artistic vision now.
I look up to cultural polymaths like Dali and Cecil Beaton whose styles permeated seamlessly across mediums. I see myself being rooted in fine art, occasionally taking on brand deals and design projects that spark my interest like they did. I'd be perfectly content doing this for the rest of my life.
On the Swans..
I fell in love with Catbird at our first meeting. Swans are steeped in fairytales and represent eternal love, beauty and overcoming awkward childhoods. I'm on board with all that so the idea for the logo came easy.
I saw it vividly in my mind as a fluid, swooping line and drafted it onto a piece of scrap tracing paper. I tried many versions after but never could recapture the spontaneity of the first draft so I went back and cleaned up the original. And that's how it was born...so happy and honored it's with you guys
I love jewelry for its beauty and ability to recall memories. Jewelry is small yet potent in all that it symbolizes... time, wealth, beauty and love - everything we hold precious.
I keep all the jewelry I own in a ballet pink Aspinal box. I've really taken time during the pandemic to consolidate and edit down my belongings. I'm really into investment pieces and started wearing larger stone rings and necklaces alone or mixed with minimal stacks. So I'd say my style is very curated and piece driven.
On her culture and how it influences her creative process..
I come from two ancient cultures and I've always felt like an old soul in my body.
The Poets of Persia taught me how to grace my awareness onto the fleeting moments and intimate details of life. Bending and expanding your perception is what art is all about.
The Chinese calligraphers and painters gave me lessons on balance, restraint, and visual aesthetics. What you leave out of a piece is just as important as what you put in.
I feel really lucky to be mixed raced. I inherited an openness to different possibilities of living early on. It's in that field of mental openness that creativity can thrive.
Describe your work in three words.
I'd like it to feel genuine, beautiful and eternal.
Where do you look for inspiration in LA and NYC?
It changes all the time since LA is massive but right now I'm on a floral kick with Little Tokyo, Flower District, Descanso Gardens, and the Huntington Library.
In New York I love browsing through Neue Galerie, MOMA, the MET , Doverstreet Market, and of course Catbird!
How will you be spending the holiday season?
My favorite way to celebrate is low-key in loose clothing , cooking, eating and being completely unfiltered with my loved ones.
And the bandana! How will you be styling it?
I am packing my lunches now since the studio is pretty secluded...I'm thinking a Furoshiki for my bentos - practical yet beautiful for everyday use. I hope everyone loves theirs!
Regina's Shopping Edit