We are so excited to announce the international debut of CECE JEWELLERY. A collection of 18k gold necklaces and rings featuring the finest enameling, as if painted by a single kitten whisker.
We chatted a bit with Cecelia Hughes aka Cece, an art historian turned jeweler, to find out more about her process and inspiration behind her pieces - including a very special Catbird exclusive.
What is your first jewelry memory?
Travelling around India with my family and becoming obsessed with all the jewellery sold in the markets - packs and packs of gold and multicoloured sparkly bangles… a little girls heaven!
What does jewelry mean to you?
It's my form of expression. Being a jeweller who works from home, means 90% of the time I'm wearing comfy leggings and an oversized T-shirt, jewellery is my way of making me feel fabulous (even in PJs).
What originally sparked your interest in pursuing jewelry design?
I was diagnosed with an autoimmune illness after leaving university, which meant I couldn’t live life at the same pace as other 20-something year olds! This also put a lot of pressure on my mental health. After taking a year to slow down and soul search, I found jewellery making! Being able to create with my hands was so therapeutic that I fell in love instantly… I have now recovered fully from my illness, but wouldn’t have changed it for the world, as it led me to where I am today.
What historical jewelry / art are you inspired by?
Both Byzantine & traditional Indian jewellery!
What has been your favorite design to make from this selection?
I would say the Catbird exclusive The Swan & Reed. It was my first time creating an enamel design based on someone else’s idea and it was so exciting to be able to bring it to life!
Can you describe the process of making these pieces?
There are 5 crucial steps to the making of each piece, all meticulously thought through and carefully executed…
Design. All my pieces start at my kitchen table surrounded by books such as ‘V&A Jewels & Jewellery’ and the ‘Grimm Brothers’ fairy-tales, a colourful array of pencils & watercolours, my laptop of course, and a candle or two to get me in the zone.
Make. All the signet rings and pendants are handmade from my jewellery bench at home, forged from the deep and rich recycled 18ct yellow gold.
Enamel. I then send the pieces to my enameller who engraves and hand paints each design in miniature. As every different layer of enamel paint is applied, the piece must be fired in a kiln. This process is repeated until the finished painting comes to life!
Diamonds. I then pass the jewellery on to my wonderful stone setters in Hatton Garden, the diamond district of London, where they star-set teeny tiny glittery diamonds to complete each miniature scene…
Finish. Finally, the pieces are back with me, where I give the overall surface a matte finish. This results in a buttery, frosted surface - bringing out the beautiful deep colours of the enamel paintings.
Describe a perfect day in London.
It would start off with a long Saturday morning sitting in bed with my boyfriend Dan and our sweet little fur baby, Lucky. A tray of croissants, jam, butter and coffee from our local bakery in the middle of it all…
An afternoon spent in Notting Hill visiting my all-time favourite haberdashery called The Cloth Shop, I could spend hours sifting through their various striped French linens, or Indian block print cottons. Always an inspiration.
The evening would be spent with friends in a cosy, fairy-lit pub garden. Somewhere local, sharing bottles of wine until I decide it’s way past my bedtime and jump in an uber home. Ready for a sleepy Sunday!
How did you begin your journey with enamel?
In some ways, my journey has just begun! While researching ancient jewellery in the treasure trove that is the Victoria & Albert Museum archives, I fell in love with an old Victorian wedding band, enamelled with pink flowers all the way around. I decided to begin experimenting with my own designs, and through lots of (expensive!) trial and error, I finally created a collection I am happy with! I can’t wait for the journey to continue…
Can you tell us a bit about the enameller you work with?
My London enameller is wonderful and works effortlessly on each design I send his way! He is a Master Enameller and a member of the Goldsmith Company, Freeman to the City of London – which is a prestigious title that has been given to those with excellent goldsmithing craftsmanship for over 700 years.
Did you face any challenges in getting the collection going? And, have you encountered any obstacles that you have learned from?
Yes!! I came across quite a few hiccups along the way. Enamel is a very particular material to work with. In order to bring out the richness in colour you must choose 18ct gold as your metal (75% pure gold), which you can imagine becomes expensive when you get a design wrong…
The Shark & Anchor (my favourite design) was one of the hardest to create, as it was imperative to get the expression right. One tiny dot for an eye in the wrong place and we have to do it all over again!
Have you been to New York? If so, what do you think of it?
Yes – I LOVE New York. I think I love it so much because it feels very similar to London. (I’m a bit of a home bunny). The energy, the pace of life, the culture, the weather (!!)… I can’t wait for the world to open up again so I can come and visit once more.
Shop Cece's Collection
We have always admired the way Morgan stacks and styles her Catbird pieces to be so quintessentially her! She is a longtime customer and we have enjoyed connecting with her (via Instagram!) over the years. We asked her to show us how she styles her Catbird for three different looks in her day-to-day life down in Florida!
Getting ready for lunch after a long swim at the beach.
SHOP THE LOOK
After lunch and a nap, walking with my little gal Amelia. She loves looking at flowers on the island.
SHOP THE LOOK
Getting ready for date night, after walking and more swimming at the beach.
SHOP THE LOOK
The Catbird Giving Fund is so proud to support Kurandza in honor of our new collection with artist Cassi Namoda. Kurandza is a grassroots nonprofit based in Mozambique that provides holistic schooling for over 200 girls and counting! When you give a girl an education, she’s more likely to earn a higher income, provide healthcare and opportunities for her family, and send her own daughters to school someday, breaking the cycle of poverty. This is why empowering girls within their own community has always been one of Catbird Giving Fund's primary areas of focus. Below is the story of Kurandza through founder Elisabetta Colabianchi.
What originally brought you to Mozambique?
In 2014 I joined the Peace Corps and my first assignment brought me to a rural village in Mozambique where I volunteered in the maternal and infant health department at the hospital, Centro de Saúde of Guijá. My work there included counseling HIV+ women on the prevention and transmission to their babies. While I was there I fell in love with the people, the lifestyle and honestly everything about the country and from there I became very integrated into the community. In addition to learning the national language of Portuguese, I loved learning the local language (Changana) and building strong friendships with many of the women in the community, which then inspired me to continue working and living there.
Kurandza originally started as a sewing cooperative in Mozambique. Can you elaborate on how its focus has evolved over time?
We started as a sewing cooperative, but because of our grassroots approach, we’re able to shift with the community needs. In 2016, the drought and hunger crisis hit Mozambique. This propelled us to bring our first campaign to life, raising enough funds to give food aid to a select group of HIV+ women and their families as well as all the women in the sewing cooperative. From this we started envisioning the real possibilities of bringing the community together. Over the years, we assessed the differences between short-term fixes and long-term impact, and we began to recognize that the earlier a girl receives support in her life, the more sustainable her growth, development, and community impact will likely be. And so, we shifted our focus to education. We began with the sponsorship of Lindsey Brianna, and in just three months, she was counting in English, reciting poetry in Portuguese, and had a newfound curiosity about the world around her. In the fall of 2017, we launched the first #IStandForGirls campaign with the goal of sending 100 girls to school. This was the start of Kurandza as we know it today. Since then, we have witnessed the transformative power of education and focused our efforts on providing scholarships, resources, and psychosocial support to all of our students.
How many students does the program sponsor currently and across what education levels does the program span?
Currently we have 200 girls and 5 boys enrolled in our program spanning from preschool through high school. Next month we will launch our partnerships with students at local universities who will come on as interns with Kurandza--serving as “mentor leaders” for the girls in our new mentorship program.
Kurandza takes a holistic approach to each student’s education. Can you talk a bit about what that entails?
Since the start of our girls education program, we’ve come to realize that education involves much more than just school attendance. It’s about access to all of the tools that allow and support someone to actually become educated. To be at the same level as the other students begins with a uniform, but it also includes reliable and safe transportation, proper school supplies like rulers and protractor sets, art materials, textbooks, notebooks, and pencils. Additionally, it involves holistic care, which means helping with the social aspects of their lives, too, since social and home situations are often strongly correlated with academic performance. We take special care with the most at risk girls who are HIV+, pregnant, or dealing with abuse or malnutrition, and offer counseling, mentorship, and social support for all 200 girls in our program, with the long-term goal of supporting the girls through high school, and going on to reach their full potential.
How has the pandemic affected Kurandza’s efforts and the student’s education?
The pandemic has widened the literacy gap globally, especially in the rural villages where we do most of our work. With the schools closed for over a year, we have seen a decline in the girls’ literacy, but now that the lockdown is over, we are finally able to implement our literacy workshops to get the girls back up to the national standard level pre-Covid. A year out of the classroom has also caused a significant increase in the dropout and teen pregnancy rates. In an effort to provide extra support and counseling to these girls, we’ve brought on additional team members who also serve as the impetus to start our waterfall-model mentorship program. Our newest Kurandza team members are part of the 1% of Mozambican women to graduate college, and will be working alongside local college students, acting as mentor leaders for the high school mentors, who will then be placed in groups of 10 younger girls (mentees)-- with each generation guiding the next.
What are you envisioning for the future of Kurandza?
I’m excited about the future of Kurandza! This year has been a year of renewal and transformation, growing our leadership team in Mozambique, and strengthening our programs. I’m looking forward to continuing to build out our mentorship program by involving more women leaders and together creating the next generation of female leaders in Mozambique. Heading towards 300 girls, this year we want to support even more girls in the community, and in the long-term we have dreams of developing a leadership academy and curriculum.
On the US side, we’re looking forward to cultivating community and building relationships with aligned individuals and companies, so that we can work together towards this shared vision. Together is always better!
What is one of your favorite success stories?
The first story that came to mind is 10-year-old Ayanda. She was one of the first babies I met after arriving in Mozambique 10 years ago. When we started our girls education program in 2017, Ayanda was in the founding group of girls as a first grader. Her mother, Gelar, like many of the women in the village, never had access to education like Ayanda does, and knew her daughter deserved to have more opportunities in life. Ayanda was initially so apprehensive about going to school 4 years ago. She was afraid and wasn’t used to seeing other people in her family or her sphere of influence attending school. But once she received her very own uniform and backpack full of school supplies, she gained confidence and purpose in attending school. She is now one of the girls who is always excited and happy to attend school, and she has one of the best attendance records of all the girls in our program. Seeing her flourish has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me.
Where do you look for motivation and inspiration?
I get motivated to push through the difficulties when I see how much this work means to our team in Mozambique (and the US). Our team works day and night to help empower girls to have a say in their future, and they constantly encourage me to keep on working towards our shared vision. Talking with the girls and hearing about their progress also empowers me, because it shows me that we are making a tangible difference and that this work matters. I’m also constantly inspired by the creative community of women I’ve met on Instagram :)
Shop our collection with Cassi Namoda
My son and I were checking out at our favorite bookstore, Books Are Magic, when I noticed Anthony's perfect Catbird stacks and they noticed my Catbird email! Learning that they and their partner, Austin, get each other Catbird jewelry for meaningful occassions is the best possible thing I could ever hear. We invited Anthony & Austin to spend the afternoon with us and chat about all things jewelry and love!
-- Rony, Founder & Co-Creative Director
Where are you both originally from?
Austin: We moved around a lot growing up, my mom had a restless heart. But, for me Sebastopol, California always felt like my home with vivid memories of misty mornings and ancient redwoods.
Anthony: I grew up on Long Island, we also moved around a lot, my parents are divorced and bouncing back and forth between them unfortunately nothing really felt like home. I do sometimes miss being able to just walk outside to lay in the grass and read.
How did you meet?
Anthony: We actually met on OkCupid. After talking for awhile we decided to set a date to get coffee in the East Village. The day of our date I rushed onto the subway platform and I thought I saw someone who looked familiar, so I turned to them and said “Austin?”. It turned out that we actually lived off the same subway stop in Bushwick, and our apartments were only 4 blocks away from each other. Our date started on the subway platform and fast forward 7 years, here we are. It does seem pretty unreal how much of a rom-com our first date was like, after coffee we started walking around and we happened to walk down a street where they were filming a movie and it was completely covered in fake snow in the middle of summer. We got ice cream at the end and when Austin forgot the word for bench (I guess because he was nervous, something he’ll never fully admit) he asked if we should sit down on the “long chair” which I’ve never let him forget.
What are your jewelry uniforms?
Austin: I always wear a stack of yellow and rose gold hammered rings with a Cosmic Witch Ring, mirrored on the other hand with a Twisted Stacker and an opal and diamond Sleeping Beauty Ring. I love a healthy flow of necklaces so I’ll wear a Sleeping Beauty, Unicorn Horseshoe, and a Tinsel Chain with a Fort Tilden Charm regularly. I love a good anklet so I always wear a Sweet Nothing with a Mermaid Treasure Charm even over my nursing compression socks, it gets a lot of attention on the unit. And as my grandma always said, "A lady always has a string of pearls!" So with that in mind I always wear a pearl bracelet, whether it’s a string of Catbird Sweet Sixteen pink pearls or a Serpentine Delilah Pearl Bracelet. Then there’s earrings I never leave home without at least four!
Anthony: The thing I wear every day, because I can’t actually take it off is my Forever Sweet Nothing Bracelet that matches Austin’s. It’s only ever come off once, after our cat Dorito clawed it off getting a little too rambunctious playing tag. My Gentle Spider Charm crawls to different spots everyday, sometimes I wear it on my 1976 Bracelet or on my Sweet Nothing Chain, or I’ll hook it onto the backing of an earring stud. I never actually take my rings off, I have a mix of different Catbird rings stacked with a Black Diamond Tiniest Ring, Naga Snake Ring, and Moon Guardian Ring from Sofia Zakia.
So you both have quite the Catbird collection!
Austin: It was actually Anthony that first introduced me to Catbird. For our first anniversary Anthony surprised me with a dinner date at Beauty & Essex - and I’d been living as a pretty broke nursing student then so it was pretty impressive! Anyway, towards the end of our dinner, Anthony presented me with my very first piece of my Catbird collection, a Classic Hammered Ring. Now it’s almost been seven years since that day and it’s still my most treasured piece of my collection.
Anthony: Later that year Austin completely surprised me with a Catbird Rose Thorn necklace for Yule. It’s been a tradition to get each other Catbird pieces ever since.
What does jewelry mean to you both?
Austin: For me jewelry is magic, from the inherent power lying in the natural stones to the dedication of the inspired artist that made them - pure magic! I also connect very deeply with jewelry and my grandmother - she had an impressive collection with some original Tiffany pieces to family heirlooms. I recall getting ready with her, trying on some of her necklaces and huge strings of pearls, and sorting through her collection with her to get her jewelry uniform on for the day.
Anthony: I have a deep fascination with medieval alchemy. Gold was one of seven metals they used to represent the heavenly bodies. Gold fittingly represented the sun, and jewelry makes me feel like I’m wearing rays of sunlight.
When did you know it was love?
Anthony: As gushy as it sounds, the first time we told each other we loved each other, I had been reading Austin short stories as the sun was setting and we were just laying in my bed and staring into each other’s eyes, and in that moment I knew it was love. He was able to ground me and know me unlike anyone ever had. That’s when we first told each other “I love you” though he always says that he said it first.
Describe your perfect New York day together!
Austin: Quite recently we had a pretty perfect New York day together this April. First, we have found that every perfect day has to start with brunch with a few mimosas. Anthony then took me to the Brooklyn botanical gardens for the very first time - it was simply incredible surrounded by newly flowering cherry blossoms, a beautiful Japanese garden, and flower petals gently blowing through the air. We then traveled into the Lower East Side, visited a pencil store owned by one of Anthony’s friends, picked up a bouquet of peonies, and a jar of pickles from a newly opened book store. Towards the end of the day I think we had walked close to 12 miles, so we made our way back to our Bushwick home and treated ourselves to some pretty amazing Chinese takeout.
A + A 's Shopping Edit