We have been followers (and fans!) of Aimee's for a long time! You might follow her too -- known as @yungkombucha420 on instagram, Aimee's account is a sweets enthusiast's dream! Full of the fantastical cakes she creates, as well as a sneak peek at her daily life as a baker.
Aimee currently bakes out of her Brooklyn kitchen, and sources all ingredients locally -- whether it's foraging some flowers and strawberries from a local community garden, or shopping at the Union Square farmer's market. We love not only Aimee's eye for design, but her commitment to sustainability and using what she has.
Aimee invited us over to spend an afternoon baking a cake with her. What kind of cake you ask? Well an olive oil rose cake with ricotta and fresh strawberries, and brown butter cardamom prosecco buttercream of course! OH - and a little chocolate ganache too. It was as delicious as it was beautiful. Scroll through to enjoy with us!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to be a baker
My name is Aimee France and I am 23. I went to college and graduated with a degree in communications but deep down always knew I wanted to do something entrepreneurial. I was interested in food/cooking and wanted a good vegan dessert. I became interested in food science and decided to teach myself how to mimic traditional baking techniques to create a vegan version. I then started posting photos on social media and grew a following. After that I decided to sell my products and here I am now, I guess I got lucky!
Describe your work in three words
Seasonal, spontaneous, ethereal.
First baking memory?
Watching my mom bake my birthday cakes every year and the chocolate cake she would always make. My mom made some pretty cool and intricate cakes for me. I also have a vivid memory of having a bake sale at the bottom of my driveway with my childhood best friend. I think we sold Ghirardelli chocolate chip brownies and Whoopie pies (I think my mom made the whoopie pies lol).
What are your favorite flavors and ingredients?
In the summer I love chocolate cake, cardamom, mascarpone or chantilly cream with fresh berries and lemon thyme. Sprinkling maldon on top is necessary. I also love tiramisu or anything coffee.
And cake / frosting combination?
Chocolate cake with a big scoop of chantilly cream and fresh herbs. For buttercream I love the prosecco buttercream I make. Chantilly cream and any type of buttercream needs to be a bit salty in my opinion.
Describe a perfect day in NYC!
Having breakfast on my roof, going to the farmers market, walking around with friends, exploring a new area, trying a new restaurant for dinner or going to one that I love. After dinner I like to walk around and sit in a park during dusk, maybe go out after if I’m not too tired.
Favorite non-cake dessert?
Tiramisu or affogato!
How can one order a cake from you?
Send an email to [email protected] ! (Please do not DM me about cake inquiries). I make anything from birthday cakes to extravagant cakes for events and weddings. I also sell mini cakes on my instagram story weekly on a first come first serve basis!
Shop Aimee's Edit!
Dru is a New York based artist who lives in a technicolor dream! A self-described unicorn (and oh does that ring true!) Dru’s art takes form in their fashion, their beauty, their movements.
Read on to observe Dru's bright light and infectious spirit!
On becoming an artist..
I think I came to be an artist at a young age and the way I express my art has always been through my everyday style. Getting dressed up has always been a daily ritual and something that came natural to me.
I like to think I live my life as a muse from a Tim Walker editorial who likes to bring a fantasy into a drab and dreary world and make it very gay of course.
First fashion memory..
I feel like it was my mother and the women in my family who influenced me the most with my fashion. Growing up my mom would always be dressed to the nines for any occasion. I loved watching the way she would embellish herself with jewelry, lipstick, and perfume at her boudoir early in the morning. It was quite fabulous and those memories I'll always cherish forever.
Your style in three words..
Magic, Kindness, and Freedom.
The best gift you have ever received?
I'm very grateful for all the gifts I've received over the years so it's hard to narrow that down. I'd say when my dad asked me what I wanted for my 21st birthday I asked him if he would get me a dress. I was so nervous to ask but with no hesitation my dad said, "sure I'll get you a dress." That was one of the best gifts I've ever received and I'm never getting rid of that dress.
Something in fashion you're drawn to right now..
The last collection I loved was my friend, Jackson Wiederhoeft, 'Fashion Show' collection. It was playful as always but had a beautiful aggression to it from his previous shows. He's always working hard and presenting the most magical collections and he is also a finalist in this year's CFDA.
Any words of wisdom for people experimenting with their style right now?
Personal style at the end of the day should always be about pure freedom, freedom to be yourself is the best style advice I have to offer. Just go for it! Feed your inner child and trust your intuition always when experimenting with your look. If something catches your attention and makes your heart skip a beat or inspires you then wear it!
Shop Dru's Edit
We were so happy to connect with Evelynn ahead of our visit to LA - we have long admired her work in founding Hike Clerb, an intersectional women's hiking group and nonprofit centering BIPOC. Joining any of Evelynn’s gatherings, the amount of joy and community Hike Clerb has created over the past five years is soon understood. Catbird organized a golden hour hike in partnership with Hike Clerb last week, read on to see views from our trail and learn more about Evelynn’s mission.
On Hike Clerb..
I created Hike Clerb as a solution to the blindspots I was seeing in the outdoors. Being a Black and indigenous woman out there and feeling isolated in how homogeneously white it was, I wanted to take action to ensure that Black, Indigenous, women of color felt that they had a space out there for them to heal and explore in whatever way they felt necessary. The community that has been built as a result has been incredible. From the tens of thousands that are involved digitally, to those who I get the honor of seeing the transformation take place in real-time of being a part of the clerb, the work in short is working! We have created the future we want to live in and it's been incredible to witness an idea that was seemingly planted in my mind take shape in this way.
What are your hiking essentials?
I always bring a fanny pack, water, my inhaler, sunglasses, comfortable bottoms (shorts or pants), and of course, trusty hiking boots or sneakers. The specifics change from hike to hike.
Who is your dream hiking companion?
Who wouldn't love to hike with Beyonce? It would be peak virgo of us.
What are your future plans for Hike Clerb?
Expansion to cities across the country is our biggest focus in the short term. There is so much to come in the long term from products to bigger activations and new adventures.
Describe a perfect day in LA..
My perfect day in LA ranges from going to the spa and indulging in much-needed self-care to enjoying time outside -- whether that's on the trail, at the beach, etc. with the people I love the most.
What is your jewelry uniform?
My jewelry uniform is a set of gold hoops, a pair of gold necklaces and bracelets, and my gold nose hoop that has become a permanent fixture at this point! In short, all gold everything!
Describe your style in three words.
Effortless. Gender fluid. Cozy.
We love sweet Isla! Has she changed how you think about adventure?
Being a mom to Isla hasn't necessarily shifted the way I think about adventure per se but it has made me way more thoughtful about the preparation that comes with it through trial and error. It's also so empowering to lead by example in the sense that babies can and should come along for the ride! Your life and the adventures you were accustomed to can and absolutely should continue with the baby in tow!
What are you most looking forward to this summer?
I'm most looking forward to all the traveling we'll be doing as a family this summer after two years of being in LA during the height of the pandemic. It feels like we're getting back into our flow!
Our Golden Hour Hike with Hike Clerb
Shop Evelynn's Edit
Kristen Bateman and Karen Resta are the embodiment of fashion freethinkers — their voluminous layers, labyrinthine love of patterns, and pastel and neon palette is both a shared love and distinct to each.
When we were planning this shoot, we asked them for a list of places around the city they love to go together, and at the top of the list was without hesitation Coney Island. And so a warm spring day was spent together, walking the boardwalk, savoring hotdogs and sweets, and people watching until the fog rolled in.
Read on for a dream day in Coney Island, and a conversation around tradition, individuality, motherhood, and love.
Karen: The first time we went to Coney Island together was when Kristen went to college at Parsons. I’d grown up in NYC but we had lived in other places, so I came to visit in her first year of college and we took the subway to Coney Island - and after that she shared it with her new friends who hadn’t been there yet, who loved it!
K & K's Coney Island Itinerary..
First we look at the souvenir stores before even leaving the subway station and usually decide not to buy anything, then we cross the street to Nathan’s and take some photos! It’s so iconic, I don’t think we’ve ever walked by it without taking a photo. Then we go into the park and look at the Art Walls to see what food trucks are there that day, maybe get a drink and go to the boardwalk.
On summer weekends there’s usually a freeform dance party happening on the boardwalk - sometimes it’s music from a big boombox, other times there’s a live band or a DJ. Anybody and everybody can join in, there are toddlers dancing and people in their 80’s - all New Yorkers and all loving it! It’s fun to watch or to join in!
Then it’s time for the rides: Deno’s Wonder Wheel and Luna Park. We usually do a few rides and have fun listening to people screaming and laughing on the fast rides then take more photos. The people, the rides, the food, everything is just asking to be photographed!
We might have a bite to eat at Nathan’s on the boardwalk (hot dogs, fries, clams) after that, or some ice cream from Coney’s Cones next door. Then it’s time to take off our shoes and go onto the beach! We’ll stroll along the water “getting our feet wet” and finding shells and rocks to take home. It’s fascinating to see NYC’s famous diversity at the beach - there are people wearing tiny bikinis and there are people covered literally from head to toe in their prescribed religious garments right next to each other swimming in the water.
The boardwalk and beach extend into Brighton Beach, so we might walk along it and into Brighton Beach to go shopping at a fabulous Russian grocery store where you can buy freshly made crepes to fill with caviar and sour cream - or we might stop for borscht and pelmeni at one of the neighborhood restaurants (where there’s a tradition of putting an entire bottle of vodka on the table to share! But I don’t think we’ve done that yet!)
That’s it - we’ll get in the subway there, unless we walk back along the boardwalk and stop to get a haul of candy at the big “It’s Sugar” store, along with cotton candy and candy apples at Williams’ Candy. Then it’s back on the subway and home.
What is your favorite thing about Coney Island?
Kristen: I love the fact that it transports you to a place that feels a little bit surreal. I especially love all the colors, the signage and the food. It’s one of my favorite places to go with my mom! It’s also amazing to go there during the off-season, it’s far less crowded and the scenery is even more surreal. We always take tons of photos there every time we go.
Karen: I love that it’s one of the few places in the city that has not changed over many years. It’s “old-school” in a good way. All New Yorkers are equal at Coney Island, and it’s one of the few places in the city that have that kind of mood. There generally aren’t a lot of tourists and there generally *are* a lot of colorful people there. It’s a place of joy, music, junk food, sun, sand, water, seagulls and New Yorkers in all their glory!
What other traditions do you have together?
Karen: We often color each other’s hair. Kristen’s color at the moment is peach, mine is bright yellow.
Kristen: We also get dressed up to make TikToks together. We love to go to Fashion weeks together - especially in Paris. Plus, we love trying new restaurants, traveling, shopping together and helping each other plan outfits.
What do you most admire about one another?
Kristen: My mom is the strongest person I know. She’s fearless and has always encouraged me to do what I want and to express myself. She inspires me endlessly. I admire her determination and her ability to always be positive no matter what the situation is. Plus, I could listen to her talk about her life stories, from living in New York in the ‘70s to moving to Paris on a whim, forever.
Karen: Kristen is her own person - and she also *owns* that she’s her own person. As her mom, I’ve seen her grow from a very quiet, shy little girl into a woman who stands her own and makes her way in a world that’s not always friendly to women or to artists. She constantly surprises me as an artist, a writer, and a businesswoman, and the fearless way she expresses her personal style is so much fun to watch!
Shop Kristen's Edit:
Shop Karen's Edit
Leigh, Catbird's creative director, discovered her store a little over a year ago on a ritual stop for sweets at Fortunatos Bakery, which is right next door. By Liv Handmade is a tiny storefront on Manhattan Ave in Williamsburg, with tin walls and a tin ceiling - a tiny treasure trove filled with vintage dresses, lace collars, hand-knit balaclavas, hand-dyed silk pillow cases, and sooo much more (including kids clothes!).
Liv's shop dog Lexi will be the first to greet you, and trust us when we say - you will come for the clothes, and will stay much longer than intended because of Lexi.
Tell us about yourself and how you came to be a fashion designer
I actually have a pretty unconventional beginning story to how I ended up where I am as I never went to fashion school, or even took one single sewing lesson. Pre-pandemic I was an Early Childhood Educator, and had a very hard time finding clothing comfortable enough to teach in but still stylish enough to wear outside the classroom. I got a sewing machine on a whim and after much trial and error began making very simple “smock dresses” from recycled bedsheets, they were on trend, comfortable, and very low cost to make. My teacher friends and students parents encouraged me to pursue this in my free time, but I never really had the time to develop a whole collection or work on a real “brand” and was happy just making dresses for me. Once the pandemic hit and I was teaching remotely, I was suddenly able to nurture my sewing and by golly I was unstoppable! At a point I was making multiple dresses per day, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them but sewing gave me a purpose at such a confusing time in life and most importantly, it made me happy. I used to describe the feeling of finishing a dress as the same feeling I got when one of my students had the “ahha moment” where what I was teaching them finally clicked. I started stocking my creations at a few shops, made myself a website, and voi la! By Liv was born. She was a pandemic baby that blossomed into my dream career, though I do miss teaching every day, this is the path that I’m supposed to be on for now and I couldn’t be happier.
We love the idea of giving materials a second life – all of our brilliant cut diamonds and most of our gold is completely recycled! Can you tell us how you upcycle the fabrics you work with and where you source them from?
Everything I create is made from recycled material mostly consisting of table cloths, table runners, doilies, curtains, upholstery scraps etc. The pieces I use are almost always deemed unusable due to small imperfections such as stains and holes. My process consists of cutting around or repairing these imperfections, and giving these sage textiles new life by turning them into wearable art!
I source a lot of my material from antique stores and estate sales upstate, as well as prop houses for film and tv. A lot of the time, the textiles will kind of “create themselves” based off of the placement of the imperfections, which means that I never use patterns, my creative process is very “improv” since I have to work these repairs into the garment. I feel this process makes each piece so much more unique, and much like Catbird’s recycling process, leaves an entire “past life” in a brand new creation. This is something very special that you don’t get with most garments and jewels, you’re adding to an already existing story.
What was your first vintage purchase?
Coming from a family of creatives with a knack for thrifting, I was basically born in vintage clothing, but I do remember the first vintage purchase I made independently. It was a long white Victorian Lawn Dress, I had to hand sew it so it would fit me properly, a skill that my mother taught me as soon as my fine motor skills developed. I wore it for so many years, taking a few stitches out each time I grew. I actually still have the dress, it has been hand repaired so many times through the years, I wore it to death! Now it hangs on the wall in my bedroom, too fragile to wear but very pretty to look at.
Describe your style in three words.
Seasonless, Delicate, Layered
Who are your style icons?
My style icons have always and will always be Little New Yorkers. I used to get my best design feedback from my 5 year old students, and still take notes when I see stylish little ones out and about. I singlehandedly owe my layering skills to my 4 year old self, and thank her each and every time I get dressed.
Please tell us a little bit about Lexi, your faithful assistant. We can’t get enough of her!
I cant get enough of her either! We are literally glued at the hip, I bring her everywhere with me and she is the best shop dog a gal could ask for. She has even trained herself to sit on my excess fabric as I cut, acting as a fabric weight, she’s brilliant.
Lexi and I met in May of 2021, I was sitting at my sewing machine in my shop making a dress for myself to wear for the night of festivities planned ahead. I was actually in the midst of chatting with a customer when I glanced out the window and saw Lexi walking with her foster brother Porky, and her foster mother. She caught my eye and I caught hers as she jumped up on my window display, it was in that moment that I saw her bright yellow adopt me leash and it was game over. I politely pardoned myself from my conversation and rushed outside, literally wearing half of a dress over my existing outfit. (I try pieces on multiple times as I make them)
I basically ambushed the three of them, but Lexi and I hit it off instantly. I walked away from the interaction thinking that her foster mother must have thought I was a complete nut, but that was far from the case as we brought our little lady home the following week. Her adoption anniversary actually falls on my partner and I’s anniversary as well! This year we will be celebrating 5 years together and 1 year with our little lady Lexi.
What are your favorite places around Williamsburg?
My ideal Williamsburg day starts with a simple deli coffee, then I jet off to Stella Dallas, my go-to “treat yourself” shopping spot. My wardrobe still consists of mostly Victorian Lawn Dresses and they have racks and racks full! Then I make my way over to Catbird to ogle at all of the beautiful jewels and pick up a tin of Louis Sherry Chocolates, not only are they the best chocolates in the world, but the tins are a staple in every aspect of my life. I must have well over 15 of them at this point, they are perfect for storing little sewing notions like buttons and pins and zippers and things. Then I stroll over to Nitehawk Cinema to watch whatever my filmmaker friends tell me to see while scarfing down a burger and a spiked root beer float. Once the film is over I hop on the L and head back to Bushwick to snuggle with Lexi and eat a log of goat cheese on my couch.
Shop Liv's Edit
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
Shop Leo Black
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?
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.
Shop Jennie Kwon
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