Meet Our Stylists
Overall my style is very laid back, but I go all out with my jewelry! I am usually wearing a mix of vintage and new jewelry.
YOUR JEWELRY UNIFORM
Always earrings, a necklace I made with my mom's and my name written in Mongolian, and a ton of rings!
So many to choose from! My top two favorite ring pairings are my stacks with the Marrakech Ring, Pas De Deux, Beacen Ring Mother of Pearl, and Three Step Triangle Ring, and my stack with the Famous Letter Ring, Demi Circlet Band, Braided Ring and the Secret Garden Ring.
TOP OF THE WISHLIST
Snow Queen Ring in yellow gold
I love mixing metals! Most of my jewelry is made in yellow gold but I love mixing a little silver and rose gold in there for a little contrast.
Colorful & out there - a mix of Catbird and vintage pieces.
YOUR JEWELRY UNIFORM
So. many. stacking rings. Top knuckle rings are a must!
Twisted Stacker ring with anything: Grand Mignon, Threadbare, and Classic Hammered rings.
TOP OF THE WISHLIST
Painter's Ring, Aquamarine Choker and Bracelet.
Fasten your necklaces a couple of inches in between when you layer them, like the 1976 Choker, then the Greco Lariat, then a longer one like the Adjustable Sweet Nothing Chain. This can help with tangling!
Vintage and colorful.
YOUR JEWELRY UNIFORM
8+ stacking rings and Grand Cygnet ring, earrings (bigger the better) and two chokers.
Chained to My Heart Earrings + Diamond Greco Earrings.
TOP OF THE WISHLIST
Baby Deco Emerald ring, Angel hair Necklace, Baby Grand Mineral Hoops.
Always add texture to your stacks to create a more unique look + add weight (charms/pendants) to your necklaces to avoid tangling.
My style is classic, colorful, fun and durable (I almost never take my jewelry off!)
YOUR JEWELRY UNIFORM
My Sparkler Earrings with a Scoop of Turquoise Stud, Tinsel Chain with The Met Souvenir and 18th Century Bow charms, and my three welded Forever Bracelets twinkling together.
I love my Little Disco Ring between two Classic Hammered Rings and my Twisted Stacker on top of my Tomboy is my newest ring combo.
TOP OF THE WISHLIST
The Leo Black Snake Hair Pin and the Cassi Namoda Red Moon Necklace.
We love mixing a white gold bracelet into our yellow gold welded bracelet stacks in Soho, it adds such a fun extra sparkle to your wrist!
Second hand everything.
YOUR JEWELRY UNIFORM
A flowy dress, my Sweet Nothing Adjustable Chain with my Letter Cutie Charm (engraved with a J for my beau), my Tomboy First Knuckle Ring (I always feel so naked without it), I like to wear dangly earrings in my second and third piercings because they stand out with a mask! I like my Hoop Dream with my Tiniest Key Charm and a Chime earring for fun.
Lately in my first piercing I’ve been wearing a Full Heart Charm on a Big Hoop Dream in each ear and it’s so so fun.
TOP OF THE WISHLIST
Diamond Fizz Ring, Sparkler!!! I just can’t decide where to wear it! Or a Snow Queen Hoop!
I like to mix some clasp bracelets with charms on the same wrist as forever bracelets! I’ve been wearing my met souvenir charm and a mermaid treasure on a clasped tinsel bracelet and I love how it looks layered with my forever sweet nothing & 1976 bracelet!
Catbird Spotlight: Cece Jewellery
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
Three Looks - Morgan
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 Spotlight: Kurandza
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 :)
Learn more about Kurandza's 2020 impact
Shop our collection with Cassi Namoda
Photo Journal: Anthony + Austin
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
Catbird Spotlight: Chelsea Mak
"Like if Norma Kamali skipped cotillion to go to a punk show and then met her godfather for dim sum the next morning before reporting for work in her 80s power suit," is how LA based designer Chelsea Mak describes her eponymous clothing line. How does she wear her own work? "The more unexpected the combination the better...with good jewelry, like all my Catbird pieces!"
effortless dress is a balancing act inspired by Chelsea’s childhood
I was born and raised in LA but spent a large part of my childhood in Hong Kong and Taiwan where my parents are from, living in Hong Kong from ages 2 to 6 and then visiting every summer thereafter.
Being connected to both LA and Hong Kong definitely made such impressions on my style. From LA it was the laid-back casual way of dressing, I learned from early on that even if you spent hours putting an outfit together it should come across like it took you seconds. From Hong Kong it was the opposite — flip flops and jeans might be considered sloppy so it was a balancing act to exist in both worlds which has translated through my designs — a balancing act between old and new world, high and low brow, east and west.
dressing for this newest spring we’ve been waiting for
I’m really into the idea of using the Vienna Blouse as a light jacket over everything and the more unexpected the combination the better. I have a floor length muslin slip dress I’d like to wear over it as well as a vintage Norma Kamali piece that’s a white cotton onesie; over jeans and nude bodysuit would be cool too. All with good jewelry, like all my Catbird pieces!
what you can’t stop imagining is worth the pursuit.
Striking out on my own felt a lot like jumping off a cliff unplanned for. At the time I was working for a brand I believed in, a boss I looked up to and co-workers I loved also but I could not stop thinking about what the main label of the brand would look like if I started one. There were so many huge unknowns but I knew that I wouldn’t have been happy if I stayed where I was so I took the plunge. It was very scary for the first few months but also very exciting.
The Vienna, Amalia and Gallery blouses are the core pieces in the line so designing a new collection will always feel a bit like building out a wardrobe around those three pieces. Since they are all quite feminine and bold and in the classic silk white taffeta, I like the other pieces to be more masculine, unassuming and offbeat.
A large part of the collection is made from deadstock silks found at the fabric market in Shanghai so those qualities very much dictate how each collection will look. I also find a lot of inspiration in old movies, books, and bands so each of my collections will usually reflect how I was feeling during that moment in time.
How Our Team Wears Chelsea Mak & Catbird
"I want women wearing Chelsea Mak to command a type of attention that you wouldn’t get from other brands, it’s more about feeling smart and interesting than sexy and showy.Women who wear Chelsea Mak are creative, well-read and in the know and that’s a lot of us!"
Airina wears the Gallery Blouse with a Dollhouse Locket slung on a Tinsel Chain paired with a Sweet Nothing Choker and a Snow Queen Ear Climber.
Mariela wears the Amalia Blouse with the Baby Pearl Supreme Hoops.
Necklaces: Magic Moonstone Collar, Silver Sweet Nothing Choker and the Sleeping Beauty Necklace in White Gold.
Tatiana wears the Jaffe Top with a slew of Catbird Classics.
Earrings: Snow Queen Hoop, Heart Stud, Little Secret
Necklaces: Gumball Pearl Charm, 18th Century Bow Charm, Anemone Charm on a Sweet Nothing Choker.
Chelsea's Shopping Edit
Designer Spotlight: Elisa Solomon
We first met Elisa so many years ago that I have forgotten how many years ago it was. Her Ancienne Ring was one of the first really fancy pieces we carried; we've always loved how her work was tactile and really had the maker's hand in it. Me and Rony both wear Elisa signet rings on our pinkies, and I love that the new Puffy charms Elisa made for us also have the dimension, joy, and sheer beauty that we know and love from Elisa's jewelry!
What is your first jewelry memory?
My first memory is with my mom. She loves jewelry and has always worn a unique mix of handmade, cool, fine designer jewelry. I also remember that I loved wearing her rings as a child (the ones that were her's as a little girl).
What does jewelry mean to you?
Jewelry is like a precious time capsule. Life is filled with moments that we hold dear. It is special to be able to honor those moments with a jewel. The jewel will always bring you back to a magnificent time in life.
What originally sparked your interest in jewelry design? And where did you learn the craft?
I am an artist. I loved drawing and painting and the idea of making something wearable when I was in elementary and high school. When it came down to it, I wasn't interested in clothing because I wanted to work with something that had more longevity. Fabric can wear out, bodies can change, trends can be fleeting. I wanted to make something timeless. When I started art school at the University of Michigan, by the first semester I knew my major would be Jewelry and Metalsmithing. I'm very proud of my formal training and also the things I taught myself after college like wax carving.
What piece do you most enjoy making?
I love all the Catbird exclusive pieces! I would say I love making the Viola's Treasure Signet Ring. I've made many and it's fun that we now offer a mini (the Henrietta) and a large (the Isabel) signet, too! It kicked off a really sweet, meaningful, classic grouping.
What are your favorite stones to work with?
Since I started my collection, I've loved working with Brazilian paraiba tourmaline. The electric blue hue is amazing. It has a psychedelic quality. I also love alexandrite because it changes hues based on light! The variety of blue to green to grey is unique
The Puffy Heart and Puffy Letter pieces are so special - can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration and process behind these designs?
I feel that my charms are special because I hand carve every piece in the collection. The letters have a roughness and a handmade quality that's special. The charms are inspired by my kids. People are looking for ways to carry loved ones close to their hearts and the charms are perfect for this purpose.
Your pieces are often centered around initials and meaningful letters; do you think of your work as heirlooms?
Yes, absolutely. It's always been important to me to work in precious materials so there is longevity in my collection. I also try to incorporate shapes and symbols that are universal and would appeal to a variety of ages and personalities while still sticking to my vision.
In my own life, my mom and I have already started a jewelry box for my daughter. It is such a beautiful thing passing a jewel down to a loved one. It makes me tear up even thinking about it! The thought that a matriarch can wear something, then her daughter, then her daughter, then her daughter, and on and on...it's absolutely amazing. What could be more magical? The fact that I've made the pieces in Layla's jewel box just brings a whole other level of excitement for me.
Shop Elisa Solomon
Designer Q&A : WHITE/SPACE
White/Space is a collection to be worn and loved! Created by Khadijah Fulton, a Los Angeles based designer and graduate of Parsons, who spent a decade as a fashion designer, before becoming a mother and moving into jewelry. White/Space pursues sophistication in the unexpected, with aesthetic influences hailing from mid-century architecture and ancient goldsmithing to minimalist art and sculpture. Khadijah sat down with us to tell us a bit about everything - from her design background to her grandmother's jewelry!
Your education and early career is rooted in fashion design. Tell us about your transition to jewelry!
When I was working in fashion, jewelry was always a personal passion of mine, whether I was shopping for vintage pieces on the weekends (or on inspiration trips for work) or actually creating jewelry with beads and findings in my spare time, which I started to do later on in my fashion career. I really started learning bench techniques, goldsmithing and stone setting when I was about 1 year into stay-at-home motherhood. It was the first time in my life that I wasn't devoting most of my time to a creative calling, and I began taking night classes and weekend workshops in jewelry fabrication to get back to that part of myself.
Is your approach to fashion design reflected in your approach to jewelry design?
Yes and no. When I was working in fashion I always designed for large companies, so there was a clear brand vision, aesthetic and pricepoint that I was designing for. Having my own brand, I have had to define that myself over time, and functioning as a small brand doesn't work the same way as working as part of a corporate enterprise with in-built teams in place!
But what has always been a constant is my desire to design pieces that are not only beautiful, but also very realistic for incorporating into every day looks. I love giving women the opportunity to feel special all the time, not just for "special" occasions, and in my fashion career I worked for brands that create real clothes for real life (and real bodies!) as well.
Where do you look for inspiration when designing?
So many places! I always love the philosphies and aesthetics in mid-century modernist architecture and design. I also am very drawn to the simplicity and directness of the shapes found in African sculpture and goldsmithing. But when I'm actually working in my sketchbook or at the bench (sometimes I just love how materials come together, and that can spark an idea) I'm also always thinking about how to bring joy and delight to a woman when she catches herself in a mirror, or happens to look at her hand during the day. I go for the things that bring delight to me, and hope that will also happen for other women who wear my jewelry.
What is your favorite piece to make?
Oh gosh! Don't make me choose a favorite baby, haha! There are different aspects I love about making all of them, but the most fun thing is the end, when it all comes together. Whether it's a simple stud earring or a more complex style, seeing my initial vision come to life is incredibly gratifying.
The Double Baroque Pearl Necklace is such a special piece. Could you tell us a bit about the inspiration and process behind this design?
This is one of those pieces that is really inspired by the materials. I love baroque pearls in general because they remind me of the beauty of imperfection. The wabi-sabi way of looking at things is something that really resonates with me, in its embrace of natural imperfection and constant change, but personally I've always struggled with perfectionism.
The Double Baroque Necklace is like a 'double down' on the beauty of imperfection! Each pearl is one of a kind, has taken its own path to forming, has grown into its own individual shape, and each one is beautiful and imperfect in its own right. When you wear it, it has a wonderful weight and presence, it feels good in your hand and is a great converstion piece, on its own or layered.
I read that your love for jewelry was partly inspired by your grandmother! Could you tell us about some of the pieces you remember her wearing?
My grandmother was very charming, engaging and elegant, and she loved collecting eye-catching necklaces with large beads, fun chunky bangles and cocktail rings with juicy gemstones. She had a few precious pieces, but most of it was really great constume jewelry. The thing I remember most is her style, and how important it was for her to finish off her look with a beautiful piece of jewelry.
She had a jewelry armoire that was as tall as I was as a young girl, and each drawer held different treasures. I remember her getting ready for work, church, or for a friend coming over to visit, and sometimes she would let me go into that jewelry box and pull out which pieces she wanted to wear that day. She never wore a lot of makeup, just red lipstick, a touch of rouge, and a spritz of her favorite fragrance (the legendary Samsara by Guerlain) but she always chose her jewelry with love and joy, and her polished style left an impression on everyone she met.
What advice do you have for aspiring jewelers?
Learn as much as you can about the fabrication and fundamentals of jewelry construction. Whether you want to focus on design, or actually be at the bench constructing jewelry, the more you know firsthand about how to execute your ideas, the better - and that includes education in CAD rendering as well as IRL bench contruction because the two go hand in hand.
On the production side, the industry can be very opaque, and there is so much that goes into making a piece of jewelry, that the more you actually know about the work that's involved, the better you'll be able to protect yourself from vendors trying to give you the runaround or take advantage. Be patient. Making and designing jewelry requires skills that are honed over time, whether you're doing it yourself or someone is doing it for you - it takes time to learn, grow in skill level and find partners you can trust. And lastly, watch your money. Whether it's a hobby or career aspiration, jewelry is one of those passions that can be expensive!
What do you hope customers feel when they look at and wear your pieces?
When they look at them, I hope they feel a sense of serenity and optimism, inspired by the beauty of simplicity. When they wear White/Space I hope they feel like their inner Elegant Badass is shining through, even if it's in a subtle way.
Catbird Spotlight: Borah
Meet Borah, she is part of our small and mighty and wildly creative in-house design team. A trained architect turned jeweler with over a decade in the business, she shares her full circle Catbird moment, places of inspiration, and a hint (!) at something the design team has been working on, coming soon - we promise!
How long have you worked at Catbird?
Coming up on two years in May!
I grew up in Westchester but have lived in Brooklyn for the past 15 years
What neighborhood do you live in?
What originally got you interested in jewelry?
When I was little I LOVED going into my mom’s jewelry box and looking at all the pieces she collected over her lifetime. Each piece had a story like a small artifact from that moment in her life. I fell in love with the idea that a charm could bring back memories of childhood or an old love. It’s still my favorite thing about what I do, it’s like creating tokens for future memories.
When you are at the jeweler's bench, which piece is your favorite to make?
I feel like I should say one of our more sparkly pieces like the Snow Queen Ring or the Unicorn Horseshoe but I really love making Threadbares! There’s something so meditative about the soldering and hammering. Each one carries the imprint of its maker and when I worked in the store, I loved seeing the way our customers wore them : one on every finger, a stack of 20, the most delicate wedding band… They’re also one of the first pieces our jewelers learn to make which is really special!
What piece are you excited about right now?
It’s an oldie but I’m ALWAYS excited about the Greco Lariat. It looks amazing on everyone and looks great both layered and on its own. And I’m extremely excited about an upcoming collaboration we’re working on with an extraordinary artist!
Where do you look for design inspiration?
New York City is always serving up inspiration. I am a subway ride away from some of the best museums in the world -The Met, MoMA, The Noguchi Museum, The Photo Archives at The New York Public Library. It is the setting of some of my favorite movies from the 70s through the 90s. I’m inspired by the things that stand here and feel like they will be fixed forever and by those that pass through--the rain running down your face while you do a midnight run to the bodega.
What is your favorite material to work with?
I love a good glowy moonstone.
What's your favorite part of the design process?
I love the moments right after we’ve gotten a new project or a design briefing. It feels boundless. It’s like word association but with jewelry…this kind of stream of consciousness designing where most of it makes absolutely no sense but some of it could *possibly* be something worth exploring further. It’s always interesting to see where the freedom of just throwing things out there will take you.
Describe your journey to Catbird! (Your backgrond and how you learned your craft.)
I've been making jewelry out of anything I could get my hands on for as long as I can remember (clay, candy wrappers, office supplies, you name it) but for one reason or another, it never occurred to me that it could be a career. It was like it was too much fun to be taken seriously. I wound up going to school for architecture and by my third year, was completely burnt out. My friend got me a job at a jewelry studio he was working at in the East Village because I couldn’t bear another summer internship behind a computer and it was there that I realized that making jewelry for a living was a very real possibility. I was so deliriously happy in that sweaty basement on 9th Street that I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life. I left school not too long after to start my own line however a couple years in I was questioning my decision and thinking about going back to school to finish my architecture degree when Leigh (Catbird’s co-creative director) reached out on Etsy to ask me about carrying my line in the store. I knew about Catbird (obviously…having been a jewelry obsessed person living in Brooklyn) and after texting all caps messages to every contact in my phone and having a celebratory mid morning alcoholic beverage, I took it as a sign that I was on the right path. I had my line for 6 years and have since worked in a number of jewelry studios and have held just about every position that exists. Being able to be at Catbird doing what I love, 10 years after they unknowingly gave me that boost of confidence to keep me doing that very thing is such a surreal and beautiful full circle moment.
What do you love about living and working in Brooklyn?
I’ve gone to school, worked and lived in the same neighborhood for 15 years. My first apartment in Brooklyn was in a loft across the street from the Navy Yard and years later, one of my first jewelry studios was in that same building with a couple friends that own a furniture company who are now operating out of the same building Catbird is in at the Navy Yard. There’s just something about this community that draws in and keeps creators and creatives. The support that small businesses give each other is so uplifting and it’s so motivating to be around so many people who value creative fulfillment. I honestly don't know if my path in life would've been the same had I lived anywhere else.
Best neighborhood spots near the Brooklyn Navy Yard?
Oh man, there are SO MANY good restaurants in Fort Greene…Olea, La Rina, Colonia Verde…I’m also a sucker for a dive and Alibi is one of the best (worst?).
Designer Spotlight: A.M. Thorne
Founded by Ashley Thorne and based in Washington D.C. and NYC, A.M. Thorne is a line of delicate, yet strong minimalist jewelry. Ashley's pieces are influenced by architecture, art, femininity, and light. We are so happy to carry A.M. Thorne, and really enjoyed learning more about her creative process and history with jewelry.
Read our interview with Ashley below, and prepare yourself for some moonstone & gray diamond delights! <3
Did you have a career before jewelry design, or was it the first thing you did?
Before designing jewelry, I worked in graphic design and did freelance design work. I didn’t push for a career in graphic design because it didn’t excite me and that stopped me in my tracks. I started managing an eco-friendly, mid-century home store in downtown Brooklyn and that was a great time! I developed an amazing relationship with the two female owners, and they gave me lots of encouragement to pursue my jewelry passion. It was great to get the insight on running a business even though it was very different from a jewelry one. As their business grew into refinishing mid-century furniture it was great because the store also had a workshop in the back. I got to work and also have a space to put my jewelry workbench. A lot of time was spent in that shop and it helped me perfect my craft and motivate me to dive into my business.
What originally sparked your interest in pursuing jewelry design? And where did you learn the craft?
I remember having a hard time finding simple everyday fine jewelry I wanted to wear. I had recently graduated college, so I couldn’t afford very much. As a creative outlet I began making jewelry and going into places like Metalliferous in NYC collecting materials to create pieces. One day I had a ring design and I couldn’t imagine how to make it. I was recommended by a jewelry friend to take a class at The Jewelry Arts Inc. in Midtown Manhattan. I took my first metalsmithing jewelry course there and fell madly in love. I also took wax carving at Liloveve in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. So much of what I learned was through trial and error and lots of late nights creating.
Where do you look for inspiration for your designs?
I always fall deep into a rabbit hole gazing at ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian jewelry. I particularly love looking at ancient gold jewelry for inspiration and modernizing it. When I can pair hints of detail, I love using granules, an ancient technique you will find in lots of jewelry. A big part of my inspiration also comes from the stone. I keep my jewelry very clean, classic, and minimal so that the stone can be the center of attention.
What are your favorite stones to work with and why?
I’m completely enamored by inclusions in diamonds and the adularescence of moonstone. When I started making jewelry, I wasn’t concerned with using gemstones. I wanted to be very careful about what types of stones I used. I didn’t know everything about the mining process, but I knew I wanted to use conflict-free diamonds. Once I found a source, I discovered salt + pepper diamonds which I have stuck with. No two diamonds are alike, each stone has its own characteristic that reminds us of the natural beauty found in nature. Moonstones come in a variety of hues and shades and I think many moonstones go unnoticed. I love catering to the people who love moonstones as much as I do and want something a little less common.
What does jewelry mean to you?
To me jewelry is an extension of our self-expression. Jewelry can be a symbol of love, family or simply personal style. Jewelry is here to embellish our look, make us happy or remind us of something dear to our hearts. I think of jewelry as a future artifact leaving its mark of a time for other humans to find someday.
What jewelry do you wear every day? What are your ‘uniform’ pieces?
My uniform piece right now is the Gray Diamond Necklace. I recently have layered it with the Peach Moonstone Necklace just on a longer chain. I sleep in them and they are just a part of me now. I also wear an assortment of rings, my favorite being a beautiful 1960s Peridot ring my grandmother used to wear.
If you weren’t a jeweler, what would you like to do for work, or with your time?
If I weren’t a jeweler, I would dream of being a horticulturist or flower and herb farmer. I’d want to grow fields of beautiful flowers and healing herbs for people.
What is one of your favorite pieces to make?
My favorite piece to make in the Catbird collection is the Gray Diamond Necklace. I absolutely love hand selecting stones since no two salt and pepper diamonds are alike. I never get tired of gazing into these stones and picking out ones I think have unique beauty and luster.
What is your relationship to light and color? Your work is so luminous, and your stones so intentional in palette.
My relationship to light and color has been very thoughtful. I started using salt and pepper diamonds but realized I wanted to bring in more color. I was drawn to moonstone. I can’t tell if I chose it or if it chose me. Initially I only thought about rainbow moonstone and soon discovered moonstone comes in shades of brown, grey, green, white and peach. I find them soothing and overall very grounding.
Can you tell us what New York means to you? We know you went to Pratt!
New York for me is where I became an adult. It is where I made lifelong friends and it is where I started my journey into the jewelry world. Growing up in Washington, DC I never spent much time in NYC until I did a pre-college program at Parsons. After that I knew I belonged in NYC and decided to go to Pratt Institute since it had a more intimate campus vibe. Going to school in NYC made me a shoo-in New Yorker.
How has your business changed during the pandemic?
My business has changed a lot during the pandemic. People are still getting engaged, wanting to buy gifts or treat themselves to something they will enjoy. Jewelry may not be a necessity, but it can definitely lift your spirits and bring comfort. Now more than ever it seems people are being more responsible about who and what they are supporting. As a small jewelry brand, it brings me so much gratitude that I can help bring a little wearable sparkle to the planet.
What do you hope customers feel when they look at and wear your pieces?
I hope customers feel uplifting joy and connected to the earth in some way when they look at and wear my pieces.
Do you have a dream client?
My dream client knows when to stop and feel the breeze pass by and notice her surroundings. She is creative, carefree, inquisitive and divine. My dream client is feminine, she makes everything she touches beautiful. She is slightly understated when it comes to her style, but she has her go to brands she has sought out and is loyal to. She loves chic style that is comfortable and feels confident about investing in things she can wear every day.
Shop A.M. Thorne