The Creative Maximalist

I'm Kristin, an artist and jewelry designer constantly fighting the urge to veer off one creative path and into another. This is my space to unabashedly explore all the random objects and ideas that tickle my imagination. Join me?
  • An Autumn / Winter Introspection Piece

    September 30 2018

    My new necklace is so chock full of symbolism and metaphors, that I felt a blog post was necessary to really delve into its backstory. So buckle up, here we go...

    amethyst intuition necklace

    During one of my metaphysical research bouts, I stumbled upon a “color wheel of life” that opened my eyes to the connectedness of time, nature, color and human instinct. The graphic displays how the entire color spectrum evolves over the course of a year, moving from the dark blues of winter to the bright greens of spring blooms, then yellows of the summer sun and reds of autumn leaves. The colors also have corresponding emotions that seem to correlate perfectly with the months they fall in.

    color wheel of life

    It never really occurred to me how much of an inward season winter is, but after looking at the wheel, it makes complete sense. Traditionally, autumn was a time of reaping harvest, taking advantage of abundance to gather strength and store energy for the more scarce winter months.

    Leaves fall, animals hibernate, and as nature begins to draw its energy inward, we similarly tend to descend back to our roots, reconnecting with both family and ourselves. The cold weather drives so much of our lifestyle – we want to be cozy and indoors, which naturally lends itself to family and alone time.

    I found it especially interesting that on the wheel, January is the month that relates to intuition. The new year, when we’re evaluating all the things we wish we had done in the past and vow to do in the future. It’s a time when we can tend to feel like we haven’t lived up to something...perhaps a goal that’s important to us, or perhaps a standard we feel we “should” have achieved based on societal norms.

    AND THAT'S WHAT TRIGGERED MY IDEA FOR A PIECE THAT REMINDS US TO ALIGN WITH THE SEASON AND GO ON AN INWARD JOURNEY. TO REACQUAINT OURSELVES WITH...OURSELVES. TO BECOME FAMILIAR WITH OUR TRUE DESIRES.

    Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty of this piece. Autumn is referenced with the perimeter stones – deep warm tones of carnelian, pink tourmaline and garnet, which draw out strength, creativity and courage. The surface of the piece swells in this abundance and then drops into a concave receptacle that mirrors the recession of winter. The center amethyst cabochon ties to the color wheel’s violet / indigo January and the crown and third eye chakras – inner wisdom and enlightenment.

    amethyst intuition necklace

    Then we really get into it on the back. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has only one path that spirals on a meandering but purposeful journey. It’s a symbol for leaving the ego and going deep into “THAT WHICH IS WITHIN”...the center of your deepest self. The piece is hollow, and the opening invites you to look into its recesses and be curious about what’s inside.

    So, y’all think I’m totally woo-woo crazy now? Maybe I am. But maybe I’m finally getting to the good stuff… ;)

    The Amethyst Intuition Necklace is only available to order until 10/05.

    RESERVE YOUR LIMITED EDITION PIECE NOW

     

  • February Birthstone: Amethyst Meaning & History

    February 02 2018

    amethyst february birthstone meaning history

    AMETHYST HISTORY & LORE


    For centuries, amethyst has been a highly prized gemstone, commonly found in royal crown jewels and religious jewelry. They were considered equal in value to rubies, emeralds and sapphires until the 1800’s, when a large deposit was found in Brazil, making them more readily available and less “precious.”

    Its name is from the ancient Greek world “methystos”, meaning “not drunk.” Long story short, a poor girl named Amethyst was said to have been turned into a clear crystal as a result of a temper tantrum by Bacchus, the unruly wine god. Feeling guilty, he poured juice from his grapes over the stone as an offering (just what every girl wants) – giving the stone its purple hue and perpetuating the belief that it could inhibit the intoxication of all who wore it. My question is...wouldn’t preventing hangovers be the more desirable trait?

    Birthstone jewelry is a tradition that traces back to the biblical breastplate of Aaron, set with 12 gemstones that represented the 12 tribes of Israel. Amethyst was one of these stones, and has been associated with the month of February since ancient times.

    amethyst february birthstone folklore


    AMETHYST PROPERTIES

    PURIFYING
    Promotes contentment and clears the mind of negativity.

    HEALING
    Believed to relieve headaches, eye strain and skin irritations. It is thought to be particularly useful in regards to work-related stress and times of grief.

    INTUITION
    It’s association with the crown chakra is known to connect one with spiritual energy and freedom.

    amethyst birthstone history meaning


    AMETHYST USES

    MEDITATION
    Meditate with amethyst to rid yourself of stress and anxiety.

    SKIN RELIEF
    Moisten an amethyst and rub it over blemishes to help calm irritation.

    OFFICE
    Keep it on your desk to help with leadership, promote calm and work with your intuition.

    Many cultures have their own list of birthstones and legends associated with each. My fascination with historical traditions like these inspired me to make a birthstone collection of my own – available in both yellow bronze and white bronze with a choice of chain lengths. Customizable hand-engraving is also available to make these pieces extra personal. 

    You can shop my birthstone collection here.
  • December Birthstone: Turquoise Properties & History

    December 04 2017

    turquoise december birthstone meaning properties
    TURQUOISE METAPHYSICAL PROPERTIES

    For centuries, turquoise has been recognized for its powers of protection against injury and evil. It is also thought to relieve mental tension and promote communication, especially beneficial to those who work in law, government, accounting and other anxiety-inducing professions.

    The color turquoise is often associated with water, sky, and the connection of the two, imparting the therapeutic benefits of tranquility, calm, grounding and healing when used during meditation.

    TURQUOISE HISTORY

    Turquoise is one of the oldest stones in history. Beads dating back to 5000 B.C. have been found in Iraq, and Egyptian tombs that contained elaborate turquoise jewelry date back to 3000 B.C. Most notably, King Tut’s iconic burial mask was extravagantly adorned with turquoise. Ancient Persians decorated extensively with turquoise, using it to cover palace domes with its sky blue color representing heaven.

    Meanwhile, pre-Columbian Native Americans mined turquoise throughout the present-day southwestern United States. Shamans used it in sacred ceremonies to commune with the spirit of the sky. Apache Indians believed that attaching turquoise to bows improved a hunter’s accuracy. Turquoise became valuable in Native American trade, which carried North American material toward South America. Consequently, Aztecs cherished turquoise for its protective power, and used it on ceremonial masks, knives and shields.

    TURQUOISE PHYSICAL PROPERTIES

    Turquoise is found in arid regions where rainwater dissolves copper in the soil, forming colorful nodular deposits when it combines with aluminum and phosphorus. Copper contributes blue hues, while iron and chrome add a hint of green.

    Some turquoise contains pieces of host rock, called matrix, which appear as dark webs or patches in the material. This can lower the stone’s value, although the uniform “spiderweb” pattern of Southwestern turquoise is attractive.

    BIRTHSTONE HISTORY

    December is a month with many birthstone options. Turquoise, tanzanite and blue zircon are the most common modern birthstones, with blue topaz as an alternate, and zircon and lapis lazuli being the traditional options.

    The concept of associating a gemstone with each month of the year is an ancient practice, believed to trace back to the Bible with the breastplate of Aaron, a religious garment set with twelve gemstones that represented the twelve tribes of Israel. Later, writings in the 1st century linked the 12 stones in the Breastplate and the 12 signs of the zodiac. The idea was proposed that each of the gemstones had special powers associated with the corresponding astrological sign, and that wearing these stones at the right time would have therapeutic or talismanic benefits.

    The concept of each person always wearing a gemstone corresponding to the month of their birth is a modern one that scholars trace to 18th century Poland, with the arrival of Jewish gem traders to the region. Yet the modern list of birthstones was not defined until 1912, by the National Association of Jewelers in the USA.

    Information sources: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4

    december turquoise birthstone necklace

    Many cultures have their own list of birthstones and legends associated with each. My fascination with historical traditions such as this inspired me to make a birthstone collection of my own. Available in both yellow bronze and white bronze with a choice of chain lengths, I designed this necklace to be an everyday wardrobe staple, personal for each woman who wears it.

    You can shop my birthstone collection here.
  • November Birthstone: Citrine Properties & History

    November 04 2017

    citrine november birthstone
    CITRINE METAPHYSICAL PROPERTIES

    Carrying the power of the sun, citrine is warm and comforting, energizing and life giving. It clears the mind and stirs the soul to action, with its frequency awakening creativity and imagination. Natural citrine does not hold or accumulate negative energy, but rather dissipates and grounds it, transforming negative thoughts and feelings into positive ones.

    It's a stone of abundance, attracting wealth and prosperity and encouraging generosity. As a professional support stone, citrine improves productivity and is a fortifying crystal for medical personnel and healers.

    CITRINE PHYSICAL PROPERTIES

    Brazil is the largest supplier of citrine, and different geographies yield different shades of citrine.

    A key discovery in the 18th century gave citrine a boost in popularity, when mineralogists realized that amethyst and smoky quartz could be heat treated to produce lemony and golden honey hues of citrine, contributing to an abundance of affordable enhanced gems on the market. Natural citrine is now very rare.

    CITRINE HISTORY

    The name comes from the French word citron, meaning lemon, and was used to refer to yellow gems as early as 1385. However, since the gem’s color closely resembled topaz, these two November birthstones have shared a history of mistaken identities.

    From the earliest of times, citrine was called the "sun stone" and the gemstone was thought capable of holding sunlight and useful in the protection from snakebites. Its color was associated with gold and it became known as the “merchant's stone”, thought to improve communication and to attract wealth. To the Romans, it was the stone of Mercury, the messenger god, and was used for carving intaglios.

    BIRTHSTONE HISTORY

    Citrine and topaz are both modern November birthstones, however topaz and pearl were the traditional birthstones for this month.

    The concept of associating a gemstone with each month of the year is an ancient practice, believed to trace back to the Bible with the breastplate of Aaron, a religious garment set with twelve gemstones that represented the twelve tribes of Israel. Later, writings in the 1st century linked the 12 stones in the Breastplate and the 12 signs of the zodiac. The idea was proposed that each of the gemstones had special powers associated with the corresponding astrological sign, and that wearing these stones at the right time would have therapeutic or talismanic benefits.

    The concept of each person always wearing a gemstone corresponding to the month of their birth is a modern one that scholars trace to 18th century Poland, with the arrival of Jewish gem traders to the region. Yet the modern list of birthstones was not defined until 1912, by the National Association of Jewelers in the USA.

    Information sources: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4

     november citrine birthstone necklace

    Many cultures have their own list of birthstones and legends associated with each. My fascination with historical traditions such as this inspired me to make a birthstone collection of my own. Available in both yellow bronze and white bronze with a choice of chain lengths, I designed this necklace to be an everyday wardrobe staple, personal for each woman who wears it.

    You can shop my birthstone collection here.

  • Signature Collection Launch: My Jewelry Essentials

    October 26 2017

    It's finally here! My favorite pieces together at last, the jewelry essentials that will be available on the site year around (although still made in small batches).

    To get the ball rolling I gave my friend Courtney at Always Coco a preview of the new pieces. It's so fun to see how others style my jewelry, especially since Courtney and I share a similar style philosophy (simple wardrobe essentials paired with kickin' accessories...those boots in the first pic for instance). Thanks for making my pieces look beautiful, Courtney!


    signature collection launch

    YOU CAN SHOP THE SIGNATURE COLLECTION NOW!

  • Signature Collection Preview: Flex Ring

    October 18 2017

    1 Comments

    Unlike the Wave Collar that I shared yesterday, both the vision and creation of the Flex Ring came to me quickly and painlessly – a jewelry designer’s dream. Like I’ve mentioned over the past few days, I’m previewing my Signature Collection of jewelry essentials that will be released next week, and this ring is now certainly one of my essentials.

    Rings have been glaringly absent from my jewelry in the past – can you believe this is the first cast ring I’ve made? Truth be told, rings are tough when casting, because you need a mold of each size, and then have to keep inventory of multiple sizes. So I wanted to design something that could be adjusted for each individual and function somewhere between a dainty stacking ring and a cocktail ring…
    flex ring inspiration process
    This may be the only piece that I’ve literally sketched only once. I had the vision, made mockups in paper to test the dimensions (wish I had taken photos but I forgot), translated it into wax, and it was done. A unicorn of jewelry making. My pièce de ré·sis·tance, if you will.

    kristin miller flex ringIt will be available in bronze and sterling silver, with four different stone options. Remember, quantities are limited, so when you sign up for my email list in the footer you'll receive first access to the collection and a surprise gift for being special :)

  • Signature Collection Preview: Wave Collar Necklace

    October 17 2017

    Yesterday you saw the making of the Ripple / Birthstone Necklaces, and today we'll continue the preview of my Signature Collection, launching next week. These will be my jewelry essentials, versatile styles that I've been wishing I had for years.

    For a while now, I’ve had a grand vision in my head to create the perfect collar necklace. I love collar necklaces. They’re the most regal and elegant jewelry style, in my correct opinion. However, when the bulk of the necklace is metal it can be a bit heavy, and if it’s one solid piece, it can be too rigid and uncomfortable.

    SO, I wanted to make something that had visual weight and dimension, but be flexible and easy to wear. Apparently I’ve been in a water inspiration phase, and had the idea of a wave-like piece that could be repeated and flow together to create the illusion of undulating movement. Easier said than done...

    collar necklace wax carving process
    Y’all, I’m gonna be honest, this piece was a bitch and a half to make. The design itself was a bit elusive to me and I couldn’t accurately sketch it in two dimensions. I had to mock up the dimensions in paper and then went through several versions of the wax itself, spending days carving one design, then completely scrapping it and starting over.

    After landing on the right design (the final is pictured in green wax), I needed to check the symmetry to ensure the pieces would flow together correctly. I molded the ends of the final wax with silicon, filled the molds with wax, and was able to place those pieces end-to-end with the final wax to replicate how they would fit together.

    After making adjustments to the final wax, I had it molded and received duplicate waxes (pictured in aqua) from my caster. With these, I was able to assemble them as I would the final piece and check that it fit correctly. The back of the pieces is hollowed out and a chain is slipped through, making it lightweight and flexible. I also added stone settings to one wax and had that molded as well.

    handmade gold malachite collar necklace
    VOILA! I really love this necklace and am relieved it was worth the trouble. I intended it to be an easy-to-wear statement piece that can be casual or dressed up, making it versatile and Signature Collection worthy. I
    f you want first access when the collection is released, sign up for my email list in the footer...and you will be handsomely rewarded :)

  • Signature Collection Preview: Ripple Birthstone Necklace

    October 16 2017

    I’m very excited to announce the imminent release of my first Signature Collection, which will be available next week. These are the pieces that I was constantly wishing I had, until it dawned on me: “Hey, I’m a jewelry designer, why don’t I make them?” Genius, right?

    While I’m now focused on one-of-a-kind and limited edition jewelry, the Signature Collection is what I consider my wardrobe essentials and will be available year around. However, styles will still be created in small batches and stone options and details will be rotating.

    This week I’ll be previewing four of these pieces and giving you a behind the scenes look at the process of creating them. Since I released the October opal version of the Birthstone Necklace last week, we’ll start there.
    medallion necklace inspiration process

    The Birthstone Necklace / Ripple Necklace (a version without the stone) is really where my idea of a Signature Collection started. Although I’m most creatively inspired to make statement jewelry, I’ve finally accepted that I just don’t wear these pieces during an average work day. The problem is, I’m not typically drawn to what’s considered “everyday” jewelry, and I end up wearing nothing 80% of the time. And for a jewelry designer, that’s just downright sacrilege. So I set out to make something lightweight, simple and versatile, yet still with enough detail and story to make it interesting.

    Nearly every day, I was wishing I had a medallion style piece, reminiscent of the ancient Romans or Greeks. They used these types of pieces to commemorate people or events – a notion that I identify with, as my parents often gifted me jewelry for special occasions. I’d also had the idea of a water ripple bouncing around in my brain for a while, it’s an image that always strikes me. Cause and effect? Eternity? I can’t exactly put my finger on what it means to me, but it just seems magical. Once I started sketching, these ideas melded together and I knew that was it.

    Here's a clip of the wax carving process (slightly sped up, unfortunately I don't have the superpower of efficiency). As you can see, I use very fancy tools like toothbrushes, x-acto blades and dental picks. 

    Stay tuned for the next previews, and if you want first access to the limited quantities when the collection is released, sign up for my email list in the footer. (There may also be a surprise involved for my Gold Circle members :)

    handmade birthstone necklace

  • October Birthstone: Opal History & Properties

    October 12 2017

    october opal birthstone properties

    OPAL HISTORY

    The name "opal" comes from the Sanskrit word upala, meaning precious stone. During Roman times, the Latin word opalus came into use. As it possessed all the virtues of the gemstones whose colors reside within it, opal was considered by the ancient world to be the most bewitching and mysterious of gems, worn for its virtues of soothing and strengthening the sight, healing diseases of the eyes, and capable of providing great luck. In the Middle Ages, opals were set into crowns and worn in necklaces to ward off evil and to protect the eyesight and even ground and ingested for their healing properties and to ward off nightmares.

    But in 1829 a book by Sir Walter Scott transformed the opal’s lucky perception. It featured an enchanted princess who wore an opal that changed colors with her moods. A few drops of holy water extinguished the stone’s magic fire, though, and the woman soon died. People began associating opals with bad luck and within a year, opal sales in Europe fell by 50%. Despite the superstitions, opal was redeemed in the twentieth century, and is today a coveted gem.

    OPAL PHYSICAL PROPERTIES

    The opal dates back to prehistoric times. It’s a non-crystallized silica, which is a mineral found near the earth's surface in areas where ancient geothermal hot springs once existed. As the hot springs dried up, layers of the silica and water were deposited into the cracks and cavities of the bedrock, forming opal. This gemstone contains up to 30% water, so it must be protected from heat or chemicals, both of which will cause drying and may lead to cracking and loss of iridescence.

    Since opal was discovered in Australia around 1850, the country has produced 95% of the world’s supply. Opal is also mined in Mexico, Brazil, Honduras, Ethiopia, the Czech Republic and parts of the U.S., including Nevada and Idaho.

    OPAL METAPHYSICAL PROPERTIES

    In the metaphysical world, opal acts as a prism to bring a full spectrum of light energy to the system, soothing and clearing the emotional body, and boosting the will to live and the joy of one’s earthly existence. It enkindles optimism, enthusiasm and creativity, and allows for the release of inhibitions inspiring love and passion.

    Opal is known for its ability to bring one’s traits and characteristics to the surface for examination and transformation. Just as it absorbs and reflects light, opal picks up thoughts and feelings, desires and buried emotions, amplifying them and returning them to the source. While magnifying one’s negative attributes may prove to be uncomfortable, it allows for understanding how destructive these emotions can be and assists the process of letting them go.

    BIRTHSTONE HISTORY

    Opal is the considered the modern October birthstone, with tourmaline being the traditional October birthstone and a modern alternative.

    The concept of associating a gemstone with each month of the year is an ancient practice, believed to trace back to the Bible with the breastplate of Aaron, a religious garment set with twelve gemstones that represented the twelve tribes of Israel. Later, the writings of Flavius Josephus (1st century AD) linked the 12 stones in the Breastplate and the 12 signs of the zodiac. The idea was proposed that each of the gemstones had special powers associated with the corresponding astrological sign, and that wearing these stones at the right time would have therapeutic or talismanic benefits.

    The concept of each person always wearing a gemstone corresponding to the month of their birth is a modern one that scholars trace to 18th century Poland, with the arrival of Jewish gem traders to the region. Yet the modern list of birthstones was not defined until 1912, by the National Association of Jewelers in the USA.

    Information sources: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4

     

    opal birthstone necklace

    Many cultures have their own list of birthstones and legends associated with each. I find historical traditions fascinating, especially ones as long-running and evolving as the birthstone. That combined with my interest in stones and meaningful jewelry made creating a birthstone collection of my own a must-do. Available in both yellow bronze and white bronze with a choice of chain lengths, I designed this necklace to be an everyday wardrobe staple. You can shop the birthstone collection here.

  • fall fashion and beauty favorites

    October 29 2015

    The seasons are finally shifting here in Dallas and therefore so are my closet, beauty routine, music, and general mood. I thought I’d share my selection of current fall favorites from these categories, but first I must disclose a confession.

    To be honest, I’ve been feeling burnt out by the constant push, push, push of products, interiors, recipes, outfits, trends and everything else the internet so graciously bestows upon us. I’ll readily admit that the internet is a wonderous thing that has allowed me to pursue my passions and, more importantly, provided some priceless Ryan Gosling memes. But it’s also a slippery slope that can lead to comparison and envy.

    Trust me, I’m uncomfortably aware of the irony and hypocrisy of this statement, considering that I’m hawking my own products and social content as we speak. This is a constant internal struggle I have when promoting my business. But I think I’ve finally come to a resolution, which is this:

    I can’t control the quantity or quality of content that other (mostly) well-intentioned souls are releasing into the world. And I can’t be responsible for any detriment that this content (and technology in general) may be having on our society. All I can do is regulate my own internet consumption and resolve to create the most thoughtful, interesting and genuine content and jewelry that I can.

    So by all means, if you ever find that what you’re seeing from me doesn’t float your boat in the most perfect way, PLEASE unsuscribe, unfollow, unwhatever. I’m personally making moves to declutter the noise that doesn’t uplift me, and I encourage everyone else to do the same.

    I’ll wrap up my old fogey rant now and leave you with one more thing. Anything I feature on my blog is something that I’ve purchased, used, loved and believe in strongly enough to share. As I’ve previously mentioned, there’s an abundance of both amazing and crappy stuff out there right now. I’m just trying to help the non-crap float to the top.

    fall fashion beauty favorites

     

    BEAUTY

    Butter nailpolish in Queen Vic ($15): I don’t know if there’s anyone more qualified to judge the quality of a nailpolish than a jewelry designer. Yes, it’s pricier than average, but if chipping is a constant problem for you, this stuff definitely dries fast and has staying power. And I love this perfect shade of plum for fall.

    Bobbi Brown Hydrating Face Cream ($56): Dryness is my biggest skin problem, especially during cold weather. I’ve gone through a LOT of moisturizers, but this one seems to be the winner thus far. It’s the perfect amount of creaminess – doesn’t dry too fast or slow – and I have yet to see a skin flake on my nose (the telltale sign of an insufficient moisturizer).

    Nars Satin Lip Pencil in Palais Royal ($26): During cool weather, I’m partial to the occasional strong lip. However, I can’t handle the constant worrying about whether taking my last bite of food has just turned me into a psychotic clown. So I’ve given up on traditional lipsticks and now favor soft pencils that let you blend in the color and fade out the edges for a more natural stained look.

    APPAREL

    Rails Denim Button-Down ($138): This LA based company makes some super soft button-downs (everyone who hugs me says so). They also offer both traditional and longer length options – I have one of each. They’re not cheap, but a very fair price for a quality item that you’ll wear over and over.

    Madewell High Riser Skinny Jeans ($135): I don’t know how else to put it: these jeans make me feel hawt. They’re the perfect rise that’s high, but not overly so, and they fit tightly but are still comfortable.

    Madewell Overalls ($148): Boom, I went there. These might be my most trendy purchase in years. But, they’re the perfect example of being selective with trends you really like and having fun with them. The black color helps keep them from going too farmergirl, and they’re just dang cozy. Come to think of it, this entire collage is looking a little farmergirl...weird.

    Dear Frances Booties ($595): Alright, before we freak out on the price, know that I was lucky enough to score these puppies at half off. Even then, they’re probably the most expensive thing I’ve ever bought myself. But I don’t regret a single dime because I know that I'll treasure these shoes as works of art for many years. (In case you can't tell, the heel has a sliver of clear lucite). These are made by hand in a family owned Italian factory, and again, a high quality investment piece.

    JEWELRY

    Mayan Earrings: These stunners have been on heavy rotation for me already. I've surprised myself by how casually I can wear them, and they're actually quite lightweight. Coming to the online shop soon!

    TUNES

    Tame Impala: Their new album Currents has been on my Spotify pretty regularly. Perfect balance of upbeat and chill.

    Ryan Adams' 1989: One of my favorite musicians kinda blew my mind with his cover of Taylor Swift's entire album. Strange how a different version of the same song can just seem more...meaningful? Sorry Tay, I still love you.

     

     

  • brass jewelry tips

    August 24 2015

    1 Comments

    Unfortunately, there's not a lot of transparency in the jewelry industry, and customers often feel like they never know what they're getting when it comes to fashion jewelry. I don't claim to be a jewelry expert (quite yet), but I've learned a lot throughout my years as a designer. Since I create  statement pieces with bronze and brass, I'd like to share a bit about what I've learned.

    Brass jewelry tips you need to know

    1. You're probably not allergic to it. Most people with metal allergies are affected by nickel. Unless you have a known allergy to any of the elements listed in #2, you're golden! (Did you catch my clever pun there?). If you do have a nickel allergy, ear posts made out of sterling silver or gold fill are your best bets for preventing irritation. Although surgical steel is commonly thought to be hypoallergenic, it actually contains about 8-10% nickel. P.S. Do NOT under any circumstances google image search "infected piercing." Seriously.

    2. Brass and bronze aren't the same, but they're close. Brass and bronze are alloys (or mixtures of metals) containing mostly copper. However, brass also includes zinc, while bronze includes tin. Traditionally, bronze has a slightly deeper, more red tone, but there are many variations of color for each. Bronze is a harder metal than brass, but for jewelry purposes, the pricing and way they wear are very similar.

    3. Cast brass slowly develops a natural patina. Casting is the process of heating a metal until it's molten and then shooting it into a mold. Much like sterling silver, cast brass and bronze jewelry will gradually darken over time, and can be polished back to luster with a polishing cloth. Sweat and moisture are the main culprits that cause tarnish (along with lotion, perfume and swimming pools). These are my favorite jewelry polishing cloths, and I favor cleaning jewelry with soap and water rather than cleaning solutions. Keeping brass and bronze jewelry in a dry, plastic bag will also help slow down formation of patina

    4. It might turn your skin green, but that's ok. Some people green and others don't, depending on the chemical make-up of their skin. Greening is a completely harmless reaction of metal to the moisture on your skin. While it's often associated with cheap jewelry, this can occur with all price points of jewelry that use metal alloys. Coating the inside of a ring with clear nailpolish, or this jeweler's skin guard can help keep your fingers their natural shade. While I find that soap and water usually does the trick with removing greening, rubbing alcohol and eye makeup remover can also help.

    5. Stamped brass is more susceptible to fingerprinting and discoloration. Unlike cast brass, components like those pictured above are created by rolling out a flat sheet of metal and punching out a shape. Unless these types of pieces are plated or coated with a sealer, they typically show harsh discoloration and fingerprinting very quickly. If a piece is described as "raw brass," it isn't plated or coated. I haven't figured out the science of why this happens more with stamped brass, but I've seen it from experience.

    I hope these brass jewelry tips have helped a bit – I know I'm barely scratching the surface, so I plan to have more detailed posts like these in the future!

  • trust your instincts

    May 14 2015

    While creating my next collection, I've learned the hard way that it's usually best to trust your instincts. I'm not sure why, but lately I've been second-guessing my design decisions only to realize once it's already too late that my initial concept was best. Case in point, the wax pictured above was a nearly finished piece that I got cold feet over and rashly tore into with a file and no logical plan. A few short minutes later, multiple hours of work was ruined and I was left with a sad, maimed little wax. My choices were to painstakingly rebuild the damage (you can see the progress on the top right side) or start over. So from here on out, I'm trying to not over analyze things so dang much – something I should certainly apply to other aspects of my life and business!

    For those of you who are completely lost, all of my jewelry begins with these carvings that I sculpt from wax, which are then molded and cast in bronze. Good examples of how these pieces turn out can be seen in the Armor Necklace and Moonbeam Necklace. Anyone who's interested can watch this video for a behind the scenes look at wax casting and molding. Everything I do starts from a sketch, which is then three dimensionally translated into the wax carving. There's also a photo up there (that I'm not proud of) which shows what my work space situation currently looks like. Yikes.

  • squash blossom necklace

    May 07 2015

     

    squash blossom inspiration

    You probably know by now that my love for the squash blossom necklace runs deep and inspires pieces like the Naja Necklace. So naturally I was beyond excited to eventually inherit my grandmothers, which was gifted to her by my "step-grandfather" while they were living in Montana and Wyoming. (I also received several dresses she made that fit me like a glove and look like they could be hanging in a contemporary store. So special!) This storytelling aspect is partly what draws me to jewelry. It can tell so much about generations and eras of the past. Luckily my grandmother was a bit of a magpie, and looking through her jewelry with my mom has revealed bits and pieces of her life that I wouldn't have otherwise known. She was certainly a multifaceted woman – hunting and running a business alongside the men, while sewing fashionable clothes for herself and my mom.

    The squash blossom necklace is truly a piece of art, so I decided to display it as such in my home when it's not in use. This duality is what makes jewelry so powerful – it's a beautiful physical object with enduring personal meaning and it's a statement of identity that can make us feel confident and unique. I count myself lucky to have a hand in putting such a thing out into the world!

  • austin fashion week

    April 28 2015

    It was an honor and a thrill to see my Cosmic Cuffs grace the runway at this year's Austin Fashion Week alongside the new collection of Melissa Fleis (Project Runway season 3 finalist!), and also display my jewelry in their gallery of accessories designers. I used to be an avid watcher of Project Runway, and Melissa was one of my favorites (for reals), so naturally I jumped at the chance to work with her. She's mastered the art of cool-girl chic and does some amazing things with leather – her jackets are a wardrobe must-have. Melissa also paired her looks with gorgeous structural bags from Finell, a new discovery and now obsession for me. Thanks so much for the opportunity, Melissa!

    (BTW, we now have proof that I seriously can't function in front of a lens. I apologize for any awkwardness felt in the viewing of that picture – it's the only one of me at the event. Insert blushing emoji.)

  • celestial jewelry

    April 23 2015

    In this post a few months ago, I explained how the Nadua Necklace in my previous collection was named for a distant connection in my lineage – Comanche chief Quanah Parker's mother. The idea for the pendant I used in that necklace was sparked by a cross motif I kept seeing in historical Native American photos. Apparently, for Mississippian tribes the cross represented the division of order between the underworld, middleworld and upperworld. I was intrigued by the idea of one symbol having completely differing meanings from culture to culture. (There's also a swastika in Native American symbology that represents the sun, the four directions and the four seasons – crazy right?).

    The otherworldly aspect of the Native American symbol made me see it as a more of a star, so I morphed the two to create an ambiguous piece – is it a cross, is it a star? Everyone can find their own meaning. With my new collection, I let my interest in astrological imagery take the piece in a more celestial direction and created the Stardust Earrings and Stardust Necklace. I recently brought a torch into my studio, so I was able to solder my cross/stars into different compositions that resemble star clusters. Reinventing old ideas with a fresh approach helps keep things interesting in other aspects of life as well – wardrobe, cooking... If I'm growing sick of something, it helps to intentionally change it up while keeping the things I like about it.

    nadua necklace / stardust earrings / stardust necklace / vintage photo / crescent moon / constellation chart

  • day & night outfits with the valor earrings

    April 14 2015

    1 Comments

    With this collection, I've found the Valor Earrings to be super versatile from day to night. They take it up a notch from everyday studs (like the Dart or Quill), but don't go straight to funkytown (like the Circulation Earrings). My first Day & Night post is admittedly nothing cutting edge or innovative, but an accurate representation of my own everyday style. If I'm really being honest, I usually work in cut-offs and an oversized tee, sans jewelry. But when I venture out to a meeting or some such activity, I might swap out the tee for something like this lovely Cuyana silk shirt and throw on some cuffs and earrings.

    Lately I've been making an effort to analyze and be more intentional with my wardrobe, which has brought me to the realization that I'm an accessories person at heart. With clothing, I stick to basics that are interesting in silhouette or texture, then add some quirkiness with shoes, bags and jewelry. BUT...that's not to say I don't love a good fringed kimono or crazily patterned midi dress. I think I gravitate to extremes.

    silk tee / espadrilles / denim shorts / valor earrings

     

    For a night look, I still like to stay pretty relaxed. Unless I have an "event" and am really going for it, I usually pair a dress with flats or maybe some chunky mid-sized heels. Hair up, shift dress, dangly earrings – a great way to welcome warmer weather! (Like that tongue twister I threw in there?). I've also been really into mixing metallics lately...just me?

    slip-ons / shift dress / valor earrings

  • art deco influence

    April 07 2015

    As many of you know, my jewelry is often inspired by Native American and Southwestern sources, but the shapes in my both my new spring line and previous collection are also influenced by the dramatic geometry of the Art Deco era. While this streamlined, sleek design style of 1920s and 30s was derived from the Machine Age as opposed to the rough natural elements that Native American craftsmen draw from, there are actually many parallels in the graphic shapes of the two genres. I love to mix the refined elegance of one with the natural grit of the other.

    I remember being stunned in 2013 by the visual feast of Baz Luhrmann's version of The Great Gatsby. (Along with everyone else – it opened the fashion flood gates for Deco style, making it almost passé at this point. Almost. A girl likes what a girl likes, right?). I find the Art Deco movement so intriguing for its ability to penetrate every aspect of life during that era. Architecture, fashion, graphic design, interior decor, industrial design, automobiles...it left it's mark on everything.

    Including jewelry – the house of Cartier reigned supreme during that time. Vintage Cartier jewelry has always resonated with me from a design standpoint – long before a career in jewelry was even a blip on my radar. The book full of Cartier treasures pictured above is a constant source of inspiration that I reference for ideas regarding silhouette and structure. Their pieces are the pinnacle of modern elegance, while also borrowing from a variety of ancient civilizations and cultures – Egyptian, Middle Eastern, and Asian characteristics can all be seen throughout their work. The Egyptian vibe tends to come through in my own designs, especially pieces like the Armor Necklace.

    dries van noten pattern / deco living / great gatsby / flapper dress

  • eleven

    January 08 2015

    I've mentioned by now that my jewelry is influenced by Native American style, but I haven't explained that I have a personal connection to the culture as well. Growing up, people were always trying to guess my ethnicity (I was in the sun a lot, so my olive skin was fairly dark then). Coming from two completely Caucasian-looking parents – my dad has reddish hair – I was always delighted by their exotic assumptions. And then came the less exotic and significantly more boring truth..."Well, um, not exactly sure, it's pretty varied, but I think mostly Scottish and somewhere Scandinavian?"

    BUT. I had one intriguing nugget to throw out at said guesser's disappointed reaction. "I'm related to a famous Comanche chief. On my mom's side." Boom. Although I knew this was one of those distant relation, everyone can claim they are somehow 1/16 Native American things, I was pretty proud of the fact.

    So I'd had this little feather in my cap (purely coincidental metaphor) for my entire life, and walked around sincerely believing that my "foreign" looks were attributed this lineage. Then as I grew older and wiser, I became interested in my family history and started asking more questions about this mysterious Comanche chief. "Well..." said my mom, "I actually found out that we aren't technically related to him. Our blood relative was his Caucasion mother's sister." Fantasy shattered.

    However, the story is still very interesting. The chief I've been speaking of is Quanah Parker, well known for being a fierce warrior and defender of Native American interests, who ultimately saw the dismal writing on the wall for their race and acted as a diplomat for peace relations with the US government. His mother, Cynthia Parker, was kidnapped at a young age by the Comanches, but grew up with them and became part of the tribe, even marrying the chief (who never took another wife as a testament to his affection for her.) When Quanah was still a young boy, Cynthia was recaptured by the Texas Rangers. Despite begging to be returned and making several escape attempts, she was detained and, brokenhearted, became ill from self-starvation and died. Pretty tragic stuff.

    Although my relatives are the descendants of Cynthia Parker's sister, and technically have no Native American affiliation, I still feel a certain kinship to the story and Native American philosophies. Their spirituality and respect for nature is definitely inspiring. So as an homage to Cynthia Parker, I named the Nadua necklace after her given Comanche name, meaning "someone found." That's her in the top picture (nursing covers not yet invented).

    desert collage / cynthia parker / necklace inspiration

  • nine

    November 10 2014

    3 Comments

    Native American jewelry is a major source of inspiration for me. I remember being young and eyeing my mom's squash blossom necklace with envy (although she was generous enough to let me borrow it as I got older). I find the mix of geometric shapes and earthy materials really appealing. Talk about layering to perfection – those adorable girls in the photo got it down. 

    As you can probably tell, the Naja necklace was based on a traditional squash blossom. "Naja" is the Navajo name for the inverted crescent shape, which has been used throughout history as a symbol for fertility and protection. The term "squash blossom" refers to the spacer beads with flowering ends that you see on customary necklaces (which I have modified on my version). This flower is actually believed not to represent a squash blossom, but a pomegranate, which was a symbol for Granada, Spain, and worn by Spanish men. The motif was adopted by Mexicans who came to the Southwest, and then seen and adopted again by the Navajo. 

    Navajo girls / horse print / all other images by me 

  • seven

    October 29 2014

    1 Comments

    Halloween seemed to totally sneak up on me this year. I think it has something to do with the weather  it's interesting how much that affects the mood of a holiday. While we've had a few cool days here and there, it's been a pretty warm fall in Dallas. And for some reason that's just not conducive to spookiness. Living in Florida was the absolute worst when it came to Halloween and Christmas. Something about a balmy temperature of 80 degrees accompanied by 85% humidity just doesn't scream "deck the halls." So Dallas is definitely an improvement.

    Usually I've been plotting my costume for months by now...which probably clues you in to the fact that I'm a big Halloween fan. (It's second only to Christmas. In my humble opinion). Planning came down to the wire this year though. In lieu of my usual homemade masterpiece, I went to the dark side and purchased something. I may have actually gone to the darkest side. It might involve something "sexy". But don't worry, it's going to be a tongue in cheek, isn't this silly type of thing. It's something so absurd (yet still legitimately being marketed as a "sexy costume"), that no one in any world could possibly buy it in a non-ironic way. People will totally get that...right? I'm a little nervous, truth be told.  

    So anyways, in an effort to get more in the spirit, here's a little Halloween inspired montage – strange yet beautiful, just how I like it.

    dried leaves and cobwebs / zuhair murad fall 2013 / quill bracelet / smoke / palm reading

  • six

    October 27 2014

    1 Comments

    While I eventually plan to do a more detailed blog post explaining the casting process, I wanted to do a quick preview first. I know for most people the word "casting" is pretty hazy. Whenever I go into particulars with someone, I'm faced with a glazed look accompanied by murmured "hmm's" and "uh-huh's" that don't exactly encourage me to delve deeply into the subject.

    It's pretty technical and there are many steps, but the skinny is as follows: your original piece is molded; the mold is used to repeatedly shoot production waxes (the pink pieces above); multiple production waxes are attached together to form a "tree" and put into a vial. There are a few more stages after this, but ultimately the vial is filled with your choice of metal and you are left with a metal tree that looks exactly as your wax tree did. The pieces are then cut off and polished, and you have your final creations. The instance above is a new cuff that will be available next year.

    I know all the steps are far from being illustrated here, but when handmade products are concerned it's helpful to have at least a vague understanding of where they are coming from and how they are being produced. Thanks for humoring me!

  • five

    October 23 2014

    Is there anything more nostalgic than a charm bracelet? I thought mine would be perfect to feature for my inaugural "throwback Thursday" blog series, in which I will feature pieces from my personal jewelry collection and the stories behind them. After all, isn't that what draws us to jewelry? It has a special power to elicit memories of a particular time period, place or person that I think can only be rivaled by music. I vividly remember going through my mom's jewelry box as a child – carefully inspecting every piece, asking how she acquired it, hearing the stories about her mother and grandmother who had passed their treasures down to her. Jewelry is a link between generations, and it's that quality that drives my passion for creating it.

    One particular piece that I gawked over during said jewelry box sessions was a charm bracelet packed full of the most intricately beautiful antique heart charms. I marveled at the fact that they were all hearts, but each so uniquely different. I believe it had been my great-grandmother's (correct me if I'm wrong, Mom). I think it was the degree of my infatuation with this bracelet that encouraged my mom to start the tradition for me, in which a charm would be given every Christmas and to commemorate special occasions. It was a practice that continued long after I grew out of wearing it, and I'm so glad it did, because it's a pretty interesting record of my phases and interests. Those who know me might be amused by certain past activities – cheerleading? soccer? sorority? Who knew.

    Can we also take a moment to appreciate how gifted my orthodontist was? Thanks, Dr. Brady.

  • three

    September 22 2014

    1 Comments

    I mention briefly on its shop page that the Kahlo Necklace is loosely based on a piece that Frida Kahlo wore in many of her portraits, which I wanted to elaborate on here. Citing Frida as a source of inspiration is almost cliche now, but unfortunately there are relatively few historical female painters to reference. And it's hard not to love her vibrancy and unapologetically self-reflective style.

    Being from Texas, I've always been drawn to Mexican culture and the amazing artisans and craftsmanship that they are known for. My mom grew up in Corpus Cristi (very close to the border), where much of her side of the family still lives. My aunt and uncle have a ranch there filled with many beautiful Mexican treasures, and they have been kind enough to send us pieces of the traditional blue and white pottery for the past few Christmases.

    We took a recent trip to San Miguel with good friends, and I'm not gonna lie, returning to our relatively bland neighborhood left us feeling...blah. It was so refreshing to be in creative, colorful surroundings – architecture, textiles, ceramics, metalworking. But that's what I love about traveling – that awakening of the senses is priceless. I'm already planning our travel schedule for the next year, any recommendations are appreciated!

    Frida Kahlo photograph / Frida print / all other images by me

  • two

    September 09 2014

    I'd like sharing the story behind my jewelry and business to be one of the main focuses of my blog. It's a profession that's foreign to most people (sometimes I feel like even my closest friends and family have no idea what I actually do all day), and I always enjoy learning behind the scenes information about other people's mysterious jobs. In my case, I'm involved in every aspect of the business and it seems like I'm actually doing 10 jobs at once: design, prototyping, assembly, graphic design, accounting, marketing...the list never ends!   

    Here's the way my design process started for this particular collection. Because I ordered custom cut stones for the first time, I needed to draw an inventory of my potential components as a way to organize my thoughts and decide on the size, shape and material of my stones. It's interesting to look back on this and see how much ended up changing during the process – many of the stones I ultimately used are different than these. This was particularly helpful as a way to visualize color and think about all of the possible combinations (especially when dealing with pieces that I don't actually have on hand.) I then drew very loose sketches to play around with shape and proportion, with most of my final designs morphing out of initial inspirations. Keep an eye out for more details in posts to come. 

    all images by me

  • one

    September 02 2014

    1 Comments

    For those of you who were following me at Sensibly Selfish (long, long ago), thanks for hanging in there. And for those of you who don't know me yet, thanks for visiting. I'm Kristin Miller, and while I've been designing jewelry for several years now, I've just relaunched my brand and website. It's been a lengthy, difficult process, so I'm very excited to introduce this collection that incorporates the new techniques and production methods that I've been honing over the past months – especially wax carving, which I've truly fallen in love with. I'll be going through the specifics in much more detail eventually, but to learn more now, check out the about page.

    I was surprised by how much I've missed blogging; this new-age, weirdly public type of journaling. As a former diary keeper, blogging has re-introduced me to the practice of writing out my thoughts and doodling as a creative outlet that doesn't come with (much) pressure attached. So check in every once in awhile to see my inspirations, processes, ramblings, dogs...pretty much whatever strikes my fancy. 

    You can also follow along on the adventure through instagram and facebook (which will include special deals and one-of-a-kind sales). Excuse the shameless social media plug. So I look forward to getting to know you, and vice versa. 

    fabric sample / all other images by me

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