Monday, September 17, 2007

shoppingsmycardio interview: jennifer tuton

i have been so excited to talk about this designer...i've literally been making myself a little giddy with anticipation. jennifer tuton designs absolutely amazing jewelry, right here in my hometown of san francisco. she has such impeccable taste when it comes to her designs, i couldn't wait to pick her brain!

SMC: How did you get started designing jewelry? Tell us your story!

JT: After college I worked in an advertising agency. By the time three years passed, I realized I could no longer fight the urge to be more creative in my career. I gave my letter of resignation. What seemed like the biggest decision in my life (at the time), led me to a series of part time jobs. One of which was hand painting on barrettes (using toothpicks!). I called them ‘Jenniclips,’ and there my business was born. I designed every hair clip imaginable—sparkly bobby pins, hand painted barrettes, crystal wrapped clips and ornate ponytail holders. As my business began to unfold, I kept asking “what else can I make?” and that led me into jewelry making. At that time, I moved from Boston to San Francisco (1998) and my jewelry line really started to evolve and take shape. Soon thereafter I’d made a Crystal Cluster Ring that was featured in In Style Magazine. To this moment my business is constantly shifting and changing and unraveling...what will it be next?

SMC: I love the fact that your pieces are so unique – you aren’t afraid to play around with color and shape, which makes your designs really stand out. Can you talk a little bit about your design philosophy?

JT: I have always had a passion for color, every since I was a kid. I played a lot with watercolors and painted the most amazing trees! Reds and browns and greens and yellow! There were no rules! In my own work today, I create from the same type of chaos. I have all these supplies in front of me: beads, wire, tools, pens, sketches, and then I begin putting the parts together. What would this look like? Gems next to gems, different shades and shapes, jumbled or neat, asymmetrical or balanced…this evokes a feeling or nostalgia...and then VOILA! CREATION!

SMC: I’d love to hear about your creative process when you actually sit down to design a piece. Do you just start playing with stones, or do you get a mental picture of a piece before you even begin? Are most of your pieces filling a hole you see in the collection, or is it more a question of a design just sticking in your head and begging to be made?

JT: Sometimes I sit down and know exactly what “look” I’d like to create. In that moment I have a vision or an idea of what I’d like the piece to look like—and I make it quickly and effortlessly. Mostly I sit at my desk, surrounded by my gems and tools and wire, and in the silence I begin playing: placing beads next to beads and it’s almost like I’m in a trance. Anything is possible in that moment...and some of my most admired pieces emerge from that space. Ultimately, there is no form or structure of how the creative process takes place for me. It’s ever new and ever changing, and usually starts with a question, like “What would I like to create today?”

SMC: What piece from your collection is your favorite (we know you have one!)? And what one piece would you say is a “must have” for someone new to your designs?

JT: One of my favorites are my Gemstone Branch Earrings. They are quirky, intricate and organic—they take some time to actually make them—while still being very chic, unique and sparkly. I love sparkly. What woman doesn’t? As much as I love being up with the trends, I like that these particular earrings are timeless, which allows them to be “in style” every season.

SMC: Where do you find inspiration?

JT: Designers like Missoni that work a color palette like none other, that’s where a lot of my inspiration comes from. I love seeing what the big designers are creating. With that being said, I can also look at a country-side and it evokes something in me that ignites an idea. I was driving to Reno (of all places!) last November, and when I was going through Tahoe I couldn’t help but notice the incredible mass of trees, like stalks of asparagus tightly packaged, with pointy tops. I was bombarded by the hues of mocha, and emerald, hints of garnet and yellow. It’s all right there in front of us.

SMC: What jewelry are you wearing today?

JT: I have been really into “layering,” and can’t seem to get away from wearing more than one necklace. I keep it simple with a dainty gold necklace and then layer it with a longer one either with shimmery discs, or a locket, or one with gemstones that add a flicker of color. I love the subtlety of sparkle or color or design that pulls people in, and makes them wonder “What is she wearing? I want that!”

SMC: How would you describe your personal style? Tell us about your favorite, no-fail outfit.

JT: Like most women, I am drawn to beautiful shoes, great-fitting jeans, and a simple top. I always like to have one piece of my outfit STAND OUT from the rest. Whether it’s a top with a ruffle, or a gold sandal, or a great handbag or belt. If my clothing is the canvas, then my jewelry is the paint, bumping it up a notch. I’m into simple and chic.

SMC: What one style secret do you wish you could teach every woman out there?

JT: Ask YOUR BODY what IT wishes to wear, don’t just wear what everyone else is wearing. When I go into a store before I buy something I ask “Body, would you like to wear this? Would it feel good on your skin? Does it make you happy?” My personal style is conveyed when I feel comfortable in my own skin, that’s when I’m walking confidently and strutting my stuff. When I wear clothes and accessories that are personal favorites, it makes me smile and pleases my spirit, which is always, in my point of view, “in style.”

see? i told you she was fabulous! i was first introduced to her designs when i came across that gorgeous turquoise necklace i teased you all with over the weekend (which, by the way, you can find here). i'm still coveting it desperately, and i think i'll be adding it to my jewelry box before long. the thing i love about all of her designs is that she manages to keep her pieces really unique, while making sure they're still very wearable in a "real" woman's everyday life. that's something that is always a struggle for me: keeping my jewelry interesting and fashion-forward, without it being too trendy or over-the-top. but jennifer's pieces are always a safe bet - they have the perfect amount of "wow" factor.

some of my favorites are pictured throughout this post: i absolutely love the multi-disc necklace ($165), which is impossibly versatile. the waterfall gem necklace ($170) is just the perfect thing to make any ensemble suddenly fabulous, especially on a day when you feel like your outfit just isn't "popping" the way the you want it to. the 24K gold leaf charm necklace ($130) would be a fabulous "everyday" necklace - i'm pretty sure if i owned it, i'd never take it off. the aquamarine linked necklace ($170) is the ideal modern version of a strand of pearls - picture it with a classic white shirt and slacks, or a gorgeous little black dress! and i want a handful of her stunning stacking rings!

do your jewelry box a favor, and take a few minutes to drool over the goods on her website. if you find something (or several somethings) you can't live without, email jennifer at, let her know what struck your fancy, and she'll be more than glad to send it right out to you! also, tobi has a few pieces that aren't on jennifer's website (including that gorgeous turquoise necklace i adore, as well as a red quartz necklace that's just amazing), so you can check her work out there as well!

(PS...a great big thanks to jennifer for taking the time to tell all of the shoppingsmycardio readers about her gorgeous designs!)