The Madonna Inn: A Vintage Inspired Retreat

For our tenth anniversary, my husband and I decided to take a trip to the west coast. We have a lot of friends in Los Angeles, but also I have been wanting to check out this totally crazy hotel that was recently featured on BuzzFeed called The Madonna Inn. We spent a few really fun days in LA catching up with friends and checking out the best LA spots like LACMA below (featured in an earlier post) and then rented a car (ironically we were given a pick up truck – they must have seen we were from SC!) and drove North up the Coast to the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo.

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The drive from LA is absolutely beautiful, and doing it at the end of the day watching the sun set over the mountains was especially peaceful. You can read about the full history of the Inn here, but the short version is that it was built in 1958 (possibly one of my favorite eras in design) by a highway contractor named Alex Madonna and his wife Phyllis as a retreat marking the halfway point in between Los Angeles and San Francisco. With Alex’s construction knowledge and his wife’s quirky and fanciful design sense they created a quirky, fabulous and unforgettable retreat.

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And when I say unforgettable, I mean that literally. Every single room is different – each has a different theme and its own unique features (you can see them all here). We stayed in two of the dozens of rooms (one each night) and both of them had glitter wallpaper which seemed to be a common thread in many of the room designs. There was a heavy handed use of pink – their trademark ice buckets are cotton candy pink and a bottle of their house champagne was waiting for us when we arrived.

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I am not sure if “romantic” is precisely the word I would use to describe the first room we stayed in – Carin – it was more like a spectacular pink palace or a ride at Disneyworld, in a good way. There was literally a huge gold cherub hanging from the lofted ceiling – this is the room frequently used as the bridal or honeymoon suite.
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This is the full view of the glitter wallpaper – I think this was one of the original 1950s features so the Madonnas gave the glitter wallpaper industry some big business.
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Every nook and cranny of the bathroom was consistent with the room’s theme – I especially loved the sort of damask pink and white ceramic sinks (where do you begin to source something like that?!):

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We ate at the Inn’s trademark restaurant, The Gold Rush Steak House, the exterior of which is lit with rainbow lights at night and the interior filled with winding, pink tufted leather banquettes and thick, floral pink hued carpet. They gave pink balloons to us and anyone celebrating something (which turned out to be a good portion of the restaurant) and (not pictured) was a dance floor and a live band which really made you feel as thought you had stepped back in time and had sort of a Dirty Dancing vibe (remember that mountain resort?).

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The food was all really good – classics like a baked potato wrapped in foil and filet mignon. But my absolute favorite thing was their trademark pink champagne cake, which is one of their many fabulous cakes you can buy to-go in their bakery which also caters weddings and events. I mean how amazing would it be to have the Champagne Cake as your wedding cake?

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After dinner, we had a drink in The Silver Bar Cocktail Lounge and I ordered this drink called “The Pink Cloud” which is basically how you feel when you are staying at the Madonna Inn. Oh, and it’s made with half and half… Their cocktail menu was pretty great, full of vintage favorites.

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The next morning we woke up to this pretty view from our balcony. We ventured over to the stables and took a trail ride which went up the mountain next to the inn

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Basically the whole Inn looks like a gigantic, ornate cake. It is sort of “Swiss chalet meets Boogie Nights meets The Parent Trap” in its aesthetic and time period.

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It was actually really nice to be back on a horse. I rode for years and I really miss it. The horses were all named after famous singers like Johnny (Cash) and June (Carter).

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And their pool and Spa, a more recent edition to the retreat, was the perfect place to cool off and relax after a trail ride:

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Our second room “Merry” was similar to the first room but a little bit smaller and less pink.  It was kind of like being inside of a bottle of champagne…

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I love their logo/coat of arms featured on everything from their wine to their ice bucket to their golf carts. And there were just touches of pink everywhere you looked – even the lamp posts were pink!

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But the thing I most wish I could have taken on the plane was the Champagne Cake. I will be dreaming about it until our next visit because for some reason, I don’t think I can easily recreate this at home:

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These are all my own photos, it was hard to even edit them down but I highly recommend just googling “The Madonna Inn” you will not be disappointed. Really, it was a magical step back in time – to a time and place that I didn’t even know existed! Madonna Inn loyalists, like a gentleman who joined us at the bar one night, go back again and again, staying in different rooms each time. They have their favorite cocktails and collect their signature, colored wine glasses and seemed to have been bitten by the insatiable need to experience the magic over and over again. It must be something in that champagne cake, but visiting definitely makes you want to come back for more!

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A Mad Fantasy Tea Party

This past Monday we had a spring tea party to launch our new Fantasy Garden Collection, a vintage inspired capsule collection and collaboration with New York based jewelry company Ciner. I don’t know if it is the recent release of Beauty & The Beast, spring in general, or the fanciful nature of this new collection but I have had a tea party craving for awhile now. Talented Charleston-based illustrator Daniel Velasco did our invites and we purchased teacups that doubled as party favors for all the guests and turned Candy Shop Vintage on Cannon Street into a tea room for the afternoon.

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Thanks to Ooh events, we were able to squeeze in seating for 18 people down the length of the store. We served Charleston grown tea from The Charleston Tea Plantation in three flavors – Charleston Breakfast, Peach and Earl Grey. Frampton’s Flowers provided some beautiful fresh ranunculus for us in shades of pale pink.

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Out tiered tea towers were brimming with homemade goodies from local bakeries and caterers – Hamby’s, Sugar bakeshop and scones from Wildflour:

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And one of the best details were the beautiful, hand painted unicorn macaroons from Mercantile & Mash:

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The centerpiece of our new collection, The Unicorn Fantasy Necklace:

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Our floral selfie wall was also a lot of fun:

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As were the unicorn horn party hats from Meri Meri party:

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I only slept about two hours the night before but still had a blast:

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Thanks to all who came and contributed to a magical afternoon in Charleston!

Some Bunny To Love

This weekend is Easter and this cake has been a long standing tradition in my house – both growing up and since I became an actual adult to make a coconut bunny cake. It was the first dessert I brought to the first Easter brunch we were invited to in Charleston. Even in the South amongst the stiff competition of easter puddings and the fruit trifles, this cake became a major topic of conversation. Something about it makes me and everyone who sees it just… happy. My cousins used to spend every Easter at our house and after tearing through our Easter baskets and several pounds of candy, this was the sugar high we looked forward to after Easter brunch just as we were coming down from our Peeps. I think the recipe was torn from some early 80s magazine and though I now have it memorized, I remember the way it was stapled to an index card in my Mom’s recipe box, We were fiercely loyal to the bunny cake – not so much for its flavor (although it is pretty good) but for its look, its texture and its comforting consistency of presentation year after year. The acid green coconut “grass,” the jelly bean eyes, the chocolate chip trim… My Mom would store it in what she referred to as the “cold closet” after it was prepared and the cream cheese frosting had a great chill to it when you finally dug in to it. It was even good as leftovers a couple days later with a cold glass of milk. It is remarkably easy to make… and of course, fun.

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Also, proof that I am not lying when I say I have been making this forever, this is me at age 7 or 8:

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What you need (for the cake):

  • A box of chocolate cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • vegetable oil
  • two 9″ round baking pans
  • two bags of sweetened coconut divided into three bowls
  • jelly beans
  • Twizzlers pull and peel
  • semi-sweet chocolate chips

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After baking two 9″ chocolate cakes (and banging them loose from the pan – Daphne’s favorite part) keep one fully intact for the “head,” then, cut the second cake in three pieces, the “bowtie” that is the middle part of the circle and the two “ears” that make up the negative space once you cut out the bowtie.

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All four pieces should then be carefully transferred onto a separate tray or platter. If it is not done perfectly, it is not a big deal because it all gets covered in icing.

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What you need (for the icing):

  • stick of butter
  • 16 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 box of confectioners sugar
  • vanilla extract

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We always made it with cream cheese frosting (ingredients listed above, basic recipe can be found here). It seems to go best with the flavor of the coconut and chocolate once completed. The entire head, ears and bowtie should be covered in frosting. Then, take the white coconut first and cover all the frosting in a layer of white coconut. Once a layer of white coconut has been added, pink coconut should be used to fill in the ears and bowtie. (This should be made in advance in a separate bowl using red food coloring). Once sprinkled inside the ears and bowtie, use the chocolate chips (evenly spaced) to outline the pink areas:

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The most fun part is the last step… sprinkling the “grass” – the dyed green coconut – around the giant bunny head:

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And our finished bunny!

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Good enough to eat… Happy Easter!

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The New Fantasy Garden Collection

I am so excited to finally announce our collaboration with 125 year old jewelry company CINER and the Spring collection we have designed together, The Fantasy Garden.

Because CINER has been around for so long (over a century!) I became used to seeing their name and mark on one-of-a-kind vintage pieces I collected, like these fabulous giraffe earrings. The quality of their pieces is always unparalleled. Through a friend visiting Charleston, I came to find out that CINER was still manufacturing and producing their beautiful line out of their New York City showroom and factory. So, I flew up from Charleston, SC for a meeting with CINER V.P. Kris Ciulla and owner Pat Ciner to learn more. Needless to say, we all had a lot in common and it was absolutely magical to see their showroom and production facility where so many of my favorite vintage pieces had been born. We decided to come together to produce our own capsule collection with me pulling designs from their archives and refashioning them into a modern, whimsical collection with a candy colored color palate. And so our collaborative collection, The Fantasy Garden was born:

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The Fantasy Garden Collection is available exclusively through our website, our store and cinerny.com.

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On my two visits up there I say down with Pat and Kris and curated this collection of pieces which is a combination of Southern, botanical themes, one of their classic Ciner bees and an element of fantasy – the unicorn (based on a vintage brooch they once produced):

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Ciner has remained in the same family for all 125 their business as been operating. Pat Ciner, left, the third generation of the Ciner family, remains at the helm of the business which is celebrating its 125th year in 2017. It was such a pleasure working with Pat and her team:

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Their showroom is filled with beautiful pieces, new and old – a virtual treasure trove of costume jewelry complete with vintage advertisements dating back to the 40’s and 50’s.

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Behind their showroom is a full manufacturing facility with jewelry artisans who paint enamel, cast, and set stones by hand.

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Below, a member of the Ciner team dedicated to polishing pieces during production works on a design.

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We are thrilled with how the collection turned out! You can see it and shop it here. The wonderful combination of southern botanical influences and elements of fanciful creatures. All behind-the-scenes photography by Lydia Hudgens.

A Vintage Inspired Kitchen

Ever since we moved into a new house in Charleston last fall and have been sharing snippets of our home renovation on Instagram, there has been universal appreciation for our somewhat retro looking kitchen. So, I thought I’d share a few more photos. Not unlike the process I follow with designing jewelry, I tried to take the best elements of our vintage kitchen and bring them out with timely, but updated details. We left wonderful features like the breakfast nook, the original oven hood, the mint green tile (in the most perfect shade of mint I just cannot imagine we would find it again) and most of the solid wood built ins. We took out some of the worst features – the accordion door to the pantry, the dark paint, the chair rail molding and the old appliances. I did have to scrub the tile within an inch of its life but the bright white paint we used all over really helped make it look much more recent than it is (1948!). We also added these fun, retro custom height light fixtures from Schoolhouse Electric that I loved for their chic simplicity. Sarah Yoder’s contemporary painting brought from our previous house and reframed brightened up the breakfast nook perfectly and this fun, vintage pink dining set from Indigo Market (State of Grace Collection) in Charleston looks like it was always meant to be in our kitchen. Olivia Brock of Torrance Mitchell Designs absolutely nailed the paint colors and the updated yet classic brass hardware we put on all the cabinets. I loved working with her because she really honors the spirit and era of a house in her thoughtful, sophisticated selections. Here are the photos – if you scroll to the bottom of the post you can click see the “before” pictures too.

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We only removed cabinetry in two places – the wall behind the sink and the righthand side of the wall in between the kitchen and dining room. The later we did in order to open up a window to the dining room, which brought so much more light in and is great for serving. The cabinets above the sink were also removed to let more light in from that window and help it not to feel so boxed in. Also, I like seeing all my vintage glassware in display.

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The pass through window to the dining room probably made the biggest difference in feeling open. I also found those great, vintage pink storage canisters on Etsy and a new marble kitchen island really connects the space.

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I absolutely love the House of Antique Hardware knobs and pulls we went with thanks to Olivia. Plus, how great is the towel bar? We changed out the fixtures on the sink to gold (but kept the original, enamel sink). And Olivia was also able to perfectly match the paint on the side door – Douglas Fern Benjamin Moore – with the mint tile.

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Mix and match vintage glasses.

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Adding a glossy chartreuse to the swinging kitchen door was a fun detail.

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The island is so great for storage and giving us space to spread out when we are cooking.

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The original vintage hood is still amazing, it just needed a little cleaning. Our appliances are all new but from the GE Artistry collection that has a great vintage look.

As you can tell from the before photos (click below) the floors were also refinished. For a kitchen that had to be done quickly and on a budget I am really happy with the way we preserved the integrity and charm of its original design and updated only the necessary details.

click here for before photos

Designer Showhouse in Charleston

It has been a beautiful couple weeks in Charleston…cool, mostly clear and sunny with the exception of only the last day or two. The last of the glory days before summer settles in (PS this Southern Living piece is both hilarious and true!). So, if you are looking for something new to do in Charleston this weekend, consider visiting the 2017 Symphony Designer Showhouse at 36 Society Street. Over a dozen designers have taken over a the beautiful historic property and each has designed or collaborated to design a room or area of the home. Some of my favorites are participating this year, like The English Room, Catherine M. Austin and Taylor Burke Home who makes my favorite chair of all time. You can walk through the whole house and see every colorful nook and cranny and well-informed volunteers are on hand to answer any questions you might have. I thought I’d share a few of my favorite spaces in the house (there are many more rooms not pictured and it is really worth the in person visit!):

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This charcoal grey living room designed by Mitchell Hill Interiors, with the gorgeous pair of Hollings Chairs from Taylor Burke Home.

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Holly Hollingsworth of The English Room’s Incredible dining room with an Iris Apfel tribute piece…

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…which is actually made out of many bottle caps by Charleston artist Molly B. Right!

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Chic, monochromatic upstairs porch by GordonDunning. I always love when indoor furniture, especially floor lamps are on outdoor porches, it is so luxurious.

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This adorable upstair laundry room by Kandrac & Kole Interior Design complete with a “Haint Blue” ceiling, a color paint traditionally used on Charleston porches.

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The upstairs “teenage hangout” room by Meg Caswell – black wicker, gold and bright pinks – very fun…

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…complete with a bar cart stocked with candy.

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And a mounted unicorn. What more could a teenager want?

Definitely pop in this year’s Charleston Designer Showhouse if you can, there’s even a little courtyard cafe where you can sit an grab lunch with your friends. It is a great way to spend an afternoon downtown and it’s up for two more weeks… Congrats to all involved!

 

THE BEST SUGAR COOKIES EVER

I have been meaning to share this recipe for a long time and with Valentine’s Day around the corner I thought it was a perfect time to spread the love. These are, quite simply the best sugar cookies you will ever eat. I used to have bad associations with sugar cookies… you know the buttery stale kind you get in a red plaid tin at Christmas or the ones that are passed out with apple juice in elementary school? The worst. I will almost always take a chocolate chip cookie over a sugar cookie, but…

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…when I friend of mine shared this family recipe with me I was a total convert. My daughter Daphne and I have made these at least half a dozen times and she is only four. Baking is one of our favorite mommy daughter activities, and even though these taste gourmet they are incredibly easy to make. You can also make the dough far in advance and freeze it and just pop it out when you are ready to make your next round of cookies.

ingredients

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For the dough:

SIFT: 3 cups of flour + 1 teaspoon of baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon of salt

CREAM: 1 cup of butter + 3/4 cup of sugar + 3 tablespoons of milk + 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla + 1 egg

Refrigerate for an hour or freeze and thaw before ready to use. Roll out and cut, bake for 6-8 minutes at 400 degrees. Allow cookies to cool to room temperature before frosting.

For the frosting:

1 box of powdered sugar + 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract + 1/4 cup of milk until desired consistency. Food coloring and decoration as needed.

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The best part… taste testing. We really have to make these in small batches, otherwise we just inhale them. And PS, my pink Charleston Rice Beads will be available for pre-order online next week!

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Holiday Events and Trunk Shows

Our trees at Candy Shop On Cannon are already trimmed and we have a few Holiday events and trunk shows lined up over the next few weeks. Of course you can catch us at our Charleston store at 9 Cannon Street Tuesday-Saturdays 10AM-5PM but we will also be at these fun events and trunk shows:

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The Holiday Sip ‘N Shop

Shop local businesses and enjoy specials at local restaurants in Cannonborough/Elliotborough in Downtown Charleston.

When: Neighborhood wide shopping event from 5-8PM on Friday, December 2

Where: Candy Shop Vintage at 9 Cannon Street and participating Cannonborough/Elliotborough neighborhood businesses in Downtown Charleston, SC.

 

The Junior League of Columbia Holiday Market

Holiday market and fundraiser for the Junior League of Columbia, SC.

When: 9AM-5PM starting Thursday, December 1 – Sunday, December 4 

Where: Cantey and Goodman Buildings at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds, located at 1200 Rosewood Drive, Columbia, SC 29201.

 

The Gibbes Museum Holiday Trunk Show

The Gibbes Museum holiday trunk show. Shop from a variety of curated local vendors after their Wednesday evening program.

When: 6-8PM on Wednesday, December 14

Where: The Gibbes Museum in Charleston, SC

 

Gwynn’s Holiday Trunk Show

Holiday Trunk show at Gwynn’s in Mt. Pleasant with our Charleston Rice Beads, Candy Shop Collection jewelry and vintage jewelry as well as other featured local vendors.

When: 10AM-7PM on Saturday, December 17th and 12-5PM on Sunday, December 18th

Where: Gwynn’s at 916 Houston Northcutt Blvd, Mt Pleasant, SC.

 

Better together: Charleston Holiday Gift Sets

If you are looking for that perfect Charleston gift this holiday season, look no further. We’ve compiled some of our favorite local items in gift sets. Ordered together, our four gift sets can also be customized with an add on gift note. And the best part? They come gift wrapped so you can send straight to the recipient without so much as having to curl a ribbon! But hurry up, as quantities are limited (available online only)…

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Charleston Cocktail Napkins Gift Set $85

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Color Charleston Gift Set $40

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The Charleston Academy Gift Set $95

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Set of Charleston Guest Towels $65

The Queen of 80’s Bling: An Interview With Wendy Gell

I found my first pair of Wendy Gell earrings in a dusty antiques mall in rural South Carolina. They stood out among a lot of run-of-the-mill vintage jewelry, with details like hand cut leather flowers and high quality Swarovski stones. They were signed on the back and I bought them at the time for my One Kings Lane shop where they were listed for just a few hours before they sold. I was intrigued by the handmade, sculptural style combined with the exquisite quality. I started researching her pieces on Etsy and Ebay and finding interesting tidbits about her designs and career online- she was one of Oprah’s favorite designers and had even been interviewed on her show, she created pieces for runway shows and held licenses to many Disney characters and designed lines around Disney movie releases like Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Her opulent, over-the-top pieces were collected by celebrities including Princess Diana and splashed all over the pages of VOGUE in the seventies and eighties.

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Last year, as part of the CJCI Conference in Rhode Island – I had the opportunity to take one of Wendy’s workshops, learning how to make some of her trademark, over-the-top wrist cuffs or “wristys” as she calls them using her everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach.

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A few of Wendy’s original, handmade designs

As the conference was in New England, I thought using a giant lobster as a centerpiece was appropriate – it looked fabulous but the process was definitely labor intensive and involved a lot of glue!

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Make-your-own wristy, starting with a raw, brass cuff

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My finished lobster wristy

As you can imagine, spending time with her was a lot of fun and we decided to do an interview with her for the Candy Shop Vintage blog about her prolific career.

How did you get started in jewelry design? 

I was a songwriter working in New York City, part of a singing group called Gell & Gellman and we had nine records but no hits. When my business partner got married and moved away and I had to find a new way to make a living. I started driving a cab and one day went down to Canal Street which, at the time, was filled with hardware stores and where a lot of old junk went and I found these brass bracelet bases outside in a box. I bought them and just started making jewelry with them. A guy at one of the hardware stores showed me how to use a glue gun, which I had never heard of, and I was so excited because you could glue things and make them stick as fast as your imagination can go. Of course you have to use other kinds of glue to really make it stick but the glue gun is just for placement. So I got started like this at my kitchen table.

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Some vintage Wendy Gell Earrings

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A vintage Wendy Gell Bracelet

How did you market you designs and get them out there for people to see? 

I was living in the Village and I took my “wristys” around in a wine box to different stores and got my first account. Shortly after that, I had a bold moment and called Vogue and asked for the accessories editor at the time, named Madeline Parish. I told her who I was and that I was interested in showing her my jewelry. She’d already seen my jewelry around town and liked it very much so she took a meeting with me and we got along fabulously well. Madeline and I then worked together for years – she would tell me what the trends would be before the issues came out and I would do special projects for them. All through the 80’s I got great press – VOGUE in several countries, serious publications like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Eventually I moved out of my apartment up to an office 37th Street where the industry was. At one point we had around forty employees.

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Some of Wendy’s Press coverage including German Vogue, Harper’s and Cindy Crawford and Oprah Winfrey both wearing her earrings.

How did some of your editorial press jump to Television coverage?

It was July, 1986 and I had just returned from a tour of California for Nordstrom and the Disney Stores. I was exhausted and the last thing I wanted to do was get on another plane. But Oprah’s producers called me and said that she had a show out there that was about to go national and she collected my jewelry and said I really ought to come out and do an interview. I didn’t know at the time that she was about to become the biggest thing ever!

Who were some of your other well-known clients?

Princess Diana was given a Jessica Rabbit pin by The Disney Company when the Movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit opened. She loved it and started buying my jewelry. Bill Clinton also purchased a cherub pin from someone at one of his rallies and gave it to Hillary Clinton. Cher also collected my jewelry as well as Lauren Nyro, one of my favorite songwriters at the time.

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Wendy Gell for Disney Jewelry and Accessories

Tell me about your partnership with Disney

I was doing the Pret-a-Porter trade show in New York City and a women approached me and asked me if I would be interested in acquiring the Disney license and be able to work with the characters in my designs. I flipped out and levitated to the ceiling and when I caught my breath and told her I would love to! It turned in to a major project and we spent a fortune on models and molds. I got to do Roger Rabbit, Dick Tracy, Wizard of Oz, Phantom of the Opera and all of the other characters… I was called The Queen of Disney Licensing. We produced these pieces – jewelry and accessories – for five years and they completely sold out.

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We closed the company in 1991 and after living in my house in Connecticut for a number of years I moved to the West Coast, to Oregon about thirteen years ago. I now work out of my house – I have a studio in my house that is my workshop – filled with beads and components and stones and pearls just spilling out the back door. I take orders and do a lot of commissions – I do a lot of cherub pieces for people’s weddings and have an active Etsy shop and e-commerce site. I make a lot of one off pieces for collectors and bring my jewelry classes around to different conferences and institutions around the country. I’d love to do something in the LA area next. I am also doing a series of paintings and have an art show coming up in Ashland in May.

Wendy Gell’s designs can be purchased on her website and in her Etsy Shop and various vintage pieces of hers can often be found from other people scrolling through Ebay and Etsy. I purchased one of my favorite pieces of hers last year after her class, an enormous cockatoo wristy. 

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My favorite Wendy Gell piece from my personal collection, with a cockatoo made out of minerals accented with blown glass leaves and Swarovski crystal stones.