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Tracey Greenstein:

“Life has been some combination of fairy-tale coincidence and joie de vivre and shocks of beauty together with some hurtful self-questioning.” ― Sylvia Plath, “The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath”

I left New York almost a year ago and spontaneously moved to Tel Aviv, with no job and no definitive plan. Today, I’m happy to report that things are going well – but I often have trouble explaining in words how unbelievably difficult it was to get to this point. This article really resonates with me, particularly the point that ‘this is my life, not a trip’.

Originally posted on Taking Route:

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The rewarding experiences one gains from living life overseas can sometimes be crowded out by the inevitable struggles that come with the full, expat-life package. But it’s through those struggles and challenges that you discover more about yourself and the world around you. You embrace lessons learned and broaden your horizons. If you’ve ever lived for an extended amount of time somewhere other than your home country, then you’ve probably experienced some if not all of these changes while living abroad.

1. You are constantly learning and unlearning language. I’m no expert on the brain, but I have a suspicious feeling that my brain regularly shuts the door on certain native-tongue-vocabulary words so that my search will lead me to the word I’m looking for in my newly acquired language. That’s all fine and dandy; that is, unless I was really hoping to find the word in my native language. It’s…

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Daniela Villegas recently entered my world, and I’m so into her design philosophy.

Incorporating her love of natural objects (feathers and quills) with, well, other natural objects (gems and metals), Villegas creates intricate, colorful, truly unique jewelry for her LA-based, eponymous brand.

Interview via ProMexico:

For Mexican designer Daniela Villegas working with jewelry isn’t work at all, but rather a chance to set her passion in gold and precious stones. It is that same ornamental appetite that has taken her to fashion runways and red carpets the world over.

It all began with beads and elastic thread. As a young girl, Mexican jewelry designer Daniela Villegas would spend hours making accessories, which she would sell to her family in order to buy toys. Today, the earrings, necklaces, rings and other pieces made by that same girl are worn by Hollywood celebrities like actresses Salma Hayek and Julianne Hough.

The Mermaid Bracelet: 18K Rose Gold, White Diamonds, Purple Sapphires, Alexandrites, Black Opal, Fossilized Sand Dollar

The Mermaid Bracelet: 18K Rose Gold, White Diamonds, Purple Sapphires, Alexandrites, Black Opal, Fossilized Sand Dollar

The beads have been replaced by gold, opals and rubies, but the creative spirit that transforms them has remained unchanged. For Daniela, designing jewelry is a fun activity that calls into play her own life experiences, the customer’s personality, the essence of the metals and precious stones she works with and symbols of nature.

Los Angeles, California, where she currently resides, has become a showcase for her jewelry, inimitable works crafted with sensitivity and passion and that sell for as much as 50,000 usd apiece in stores in the US, Spain, France and Saudi Arabia.

“I try to make jewelry with a sense of fun,” says Daniela Villegas in interview with Negocios. Playful pieces that some would kill to have dangling from their ears!

—When did you know you wanted to be a jewelry designer?
I’ve always been fascinated by jewelry, ever since I was a little girl. My grandmother and great-grandmother collected jewelry and I always wanted to make something for them. I started out with beads and elastic thread when I was 10. I’d play at making bracelets, which I’d sell to my mom and other relatives to get money to buy dolls. Then I’d immediately start making new pieces.

I studied business administration but never stopped making jewelry. During my sophomore year, I realized I wasn’t happy, so I started taking jewelry design courses and working with artisans and fashion designers in the Polanco district of Mexico City.

I also worked closely with artisans in the Historic Center of Mexico City and took several courses abroad with jewelry design companies.

All this time I’ve literally been chipping away at rocks. Today I work with precious stones and 18-carat gold. I also use organic materials like feathers and porcupine quills, which I consider treasures of the natural world.

I’ve been living in the US for five years now. It’s been the perfect place to develop my own brand. I wanted to have my own business and be my own boss and the move to Los Angeles has facilitated that.

—To what extent are your designs influenced by Mexican culture?
I admire my culture and Mexican resourcefulness when it comes to solving problems. When I was a kid, if your toy broke you’d find a way to fix it, even if it meant sticking it back together with gum. I love our innate ingenuity and ability to laugh at ourselves.

It’s the same with jewelry design. I try to make playful pieces. A piece of jewelry isn’t an essential; it’s a luxury item. I want my pieces to be witty and for people to have fun wearing them.

That’s something I learned from the artisans in Mexico City’s Historic Center. It’s a very open environment where you get to meet many experienced artisans, and learn from them. They become like your family. For example, I still have the magnifying glass one of those jewelers gave me 10 years ago. I guard it as if it were gold and only lend it to people on the condition I get it back. Working with those artisans was a memorable experience and the fondest memory I have of when I started out in the business 10 years ago.

—What metals do you use? Which gemstones do you prefer to work with?

Into You Ring: 18K Rose Gold, Champagne Diamonds, Rubies, Blue Sapphires, Lapis

Into You Ring: 18K Rose Gold, Champagne Diamonds, Rubies, Blue Sapphires, Lapis

I use 18-carat yellow, pink, white and black gold. Sometimes a customer will ask for a piece in platinum. I also work with precious and semi-precious stones and natural materials. My favorite stone is opal. I love it. It has a beautiful energy. The Aztecs called it the hummingbird stone because the feathers of the hummingbird reflect different colors. Opal is the same. It’s the stone of human emotions and, like the feathers of the hummingbird, the light reflects a different color depending on where you are. I like rubies too. It’s a stone of wisdom. It has that magenta hue where the seasons of love merge. It’s also very feminine.

—How many collections have you designed and what was your inspiration for them?
I have four collections. The first I did five years ago, when I was starting my own brand. It was a display of freedom and personal realization, like learning to fly with my own wings.

Then I did one (a collection) inspired by tiny insects, how they represent a balance between human beings and nature.

After that I did a porcupine collection. The porcupine is very much in evidence in American culture. For example, on totem poles the porcupine is an invitation to play. The chiefs of Native American tribes would crush the quills of the porcupine and turn them into thread to protect themselves from bad vibes or what we in Mexico call the “evil eye”.

Then I did a collection based on sea monsters, those creatures that inhabit the depths of the ocean. It was inspired by that world we can’t see, but that is nonetheless part of our planet.

Nature has always had a place in my collections. I’ve always been a fan of the great outdoors. As a kid, I’d go to a ranch, ski, sleep in a tent… Even today in Los Angeles I’m constantly exposed to nature: in the mornings, I go hiking in the mountains and then to the beach for a swim. It inspires me and helps replenish my energies.

Although my collections are permanent, I am forever evolving. I make a conscious effort to expand my horizons, be original, and experiment with new things. Right now I’m working on a new series, a 50-piece collection that will be shown at Paris Fashion Week this September.

—Are Daniela Villegas’ pieces one of a kind?
Around 95% of my pieces are one of a kind. I don’t have many molds. Nearly all my jewelry is handcrafted, although I print some molds in 3D using computer images.

Big Catch Earrings: 18K Rose Gold, Fire Opal, Rubies

Big Catch Earrings: 18K Rose Gold, Fire Opal, Rubies

I love seeing the process through from beginning to end: mixing the gold, weighing it, trying not to waste material or stones and generally making sure everything is as perfect as can be to achieve the best possible result. I spend all day every day designing and making pieces for stores and specific customers. I’ve added nine new pieces to my four collections. I also have private customers who want a personalized design: a hippopotamus, an elephant, a geometrical figure…

I try and make something special for everyone who comes to me. No one needs a piece of jewelry like you need food or water but at the end of the day it’s an investment and I want my jewelry to be exclusive. I want it to serve as a reminder to the wearer, to have a unique energy, something they can hand down to their daughter or niece.

That’s why I like to talk to my customers and find out what feelings they want the piece to emanate. In the end, the design is mine but inspired by someone else’s life experience and story.

—Why did you decide to settle in Los Angeles?
I moved to Los Angeles because my husband lived here. He’d been living in LA for 20 years. It was a natural step, although sometimes I feel like I’m still living in Mexico. Some days I don’t speak a word of English because there are so many Mexicans here. Plus I’m three hours from Mexico City, so I can come and go on the same day. It’s a city that’s been a great source of inspiration, that’s opened its arms to me and where I’ve found a fantastic work team. Moving here was a stroke of good luck and everything fell into place perfectly.

—Several Hollywood celebrities have worn your jewelry. Who was the first actress to buy a Daniela Villegas piece and how did the trend catch on?
I live in Los Angeles, home of the movie industry. Initially, it was the stores that sell my jewelry that supported me by affording me access to the press. My friends were also a great help in advertising me by word of mouth. “Daniela makes this jewelry,” they’d say, and that’s how people became familiar with my work and started showing an interest in it.

The first actress to wear my jewelry was Salma Hayek. In 2009 she asked me to design her necklace for the Oscars. Then other celebrities started turning up at my doorstep. Like I said, I attribute it to the support of the stores that carry my jewelry and my friends. I also wear my own jewelry, which is the best way of getting it out there. I’ll be eating out at a restaurant and someone will come over and ask who made the ring I’m wearing, that they love it, and I’ll say I made it myself. It’s happened to me with loads of famous people.

It’s a question of luck. I think my timing was right.

I made a pair of earrings for Julianne Hough for the Golden Globes. I designed them in an hour. It was eight o’clock on a Friday morning and the Golden Globes were the following Sunday. I had to melt the gold and cut and mount the stones… it was a feat of teamwork and the end result was a pair of earrings that climb up the back of the ear and hug its flap.

—What does it feel like to be a famous designer?
It’s the best feeling ever. I’m doing what I love and it doesn’t even feel like work. I enjoy it so much I feel blessed. It’s a job that’s given me the chance to meet some great, interesting people and you can’t put a price on that.

I have a super random background in Scandinavian Studies from a cultural concentration I completed in college. I also happen to be Danish. =)

After taking a course focused only on Tolkien, one on Nordic Colonialism and another exclusively on The Vikings, I can tell you some pretty interesting facts about old wooden ships and perhaps share a saga or two.

I’ve been in a love affair with Iceland for too long. Here is yet another stunning visual of dreamland.

Mattius Klum/National Geographic

I love this article via the BBC.com – Iceland’s literary history is rarely brought to light in a travel piece.

“Iceland has a higher percentage of writers in its population than any other country in the world. Since the 10th Century, the country has been the birthplace of several significant literary works and authors – from the Viking’s famed Iceland sagas to novelist, poet and playwright Halldór Laxness, winner of a 1955 Nobel Prize in Literature. But its dramatic landscape, unique culture and unpredictable weather conditions have also helped cultivate an influential body of literature by authors from around the world.

The tales Vikings told about elves inspired JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit; Sveitarfélagið, southern Iceland’s biggest municipality, and Skagafjörður, a town located in a submerged glacial valley, provided the main settings for Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale; and the Vatnajökull glacier, Europe’s largest ice cap, was a prime location for George RR Martin’s imagined world in Game of Thrones.In 2011, Iceland’s capital Reykjavik became a Unesco City of Literature, continuing the country’s literary traditions with a growth of events, tours and sites that celebrate the nation’s love of storytelling.”

Meet the Escale Worldtime travel watch from Louis Vuitton, a luxury timepiece that covers all 24 time zones at once. 

Want and love.

Via ForbesLife:

“Phileas Fogg may have circumnavigated the globe in 80 days, but he nearly lost that £20,000 wager because he forgot to adjust Passepartout’s watch. That would not have been a problem with Louis Vuitton’s stunning new Escale Worldtime, which covers all 24 time zones at once.

Set in a 41mm white gold case that’s a lithe 9.75mm deep, the Escale Worldtime also has a travel-friendly 38-hour power reserve. And an unforgettable face. The vibrant hand-painted dial, which requires 38 colors and takes more than 50 hours to produce, features the names of different cities around the world and was inspired by the monograms used on vintage Vuitton luggage. The yellow arrow at 12 o’clock is actually painted on the underside of the sapphire crystal, and the crown will line up your hometown. The only question: Does 80 days seem like enough time away?”

'Planet Earth' Yowah Nut Opal

‘Earth’ Yowah Nut Opal

One of the most unique gemstones in the world is the Yowah Nut Opal. 

These unusual opals are mined in the small town of Yowah, located in outback western Queensland, Australia. Yowah is known for its opal mining and they produce some of the most beautiful opals in the world.

Distinctive to the region, Yowah Nut opals are referred to as  ‘picture stones’ because of the gorgeous patterns they naturally create due to their formation in an ironstone (hematite) matrix.