There are many collections in the market that speak to the sentimentalist in all of us: Jeanine Payer’s organic shapes with inspiration poems and famous quotes, Heather Moore’s collection of engraved discs that can celebrate life cycles, everything from a birth of a child to kid’s graduations and weddings. Sofia Kaman’s monogrammed protective shields for her collection, Kamofie and Monica Rich Kossan’s limited edition lockets (for which you send her your favorite photos and she makes a copy that she sizes into the exact dimensions of the frame). There’s a host of other talented and creative thinking designers who know how to romance both the self-purchasing woman and the gift giver.
Recently however, I met Cassandra Erin who, while working at Ylang Ylang in St. Louis, MO, began selling her collection exclusively through the store, which is always one step ahead of finding truly talented and unique designers. Says Julie Ettinger, who co-runs and buys for the shop with her mother Lois Morgenstern, “The minute we heard what Cassie wanted to achieve with her collection and saw the craftsmanship and beauty with which she executed it, we knew we wanted to sell her pieces in the store.”
The minute I saw Cassie wearing the pieces when I met her at the Smart Show in Chicago this past April, I knew I had to have one, two– a few.
I was also sitting around a table listening to Cassie’s customer stories with a group of buyers and all of us had tears in our eyes while hearing one or two of her more heart breaking anecdotes. Cassandra Erin takes parts of letter and notes and doodles written and drawn by loved ones and rework these into jewelry, all of which is completely handmade in her St Louis studio. “It’s a nine step process,” says Cassie, We don’t use engraving machines. Rather we press the exact words, line art, footprints/handprints, etc. into the metal.” The result is the exact handwriting of the person’s words and drawings of sentiment, humor and romance.
I immediately thought of my mom and all of the letters we wrote back and forth to each other while she was still alive: those from sleep-away camp with my trying to manipulate my way home, those she sent left for me in the morning when I was going through the awkward phases of adolescence, the heart-breaks of ending relationships and those that just made me laugh. I liked the ideas of pendants I could wear as different size and shape discs and I am now the proud owner of two Cassandra Erin, pieces which I wear doubled up on one chain.
But I am just one woman who would hold this type of jewelry dear. Cassie is talking to a number of stores and is building her own website to be updated with the best of her custom designs. She has trained jewelers in her studio and her own mom, who she has taken under her wing and is teaching the technique of metalsmithing.
At present, all pieces are in Argentium silver and 18K yellow gold, have a hand-wrought, old world, heirloom look with organic lines. They are the first pieces I now go to put on in the morning and those I never want to take off.
Her customers range from those like me who want to not want to hear and keep the words of someone we lost and loved as close as possible everyday, but she also has a base of romantic couples who have shared secret messages, their own words that they want to share and wear forever on a pendant, ring or cuff bracelet.
“There are also pieces the kids make themselves. From handprints, to simple doodles they get to see exactly what they do turn into something mom or dad can wear with pride. It’s so much fun to see their faces light up and hear them say, ‘I did that,’ when the pieces are finished. “But with the feelings, comes some pretty ‘interesting’ designs. Cassie continues, ” I had one mother, who explained…. If my son does not see me in the his gift each morning,” he questions me, “um mommy, where’s the necklace I made you?!” While it might not go with all– (any)–of the fashion I own, I still have to wear it everyday. And it makes me smile to just think about it.” Probably much more appealing than the ‘ashtray’ necklace I made my mother in Arts & Crafts in camp when I was young.
Whether you want a smile, a warm recollections, an enduring memory, check out Cassandra-Erin at Cassandraerin.com
(note: I rarely concentrate on one designer in my bjeweled blog but this was all about experiencing a new jewelry designer and thought that you all should have the pleasure of experiencing her jewelry too.)