I like to read a lot. Always have. I never travel with a book. (Or six). My mom read to me when I was little, and once we got past the picture books she would read a chapter each night of longer books. As soon as I could though, I started reading on my own. And I learned how to read in cars fast, because every holiday we made the long drive to Grandma’s house in Lancaster County, PA. Reading was the ideal backseat escape for the eight hour + drives.
When I first launched my jewelry collection, I also started an interview series that I ran for a couple of years over on my sister Emma Grady’s blog PastFashionFuture. My column was called R&Design, and it featured interviews with renowned designers. The first interview was with Gretchen Jones, and I’ve archived it on the journal here. She told me a bit about her creative path, and she also told me that with some of her early collections, she couldn’t travel as much as she’d like to, so those first collection were inspired by books and albums. I took a cue from her. I was already always inspired by what I was reading. And let’s be honest, starting a business, any kind of business is a huge investment, so I wasn’t traveling much either. I decided to name my first couple of collections after books.
I named the first collection after an all time favorite of mine, West With The Night by Beryl Markham. My dad gave me a copy of this book in high school. She wrote about her life in Kenya as a horse trainer and pilot. In 1936 she was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from England to Canada. I loved her writing and her stories, and was so impressed with her overall, that I even used the intro to the book as my entry in my senior yearbook. It’s been a number of years since I’ve re-read it, so it might be time to sit down with it again.
For the second collection I went with the book Tracks by Robyn Davidson. She is another totally amazing woman whose book I first came across when I was much younger. Her book chronicles her preparations for and her journey across the Australian Outback on camel in the late 70s. She wrote about her trip for National Geographic, and photographer Rick Smolan followed her for part of the trip, and their combined writing and photography was later turned into the book From Alice To Ocean. In 2013, a movie came out about Davidson’s trip also called Tracks. Of course I like the book better, but I still really enjoyed watching the film. The colors seemed like they were right out of Smolan’s photographs from the time.
While I was working on the next collection, I spent the weekend in Cape May, NJ for my cousin’s wedding. My sister and I wandered into a bookshop downtown, and I found a copy of Kathleen Jamie’s Sightlines. I hadn’t heard anything about it, but I like nature writing, and there was a whale on the cover, so I picked it up. I love finding the perfect book when you aren’t expecting it. I loved all of her essays about exploring Scotland and bird watching and going behind the scenes at the museum. She has a second nonfiction book called Findings, which I enjoyed just as much.
After the first couple of collections, I moved on a bit from naming them directly after books. But you may have noticed that there are several piece in the collection that are also named after authors: the Highsmith rings after Patricia Highsmith, the Alcott rings after Louisa May Alcott, the Wyld rings after Evie Wyld, the Carson rings after both Rachel Carson and Anne Carson, the Castrée rings after Geneviéve Castrée, and the Fuller ring after Alexandra Fuller.
Over the past two weeks I’ve been working on a small website update. I switched things up a bit. Now, instead of the collection lookbooks, there are “Storylines”. These new layouts were designed to share a bit more about the stories behind all of the pieces. I want to showcase some of the jewelry next to the drawings and places that inspired the pieces. You can see them all under the Storylines menu, including Oaxaca, Nova Scotia, Light, and Rocky Mountains. I’ll be adding some more in the new year as well. And I’d love to know what you think!
While I’m on the book train, I thought I’d share some of the books that I’ve been reading and loving lately. I love a good pile of books! Above are all the books that I’ve just finished reading this fall. Also, I always love getting book recommendations so please share yours in the comments below if you’ve got some! You may notice that one of the titles of course has shown up in a piece of jewelry in the most recent collection…. I did say that I get a lot of inspiration from reading.
This book is so cool. Liz Clark is a sailor and surfer who has been sailing around the world for the last ten years. She writes about her travels on her blog: Swell Voyage and just published this book. Filled with beautiful photos from her travels, this is one that I definitely had to own so that I can revisit it. She writes about all the amazing and awful times out at sea, in harbor, in dry dock, and more. She also writes a lot about the pollution and plastic that she’s been seeing everywhere. I found this aspect really compelling as I’ve read a lot of sailing books, but most of them were written before the plastic in the ocean has gotten to such insane proportions. I highly recommend this book if you like surfing, sailing or any kind of adventure at all. Clark also posts a lot of her travels on her instagram account. And there are several cute cat on the high sea pics too, you’re welcome!
I read Madeline Miller’s first book Song of Achilles when it first came out, so I was very excited about the release of her second book Circe. She mentions the events in the first book in passing in Circe, but Circe itself easily spans a thousand years in the life of the witch. I spent a lot of time with my friend’s baby last year, and we read the Babylit version of the Odyssey over and over, so I can’t even begin to explain how excited I was to be reading a grown up book about some of these characters. Also I recommend the board book to anyone with a baby - it’s fun to read the first several times. But back to the grown up version. I loved hearing more about Circe. Her name is one that I’ve heard numerous times in other characters stories, but I never knew that much about her. Having a whole book about her centuries of stories was extremely satisfying.
I love a good mystery. I read Flynn Berry’s first book Under the Harrow and loved it, so I was the first person (almost) to request her book from the library. (In general, when I can I borrow books from the library.) I recommend both of Berry’s books. They are standalone mysteries set in England and both focus on a mystery in the family. In the Under the Harrow a young woman is trying to solve her sisters murder, and in A Double LIfe another young woman is grappling with a missing father who is most likely a murderer.
Set in London and the Orkney Islands, this beautifully written memoir is about Amy Liptrot’s heavy drinking London days, and her return to the islands where she grew up to get and stay sober. I did some google searching over the summer for best nature writing and her name came up on a top ten list, along with Gretel Ehrlich (below), and I’m so glad I found it. Her descriptions of some of the islands reminded me of Kathleen Jamie, who is also writing about the Scottish coast, and that was what drew me to it immediately. I loved reading about her searching for rare birds in the middle of the night and trying to record them, ocean swimming, and the long freezing walks along the smaller island that she winters in. I also really appreciated her honesty about how hard it was to get sober, and stay sober.
Bluets by Maggie Nelson
So after reading the Outrun, I followed Amy Liptrot on instagram and she posted a photo of reading this book by Maggie Nelson. I’d read the Argonauts a couple of years ago, and had been meaning to read something else by her. And really this is the perfect book for me - it’s all about the color blue. It’s written in a similar style to the Argonauts, mixing facts about the color with some personal musings, much in the way that the Argonauts mixes the personal and theoretical. I read it slowly, reading a few sections/pages each night.
A Match to the Heart by Gretel Ehrlich
I found this book in the second hand bookstore recently, after my search for recommend nature writers. It follows Gretel Ehrlich from when she and her dogs get struck by lightning on a walk in a storm near her ranch in Wyoming, through her long recovery. After she gets struck by lightning, the local doctors don’t quite know what to do with her, but she keeps passing out all the time. She goes to stay with her parents in California to be closer to a heart specialist and they try to figure out what happened to her systems when the lightning struck. It’s a nature book, about all of her different surroundings, but also focuses a lot on the mysteries of the human body, and the bizarreness of lightning strikes. I really enjoyed it, and look forward to reading some of her other books.
If you like these or you’re reading anything good, let me know in the comments!