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Top 7 places in the world to find inspiration for creating handmade jewelry

Picture of a set of Unikgemz Colonial Earrings lying in the sand on a Caribbean beach in Cuba.

Inspiration is a fickle mistress. It comes and goes as it likes, and remains pretty much impossible to pin down. It is always possible, though, to put oneself in environments where the Muse is likelier to strike, and this holds true for any artistic endeavor, from painting to writing the next best-seller or single radio hit. You’ve guessed it then, crafting handmade jewelry is no different. Here are my favorite 7 places in the world where I have found inspiration easier to get a hold of.

7- A stroll through Time Squares, New York City

Times Square New York by Day - Picture Copyright 2017 Unikgemz.

Times Square New York by Day – Picture Copyright 2017 Unikgemz.

Time Squares in NYC is a bustling place, by day and by night. Colorful tickers scrolling their wares on every building, impossibly large billboards pitching the latest Hollywood offering, the eye doesn’t know where to stop. And that is obviously without mentioning the crowds milling about in that world-famous intersection. Some are peddling goods, t-shirts, repliquas of the Statue of Liberty, teddy bears of all sorts and origins. It is not rare, either, to spot your favorite cartoon characters in the flesh (or, that is, in the fur), walking around trying to convince hapless tourists to take pictures with them for a hefty sum.

All that noise and bustle, colors and bright lights, noises and smells of cooking hot dogs saturate the senses and give energy to the creator. Handmade jewelry inspired by a stroll through Time Squares will thus undoubtedly be equally colorful, flashy and anything but discreet. I see smooth metal, glitter, saturated colors… Perfect for that necklace you’ve been thinking about, you know, the one that would be perfect to go clubbing?

6- Your favorite Caribbean beach

Picture of a set of Unikgemz Colonial Earrings lying in the sand on a Caribbean beach in Cuba.

Unikgemz Colonial Earrings lying in the sand on a Caribbean beach in Cuba – Copyright 2017 Unikgemz.

And now for a completely different vibe, let’s hop on a plane and land on a stretch of white, powdery sand bordered on one side by lush mangrove still glistening with the morning dew, and gently swaying palm trees. On the other side there’s water so clear, so pure, and so turquoise you can clearly see the bottom of the ocean. The waves are lapping gently at the beach. Here, your senses are relaxed. You breath in the salty air and feel the warm sand between your toes. The wind is coming from the sea today and keeps you fresh on an otherwise warm day in the Caribbean. Your mind is free to wander.

Handmade jewelry inspired by a stroll on a beach in the Caribbean will tend to be of a soothing nature, with colors such as turquoise reflecting the sea, and various shades of white to remind us of the sand. The mangrove and palm trees might bring a touch of vivacious green. Gentle swaying mouvements that bring to mind the perpetual mouvement of the surf are also likely to be included in the design. Earrings perhaps, or a fancy bookmark signet?

5- A walk along Marginal Way, Ogunquit, USA

Finding Inspiration to Create Handmade Jewelry Walking on the Marginal Way Between Ogunquit and Perkin's Cove, Maine - Picture Copyright 2017 Unikgemz.

Finding Inspiration to Create Handmade Jewelry Walking on the Marginal Way Between Ogunquit and Perkin’s Cove, Maine – Picture Copyright 2017 Unikgemz.

Let’s keep the ocean but move the setting further north. Quite a bit further. In Ogunquit, Maine, where a stroll along the Marginal Way will take you from downtown Ogunquit to the quaint fishermen’s village of Perkin’s Cove. In October/November, the waves come crashing against the rocks that shore up this path bordering the Atlantic Ocean, filling the air with a cold, salty and highly invigorating mist. The dominant colors here are the pure steel of the ocean playing with the blueish fist-sized pebbles smoothed round by the constant mouvement of the surf, all enshrouded between the grey clouds and the solid granite of the boulders.

Obviously, handmade jewelry inspired by such an invigorating setting will be bold, made of natural rocks carefully selected for their feeling of sheer presence. Colors might run the gamut from pale grey to stormy charcoal, and fastenings and such could be made of brushed steel, reminding us of the fierce Atlantic ocean in autumn.

4- An October trek in the Adirondacks

Finding Inspiration to Create Handmade Jewelry Hiking the Adirondacks - Picture Copyright 2017 Unikgemz.

Finding Inspiration to Create Handmade Jewelry Hiking the Adirondacks – Picture Copyright 2017 Unikgemz.

This time will keep the season, fall, but move our focus inland within that great chain of mountains known as the Adirondacks. A hike up your favorite summit in the Adirondack should be made in the fall, when the trees are wearing their full colors, and the air is replete with the smell of ripe fruit and wet leaves. Take a cup of pumpkin coffee with you for added authenticity, and marvel in this natural display of reds, oranges, ocres and yellows. The climb should be made easier by the fresh temperature, but don’t forget to bring along plenty of water. The summit you’ve chosen should be the reward in itself, with a 360 view of colorful forest and quaint little villages tucked away the valleys around you.

You will have guessed that jewelry inspired by this setting will tend to favorise warm colors, oranges, reds and yellows of all shades, as well as the somewhat rounded forms of ripe apples and pumpkin reflected in the selection of stones. Stressed leather is also a good choice, the rich, textured brown of it reminds us of the wet earth under our feet.

3- A climb up to a medieval castle in Southern France

Peyrepertuse Chatar Castle in Languedoc Roussillon, South of France - Picture Copyright 2017 Unikgemz.

Peyrepertuse Chatar Castle in Languedoc Roussillon, South of France – Picture Copyright 2017 Unikgemz.

This time we’ll keep the altitude, but switch continents and seasons altogether. The setting is Languedoc Roussillon, South of France, near the Spanish border, in the month of July. The air is dry, hot, and filled with the smell of lavender and the sounds of chirping crickets. We’re in the Pyrénées, this majestic chain of mountains bordering France and Spain, where to this day many medieval castles are to be found, graciously left for us by the Cathares, those of a faith purer than pure that attracted the wrath of the Church in the 12th century. The sky is of a screaming blue, with not a cloud in sight. The cliff to the castle is of a yellowish, powdery grey, particules of dust blowing the wind, while the castle itself is made of solid, pale grey bricks that have withstood the test of time.

2- A night out in Singapour

Finding Inspiration to Create Handmade Jewelry Hitting a Nightclub in Singapour - Picture from Google Creative Commons.

Finding Inspiration to Create Handmade Jewelry Hitting a Nightclub in Singapour – Picture from Google Creative Commons.

Since we’re approaching the end of our escapade, it is only proper to celebrate! And what better city in the whole wide world to do that than Singapour! Singapour, with its gridlocked Ferraris in the streets, its strict laws regarding the simple act of chewing gum (hint: it’s forbidden) and its grandiose hotels… Picture yourself in a fancy club. Let’s not skimp here, we’ll pick Pangea. In Pangea, the most expensive drink, the one and only Jewel of Pangea, will set you back a mere $32,000 USD, but for that you get nothing short of gold-flecked Hennessy with 1985 vintage Krug Champagne, topped with a 1 carat diamond. Whether you keep the diamond or drink it with the rest in entirely up to you.

So obviously jewelry inspired by such a rich setting will be bold, bright, and rich. Precious metals should be present, but the pieces themselves should also stand on their own. Think of a peacock flaunting its colorful, brilliant feathers. That’s the spirit we’re going for here. The idea is to stand out. Leather and wood are also more than welcome, as obviously every seat in the club is draped is genuine leather, but also as a nod to its tables made of slices of centennial trees. Who said Pangea was eco-friendly? Just make sure your jewelry only uses renewable resources though.

1- Breakfast near Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France

Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral in Paris, France, in the Summer - Picture Copyright 2017 Unikgemz.

Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral in Paris, France, in the Summer – Picture Copyright 2017 Unikgemz.

Let’s end our inspiration fueling trip around the world in a quiet place. A nice French café near Notre Dame de Paris, on a sunny June morning. Smell the freshly ground coffee. Are you having an espresso or a café au lait ? A croissant or two complete this light breakfast, while the majestic mistress of Victor Hugo looms over the Seine. Tourists from all over the world flock around the masterpiece, but this café is apparently in a world of its own. You can feel the fresh breeze off the river in your hair, and the coffee is absolutely stunning.

Jewelry inspired by such a unique setting will surely have a somewhat classic feel to remind us of the ageless Cathedral. But at the same time, it should be lively, as a bustling city on a sunny day should be. I see colors in the shades of green reflecting the Seine, complimented by rough hewn pieces of beige stone perhaps, bring to mind the myriad of bricks that were required to build this unique monument.

As you see, although inspiration is indeed a fickle mistress, she can also be found in just any setting, if you just try hard enough to find her. The strategy doesn’t change, wherever you are. Just let yourself soak in your environment, use all your senses, sight, smell, sound, touch, hearing, and jot down what comes to mind. Make a sketch or two. It’s a very good idea to always keep some form of notebook for that purpose on hand at all time. The unlined type, because you not only want to write, you also want to draw! Let your imagination run wild, and you’ll be surprised how, with a little patience and practice, you can capture the essence of a time and place in a piece of jewelry!

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Men’s Handmade Jewelry Summer Collection – The Mountaineer Bracelet

Introducing The Mountaineer, the latest addition in our men’s handmade jewelry summer collection. The Mountaineer is made of braided black and white leather strips, reminiscent of the climbing ropes favored by mountaineers the world over. It is closed by a clever rod-and-ring mechanism that ensures it will stay put no matter how gnarly the conditions get on those high summits.

Pat stops to survey all the ground we've already covered climbing Mont Colden in the Adirondacks.

Pat stops to survey all the ground we’ve already covered climbing Mont Colden in the Adirondacks.

To truly put this new piece through its paces, I have decided to test it out in its natural environment, a real mountain in the Adirondacks of upstate New York. For this purpose, I have chose one of the 4000 feet+ peaks, the famous Mount Colden. At exactly 4,715 feet, Colden is the eleventh-highest peak in the High Peaks of the Adirondack Mountains in the State of New York. Hiking can be dangerous, especially on those exposed summits, so I enlisted the help of my best pal, Pat. Plus, it’s always so much more fun to do it with a friend!

Pat and I chose a loop of 13.1 miles, with a change of elevation around 3,000 feet. In other words, a hearty workout for a hot, late June Saturday. We made sure to pack plenty of water, and off we went. Alla was obviously terrified we would be running into bears, but I was pretty confident that with our incessant chit-chat, Pat and I would scare any bear for miles around, which proved to be the case. Not a sight of a fluffy brown tail during our 8 hours adventure in the wild. The wildest beast we encountered was a wild toad of at most 2 inches.

The author, trying to tip a boulder off the summit of Mount Colden, wearing The Mountaineer.

The author, trying to tip a boulder off the summit of Mount Colden, wearing The Mountaineer handmade bracelet for men.

We started off our adventure from the ever-popular Adirondack Loj trailhead. The Loj’s parking lot was, true to form, already packed solid at 10:00am. Hiking has apparently become quite the popular sport, especially with fellow Quebecers. We even heard a local lady complain that they would soon need bigger mountains to accommodate all of us French Canadian hikers… Oh well.

We had to leave the car on the side of the dirt road leading to it, adding at least half an additional mile to what already promised to be serious walking. We signed it at the post as this is the prudent thing to do and we are prudent hikers, and set of over mostly flat terrain to the world-famous Marcy Dam. The Dam still hasn’t been properly repaired from the damages it suffered from the floods of Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011, but thankfully, there is now a wooden bridge a little further downstream that permits easy crossing.

We chose to do the loop counterclockwise, that is to say, we first walked alongside Avalanche Lake through the Avalanche Pass before reaching Lake Colden, where we struck a hard left and the climbing proper began. Can you say steep? Just when you think you’ve reached a little flat ground to catch your breath, it climbs again even steeper. But the view makes it all worth it, especially on such a gorgeous, cloudless day in June. The view from the summit was, through to form, absolutely breathtaking. We stopped a half hour to have lunch, take in the view, and to be frank, catch our breath…

Thankfully, the way back down is a lot less steep that the way up, and we were super glad we had decided to do the loop counter-clockwise and not the other way around. While it can be strenuous to climb steep sheets of rock, it is at least relatively safe. The same just cannot be said of going down. Climbing down a mountain is a slow and steady affair, requiring a fair amount of balance. We finally got back to the car with nary a drop of water left at around 4:00pm, clocking in this expedition at roughly 8 hours.

The Mountaineer Handmade Jewelry Bracelet for Men in action.

The Mountaineer Handmade Jewelry Bracelet for Men in action.

I was more than pleased to notice how the Mountaineer bracelet went along pretty nicely with my pedometer… The whole 13.1 loop to the summit of Mount Colden accounted for some 38,000 steps, according to this most precise piece of machinery, though I would venture to guess that the calorie count was way, way off, as the little bugger had no way to account for the change in altitude, aka Climbing with a capital “C”, that accounted for a lot of the workout involved! At any rate, the Mountaineer held through this strenuous exercise with nary a sweat! The rod-and-ring locking mechanism proved solid and no amount of jingling while climbing sheer faces of mountainside could dislodge it. The copious amounts of sweat that such a strenuous exercise is wont to produce didn’t affect the Mountaineer in the slightest. This truly is a manly piece of jewelry for us outdoorsy dudes!

The Mountaineer is available now, find it on our online store!

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The Colonial Collection of Handmade Jewelry

Beautifully handmade blue jade and pearls earrings with Sterling silver hooks, perfect to hit the beach in style or those hot summer nights.
The Colonial Hotel in Cayo Coco, Cuba, the inspiration behind the Colonial Earrings.

The Colonial Hotel in Cayo Coco, Cuba, the inspiration behind the Colonial Earrings.

In this entry we will go behind the scenes to take a closer look at the creative process behind the creation of some of Alla’s most popular pieces, the Colonial Collection. As a jewelry artist, Alla often finds inspiration in her travels around the world, creating certain pieces to remind her of places she particularly appreciated. The Colonial Earrings, and its smaller sister, the Mini Colonial Earrings, were put together in honor of Alla and Martin’s favorite retreat in the Caribbean, The Colonial Hotel. Located on the small island of Cayo Coco off the north coast of Cuba, The Colonial sits on pristine white sand beaches. The Caribbean sea, of a a pure turquoise and clear as the air itself, laps up quietly a stone’s throw away from the hotel. This quiet retreat is a well-kept secret, and the colonial theme is reflected throughout the architecture of the place. Low buildings with adobe shaped entryways, all painted of different, rich colors, are both pleasing to the eyes and soothing to the senses. What strikes one the most upon arriving at The Colonial is just how relaxing the place is… The only sound to be heard is the crash of the waves upon the the perfect beaches. The air is fresh, and smells of salt, sand and, if you happen to be at the right place and at the right time, of delicious fresh fish roasting of a fire. It is indeed easy to close your eyes there and be instantly transported back in time to the Colonial era of the island. The fact that the Internet is sketchy at best does help a lot with that whole disconnecting vibe, to be sure!

Beautifully handmade blue jade and pearls earrings with Sterling silver hooks, perfect to hit the beach in style or those hot summer nights.

Beautifully handmade blue jade and pearls earrings with Sterling silver hooks, perfect to hit the beach in style or those hot summer nights.

Alla wanted the earrings to remind her of all those quiet, magical moments spent relaxing by the Caribbean beach at the Colonial. Thus the location itself is reflected in the stones and colors chosen, and how they are put together. The blue jade stones represent the clear sea, while the irregular white pearls are there to remind us of the powdery fine white sand of the beaches. It is said that on Cayo Coco, if one takes a handful of sand in his hand and let it drop through his fingers, the soft wind will carry away every grain of it before they touch ground…The full size Colonial Earrings are completed by anchors, further reflecting the marine theme of this collection. Both the full-size and mini Colonial Earrings are linked together with tiny chains that give the pieces a sweeping motion, not unlike that felt on a boat at anchor. As with all of Unikgemz earrings, Sterling Silver plated hooks have been chosen to complete the pieces, ensuring a comfortable fit with no chance of any allergic reaction whatsoever.

The Colonial Earrings, and its smaller sister, the Mini Colonial Earrings, are both available for purchase in our online boutique. So hesitate no more, and travel to the Caribbean with us!

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The Beacon Hotel – an independant review

We had a chance to stay at the Beacon Hotel in New York City, and I would like to share with you our impressions. I’m not paid for this post, and you can be assured that I’ll tell you everything as it is.

First of all, you should know that the Beacon Hotel is situated on the Upper West Side in a VERY rich neighbourhood, very close to Central Park. There is a subway station (72nd Street on the Red Line) just 100 meters from the hotel, which makes the place easily accessible. However, you should also bear in mind that if you have heavy luggage (like we did), it is highly recommended to take a cab at the airport (which would cost you around 60 US + tips). Why? Well, elevators are few and far between on the NYC subway system, and the stairs are narrow. My husband practically killed his back transporting our luggage. Of course, if you travel on a budget, subway remains the way to go. Just make sure you get off at 72nd Street. Also, if you come from the airport, you need first to take the Airtrain, get off at Jamaica station, and then make a change at 42nd street before heading to 72nd Street. It will cost you around 7-8 US.

We booked a king-bedroom suite. I think I have never stayed in such a marvellous place (except maybe for our favourite hotel in Cuba, the Colonial, which will also be the subject of a future post)! The room was quite spacious, and our sofa and bed were both very comfortable. We slept truly well! My mother is a light-sleeper, and she can usually hear everything that is happening in a 100 meters radius (including in other rooms), but she says she didn’t hear anything at all. We were on the 15th floor, room 1514.

The included kitchenette is also praiseworthy! It came fully stocked with numerous plates, glasses, cups, knives, pots, frying pans, forks and spoons! If you need anything else, you can ask for it at the reception. I remember they also had large salad bowls, additional dishes, and other kitchenware available on demand. I’ve spotted a toaster, but we haven’t used it. Also, there is a kettle that we used pretty often. It spilled water, but no big deal! The fridge is pretty big, and there is even a microwave, and a gas stove. We didn’t use the stove, but we used the elements on top quite a bit, and they performed very well indeed! All in all, the kitchenette is very well equipped, and you don’t need to go to cafés or restaurants, which is very convenient for families!

It bears pointing out that there is a great grocery store/market just in front of the hotel, part of the Fairway Market chain, and I kid you not – you can buy everything there (you should definitely try their lightly-salted mozzarella cheese!!!!).  I think we ate only twice outside the room (I will write another post about affordable NYC cafés soon).

There is obviously an iron in the room, as well as an ironing board. You can also find plenty of space in the wardrobes. Both rooms had a TV set hooked to cable and a gazillion stations, and separate air-conditioning systems, over which we had complete control.

I should also mention our perfect view! We could see the Eldorado of Central Park!

The staff of the hotel was very friendly and competent. We’ll surely stay again at this great hotel!

Also, I should say that you need to book this hotel in advance in order to get competitive pricing. The hotel may seem expensive, but the you get an ideal location on Manhattan, your own kitchen, and tranquillity! I would not recommend staying in the Times Square area (unless you like noise and parties)!

Those who like fashion, should make sure to drop by the Centrury 21 store very close to the hotel! I bought a lot of things there, but didn’t spend a lot.

If you have questions about our stay at this hotel, feel free to ask!