The Naked City Category Archives

Amber Beads for Teething Woes

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For starters I want to clarify that I am no expert on amber beads or teething in general. But, since getting so many questions about how I chose mine, how they help baby, and how to tell if they are genuine, I thought I would share my experience here on the blog.

I’m not sure where I originally heard about genuine Baltic Amber Beads and their supposed relief for teething babies in need, but they have been on my radar for quite some time. It is believed that when worn on the skin, body heat causes amber to release an oil containing succinic acid, which if absorbed into the skin, might act like a natural Ibuprofen, blocking pain and reducing inflammation. This is how wearing a strand of amber beads can help fight teething woes. Of course, when I finally had a baby of my own, I was eager to try a strand for myself.

Was I intrigued by the potential for natural pain management to help my sweet baby get through what can only be a deeply uncomfortable and distressing time? Yes.

Was I also excited to see how cute my baby would look in a tiny necklace? Absolutely.

IMG_0425IMG_0422IMG_0428I am happy to report that we did, indeed, see a difference in Leo since he has begun wearing his amber.

Firstly, the amount of drool that soaked through his shirts while he determinately and indiscriminately chomped on objects noticeably decreased. Drool of course being a huge indicator that your baby is teething because the increased saliva helps to cool-down swollen gums.

Also, his mood was markedly sour when he wasn’t wearing his necklace as he got more deeply into teething. For example, if I would forget to replace his beads after a nap (baby should never wear his strand unsupervised and especially not while sleeping) he would be fussier than his normal post-snooze self.

The above points considered, as well as the fact that Leo cut two teeth before Thanksgiving with little more than stage-one crankiness, has led me to believe that the amber beads work for us.

IMG_0962But how do I know that my beads are authentic Baltic Amber when there are so many fakes on the market?

I did a simple home-test. Here’s how:

  • Mix together a solution of 1 part salt to 2 parts water. (For example, use 1/3 cup salt to 2/3 cup water)
  • Dissolve the salt completely.
  • Drop your beads in the mixture. Plastic and glass will sink, true Baltic Amber will float.

Ta da!

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DIY Natural Disinfectant

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Watching our baby learn how to crawl before our eyes is exciting, but it’s also hair-raising when I imagine him crawling through the grime of these New York City streets that has been tracked into our house. All germaphobia aside, we are pedestrians in one of the worlds yuckiest cities.

To prevent Leo from rolling around in the muck (and to prevent a never-ending anxiety fest for me) I began researching DIY natural disinfectant sprays that are strong AND safe. While there are many “all purpose” cleansers made for hard, non-porous surfaces on the market (re: my beloved Seventh Generation sprays and wipes), there are few that are suitable for fabrics. I really wanted an anti-bacterial solution that would work for our rugs, couches and pillows as well as our countertops and hard floors.
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Essential oils have powerful cleansing properties, but they can be harmful to the skin (lungs, eyes, etc.) if used at full concentration. Naturally, it makes sense to cut the oils with water, which you’ll find in most recipes, although you’ll then need an additional disinfectant agent to strengthen the mixture.

I found recipes calling for hydrogen peroxide, but further research revealed that peroxide may also abrasive to the skin in high concentration. Many other recipes called for pure vodka…which I thought was strange and assumed would make my living room smell like my college dorm.

Finally, I found a mixture calling for witch hazel on Live Simply. Having fallen in love with the magical healing powers and endless uses for witch hazel through my postpartum recovery, it was the perfect addition.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup witch hazel (alcohol based)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 25 drops lavender pure essential oil
  • 25 drops tea tree pure essential oil

You can use any mixture of the cleansing essential oils, including lemon oil. You can omit the tea tree oil if you dislike the smell. Lemon, Tea Tree and Lavender oils are all safe for use around children.

Mix the solution as follows:

  1. Pour witch hazel + desired essential oil mixture into a spray bottle, shake vigorously to blend.
  2. Then pour in the water and shake again.

Be sure to use a glass bottle for the mixture rather than plastic to avoid any risk of the bottle breaking down. Always spot test your fabrics before use on a larger area!

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Pom-Poms on a Rainy Day

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I bought this wide brimmed Panama hat in the Hudson River Valley at the end of last summer and never had a chance to really wear it because it was the end of the season. As it hung on the wall in my front hallway all winter, reminding me that warmer days would again return, I thought about how I wanted to add some fun color to it to celebrate the coming sunshine. Since its a nasty weekend in Brooklyn, I thought that the best medicine against the indoor-blues would be to create sunny pom-poms on a rainy day.

I love how pom-poms have been showing up on everything from beach baskets to gladiator sandals to straw hats. But instead of buying a piece of the trend, I wanted to learn how to make my own. The overwhelming urge to nest seems to have spilled into the mood to craft, which is great because it is something that I had rarely made time to do—depsite the desire—in the midst of working full time.

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There are many tutorials online showing how to make pom-poms. You can buy kits or make cardboard rings, but the easiest solution I found was using a kitchen fork. I used the steps below to try my hand at making my own:

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The key is to wrap the yarn to the right thickness so that your pom-pom has enough fluff. After you’ve tied-off the yarn ball and you’re done snipping the strands, it’ll be an oblong shape. You’ll need to trim it all the way around to ensure you have a round pom-pom. Tip: if you want bigger poms, use your fingers instead of a fork.

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I opted for warm colors—yellow, pink & orange—to adorn this summer hat, but I have already been thinking up designs for other projects, like a branch wall hanging in the nursery that will feature some blues, greens and aquas. I guess it will be back to the craft store as soon as this seemingly endless rain comes to a stop.

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I’ll be sure to post about the nursery soon, as we’ve been working almost daily to bring it to life.

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Back To School

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The last weekend of August has come and gone and now, whether we like it or not, we’re in a back-to-school state of mind. Personally, I have never stopped thinking of the passing of time in terms of the school year rather than the calendar year–“last year” will always refer to anything that happened prior to summer, not the months leading up to January–and being married to a school teacher has only solidified that way of thinking.

So, while I may be mourning the waning of summer, I am looking forward to a fresh (harvest) season, cooler temperatures and the inevitable turning inwards that comes with the end of wild-at-heart summertime. Afterall, fall (and dreaded winter) is prime time for cooking, crafting and all matter of projects.

Never having been one for pumpkin flavored anythings–other than actual pumpkin, of course–I can’t say that the promise of autumnal treats reappearing on the menu does anything to ease my season-shifting woes. But, I always get excited for fall fashion and back to school essentials, even if my back to school shopping has changed a lot since the days of number-2 pencils and Lisa Frank lunch boxes.

Walking the NY Now show last week opened my eyes to a lot of really exciting, new designers whose pieces fit right into the fall wish list and I have laid out my favorites for you below!

A quick disclaimer: none of the below content was shot by me and all images are property of the brands. Since I was busy scoping out new jewelry designers for ViewPoint, I merely grabbed the business cards in passing of brands that caught my eye to research at a later date. 

 

Son of a Sailor

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Leather and wooden favorites for the desk and working on-the-go, all hand made in the Son of a Sailor Austin, TX based studio by husband and wife team and their staff.

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Graf Lantz

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Nothing excites me more for back-to-school than the prospect of the perfect, new carry-all. The Graf Lantz collection, comprising of much more than the lovely totes that I picture below, is a design-enthusiasts dream come true. Clean lines, exquisite materials and timeless color palettes. As the about page on the website so eloquently describes: their aesthetic is thoughtful and functional, combining the disciplines of both East and west into subtle, minimal design.

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Bing Bang

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The look-books and inpso boards alone are enough of a reason to visit the BingBang website. Their necklaces, bracelets and all other accessories are light, fun and stackable, but in particular, I am longing for some of their edgy rings to adorn my hands during long hours of pencil pushing and number crunching…aka adulting.

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Hoff

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Busy season for me means a lot of meetings and a lot of travel, which is why these essential, functional leather pieces strike my fancy. Especially on my wish list are the travel wallets that perfectly fit boarding passes and the oragami-reminiscent business card cases that feature one side for my cards and one side for the cards of clients. Hoff also features minimalist totes that are worth a peek.

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Enjoy your Labor Day Weekend and happy pencil-sharpening!

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Featured image via UnSplash.com, Artist Angelina Litvin.

Travel Tones

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Even though we are in the boring renovation phase of spackeling + scraping, I am gathering ideas for how to paint the perfect dream space to share with our future house guests.

We have been tossing around the question of which colors to use in the upstairs bedroom, hallway and kitchenette without much luck. But, while taking a walk last week with Joe, I came across the most beautiful flowering tree, with luscious blooms in a deep, full, purply-crimson. The best possible color to paint a little kitchen nook where guests will sit to sip tea and gaze out the window, I immediately thought. And this got me thinking about how to encapsulate all of my favorite elements of nature and design—my favorite travel tones—and joyfully let them loose inside our home.

After we returned from our Scandinavian springtime, all I could think about was bathing our home in minimalist, warm whites, contrasted by modernist black and vintage woods. It was only the colors themselves, but the clean, calm feeling that the colors created. Our previously bright turquoise and blood-red sheets were swapped out for simple, charcoal-gridded, white bedding…that matched our new laundry basket. I wanted to pull everything off the walls—photographs, wall hangings and candle-adorned shelves—to make way for vast, blank walls and single, bold statements. But, as Joe so wisely noted, this would all change as soon as we returned from our next travel…perhaps Mexico or Thailand or South Africa…when wild colors would again reign.

Without having to commit to one style choice for your entire home, single rooms can embody a certain spirit from abroad. So how to you convey your favorite travel memories simply in hues? I started poring over my archived photos from trips past, and used the Benjamin Moore Color Gallery to match my favorites. Summers in Maine, the minimalist interiors and ancient exteriors of Norway, and the regal, West Coast greens are all translated below into paint colors.

I hope these stirring colors draw something out in those future travelers to 509 3rd street and inspire vivid memories of their stay with us.

Rose-Parade

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Mojito Watermelon How-To

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One of my best friend’s favorite stories to tell is from five summers ago when we were in the midst of a classic New York City heatwave. Back in our airconditioner-less Bushwick apartment, Joe and I were at each other’s throats; the infernal heat thickening our blood and making us crazy. I sent my friend an S.O.S. and she demanded that we drop everything and come to her apartment, a 5 minute walk away. We did as she said and rambled through the streets, dripping with sweat—he in cargo shorts and a well-loved Jordan jersey, me in cut-off jean shorts and bandanas worn as both shirt and headband—to her front door, where we were greeted by a wave of frozen air and a plate of watermelon salad.

Cut to the summer of 2016 (not quite as hot and in which we have an air-conditioned bedroom). It was last Tuesday night at the Beirut concert in Prospect Park, sitting with our other best friends and enjoying a perfect evening outdoors. Just as the show was drawing to a close we were approached by a sweet-faced stranger, holding a platter of salmon-colored shapes. “Do you guys want some mojito watermelon? I made it for the picnic, but I’m not going to take the leftovers home. I’ll just throw it out if you don’t want any.” Of course we wanted some. Not only did she have me at “mojito…” but, as paragraph one of this post describes, I have a very positive history with watermelon dishes. We all took quick bites and gushed over how good it was. Our benefactress rattled off the ingredient list and then disappeared into the sunset. I was hooked and wanted to make it myself.

A Google search yielded mostly recipes for watermelon mojitos (which, OK, also look DELICIOUS), but after some digging I did find a recipe from Country Living that describes how to make this dish. It calls for sugar, which I don’t think it needs at all, so I experimented a bit and came up with my own, similar version. The fact that I can use the fresh mint from my garden really appeals to my farm girl fantasies…here it is!

+ Ingredients +

  • Watermelon
  • Limes
  • Sea Salt
  • Olive Oil
  • Fresh Mint

+ Directions +

  • Cut up watermelon in nice chunks.
  • Sprinkle with sea salt and lime juice.
  • Drizzle with olive oil.
  • Top with fresh, chopped mint.
  • Enjoy chilled

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Ta da!

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Enjoy! xx

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On The Road

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Life has become, for me currently, a dizzying dance between packing and unpacking. It is hard to believe (even for myself, who has lived to tell the tale) that since the beginning of 2016 I have been on the road to Arizona, Puerto Rico, Texas, (there was a Hamptons weekend in there) California–the entire seaboard, mind you–got surprise married, planned a reception & did my taxes. For a girl who sometimes feels the pangs of anxiety in preparation for something as routine as a dinner party, I relish the fact that I am able to maintain some sense of self in a time that, for routines sake, is in complete upheaval.

Our 8-day long journey through Scandinavia did wonders for the spirit and to recenter myself. From what we saw, the Nordic soul knows little if it doesn’t know how to bathe in the clear, bright light of minimalism and walk the delicate balance between work, life and self. I won’t dishonor that experience by lumping it in with this brief reflection on the past months, but rest assured that there will be much more on that to come.

I had words for each of these past trips and for the months of January through April, but I can’t remember them now. They are a wild forest of overgrown brush, too complicated and tangled to sort through and organize in any coherent manner. So, I will leave you with a montage of photos in hopes that it conveys a bit of the wonder and the awe I feel at having the unique experience to call an airport my second home and America my backyard.

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Weekly Round Up – Puerto Rico

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Some would use the phrase, “It’s like rain I’d never seen before.” But as powerful and relentless as it was, I had seen rain like this before. It was the same rain that tinted our windows black in Gwangju, adding a pause in the day to consider the sound of your own loneliness. It was the rain that rarely came in Sevilla, but when it did the town would briefly fall under a spell and come out smelling like sodden clay. It was the rain that rose up past the tires of our car on my first trip to Puerto Rico and turned palm trees and lights into shadows and smears.

As we drove the dark and mountainous rode from Ponce to San Juan I felt the electricity–a mixture of terror and ecstatic delirium–that comes to me in moments when I am completely out of control of what is to come. This feeling happens often in travel when I’ve been in a place long enough to have a routine, but something occurs that reminds me that I am still at the whim of this foreign place. It happened to me on this recent trip to Puerto Rico because, despite the fact that I had landed on the island only 12 hours prior, I was blissed out to be back among Spanish speakers in a capacity other than “tourist.” I was also duly petrified by the combination of darkness, lateness and infernal rain we were experiencing.

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It should go without saying, as I sit here writing this, that we made it safely back to San Juan. A fate for which I owe everything to the adeptness of my companion and driver to whom a little tropical rain storm is nothing if not routine. I spent the next days falling more deeply and deeply in love with my temporary life as an Islander, delighting in my cafe con leches purchased in Spanish, my daily commutes to work on which I often had the same taxi driver and my moments (though infrequent) to feel the Caribbean sun turning my skin rapidly brown.

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IMG_8213I fell asleep each night to a chirping Coqui and awoke each morning to the sight of a reflecting pool stretching out toward the crashing waves of the open ocean. I felt blessed to be back, if only for a moment, in a place just foreign enough to feel that specific electricity.

So, until next time.

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Featured rain photo courtesy of Unsplash.com, Photography by Christopher.

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Dawn Marie West

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I had the pleasure of working with Dawn Marie West in the Summer of 2015. She beautifully photographed the Melissa McGill, Morphologically feature that I wrote for Bohemian Collective. She is the kind of woman that surprises you with how truly driven and entrepreneurial she is, only because she emanates such a serene and unruffled nature that you find yourself wondering how she keeps calm with all of the coals she has simultaneously roasting in the fire.

Dawn has a sharp eye, a peaceful spirit and she moonlights as a hula-hooper—seriously check out her Instagram for reference—and she is a fierce champion of her fellow creatives. In addition to her photography, she is the founder of Maison Made NYC a budding art house and platform for the emerging artist.

Read all about her work and her vision here for this week’s installment of Wisdom Wednesday!

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1. Tell us a bit about your brand, Maison Made NYC, how you conceived of the idea and how you see the brand growing.

Maison Made NYC is an art house and platform for artists to have their work collectively represented to an alternative art audience while serving as inspiration for the emerging artist. As of right now, Maison Made is based online where I feature studio visits and interviews with emerging artists throughout the city.

Maison Made originated as a collective of the artists in my circle of friends. As an emerging photographer myself, we collectively decided to put on group shows together, representing every medium. It came out of the idea to have our work represented independently, as it has become increasingly more difficult and less realistic for many emerging artists to show their work in more prominent galleries of New York City. I interned as a Curatorial Assistant at a high-end contemporary photography gallery in Chelsea. It was that experience where I saw the disconnect for emerging artists, as only those with well-known connections and national or international recognition actually made it into the gallery. I realized how underrepresented many artists are, and saw that there was a need to be fulfilled. From there I decided to launch Maison Made as an alternative platform for emerging artists to gain recognition in their local market.

Currently, I am working on a range of journals for artists and creatives that focus on setting goals and intentions. The journals will be available through Maison Made. As for growth, I envision Maison Made to eventually become a co-working cooperative and rotating gallery space for our roster of artists. I have already seen so much momentum with Maison Made since launching in September of 2015 that I can see the expansion to a physical space in the near future.

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2. What are the biggest challenges you face day to day as a creative entrepreneur building your business?

I think the challenges I’ve encountered the most in building this business – and in my art work as well – is letting go of perfectionism. I won’t release a work until I feel it exceeds my own expectations. In my experience, it is our own perception of perfection that holds us back, and so the remedy for me is just getting the work out there. Placing a deadline on myself helps with that. It is scary at first, but once I let go of the idea of it being perfect and get it in front of my audience, I am always amazed with how it is received.

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3. What are the skills that you’ve cultivated throughout your life that help you in your work?

I think having to critique work in school is one of the skills that really made me a stronger artist. It also has made receiving critiques of my work a little less of a blow because I’m so used to it now.

I also put a lot of emphasis on aesthetics and I find that having a solid, cohesive brand is the strongest ambassador of the work you put out. A lot about branding and knowing what you want to convey through your brand is about looking inward at who you are, what your voice is and how to translate that in your business.

Finally, I’ve cultivated skills that have absolutely nothing to do with my work, and somehow I’ve been able to incorporate those skills into my work in some way. An example that comes to mind is, I worked as a retail merchandiser, and before becoming a merchandiser I didn’t know the first thing about using a drill. It kept me from landing an internship at a gallery actually. After I started working at this retailer, I became really good at cutting signage and using an impact driver (not to mention, I felt really cool to be that chick with a drill.) After learning how to wield one decently, a year later I had the opportunity to let the curator know what I had learned as a merchandiser, and ultimately she allowed me to come work for the gallery I had initially been turned down for. So, I think learning as many skills as possible, even the most far out will eventually give you leverage in your work.

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4. When you’re not working, what are you up to? Projects, Fun Stuff, etc.

When I am not working, I am more than likely at a music festival hula hooping, or at a coffeehouse trying out the most exotic blend I can find (I stumbled upon lavender lattes last year, changed my life.) I recently also got into aromatherapy, and have been learning everything I can about it from my friend and owner of Morphologically, Melissa McGill. She makes these rad candles, (but you knew that already.) I also am working on a solo pop-up show of my body of work; Botanical Luminary. The work is based on botanicals and abstractions. I hope to have this show confirmed by mid-summer.

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5. What are your words of wisdom for other people (or perhaps your 5 years younger self) on how to chase your dreams and work hard to get to a fulfilling place in work and in life?

Take every opportunity you possibly can to either learn something really intriquing or to get your work in front of someone. You have no idea who you may meet, that may very well change your life, or how learning something unusual may lead you into new experiences. Our time is so limited, and so I say pursue what makes you the absolute happiest. If you have to take a 9 to 5 – which most of us do – make sure you have a side project. Your side project often times becomes your main project over time as it can bring more joy and fulfillment than what we are doing currently. Maison Made started out as a side project for me, It’s now a huge part of my existence and I love every moment of it.

6. What are the 5 items you can’t live without?

Coffee, or more specifically, espresso.

My Canon 5D Mark II Camera.

An amazing candle. Shout out to Morphologically.

A great mixtape. I’m all about Kaytranada.

Flowers. I’m not ashamed to say I buy them for myself.

 

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For more on Dawn Marie West and Maison Made NYC visit www.MaisonMadeNYC.com.

All Photos by Dawn Marie West.

 

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Kassandra Nicholson Jewelry

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Kassandra Nicholson and I worked together to brand her namesake jewelry business, a line of unique and powerful handmade pieces—talismans that act as emotional armor for the wearer—that I am overjoyed to have seen take wings and build the following that it deserves. Kassandra is a true creative; whose energy inspires me to keep writing, even on those days (as with today’s blustery and steely grayness) when taking a long nap seems favorable to turning out another story. Her stunning works flow outwardly, seemingly without much effort. But, of course, as with any artistic entrepreneur, there is a great deal of effort behind the making of her gorgeous pieces. I was lucky to be able to pick her brain a bit on her creative process, so read on!

May these pearls of wisdom that she shares below—for this week’s installment of Wisdom Wednesday—kickstart your day and toss a log on the inner fire that may be dwindling in mid-Winter’s wake.


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1. What is your morning routine as it relates to your designing? 
I’m a night owl, so my mornings are laid back. I take a long walk with my dog around the neighborhood, stop for coffee, and soak up the surroundings. Williamsburg is full of personality, like a giant canvas for artistic expression. By mid-afternoon, I’ve made it to my workshop with good creative energy; it balances the solitary aspect of focusing on the bench.

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2. What is your advice on harnessing the intense energy of New York City and not letting it overwhelm your creative process?
I’ve always been drawn to things with a darker, grittier undertone, and my dry sense of humor keeps it fun. I find the city’s intensity endlessly entertaining: the graffiti, the sporadic shouting, the limitless stories. That said, I think most New Yorkers have a secret spot to gather their thoughts… mine would be my building’s rooftop, or the boulders where the East River meets Brooklyn.
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3. What would you advise a younger person (or even a younger version of yourself) on how to follow your dreams?
Artistic people seem to attract a great deal of advice, so it’s important to have your own strong vision to follow, for your own satisfaction. One of my best choices has been to surround myself with mentors whose work I admire. As a jeweler, New York is an ideal place to learn from others in the industry. The more you understand your medium, the more confidence you will have creating with it.
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4. Where do you look first for inspiration in life and in your craft?
I usually start with the places I’ve found inspiration before. Things I’m grateful for existing, like California’s beach towns, Africa’s wildlife, or New York’s history… I instinctively want to carve that feeling into a design, and have it become a part of my work.
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5. What are the 5 items you can’t live without?
My passport. If I’m not traveling, I am daydreaming about the next place or remembering the adventures I’ve collected.
An open seat at the counter of a café nearby… like Zinqué in Venice Beach, or Black Brick in Williamsburg.
A worn-soft beach sweater to keep me warm on a creative day.
An animal sidekick: my Boston Terrier, Lily.
Layers of too much jewelry: a mix of souvenirs, special gifts, and things I’ve made.
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Learn more about Kassandra and shop her designs at online at KassandraNicholson.com
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