Being Elliott + Stendhal Jewelry
Stendhal Jewelry is a beautiful hand-crafted jewelry company out of Brooklyn, New York. I caught up with the creator of Stendhal Jewelry Lindley Gray to learn more about the process of creating jewelry that speaks volumes.
1. How did you get your start in designing?
My paternal grandmother introduced me to her costume jewelry collection acquired via her travels when I was very young. I was fascinated by the beads, many from Africa. I sold to my first store in Houston, TX (my hometown) at 17 with a collection of beaded necklaces, and so I began my obsession with personal adornment. I moved to New York City at 18 to learn metalsmithing and jewelry design at Pratt Institute and have been here since. I apprenticed with many companies in order to absorb as many experiences and material knowledge as possible. I started with a small jewelry company, then a furniture company, then finally fashion jewelry companies including Alexis Bittar and Philip Crangi's Giles and Brother. My first job out of college was designing Madewell, then I freelanced while also taking commission work on the side until I launched Stendhal last year.
2. Where does the name "Stendhal Jewelry" come from?
Choosing a name for your company is difficult! Either you have to use your own name or find something that works with your brand and ideals. I discovered the concept of Stendhal Syndrome, the psychosomatic reaction to art, design, and nature studied by the great writer Stendhal in my many art history classes. I loved the idea that a person could be so overwhelmed with emotion when viewing art that they could develop anxiety or even physical reactions. Art can stir something in all of us, and it felt fitting to create a brand around this idea.
3. What inspires you to create?
Love for the craft and process. When totally in the "creative" zone, I feel the strongest.
4. What do you love about working with precious metals and stones?
Metal is my passion because it is such a resilient material. It acts as a metaphor for how I want to live my life. You can beat it up, work it to death, but it can always revert to another state and become shiny, lustrous. The metalsmithing process requires many steps, and seeing the metal transform is my favorite part. I use only natural, untreated stones in my work, and sometimes there is a lack of uniformity, but that is exciting. It makes each piece different even if it is the same style.
5. Do you have a favorite piece you have made ?
The Elize and Aishe cuffs in the current SS13 collection are favorites of mine. They really evoke my personal style when stacked together. I also made a necklace for my thesis collection at Pratt that I can't part with, probably because it took so long! I made beads by rolling up fabric remnants and sealing them with hide glue I had left over from a canvas stretching demo. I had no idea of what I was doing when I began it...a testimony to the importance of material
6. Describe your style aesthetic.
I like a strong, but relaxed look...I like to be comfortable. I often mix edgy, more masculine pieces with earthy, easy separates. Nothing overtly feminine. Contrast in texture is very important to me, as well as individuality. And I have a soft spot for great vintage prints.
7. Any current obsessions you would like to share?
I love to cook, and since I am vegan I often cook at home, which means I also love cooking tools! I just bought a beautiful steel mandolin (slices veggies paper thin) from Sur La Table. Also, Skincare is an ongoing obsession. Fresh is my go-to brand, and their Rose Face Mask and Soy Face Cleansers work like a magic, and also lend a little bit of luxury and aromatherapy to the every day routine.
To keep your head down and focus, even when everything is spinning around you, and to use difficult life experiences to channel creativity and personal strength. Looking inward for strength is always better than trying to find it elsewhere.
9. What is the one fashion item you think is a “must-have” for every women?
A special piece of jewelry, obviously! I think something that you wear for years, no matter how beat up it becomes, is the best reminder of who you were and who you are. It doesn't have to be precious, but special to you.
10. Any advice you would like to give to aspiring designers?
Never rely on trends for inspiration. They will disappear, and with that your sense of individuality. Find an idea you love, and submerge yourself in it while designing, but never be resistant to change or constructive feedback. Sometimes my least favorite creations are the ones that sell the most!
11. Any exciting designing plans for 2013?
Yes, I have so many plans for Stendhal. I am in the process of creating a few new collections, including fine jewelry which will be introduced later in the year. Leather goods are also in the works and hope to launch in 2014. Everything is about timing, and I am focused on fully developing my concepts, and continuing to learn.