Interview with Jewellery Designer Cynthia Gale

Cynthia Gale 
At the beginning of the month I was writing about these beautiful Cynthia Gale bangles. They are still on my mind. The Cynthia Gale jewellery collections are characterized by unique craftsmanship and are replete with cultural, historical and spiritual inspiration. Finding a distinctive voice in such a diverse field must hold a fascinating story, as well as valuable lessons anyone who wants to make a difference and sticks by and fights for their dreams can appreciate and benefit from. That’s exactly what I was hoping to find out when I reached out to the designer herself, who kindly accepted my interview invitation. A truly inspirational woman and talented designer, Cynthia shares the beliefs she holds true, the foundations of her accomplishments and what she wishes people appreciated more. My talks with Cynthia have been an enriching experience and it is an honour to have her as my guest.

How did you get into jewellery design?
I have always worked in fashion – and accessories have always been front and center. Just before starting my jewellery company, I was living and working as a fashion model in Europe. Time spent working in Italy, France, England, Germany and Greece further shaped my love of distinctive silhouettes and profiles. A trip from Paris to Jakarta, Indonesia, to do a series of runway shows sealed my fate. I stepped off the plane and fell in love with the sights, smells and fine craft of Indonesia – it was an “AHA” moment. I returned to Bali from my home in New York City shortly after and was introduced to the silver business… it immediately felt right. I bonded with the spirituality of the Balinese and Javanese people and their passion for unique, intricate sterling silver metalwork. My business, GeoArt by Cynthia Gale, opened in 1991.

Through a modeling connection, I met a native Indonesian who owned a silver factory. Together with his 19 brothers and sisters, they owned most of the silver jewellery businesses in Bali at the time. I very quickly became close with his family, attending dinners and ceremonies which catapulted the business forward very quickly. In the mid-90’s, I opened my first museum client – Cynthia Gale for Washington National Cathedral – and produced a series of meaningful, licensed jewellery collections based on their art and architecture. Other museums followed: The Cleveland Museum of Art; The DeYoung; The Getty; Boston Museum of Fine Art; The High Museum. This lead to eventual product development such as creating a custom crozier and pectoral cross for the Bishop of Maryland. Projects for Barnes and Noble, Miss America for Amway and the NBA fell into place. The demand for art-inspired jewellery collections kept coming. In 2012, we rebranded as Cynthia Gale to further define our modern, urban eclectic, timeless aesthetic and now have three distinct divisions: GeoArt – collections inspired by my personal art passions; GeoMuseum – licensed collections created in partnership with museums and cultural institutions; GeoSignature – statement pieces extraordinaire! And the story continues…
Cynthia Gale Mystical Pagoda inspirationCynthia Gale Mystical Pagoda Long Latticework Sterling EarringThe classic temple pagoda of the Far East inspired the Mystical Pagoda Collection


The jewellery design field is so diverse and has infinite possibilities. How difficult was it to find your own voice?
I have always liked real and felt that “gold is old”. Sterling silver is fresh, timeless and a wonderful material to work with. Our artisan workshops in Indonesia have been our most valued partner.. the culture is steeped in art and the craftsmen have been working with sterling silver for centuries. I love the idea that global art inspires me to create a jewellery design in my New York studio, which is then created by hand in Indonesia and sold to international retail customers via all over the world! Finding my creative voice has been an ongoing process… it is a never ending, silver evolution… let the journey continue!

Is there anyone in particular who has influenced your work?
I am inspired by beautiful women of all shapes, sizes, ages and cultures who demonstrate grace, both inside and out.
Cynthia Gale Embroidered Trim Spin RingsCynthia Gale herringbone embroidered spin ringEmbroidered trim spin ring, made by using individual artistic embellishments and metalwork techniques unique to Indonesia

What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking of becoming a jewellery designer even if they don’t have the proper training?
Follow your passion and don’t be afraid to get dirty. I was not formally trained in jewellery design and I believe my collection(s) are amongst the most diverse, well executed designs in the sterling silver, fine craft jewellery arena today.

Each of your jewellery collections has its own interesting, unique story attached to it. Is there any one of them in particular you hold most dear to your heart?
The story of the Borobudur Lotus Collection reaches deep for me. I have personally stood amongst the enormous stupas of this magnificent architectural monument with my family. The temple was built in 750 AD… an ancient reminder of the beauty of life and the world. Although I traditionally create my designs in silver, this was one of the first where I experimented with bronze that incorporated a sterling silver accent. I treasure the way the elements of the temple translated into this stunning material blend… especially the lotus flower design element which I originally spotted as a carving in the temple wall.
Borobodur inspiration-Cynthia Gale jewelryCynthia Gale Borobodur Lotus Open Sterling  Bronze Bangle-1The Borobudur monument and one of the jewellery pieces it inspired, the Borobudur Lotus Open Sterling Bronze Bangle
Which is the most challenging part of the design process? What about the most rewarding one?
I am often overwhelmed by the sheer amount of aesthetically pleasing art out there… sometimes I feel OVER-Inspired! The design process can be daunting when the possibilities are so endless. That said, once a theme is identified and the elements are determined, it is fun to break loose and let the creativity take over! It is rewarding to put the finishing touches on a collection at the point when it has all come together…

Where do you make your pieces? Do you collaborate with local manufacturers from places that inspired your collections? If so, how difficult was it to find a manufacturer and which are the challenges of production?
We have been producing Cynthia Gale jewellery in Indonesia since 1991 and have producers in both Bali and Java. I have spent a great deal of time in Indonesia over the years… conceived both of my children there(HA!)… and raised them to understand other cultures, people and places. Production challenges occur when communication is weak. We have worked hard to streamline our communication with our production partners in conjunction with developing a close personal relationship with them over the years.

Which is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from the travels that have influenced your jewellery lines?
There is intrinsic beauty in all forms of art, whether it be the rustic art of the Buddhist Dharmachakra Wheel or the delicate, flowing lines of the French Belle Epoche which celebrated artistic freedom and creativity.
Cynthia Gale Dharmachakra Inspiration854beb27c44432586e1e10ec839bf5b5The Dharmachakra, one of the oldest known Buddhist motifs in spiritual art, and the Dharmachakra Sterling Blue Topaz Grace Necklace
What does jewellery mean to you?
Jewellery is meant to evoke a feeling or a memory of another time and place. I believe that a woman or man’s choice of jewellery is a personal expression of their individuality. I have often said, “A woman’s clothing covers the canvass, but her accessories provide the details. That is what makes her unique.”

Who do you design for? Who is the Cynthia Gale woman?
She is independent, creative and enjoys art and fashion. The Cynthia Gale woman is timeless, yet modern. She appreciates sterling silver jewellery that can be worn every day, but seamlessly transitions into the many facets of her lifestyle.

You wish people appreciated more:… broader ranges of artistic expression. I wish people were willing to explore and be open to the vast range of art forms which exist today. Through art, humanity evolves, grows and prospers.
Cynthia Gale Fossil Bambu repousse braceletCynthia Gale Fossil Bambu Repousse NecklaceThe Fossil Bambu Collection combines the ancient Indonesian metalwork technique of repoussé to offer the wearer a sense of the healing power the fossil bambu, a unique agate stone, is known for in the Javanese culture

photo: 1-courtesy of Cynthia Gale / the rest of the images: Cynthia Gale official website

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Style in Film: Richard Gere in American Gigolo

Richard Gere's style American Gigolo 
“I have found myself in the position of a revolutionary. A revolutionary who has always defended the right to be normal, as an extreme mooring of sophistication, a point of arrival in which the details, above all, are important. Thus operating by substraction, by removal, using ordinary elements, I have, they say, turned around the very concept of elegance. My revolution has not always been evident to all, perhaps because it was not as dramatic as most revolutions imagine themselves to be, but over time it has proven to be much more incisive.” (Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani Magazine n°14, 1995)

Giorgio Armani, who has recently turned 80, indeed revolutionized fashion and it was Richard Gere’s wardrobe in the film American Gigolo (1980), where he plays male escort Julian Kaye, that launched the designer’s career. Since then on, menswear has not been quite the same. Talking about his designs, Armani stated that his notions of deconstruction were even political in as much as he was advocating a change to the status quo. Replacing the confining traditionally tailored Savile Row suit, Giorgio Armani introduced a notion of fluidity and ease of movement that reshaped the design of formal menswear. He achieved this more relaxed silhouette by knocking the stuffing out, removing the padding and dispensing with the lining. He also lightened the weight of the suit, replacing tweed and flannel with softer fabrics, such as wool crêpe, which resulted in the same ease of wear and free-fitting as could be found in a knitted cardigan. Linen and silk suiting became part of the men’s wardrobe as well. Armani created an aesthetic of luxurious, soft, understated elegance.
Richard Gere in Giorgio Armani-American Gigolo-2

Richard Gere in Giorgio Armani-American Gigolo-3

Richard Gere's costumes American GigoloAbove, Julian wears a double-breasted light grey flannel jacket with more defined shoulders. This is a semi-formal outfit, where he wears separates instead of a suit, without elegance suffering one bit.  
Throughout the film, Gere sports everything from formal to casual attire, from leisure-wear to evening clothing, the complete wardrobe of the modern man – although I should mention that not everything he wears is Armani, but the prominent part is.

The whole style of the film was influenced by Italy, as director Paul Shrader was telling GQ. “Los Angeles is an over-photographed city and has that punishing sunlight. It’s hard to find a new way to shoot LA. I got around that by going to Italy and bringing back Ferdinando Scarfiotti. He had been the art director on Bertolucci’s The Conformist and Last Tango in Paris and eventually he won an Oscar for The Last Emperor. It was Nando who was the driving visual force for the film.” Maybe it’s the art direction too, but there is definitely something Italian about Richard Gere’s style and attitude.

In the famous scene where he lovingly lays out his suits on his bed, it’s obvious that Julian loves his clothes, and that looks are important to him. This is one film in which clothes themselves, not only in connection with the character, play a major role, and that’s what cemented Armani’s success.
Richard Gere in Armani-American Gigolo-1

American Gigolo style

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Mise en scène #9

Classiq-Mise en-scene #9 
In keeping with the theme in the previous Mise en scène, a whisper-thin white cotton shirt is another indispensable item in the summer, especially the kind of summer we’ve been having these past few days. Breathable and lightweight, not only is it the only thing I feel comfortable wearing in the heat (preferably paired with a linen skirt or wide-legged linen trousers), but it’s also the ideal cover-up for the beach or poolside for someone who doesn’t sunbathe, like me, but still wants to soak up the sun a little. The white crystal necklace is a birthday present from last week, and if you know about my passion for jewellery of late, you can imagine it’s already on heavy rotation.

photo by me

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The Wild West in Fashion Photography

Arizona Muse by Kayt Jones -The Free Spirit - i-D Summer 2012 
Isn’t it funny how the more something becomes a trend the more you look for inspiration somewhere else? At least this is what happens to me. I am a devotee to simplicity and minimalism when it comes to my personal style, but I’m not exactly enthusiastic when I see this theme month after month in pictorials. The dream, escapism or newness quality of fashion photography is more and more rare. Fashion editors and photographers used to strive to bring something new to the pages of their magazines every single issue. It was a must. Not anymore. So few fashion publications have an identity today.

I want stories that enrich my mind and eyes. Let’s take the wild west for example. The amazingly beautiful ethnic motifs and cultural diversity of the Native Americans, their intricate textile arts, turquoise and shell jewellery, the earthy colours of the deserts and prairies, the great outdoors and the free spirit that comes along, bolo ties and beat-up cowboy hats, concho belts and fringed jackets, patchwork woven blankets, the cowboy’s weathered lifestyle, the wild nature and untamed horses, the land of farms and the simple life… Authenticity. I’d like editors to be more fashion visionaries and less stylists.
Isabelle Townsend by Bruce Weber-Ralph Lauren 1988

The wild west and fashion photography-Jaclyn Adams

Arizona Muse by Kayt Jones -The Free Spirit - i-D Summer 2012-1

Isabelle Townsend by Bruce Weber-Ralph Lauren 1989

The Wild West in Fashion Photography

photos: 1,4: Kayt Jones for i-D Magazine Summer 2012 | Arizona Muse in “The Free Spirit” styled by Havana Laffitte / 2-Bruce Weber for Ralph Lauren ad campaign 1988 | Isabelle Townsend (photographed by me from the book Ralph Lauren) / 3,6-Jaclyn Adams for Plaza Kvinna | “Desperado” editorial styled by Charlotta Rodarp Berggren / 5-Bruce Weber for Ralph Lauren ad campaign 1989 | Isabelle Townsend (photographed by me from the book Ralph Lauren)

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The River

by guest writer

The River-1951 
The River (1951) opened the eyes of the world to what was to become one of the cinematically unexplored territories of Asia. Jean Renoir left the US and went to India to film his adaptation of the novel by the same name by Indian writer Rumer Godden. The European director’s presence in India brought the attention of the local cinephile community. Among his apprentices were Satyajit Ray, one of the assistants on the film, and Subrata Mitra, Ray’s cinematographer, who would go on becoming themselves pillars of the world cinema.

What is appealing about The River is the main bone of its story: the flowing waters of Indus River that symbolize the separation between the two main religions – Hindu and Bengali – and create a union in a sacramental term when joy or sorrow are becoming mythical stages of life. The movie develops by use of documentary influenced footage mixed with film shooting in a manner closed to Neo-Realism. The director discovered and promoted a cast of actors that were able to convince that this was a piece of life that gently came out of a lost diary of a wandering man. Claude Renoir’s brilliant use of Technicolor brings the movie to an utmost artistic productivity. The colours in The River bear mythical Bengali significance and everything is used for a definite purpose. I don’t want to divulge too much for those of you who haven’t seen the film, so I will just mention the interesting fact that the plot is centered around three girls of different background and education, who are witnesses of their own grown-up process living in Bengal India.

Jean Renoir opened the paths for both Indian future directors to depict their own culture and European film-makers who became intrigued by India (e.g. Fritz Lang, Louis Malle, Roberto Rossellini, to name a few). An impressive independent production of one of the most enduring names in cinema’s history.

photo: stills from the film | Oriental International Films

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Roman Polanski: A Retrospective

Classiq-Roman Polanski A Retrospective-1
Roman Polanski has been making films for more than five decades. But he has been in love with cinema for much longer. By the time he was twelve he had discovered a new world in cinema, which slowly became his entire life, overcoming every single obstacle thrown his way (and there were many) and relentlessly pursuing his passion. Polanski is a creative, with an aesthetic eye and technical mind, one who hones the art of true film-making, and to be able to grasp a little better his point of view and what it is that drives him to go on is an enriching experience, and not only for a film buff like myself. And this is what the book Roman Polanski: A Retrospective, by James Greenberg, does.

“There were times when the obstacles in my path were such that I needed all the fantasy I could muster just to survive.”

Classiq-Roman Polanski A Retrospective-2

Classiq-Roman Polanski A Retrospective-3

Classiq-Roman Polanski A Retrospective-6 
The book, which includes succinct biographical information, mainly the director’s early life, and also covers his acting days and short films in Poland, is essentially a beautiful, comprehensive and aptly written retrospective of all of Polanski’s nineteen long features, from Knife in the Water (1962), to Venus in Fur (2013). The author draws in interviews with Roman Polanski to add more depth to each movie presentation, along with the beautifully reproduced stills from the films and behind the scene photographs. A wonderful volume that honours and rises up to this important piece of cinema.
Classiq-Roman Polanski A Retrospective-4Classiq-Roman Polanski A Retrospective-2-5

_ “I was enthralled by everything connected with cinema – not just the movies themselves, but the aura that surrounded them. I loved the luminous rectangle of the screen, the sight of the beam slicing through the darkness…the miraculous synchronization of sound and vision.”

Classiq_Roman Polanski A REtrospective


Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

photos: by me form the book Roman Polanski: A Retrospective

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