Friday, December 6, 2013
I came through on last month’s promise/threat — my newest emoji earring is the little gun.
I don’t love real-life guns (except for sport), but I do love the emoji gun and how people use it on Twitter and in text. When I told my friend Jay that I couldn’t decide if I should do the earring, he wrote back, “I think that unless you try to make (functioning) .22 caliber earrings, you’ll probably be good.” That helped me make up my mind. I swore I would never, ever make a tiny earring gun that shoots actual tiny earring bullets. This earring is 100% harmless, unless it kills you with its cuteness.
You can order the silver one in time for the holidays, and the gold version will ship next month.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang happens to be the name of a 2005 movie starring Robert Downey Jr.
More interestingly to me, it’s the title of a 1973 book of film criticism by the late Pauline Kael, which covered movies from 1965 to 1967. Whether you loved or hated (or loved to hate) last night’s live television remake of The Sound of Music, starring Carrie Underwood as Maria, you might be amused by Kael’s notorious pan of the 1966 Julie Andrews movie. She wrote:
“The success of a movie like THE SOUND OF MUSIC makes it even more difficult for anyone to try to do anything worth doing, anything relevant to the modern world, anything relevant or expressive. The banks, the studios, the producers will want to give the public what it seems to crave. The more money these “wholesome” movies make, the less wholesome will the state of American movies be.”
“It’s the big lie. The sugarcoated lie that people seem to want to eat. They even seem to think they should feed it to their kids, that it’s healthful, wonderful ‘family entertainment.’”
Ha! I could picture someone writing a scathing review like this while wearing my gun earring in one lobe and my middle finger emoji earring in the other. Jewelry always sets the right tone.
Friday, December 6, 2013
Nelson Mandela — anti-apartheid activist, South Africa’s first black president and a worldwide icon — died yesterday at age 95. In July, on his 95th birthday, I reflected a recent trip to South Africa in a post inspired by my rediscovery of a giant anti-apartheid Keith Haring poster from the mid-1980s.
The anti-apartheid college campus protests are some of my most vivid memories from that time. I clearly remember my awe when I first heard the protest song “Free Nelson Mandela” by the Special AKA in 1984.
That song educated me about South Africa the way Neil Young’s “Ohio” enlightened me about Vietnam. You can learn more about “Free Nelson Mandela” from this June BBC America post.
Another song that has always stuck with me is 1985′s “Sun City,” written by Steven Van Zandt (Little Steven of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band) and performed by a group of musicians under the name Artists United Against Apartheid. The song declared the musicians’ intent to avoid performing at South Africa’s Sun City resort, which was then located in an “independent state” that the apartheid government created for a forcible relocation of blacks. Rolling Stone has called the song “one of the most fervent and forceful political statements to emerge from Eighties pop music.”
I’m still blown away by the eclectic group of musicians who participated on the songs. A partial list includes: Springsteen, Miles Davis, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Bob Dylan, Pat Benatar, Herbie Hancock, Ringo Starr, Lou Reed, Run–D.M.C., Peter Gabriel, Bob Geldof and Bono (can’t keep those guys away from an ’80s cause song!), Afrika Bambaataa, Kurtis Blow, The Fat Boys, Jackson Browne, George Clinton, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, Bonnie Raitt, Hall & Oates, Stiv Bators of the Dead Boys, Gil-Scott Heron, Nona Hendryx, and Joey Ramone. Incredible! You’ve got a Beatle, two Stones, a jazz giant, a folk hero, many of hip-hop’s legendary innovators, punks, a blues queen, the hottest female pop star (Pat!), and … well, I don’t know how to describe Hall & Oates.
Mandela inspired numerous other songs — you can hear some of those on Mother Jones — but these two had the most profound effect on me. Great music for a great man.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
One of my all-time favorite designs is my onyx and tsavorite skull ring …
… with diamonds hidden inside.
I’ve wanted to do a variation on this design for years — one that would be different enough for the onyx skull to keep its “one of a kind” status, but special in its own right. This spring, I decided that the special element would be vibrant color, and I put aside time to tackle the project.
I started early in April by asking a German gem carver to create a skull from “Sleeping Beauty” turquoise. I received the finished product at the end of May, loved it, spent about two weeks studying it … aaaand then I sent it back to the carver for some touch-ups. Neither the carver nor I were thrilled about the extra labor and shipping costs, but I couldn’t go forward with the ring knowing that my center stone need a few subtle tweaks to be perfect. This is the kind of thing that can happen when a jeweler is working on one-of-a-kind pieces, whether those are for inventory or specific customers. There is no factory stamping uniform parts out of molds. Each one-off element is in the hands of an individual artisan. For me, there’s no such thing as trying to pass off a piece that’s merely “good enough” to a customer down the line. I keep striving for perfection.
When the revised skull arrived in the summer, I brought it to my favorite goldsmith for the next steps. First, a wax model was made of the twisty, vine-y setting that’s become a signature of mine. Even though I’ve used this kind of setting before, one had to be specially made to fit the dimensions of the turquoise skull.
Using the lost-wax casting technique, the wax model was used to create a mold, into which molten gold was poured to create the setting. Then came the rest of the color in the form of rubies.
Ultimately, 192 rubies, totaling 1.84 carats, went into this piece — December’s Jewel of the Month. These pictures were taken by Ed Parrinello of SquareMoose Photography.
Here is the front view.
I like it when a piece inspires my photographer to send an extra photo. Unlike the onyx ring, this skull didn’t need an inside shot because it doesn’t have hidden diamonds, so Ed gave me a version with a black background.
The black background is fabulous, isn’t it? Makes me wish I could shoot all my jewelry on black, but retailers and press always require white backgrounds, so I stick to the basics. One person who requested a white-background shot was jewelry expert Cheryl Kremkow. I was honored when she included my ring on her Halloween list of “The Thirteen Best Skull Jewels.” I was blown away by the other pieces on the list, particularly the last one.
It turned out that that one is part of a 16th-century German rosary that’s owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Look at the amazing detail! This is the kind of artifact that’s on my mind when I’m creating one of my skull pieces. When people say skulls are trendy or not trendy … well, I just don’t care either way. To me, skulls are a motif for the ages, as I indicated in this post from 2007.
For my turquoise skull, as with many of my ultra-luxurious pieces, the price is available upon request. (What does that mean? Click here to find out.) If you do buy this as a holiday gift for someone you love or yourself — hey, who can buy you a better gift than you? — rest assured I’ll never make another one exactly like it. Your ring will always be unique. It is size 6. To inquire, email me at wbjewelry at hotmail dot com.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Thanks to everyone who purchased jewelry from my Cyber Monday sale yesterday! Apologies to those people who wanted a chicken necklace and didn’t get one. There was such a rush on them that my website couldn’t keep up, so the site told some people that they had one when they really didn’t. I’m sorry that my lying liar of a website lied to you about that.
A lot of other styles sold out before everyone finished his/her shopping, so I’ve left a few pieces in the sale section in case some of you want to take a shot at a different design. The majority of these are one-of-a-kind, so if you see something you like, get it right away, because there won’t be any more!
UPDATED TO ADD: Because so many people are still asking for chickens, I’m exploring the possibility of making a batch overseas so I can match — or get close to — yesterday’s sale price. Because I would have to order in quantity, my ability to do this would be dependent on securing enough pre-orders through Kickstarter, as I did here. Stay tuned.
Monday, December 2, 2013
For only 24 hours — from now until 12:01 a.m. ET on Tuesday — my Cyber Monday sale is in effect.
I have dozens of jewelry designs marked down as much as 85%. I’m talking below-wholesale and even below-cost prices. Many of the designs are one of a kind and will not be reproduced after they sell, so act fast or miss out forever.
Everything is final sale, so please read the descriptions carefully and contact me at wbjewelry at hotmail dot com with any questions — I will be happy to answer you. Chain lengths on necklaces can be changed for an extra fee. Minor adjustments to ring sizes might be possible, depending on the design.
Yes, I do ship overseas. My website automatically defaults to UPS and some of my overseas customers prefer to save a lot of money by using U.S. Priority Mail. There is no tracking for that option, so I need to talk to you and make sure you understand the risk. Email me at wbjewelry at hotmail dot com if you want to discuss that.
Happy shopping! Remember, every single one of these pieces will go back to full price on Tuesday at 12:02 a.m. ET. Seize the moment!
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Don’t forget! Tomorrow — Monday, December 2 — is my Cyber Monday jewelry sale.
More than 50 of my designs are reduced by as much as 85%. The lowest priced item is $15. Many of the pieces are priced below cost. In many cases, you wouldn’t even be able to buy the raw metal for the prices I’m offering! Because of the crazy low prices, the sale will be for 24 hours only, starting at 12:01 a.m. ET on Monday and ending at 12:01 a.m. ET on Tuesday. Act fast, because many of the sale pieces are one-of-a-kind designs — once they’re sold, I won’t make another. All sales are final. Please read the product descriptions thoroughly and email me at wbjewelry at hotmail dot com if you have any questions. (Keep in mind that the sale excludes my WENDYB by Wendy Brandes diffusion line, including the emoji earrings.)
In case you missed anything on the blog this week, here’s the list of posts:
- Monday: Kelly Clarkson and her avoirdupois.
- Tuesday: Fashion repeats itself with polka dots and flowers.
- Wednesday: MrB’s lifetime achievement award for press freedom.
- Thursday: More about the International Press Freedom Awards.
- Saturday: MrB was photographed by Bill Cunningham.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
The original street-style photographer, Bill Cunningham of the New York Times, also shoots big social events. He was at the Committee to Protect Journalists International Press Freedom Awards on Tuesday, where he photographed MrB, the other awardees and guests. You can see the pictures in tomorrow’s New York Times Sunday Styles section … and here.
Arianna Huffington is in the lower left corner. That reminds me, it’s time for me to do another fashion blogger slideshow for the Huffington Post. If you’ve got an unusual puffer jacket — something in an unexpected color or shape — email a photo to me at wbjewelry at hotmail dot com for consideration. I like to have a diverse crowd, so ladies of all ages, sizes, shapes, complexions, music fandoms, pet-ownership statuses etc. are encouraged to apply. Read my other Huffington Post stories here.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
The Committee to Protect Journalism has posted the biographical videos (produced by Univision) and acceptance speeches for three of Tuesday’s International Press Freedom Awards honorees. Here are the links for television reporter Janet Hinostroza of Ecuador; humorist Bassem Youssef of Egypt; and newspaper reporter Nedim Şener of Turkey.
As I mentioned yesterday, Nguyen Van Hai, the Vietnamese blogger known as Dieu Cay, wasn’t there to give an acceptance speech, because he’s serving a long jail sentence for daring to criticize Vietnam’s government. His son was interviewed via Skype for this video, and I urge you to watch it now. (Warning: Everyone around me was crying after this one aired at CPJ’s dinner.)
You can sign CPJ’s petition to free Dieu Cay here.
I previously posted my iPhone recording of MrB’s acceptance speech for his lifetime achievement award, but if you prefer to read the text, it’s now available both on CPJ’s site and ProPublica’s site. If you want to laugh your tits off, read some of the comments on ProPublica. I generally avoid reading news-site comments because they make me despair for humanity, but you gotta love the logic of a certain Shannon Oberlien, who starts out by saying, “If outfits like ProPublica weren’t so obviously in the pockets of the current administration …” in response to a speech by ProPublica’s founding editor that’s criticizing the current administration for an unprecedented level of secrecy and surveillance. Shannon goes on to claim that a “partisan press corps chills a free press far more effectively than does” a secretive government. Maybe Shannon will view the awardees’ videos — especially Dieu Cay’s — and see how very effective governments are.
If you’re more interested in sexiness than comedy, skip the comments and watch my beloved Sam Waterston‘s appeal for donations to ProPublica, which is a nonprofit, non-partisan investigative journalism organization.
You have to have a heart of stone to resist those eloquent eyebrows.
UPDATED TO ADD: Amanda Gordon covered the CPJ dinner for Bloomberg, and her story included a photo of me and my friend Steve Newhouse …
… and one of MrB with our friend Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel.
Also, Christie Chisholm wrote about the awards for the Columbia Journalism Review, and I wound up in her story because I helped her button her dress.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Every year, the Committee to Protect Journalists presents its International Press Freedom Awards on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. The timing is apt, because the event always reminds me how much freedom of expression we do have in the United States — despite efforts to chip away at it — and how thankful we should be for that. The awards honor journalists from around the world who risk their lives to report from war zones and in defiance of brutal regimes. The black-tie dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria also raises money for CPJ’s activities: denouncing anti-press violations, providing assistance to targeted journalists, and advocating for press freedom worldwide.
This year, 48 journalists have been killed while doing their jobs. Others have been kidnapped: on the day of the dinner, the Swedish government confirmed two Swedish journalists were kidnapped in Syria on Saturday by an unknown group. CPJ reports that approximately 30 local and international journalists are currently missing in Syria, with several cases not being publicized at the request of family members and news outlets. But such things don’t only befall foreign reporters covering a war zone. A lot of persecution is aimed at local journalists trying to cover events in their own countries. This year’s honorees in attendance were television reporter Janet Hinostroza of Ecuador; humorist Bassem Youssef of Egypt (introduced by Jon Stewart of The Daily Show); and newspaper reporter Nedim Şener of Turkey. As CPJ explains:
“Hinostroza was forced to temporarily give up one television program to ensure her safety after being threatened; Youssef has come under legal investigation for his satirical newscast; and Şener is charged with terrorist activity for his critical reporting and could be sentenced to 15 years in prison.”
Nguyen Van Hai, one of Vietnam’s best-known bloggers under the name Dieu Cay, received his award in absentia. He’s been in prison since 2008 and is currently serving a 12-year sentence (to be followed by five years of house arrest) for “conducting propaganda” — in other words, criticizing the government. His family says his health has declined so much that he’s barely recognizable. He’s one of at least 14 journalists currently jailed in Vietman.
MrB was chairman of CPJ from 2005 to 2011, though that wasn’t his day job. He was also managing editor of The Wall Street Journal from 1991 to 2007. Then, in 2008, he became the founding editor-in-chief of ProPublica, a nonprofit news organization that investigates abuse of power in the U.S. Last night, CPJ presented MrB with the Burton Benjamin Memorial for lifetime achievement in the cause of press freedom. He gave a speech with special emphasis on CPJ’s recent, must-read report – written by Len Downie, former editor of the Washington Post — about the Obama administration and its attempts to squelch press coverage. He received a standing ovation and I was proud as hell! You can see his introduction and speech here.
Later, I had MrB pose with his plaque. I think he looks good in a tuxedo.
Just because we’re at a serious event doesn’t mean we don’t dress up, so I wore the Zang Toi high/low (aka “mullet”) dress that I wore to an Oscar party in 2012. My designing friend Stacy Lomman wore her own design, naturally.
She also wore my Matilda sword earrings.
We were happy to see famous New York Times style photographer Bill Cunningham doing his thing. He took pictures of the award winners, so I hope to see MrB in the Times this Sunday.
Stacy served as my bodyguard all night, shooing people off the train of my gown as needed. I did carry the skirt around most of the time to keep it from getting underfoot, but every so often, I’d put it down and become pinned in place when someone came and stood on it. It was worth a little inconvenience to wear such a beautiful dress.
What Wendy Wore
Dress: Zang Toi (2012)
Shoes: Tom Ford (2012)
Purse: Ostrich clutch from South Africa (2013)
Earrings: My own Marie Antoinette design
Rings: My own Marie Antoinette and turquoise skull designs
Hair: Julie Matos of Warren-Tricomi
Makeup: Tennille Nielsen
Here is a closer look at the earrings.
And here is a look at some of the 80 hairpins that held my updo in place. I’m not kidding about the number. I counted them as I took them out.
If I went to events like this all the time, I think I’d give up on styling my own hair and wear a wig! It takes a long time to take 80 pins out at night.
Anyway, congratulations to my friends at CPJ for another successful event and for always fighting the good fight. You can learn more about CPJ on its website and donate here. Follow CPJ on Twitter at @pressfreedom. Finally, click here to sign a petition to free Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Van Hai.