Cooking. With Sparkle.
“Sometimes the things that mean the most to us, are the hardest to write about,” said friend Vallerie last week as she helped me pry my kids from a soapy bathtub. I’d been lamenting how to properly do justice to an exquisite ring I’ve recently acquired from Ashley Morgan Designs. It’s a Figure 8 in pure gold with small, perfectly glimmering diamonds wrapped into a full circle. It joined ranks with the most special gifts from my husband marking our love for each other and our children. And I’ve been having trouble finding the right words.
It’s a “lifetime piece” for me, delicate but strong. Continuous in harmony yet each stone blazing. A forever ring meant to subtly symbolize our two gorgeous children (Anni was born in August and Coltrane on March 8) and also for my dad Richard who built my Mom a white circle arbor out of wood (with help from my brother Casey) before he died from cancer in 2003.
My 8’s helping me paint last week.
Mom’s circle arbor in progress, ca 2003.
I love this ring. This piece of art… Make no mistake. Jewelry is ART. Or with significant investment, it should be. And like my art collection (all Living California artists) what I choose to wear and collect on my person is every single bit as meaningful as what I surround my family with on our walls. What they (& I) visibly see and take in as Beauty each day is, I believe, as nutritious to all souls — regardless of age — as picking dinner from the garden most nights.
Cooking with Sparkle! Roasted eggplant, heirloom tomato, and spinach/walnut pesto “Caprese” with Oliver’s mozzarella. Garden fresh!
Ashley is a gifted artist. A young designer bucking the trend. And a fellow Mom who by all accounts, is a down-to-earth-style-maven with a good head on her shoulders and an infectious laugh. Based in San Francisco, she has opted to craft a line (all by hand, each piece individually) which speaks to the poetic and natural world around us…and I think to the female strength and beauty within each of us. I am completely enamored with much of her design and think the world is about to revere her art as much as I do.
A necklace in process of creation…
Once ordered, this little ring of mine took four weeks to complete. But that’s her style. One that you will surely see this coming Fall with Nieman Marcus (photo shoot shots below). Ashley Morgan Designs is about to properly take flight and its been unique appreciating her work on the ground floor.
Ashley Morgan Designs shot for Nieman Marcus just this past week. A Sneak Peak here:
Ashley’s art strikes me as catching the most ephemeral light in Life. What we remember in our deepest minds eye… from reflections on water in our childhood, how green leaves blaze emerald overhead in a breezy tree canopy, or those stolen moments of romance. Which is a nutty thing to say considering I fell in love with her work at a Funeral in Napa some years back. A very sad, untimely funeral. Another mournful guest was seated across from me at the reception — sad in face but her physical person was lit up with the internally elegant colors of our natural surroundings here in Northern California. Not too flashy, not too bright. But lovely. Lyrical. GLOWING. And naturally perfect. I asked (discreetly) who was the artist she was wearing and she said Ashley Morgan Designs. I began following her work with great interest.
As perfect as a rose. Tourmaline set in Gold.
A personal crush called Spring on a String.
I love the raw colors of this beautiful sapphire necklace.
<<<PAUSE>>> It was here in this written-Ode to Ashley and her inspiring craftsmanship last week that something interesting happened. I encountered a not-quite-surly but decidedly dubious guest here in our Barn. “You mean to tell me,” he asked peering at me over spectacles (a total character) “that you celebrate wine and art…and carbs?” he said. As he smugly sipped our wine. In our Barn. From our glasses. He paused waiting for a reply but I must have looked like I had crickets in my ears. I must have blinked a few times too… but rather, my mind raced back to an old New Yorker essay I read long ago. About the power of Beauty. And the dismissal of Beauty in our country’s appreciation of pretty much everything… well, pretty. Perhaps only in food and wine is Beauty and simple loveliness still upheld rightly.
So I went hunting and found this very essay today by Peter Schjeldahl in a dusty corner of my studio. He talks about art theory but the values in the words hold true. He writes, “Beauty harmonizes consciousness from top to bottom. It is as organically vital as digestion. Beauty is, or ought to be, no big deal, though the lack of it is. Without regular events of beauty, we live estranged from existence, including our own.”
“Beauty makes the case for the sacredness of something — winning the case suddenly and irrationally. It is always too late to argue with Beauty,” Schjeldahl continues.
TRUTH. But did I have such eleoquence in my head when faced with this Grump? No. Am I the person who comes up with an answer five days later at 4:00 in the morning? Yes.
And that is what I should have said? YES. As simple as that. YES, I celebrate wine. YES, Art… AND (gasp!) CARBS (God forbid people actually enjoy eating a diverse diet). YES, I am an artist. YES, I am a cook. YES, I am Mama raising her babes to embrace the revelry and joy found in the every day. In the garden, on the radio, in the Barn. To pause, even if momentarily, to appreciate that fleeting moment of prettiness tucked into our day-to-day tasks. Having favorite art in your bathroom. That hint of lace on your bra no one knows about as you shop for milk with a baby who just filled his pants. Seeing that flash of lovely light on your hand when opening the car door or watering the garden or opening the Barn….is very… Happy. And lovely.
Enjoy your best wines on Tuesday and wear your best pieces every day. Beauty in even the simplest of moments.
Because Beauty is vital. Beauty is important. That’s why I write this thank you note here to Ashley Morgan and her team because jewelry can be art. Can be that token to elevate your mundane tasks in the every day by infusing your hand or your person with a moment of visual, visceral beauty. Because you can’t argue with Beauty.
Time to go water the Garden…
In my Farmhouse Kitchen gardens, Annadel Estate Winery.
Ashley Morgan Designs can be found at ashleymorgandesigns.com and in San Francisco, California at 415-205-6228 or at firstname.lastname@example.org