MONICA RICH KOSANN| PHOTOGRAPHER AND JEWELRY DESIGNER
Embracing her art with nostalgia and timeless style, fine-art portrait photographer and jewelry and home accessory designer Monica Rich Kosann integrates memories with cherished possessions, creating tokens emblematic of the emotional experiences in our lives. Her beautiful combination of lockets, charm bracelets and pendants mixed with frames and image cases makes Monica's unique collection a favorite for all enthralled by her sense of discovering personal meaning through art.
Recipient of the 2012 RISING STAR AWARD for FINE JEWELRY by the Fashion Group International and accepted as a member of CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) Monica continues her storytelling journey through new jewelry and accessory designs that tap into modern interpretations of nostalgia.
Monica took time out of her busy schedule in Connecticut to chat by phone with Editor Kim Wadsworth about the allure of lockets; the "charm" of charm bracelets; and why brides love her designs for a lifetime.
IN THE BEGINNING OF YOUR CAREER, YOU WERE A PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHER. WHAT CAUSED YOU TO STEER YOUR WORK INTO THE REALM OF JEWELRY AND DO YOU CONTINUE TO COMBINE THE TWO?
I would never give up my photography and still work in black and white film. I am a storyteller so combining photography and jewelry was a natural way for people to tell their stories. A locket can be sexy and mysterious; people wonder who's in it. Charm bracelets represent a string of things that have a story; from photos and dates, to notes and icons. With them, a woman can express herself with things that have meaning.
YOU STARTED YOUR JEWELRY CAREER FORAGING FOR VINTAGE LOCKETS, COMPACTS AND CIGARETTE CASES. WAS THIS THE GENESIS FOR YOUR JEWELRY AND HOME DESIGN?
I collected vintage cases and compacts because I was looking for new and creative ways to display my clients' photos. My husband Rod and I found old molds in Italy and began designing our own pieces from scratch. Then we created the lockets and our pieces became 'bespoke'- one of a kind- when we started added unique gemstones.
YOU CERTAINLY EMBODY NOSTALGIA AND ENJOY GUIDING OTHERS TO EMBRACE THEIR MEMORIES. HAS THIS SENSIBILITY ALWAYS BEEN A PART OF YOU?
Yes. I grew up that way. My parents are European so it was always about heritage, family and culture. Museums, music and theater were a part of my life at an early age. These were normal things. Today I take old things and make them new again. There's something modern about nostalgic pieces.
I KNOW YOU ARE ALL ABOUT 'LIVING WITH WHAT YOU LOVE' BECAUSE IT IS THE TITLE OF YOUR BOOK PUBLISHED LAST YEAR. WHO ARE SOME OF THE TASTE SETTERS THAT HAVE INFLUENCED YOUR SENSE OF STYLE?
I would say Katherine Hepburn, Grace Kelly and Jackie O. They were all so chic. I am also influenced by photographers like Edward Steichen and Alfred Stieglitz, who changed photography for art sake.
YOU'VE CREATED YOUR OWN HEIRLOOM PARADIGM BY DESIGNING TIMELESS PIECES. HOW DO YOU GUIDE BRIDES WHEN CHOOSING WHAT TO WEAR AND CHERISH FOR THEIR WEDDING MEMORIES?
Recently a bride bought a locket and put a photo of her grandparents in it. She was going to wrap it around her bouquet so she could make them a part of her day. Weddings are about tradition- a stage of life, a milestone. Brides cherish wearing or carrying something of emotional value down the aisle.
THAT BEING SAID, WHAT GIFT IDEAS WOULD YOU ENCOURAGE BRIDES AND GROOMS TO CHOOSE FOR THEIR BRIDAL PARTY TO SAY "THANK YOU?"
Your bridal party is made up of people closest to you. They share in the emotions of the day so give them something that is an "emotional package." We have double 'image cases', photo charms and frames. Find old photos of you and that person when you were young; reduce the photo; and slip it in. Never give anything 'empty.' Fill it with meaning, even if it's a written note.
I LOVE YOUR POSTMARK ENVELOPE 'IMAGE CASE' THAT REPLICATES AN ENVELOPE SIMPLY ADDRESSED TO 'LOVE.' WHAT SPARKED THAT PLAYFUL AND ROMANTIC IDEA?
The idea of note writing is a lost art. Silver screen films like, "The Ideal Husband" showed secret envelopes being presented on silver trays, opened with letter openers to reveal hand-written love notes. I imitated it in silver and brides love receiving it with their new name engraved on it. It becomes so personal.
TALK A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR GATE NECKLACE AND HOW THE IDEA OF THIS ICONIC 'REVEAL' CAME TO BE.
The 'Gate' is a modern twist on the locket. There's a photo in my book, "The Fine Art of Family" that shows a girl peeking through an iron gate. People ask me, "Who is that girl?" and "Where is she?" This locket has a gate with the mystery of a photo behind it. All of our jewelry pieces are beautiful and then they have a piece of you.
CHARMS REPRESENT PRECIOUS MOMENTS IN TIME. I TREASURE MY CHILDHOOM CHARM BRACELETS AND WEAR THEM OFTEN. YOUR 'CHARMED LIFE' SERIES OF BRACELETS REPRESENTS JUST THAT. HAVE YOU ALWAYS HAD A PERSONAL LOVE FOR THEM AS WELL?
My mom wore hers her whole life. We could always hear it. The more noise, the better! Every woman should have one. Look at the recent jewelry auction for Elizabeth Taylor. Her charm bracelets sold for unexpected amounts because they were so personal. Her history was strung on it- from notes from her husband to birthdates of her children. Today's charm bracelet is modern and important. Every woman should share a story on her wrist.
[To experience Monica Rich Kosann's collection, visit Simply Selma's at La Promenade in Virginia Beach or visit monicarichkosann.com]