Category Archives: Life and Inspiration

Americana Part 2: Inspiration

Coming up with design ideas for Scarlet Robin  jewelry is never a problem. Many of our designs were created because I wanted to see what I could do with the shears/saw/torch/stamps. Love My Kids was literally my first experiment with the shears. Swirly Locket was to see how much detail I could cut without making a mistake.

Inspiration is found in photography, fashion, doodles, quotes, textiles and, quite often, in suggestions made by customers. “You should make…” has preceded quite a few of our best-  selling pieces (including one that’s part of the       new collection!)

And then there are times when I just have a bee in my bonnet to design around a particular theme: i.e. Heath Ledger Americana.

I’ve always loved the symbolic imagery of patriotism from the original tri- cornered hat to the Capitol building.    I get choked up reading the Constitution and visiting living history museums.  Yep.  And there is so much beyond the patriotic that visually means America.

So for the better part of a year I’ve been gathering ideas on stickies, 4 or 5 legal pads, a couple of journals and an iPhone app. Images collect via Pinterest, Google and our cell phone cameras.  Follow our Americana board on Pinterest.*

The “intake” period is oh-so-fun, and really never stops.  It’s what feeds my creativity.  But eventually these scattered notes must be corralled.  We use Mindmeister maps to make sense of the craziness and watch patterns begin to emerge.  What images do you think are vital to an Americana collection?

*(Need an invitation to join Pinterest? Let us know via email ( and we will shoot you an invite) 

Coming soon: Americana Part Three: Winnowing the ideas.

Americana Part 1: How a Collection Evolves

There are several reasons to design jewelry collections (as opposed to just adding products willy nilly), such as the fact that it’s much easier for you, a shopper, to find what you’re looking for in a themed category. A big one for me, is that a collection can focus the bazillion ideas I’ve been kicking around for months. Boundaries are healthy, and lead to greatly improved productivity. (Have you noticed there are always challenges on Project Runway?!)

If you’ve ever wondered how a product you own went from idea to gift box, follow me in this multi-part series,  as our new Americana collection is born.

Coming soon: Americana Part 2: Inspiration

Making Memorial Day

At Scarlet Robin our motto is “Express What Matters Most.”  What matters most (to most of us!) are the people we spend time with. The ones we invest our time, energy and money into. And it is shared memories that bind us together and help us figure out and articulate what is most important.

Yesterday my kids and I went on a 3 hour guided bike tour of Washington DC’s monuments. This is our hometown, but biking the crowded streets as the sun went down was definitely a new twist on the standard downtown outing. Watching my children on their wobbly bikes navigate sidewalks crowded with Memorial Day tourists filled me with such warmth for their bravery. Running full-tilt up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial made me so grateful for the strong bodies our shared regular exercise gives us.  There was such pleasure in the day even though the tour started off stiflingly hot and ended in pouring rain. As I lay in bed last night, I scrolled through the dozens of pictures from the experience, and felt such clarity about what’s important to me. We love being together. 

The people who have died for our awesome country made memories with their families too.  Thomas Jefferson, George Washington & Martin Luther King had families that loved them.  Life is precious and no matter how little we possess, there is so much to be grateful for today.  Get out and make memories. Then take time to express what matters most!

Playing With Stamps

Mr. Grumpy

Motivation, Part One: Twitter.

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” – Zig Ziglar

Is there something that you really want?

I want Scarlet Robin to be as big as Texas. With an ever-increasing tenacity and passion. And because I need to sleep, and don’t know everything about everything, I need as much support, wisdom and motivation as I can get.

So after snoozing the alarm every morning, I lay in bed and read snippets from the entrepreneurs, business and life coaches, ministers, fitness experts and purveyors of inspiration that I follow on Twitter. When my 9 minute snooze is up, I am infinitely more in a frame of mind to make the day count.

I also wear tags with specific words on them that help me stay centered.  And the occasional week at Hilton Head helps in the motivation department as well :)

So tell us, what do you really, really want?  And how do you move toward it?  Leave a comment and share your own wisdom!

Thanks @GreatestQuotes on Twitter for the Zig Ziglar tweet above.


Kiyoko Kumai on Steel Wool

I fell head over heels in love with metal a few years back.  It was love at first every sense:  sight, touch, smell–I don’t even mind the taste of metal dust in my mouth at the end of a long day in the studio.  As with many great loves, I wasn’t looking to leave my previous medium of choice, paper, but I barely had time to apologize to my deliciously well-appointed paper studio before eloping with the torch and saw.

This phenomenon has happened to others I know as well.  Paulette stitches nearly invisible beads into crazily intricate patterns around tiny wooden balls. My father stacks a dozen types of rare wood and then turns breathtaking vessels from the block.  Every maker has a medium soul-mate out there.

So when I turned the corner in NYC’s Museum of Arts and Design and saw Kiyoko Kumai’s Sen Man Na Yu Ta, (which I call Steel Wool on the Wall), I laughed out loud.  (Alone, by the way).

And I further love the artist, Kiyoko Kumai, for saying here, “I have made what I like most from the materials that I like.”  No shame in loving the medium!  Check out other extraordinary explorations with steel on her fetchingly spare website.

One of the distinguishing features of a Scarlet Robin product is its brushed metal finish.  A tool in achieving that finish is little balls of steel wool–of which there are dozens floating around the studio at all times.

What’s your medium?  Words?  Cranberries?  Deep-knee bends? Throw it at us!

Love My Kids

Love My Kids GoldOne of those kind of sappy songs from the 80s that made such an impression on my young mind was “Russians”. Pre-Perestroika, our youthful fears were of nuclear holocaust, and in this song Sting looks for hope by saying “I hope the Russians love their children too.”  Watch the You Tube video.

Loving our kids is perhaps the world’s most universal feeling. It’s without a doubt the most defining and driving force in my own life. Definitely worth saying.

Why shouldn’t love for our children also help us overcome petty differences in our days? In the end, getting down to what matters can be really useful. Of course the Russians love their children—that moment has passed, and others have come.

Express What Matters Most.



If there’s one universal truth about artisans, it is that we love tools.  I’ve never met a fellow maker who doesn’t feel a deep emotional attachment to their tools.  While quite generous by nature, in elementary school it was hard for me to lend a favorite pair of scissors.  Even now, I admit to a pang of possessiveness when I see another Scarlet Robin artisan using “my” Lindstrom pliers.

So in the never-ending quest for balance (whatever that is) that defines the life of a single-mom entrepreneur, of course I have a toolbox!






First and foremost are my running shoes.  They propel me on my daily assault against the common enemies: stress, anxiety and exhaustion.

My other favorite tools are virtual.  Without the Reminders feature on my iPhone, phone calls would be forgotten, sales tax not filed and perhaps even blog posts unfinished. Similarly, I am kept on track all day long by Google Calendar and the timer.  I set a timer when putting a piece of metal in the pickle and more importantly, to remind me to pick up my children!






As a compulsive list-maker,  ZipList  and the app are a dream.  This tool lets me add to my grocery list all day long from either my laptop or phone. At the store, I can check things off the list on my phone as I go through the aisles.

The website allows me to arrange the sections according to  my grocery store’s layout, and to assign items to specific stores.








Another favorite organizer is MindMeister, and the app.  With this, either from my computer or on the go, I corral my disorganized thoughts into webs, which can then be used in a million ways.








My business partner lives 2,641 miles away, but we share everything (did I mention I’m single? Just kidding, Jill!)  and are in virtual constant contact.  With a little help from Adobe, we can store and share every type of document, among 953 other uses.  I use it to plan a month’s worth of menus and chores at a time!







Finally, in just the three years since we started our bi-coastal business, video chat capabilities have improved so dramatically, that our East-coast and West-coast teams feel that they know each other, even though most have never met.  With FaceTime (iPhone) and Google video chat, Jill and I basically sit across from each other most days and our productivity has soared as a result.

Did I mention that all these tools have free versions?  I want easy from my tech tools, and I need efficiency.  Doing more with less stress is what balance is about, yes?

Re-posted with kind permission from The Artisan Group Blog.

Shadow work with Ann Demeulemeester: Fall 2011

Sometimes Ann Demeulemeester scares me a little. Occasionally in a back-away-slowly way, but mostly with how extremely cool her ideas are. And in how many things you can say with a palette of black and cutting edge. In case you needed reminding of that.

While her runway models/muses look like people you would definitely want on your side in a Bladerunner-type world, they probably don’t listen to Michael Buble or wish they were young enough still to wear gingham ribbons in their ponytails.

Ann Demeulemeester

Photo: New York Magazine










I most definitely live in the world of Meet the Fockers as opposed to Bladerunner, and my shadow is where I store aggression and scary intensity, sometimes called fearlessness & persistence, which can come in handy sometimes.  So if I reallyseriouslytotallyImeanabsolutely needed to get my point across to, say, one of Daren’s middle school teachers, I might wear this:

Ann Demeulemeester

Photo: New York Magazine










I’d definitely be more Jennifer Aniston with the hair, and skip the gloves, but even then, it’d be hard not to wanna make me happy, huh?

And while my shadow and I were drawn to this because it’s just beautiful–without reservation gorgeous, it too has a lot to say:

Ann Demeulemeester

Photo: Alessandro Viero/










1. Parlons de moi! Je ne suis certainement pas ennuyeux.
2. Ne sous-estimez pas la femme me portait.
3. Noir sur noir n’est jamais, jamais fini.
4. Beat cet artisanat. Allez-y, je vais attendre.

In French, btw, because they speak French in Belgium.  Demeulemeester is Belgian.  Yeah, you knew that.

(.ʇıɐʍ ||,ı ‘pɐǝɥɐ ob  .dıɥsuɐɯsʇɟɐɹɔ sıɥʇ ʇɐǝq  .4 .ɹǝʌo ɹǝʌǝ ‘ɹǝʌǝu sı ʞɔɐ|q uo ʞɔɐ|q  .3 .ǝɯ buıɹɐǝʍ uɐɯoʍ ǝɥʇ ǝʇɐɯıʇsǝɹǝpun ʇou op  .2 .buıɹoq ʇou ʎ|ǝʇıuıɟǝp ɯ,ı  ¡ǝɯ ʇnoqɐ ʞ|ɐʇ s,ʇǝ|  .1)

Without darkness, there is no light.  Without Demeulemeester there is no Lilly Pulitzer.  (And then where would we be?)  I’ll still go to teacher conferences wearing Lacoste and save the badass buckle shoes for. . . well, for that trip to the grocery store.  In Antwerp.

Playing Favorites

If I could stop sleeping for good, and eliminate all the boring things required of a human being (showering, cooking, running errands…) I have so many ideas of how I would spend my time. One would be photographing the contents of people’s refrigerators—untouched. I would just sneak in to kitchens around the world and snap with the doors wide open. (Probably I’d avoid some of the fridges I’ve seen on Hoarders).

Next would be taking pictures of what’s in women’s handbags and kids’ backpacks. I know this purse thing isn’t new, in fact, here’s a blog I’m addicted to that does just this (plus this post is by Tory Burch who gilds everything she touches):

Being a thoroughly devoted list-maker, I have all sort of lists:

*What I’d grab in case of fire

*Which 3 makeup products I couldn’t live without (I’ve tried to get this list down to one or two…)

*My favorite designers/colors/patterns, oh it goes on and on. I even have a favorite child (just kidding Daren and Mac!)

But in the interest of relevance and giving my own personal backstage tour, I’ve made a list of essential studio accessories. The devices I use to shape, personalize and fabulize the pieces found on hundreds of (mostly) necks around the world.

Our New Font

This is saying a lot, but I’m not even sure I got this excited about my Louis Vuitton. Jill and I designed a font that is being manufactured for us, thanks to my magical brother. I have one sample set of the complete alphabet + numbers and it makes me giddy. Not only is the font itself absolutely perfect, it represents where we’re going with our business, and that place looks awfully shiny (actually matte charcoal grey), and euphoria inducing.

Meet Noel:









By the way, did you know that if you stamp the sentence: “pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs” that you will use every letter of the alphabet? Forget that old quick brown fox nonsense.








Jeweler’s Saw








Cheapest one made by Euro Tool. Bought after I watched a child (okay, he was in college) cut intricate insects out of copper in a metal class. The impulse to purchase was not desire—it was pure need. It has become

one of my best friends. Some days it eats a dozen blades and other times I can go for weeks without breaking one. I have a periodic contest with myself where I attempt more and more complicated designs—so far I’m feeling pretty good about myself. See, anything that actually strokes my ego makes it to the top of my list.

Having waxed all lovey about this wee hacksaw, I would cheat on it in a hot second for this one:








Flex-shaft with 3M Radial Bristle discs I putzed about the necessity of this tool. Revised thoughts: Revolutionary. Like iced tea, I can’t imagine life without it. Best purchase e v e r. The little bristle discs stack up and spin dervish-like to caress an addictive, brushy finish on silver.








I feel really badly for those tools reading this that didn’t make the list. Maybe next time, and I still seriously and earnestly love you.

Jen Gallagher/ Robin Website