The Art of the (Original) Pin

For the first 15 1/2 years of my life, I started every November 7th with a phone call. The conversation usually went something like this:

Me: “Hello?”
Her: “Hi Caylee, it’s Grandma. Happy half birthday!”
Me: “Oh, Grandma… thank you! But happy birthday to you!”

I seem to recall blowing out more than my fair share of candles as a younger girl, and receiving far too many small gifts and “birthday” cards as I got older. Grandma always enjoyed her birthday parties — we celebrated her with chocolate cake and her favorite accessory, a pin, every year — but she never once forgot to wish me a happy day of my own.

Grandma was a woman of many domestic talents. She could sew, knit, crochet, quilt, or needlepoint just about anything, and had a decently green thumb with her small array of flowers and house plants. Cooking wasn’t her strong suit (she had siblings aplenty who mastered that art instead), but no baby in the family went without a soft, hand-knitted blanket and every newlywed couple had a beautiful afghan for their home.

I have Grandma to thank for my ability to crochet (she despaired at teaching me to knit), a thorough knowledge of the twisted plot lines from daytime soap operas, and a deep appreciation for what I now call the Art of the Pin — every outfit and occasion had a matching adornment, found in organized drawers in her small jewelry box.

Often brightly-colored and fanciful in design, pins can be worn to great effect both singly and together. One small brooch tacked to a lapel is a modest statement; a cluster of mixed-and-matched sparklers is bold and dramatic. My woolly winter coat feels incomplete without a snowflake, and the easiest way to dress up a little black dress has to be a brightly-colored scarf and tasteful gold pin to hold it in place. Any way you wear them, pins are perfection.

Grandma did not see my sweet sixteen, my graduations, or my wedding, but I’m absolutely certain that she would love my profession. Of course, she’d also be on the receiving end of some fabulous new pins.

Featured image — Plique-a-Jour enamel on 18K gold butterfly, with diamonds and freshwater pearls by Nicole Barr.

Welcome, spring!

As a native New Englander, I’ve grown up in a world that revolves very much around the seasons. We slog through tough winters, squelch through wet springs, sigh about humid summers, and stumble around the leaves of fall. Seasons also have nicknames — “mud” or “tourist” or “black fly” — that often describe the shared misery of the region in its respective states.

May typically brings with it the transition out of our winter boots and hats, and into shorter hemlines and brighter colors. It also brings another round of gift-giving occasions: Mother’s Day, graduations, weddings, showers, and of course birthdays (ahem, like mine!).

I’ve been asked more often than I can count to recommend a gift, and typically I’m happy to oblige. But lately it seems that my gentle questions — how old? style? hair length? current or dream profession? hobbies? — go unanswered, simply because the buyer is totally unprepared for them. One notable interaction ended when a customer realized she wasn’t entirely sure if this was for a high school or college graduation, and left to call her sister for more information.**

So if I may, a little advice from one who truly wants to help you select a perfect present, but needs a tad more information in order to do so:

1. Know the basics. Gender, age, and basic physical description help. Bonus points for hair & eye color; double bonus for skin tone.

2. Know (at least one of) the specifics. Favorite color, preferred metal type, ear piercings, lefty or righty, birth month, sports team, degree, hobby, pastime, career.

3. Know the occasion. While it doesn’t always dictate the gift, it can help with direction (and, to a certain degree, price point). Bonus points for details like wedding color(s), school colors or mascot, religious symbols, family traditions, etc.

4. Diamonds, pearls, watches. Repeat this, mantra-like, to yourself as you shop during this time of year. You’ll see these items placed front and center in advertising due to their immense popularity and widespread appeal, so you might as well consider them. Lockets, charm bracelets, and money clips are all great options as well, and often customizable to boot.

Friends and family (and perfect strangers), do you have a gift-giving conundrum? Ask away, free of charge! 🙂 Also, feel free to share a story of a memorable gift you’ve received — everyone loves a good tale for inspiration.

**As it turns out, it was neither: the giftee had been cast in the leading role of her school theatre production. The gifter returned just to tell me this and promptly left, saying she “didn’t feel it merited a gift” after all. Break a leg, kid!