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To Fee, Or Not To Fee, That Is the Question

This post has been floating around in my brain for some time now along with the title – a direct nod to the playwright of all playwrights, William Shakespeare – however I wasn’t one-hundred percent sure if I could use the word “fee” in the syntax I needed to. Luckily for me, “fee” is also a transitive verb meaning, “to tip,” so it works well with the subject at hand, as you will read about right now.

What makes someone who writes, “A writer?” After all, we all write, do we not? We write emails to our co-workers and lunchbox notes to our kids. We write out Christmas cards to Nana Eleanor and we scribe letters to our neighbors asking them to politely stop letting their Pekingese/Dachshund/Bulldog mix poop in the kiddie pool. We write in heated response to conservative political Facebook posts and we write about mediocre celebrities in one-hundred-and-forty characters or less. We write. We write a lot. So why are we all not writers? Is it the same reason we’re all not chefs? And how much of that reason has to do with money?

A recent entry by my great friend and fellow jewelry blogger, Monica Stephenson, touched on this very topic which fueled my often internal debate about where I want to go with my skill. She wrote “There have been some discussions recently, online and in real life, amongst friends and colleagues who alternately lament–and applaud–this brave new era. Anyone with an internet connection and a publishing platform can say they are a writer. When everyone is a writer, it gives voice to original thoughts that might not have been heard from behind traditional gatekeepers. But when everyone is a writer, words can be cheap.” And yet it seems that even when the content is cheap, there are so-called writers being paid a hefty price for their opinions, which is what is known in the world of marketing and advertising, as the now often present “sponsored post.”

Let me be clear about one thing before I go any further: I do not write for a living, and I have not written a sponsored post for money. I write because I love to write. I write about jewelry because I know about jewelry, and, because I love to write. That doesn’t make me any better than the next writer, or blogger, or social media manager, or even tweeter, but it makes clear where I stand and what my opinions are about writing for money. I’d love to write for money as an editor or contributor for the trade, but I never want my opinions swayed by the almighty dollar. What I think about anything is mine right now. I own it. It belongs to me alone and should I wish to share it with the world I will, through either this blog, or one of my two personal blogs, knowing that when it is shared it is up for debate. You have a differing opinion? I want to know about it. I may even want to challenge you on yours because chances are I feel passionately and whole-heartedly about mine. And my opinion? Well, it’s pure, I can guarantee you that. It’s untouched by money. It’s as true as it gets. This is where I take issue with “sponsored posts.”

Just about every morning I go through a routine which I can imagine is similar to that of most of my blogger friends. I complete my motherly/wifely/humanly pre-coffee ritual before sitting down to the laptop to open my Gmail. There, as I’m sure a fair amount of you understand, is where I find the multitude of marketing emails letting me know about this new collection or that current brand. And man, I love it; I truly, truly do. I get giddy when I think that I’m taken seriously enough to make the lists of those looking for exposure. And I go through every last email – no joke – skimming all the images and reading every quote, and if something strikes my fancy, I file it away for potential future use. But too often between the “To Whom This May Concern” greetings and the “we hope to hear back from you” closings, are bodies filled with monetary offers willing me to say that I like their product and wear their product and believe in their product on my very public forums. While I’m no less flattered at these emails than I am of any of the others, I can honestly say that I’m ethically bothered by them. And maybe, just maybe, that’s the difference between us and them; the ones who do what we do because we believe in what we’re doing, and the ones who revel in the fame, exposure, and money of it all. Maybe, that’s really what makes us the real “writers.”

Recently, another good friend of mine, Monica Bielanko (yes, another blogger named Monica!), who writes for Babble.com among other well-known blog sites wrote a piece on her personal blog, The Girl Who, called, Liberation. In it she explains how she believes that personal blogging has gone M.I.A., and that (her words) “… all the sponsored shit infiltrated everything everywhere.” She continues to express how she believes that personal blogging is all but gone now: “Most of the good bloggers have gone totally sponsored and/or edit what they share to the point of boringness. I went that way for a bit. Shit, I have a couple sponsored posts on here that make me absolutely cringe in horror when I go back and read them. Me, half-heartedly trying to weave my love for Pillsbury into a personal post. Sorry about that. It is what it is. You need to make money to live and suddenly there are people telling you that you can get paid to do the same thing you’ve been doing for years for free and you’re like, why not?”

However, Monica goes on to give several reasons ‘why not,’ with one in particular that reached out from the screen and punched me in my face… You can’t write about what you want when you’re trying to be attractive to potential sponsors and my immediate response was no different from hers…

Yeah. Fuck that shit.

I like my writing. I like the rawness of it and the realness of it. I like digging deep into an emotion and coming up for air just before it suffocates me. I like offering my industry a human side because after all, who here doesn’t love a good F-bomb from time to time? And you know what? You like it, too. You know you can only read so many stories about twinkling facet-patterns and multi-colored stack rings. You know you only have so much patience for dogs wearing tiaras and antique rings from 1953. You know it’s true, and I know you know it’s true, and I’m making you a promise right here and right now that I’ll never, EVER, give you a story, or an opinion, or some bullshit anecdote because some multi-million-dollar company paid me to. What you see is what you get: fuck, shit, boobs, asshole, and all. If those words bother you, there’re a million other fashion/jewelry/style blogs to make up for the tiny void this one will leave in your life. They’re out there, waiting to give you everything that’s fake about this industry. They’re the college football player who dropped out his sophomore year to go pro because he was gonna get paid; who’s now endorsing everything from Reebok to Mountain Dew to Trojan Condoms and Chiquita Bananas (sold separately). Me? I’m the 340 pound player on the O-line that nobody thinks will last more than two years. No endorsements. No one knows my name. But you know what? I’ve got my degree in biochemistry to fall back on when the shit hits the fan, and when the money runs out for that guy, I’ll be content in knowing I played with heart. I’ll be happy as shit knowing that I did it for the love of the game; nothing less, and certainly nothing more because in my mind there is nothing more. No one will ever force my hand because what I think on my own deserves its own place in this business.

feeTHIS POST HAS BEEN SPONSORED BY ME. I paid for this post with years of English classes, hundreds of literary masterpieces read, and a dozen books on the appropriate use of grammar. I paid for it with the hyperbolic blood, sweat, and tears that every *real* writer feels, has felt, and will continue to as they put on paper that which is painful. I paid for it with the words of my friends, the faith of my colleagues, the envy of my enemies, and the honor that comes ONLY from being true to myself.

I am a blogger.

I am a dreamer.

I am a student.

I am a mother.

I am a jeweler.

I am a thinker.

I am a writer.

I AM A WRITER.

And what you’ve just read above is exactly what makes me one.

 

(Mic drop)

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Trade Show Shenanigans

Tales From the Strip: Part 1 – The Beginning

The great Lewis Carol wrote a line uttered by the King in Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland that read simply this:

“Begin at the beginning… and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

I started and halted writing my first of what might turn out to be several post-Las Vegas blog entries more than once this week. There was so much going on in my brain; so many stories to elaborately tell, yet I couldn’t figure out a way to get the ball rolling in the tone that these pieces deserved. That is, until my four-year old daughter chose Alice in Wonderland as her bedtime movie… then, I knew what had to be done. I needed only to begin where Lewis Carol had suggested was the best place to do so…

the beginning.


Me: “Are you sure there are no window seats available?”

Delta agent: “No ma’am. The flight has been overbooked. You can fly standby on the next flight to Vegas if you really can’t sit in the middle seat, or if you’d prefer, you could…”

Me: (interruptingly) “No. That’s fine. I’ll just take the middle and hope to Jeebus the person next to me gets caught in traffic.”

Delta agent: (snickers) “Well, it is Atlanta. I say your chances are pretty good.” 


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A Room with a View – The Strip from THEHotel

I have no urge to make movies. I mean, I know people who make movies and these are some talented folks (side note: go see Dan Schechter’s “Life of Crime” out in theatres on August 29th), but I doubt it’s a skill I could possess. However, if I were ever to consider writing a screenplay, I’m pretty sure I would make it about the various gates in airports around the country temporarily housing those en route to Las Vegas. It would be written as a series of individual short stories with the characters arriving at McCarran roughly all around the same time. There would be Joe – the childless, three-time divorcee heading out to meet his elementary school buddies and their dads for a weekend filled with strippers and scotch. And Alan – the post-middle-age/pre-elderly gentleman carrying multiple containers of freshly-made Georgia cornbread in the hope of selling his wares to a now booming restaurant city. There’d be Karla – a tanned and toned unnaturally tall blond woman who was in my jewelry security class back in January, and there’d be Anita – the suburban “best girlfriend” mom chaperoning her daughter, Chelsea, and Chelsea’s three cohorts who are all headed to Vegas to celebrate their 21st birthdays. But these characters wouldn’t even scratch the surface, because the flights to Vegas contain the most magnificent walks of life. From transvestites to retirees, my Boeing 757 was like a dollar store can of tuna. Meaning, if you cracked that sucker open, sure, you’re bound to get some actual tuna, but you and I both know that there’s a bunch of other stuff in there that shouldn’t be, and neither one of us is going to try to figure out what that stuff is.

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Segment of Andrew Hanelly’s presentation on content marketing

Finding myself sandwiched between Joe the TTD (three-time divorcee) and Alan the CCC (cornbread container carrier) for the duration of the four-and-a-half hour flight, I thought it would be a good idea to try to get some work done. To my surprise I had a message from Andrew Hanelly, SVP Strategy at McMurry/TMG, asking if he could feature Adornmentality in his JCK seminar on content marketing done right in the jewelry industry.

Andrew: “I’d also love a quote on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to jewelry marketing. Have anything provocative?”

Me: “I can give you a quote but in terms of ‘provocative’ I’m still on the plane to Vegas. I’ll need three hours and three martinis.”

Andrew used this very blog in his section on how evoking emotion and telling stories helps build your audience. The slide consisted of my logo and a screen shot of the piece “How to Not Get Kidnapped” because that title alone is what grabbed hold of most readers. To date, it’s my most clicked-on post, as I explained to Andrew via email from the air. To know my blog would be used as an example was a proud moment for me. That, combined with the genuinely nice conversations I had with my seatmates, as well as a landing that would have earned our pilot a gold medal in the Aerial Olympics, gave me the warm and fuzzies about what the next five days was going to be like.

I had finally arrived in Las Vegas. I was ready. I was determined. I was prepared. But mostly…

I was still martini-less. Bartender!


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Yours truly avec badges. Photo courtesy of Robyn Hawk.

The GUMUCHIAN product wasn’t arriving until 2 p.m., so I specifically took the early flight in order to try to squeeze in an hour or two at the COUTURE show before heading off into the JCK sunset. If you’re an exhibitor you know that we rarely see the sunlight. Jewelry Week is a whirlwind no matter which end of the buying process you’re on, but for me, for the first time, I was also registered as a member of the press. Yup. A MEMBER OF THE PRESS. Me. The thought made me giddy. Don’t believe me? Then check out this photo that Robyn Hawk of The Daily Jewel snapped of me in the press room, clad in badges. I was like a sixteen-year-old who just bought beer with a fake I.D. and got away with it. Look at my face! I don’t exactly know what I thought being in the press room meant other than it was a room I could never get into prior to this trip, but dammit, I was excited to get in there! I could meet up with my friends and mortal enemies fellow jewelry bloggers and we could discuss the current trends or the posterior of that handsome kid from Ritani privately without worrying about some petty little “designer” or “celebrity” hearing us. WE ARE PRESS! WE ARE THE ELITE! WE GET SWAG, B*TCHES! BRING ME MY SWAG!

((WHACK!))

(That was the sound of my conscience snapping me back to reality via a slap across my overly-smiling and pathetically happy face.)

Okay, (ahem) so, back to my experiences…

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The Wynn Casino – heading to COUTURE

I was a Couture show virgin. In all of my years (eighteen!) in this business I had never stepped foot into any other Vegas show besides JCK. But like my earlier post explained, I was over-the-top happy about getting to see what the show was all about and getting to visit with some of my favorite designers. And who do I run into the moment I arrive? None other than the incomparable celebrity style expert, Michael O’Connor, and the incorrigible celebrity aisle expert, Craig Selimotic Danforth. What a perfect way to start this experience. Here stood two incredibly handsome, smiling gentlemen willing to direct me as to where to go, and next to those guys, were my friends Michael and Craig. We kissed. We hugged. We sang Kumbaya. It was weird, and nice, then I realized the clock was ticking, so I left. Off to the Latour/Lafite ballrooms!

Look everybody! It’s WJA president, Andrea Hanson! And there’s adorably pregnant designer Zoë Chicco! Oh, hey Josette from Mark Patterson Jewelry! And OH MY GOD, THAT’S ACTUALLY LYDIA COURTEILLE!! Wait, what? I get to shake your hand and tell you in my worst French imaginable how much your work inspires me and how I love it, or, at least, that’s what I thought I said but maybe I actually told you that my favorite meal is wagons, I don’t really know? I could die. I could just lie down, right here, right on top of Vicente Agor’s cases, right now, and just… freaking… die. WHY DID NO ONE WARN ME OF THE AWESOMENESS OF COUTURE? I blame you, Michelle Orman. You and your “under-the-radar” Couture Musings. You really need to be out there a little more and stop keeping this show such a g-damned secret.

So right after picking up the pieces of my exploded head, I thought it best to rest my feet and quench my thirst with a visit to the Press Lounge, which sadly, I found empty of humans, but filled with other goodies. By “lounge,” of course, I mean “stage”… and by “goodies,” of course, I mean “comfy pillows and power strips.” I will admit it was a little strange to be sitting on a stage in a ballroom while everyone wondered who the heck I was and why I was up there by myself. But, hey, this is Couture, and they do things differently here, and that wedgie didn’t need picking anyway, am I right? If anything it gave some definition to my buttocks, so… up side!

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“The Humble Man” in the flesh, Atelier Minyon salon at Couture

Before leaving to head back to Mandalay Bay, I had the privilege of spending some time with Alp Sagnak of Atelier Minyon and meeting his lovely wife. And yes, I did get to wear “The Humble Man” just as I had hoped, while running into a few fellow jewelry bloggers in the process. I was also fortunate enough to see the CJDG crew including Vicente Agor and the talented Malak Atut from Zaiken Jewelry, and, on my way out, even bumped into my minutes-younger friend, Mark Mazzarese. As far as experiences go, it was a short one at Couture, but it was filled to the brim with both sustenance and joy.

If you came to the end of this first segment expecting tons of pictures of fancy product and cool new designs with carat weights and back stories, then I hope your disappointment isn’t too grand. This series is about my stories from the trip. They’ll be about the connections and the events and the people who were a part of my five days in Sin City. But each segment will be told in a way that you will likely not have read before… and on that promise, you can bet. It is Vegas, after all…

Next segment… the first days at JCK!

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Trade Show Shenanigans

Jewelry Week in Sin City: Who You Should See, Part 1 – SWISS WATCH

For those of you who only recognize the word “Basel” as the misspelling of an herb that goes wonderfully between a slice of beefsteak tomato and fresh mozzarella, there is, thankfully, a show called “Swiss Watch.” I like to refer to it as the Poor Man’s BaselWorld, where you find yourself potentially running into celebrities such as Orlando Bloom, only, because it’s Vegas, he’s wearing swim trunks and a tall blond instead of a three-piece Armani suit. Either way, it still counts as a good excuse to take a #stalkie, and either way, you’re still going to enjoy yourself if watches are, you know… your thing. So here’s who I recommend seeing if you’re sober lucky enough to make it up to the suites.

BALL WATCH COMPANY

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“Roman” by Ball Watch Company

Let’s face it, not a whole lot of rad things have come out of Cleveland, Ohio ((ducks)). I mean, yeah, Michael Symon is a master chef (some might even say… an “iron” one), and Halle Berry was born in Cleveland (which is pretty much awesomer than the next ten people I might mention being born there put together) but in terms of coolness, Cleveland is about as hip as a Tri-Lamb frat party in 1984.

Ball Watch Company was founded by Ohio watchmaker Webster Clay Ball after an engineer’s stopped watch had caused an 1891 collision between Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway trains in Kipton, Ohio, killing both engineers and several postal workers. Webb C. Ball is credited as the first jeweler to use time signals from the U.S. Naval Observatory shortly after Standard Time was adopted in America. The company was sold by the Ball family in the 1990’s and is now headquartered in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, but their reputation as being one of United States’ leading watch companies remains flawless.

Models of interest:

  • DeepQUEST: (because the title reminds me of my trip to Cancun in the 90’s for spring break. IT HAS TO DO WITH SNORKELING, YOU PERVS.) 43mm diameter, titanium single-block case, automatic helium release valve.
  • Big Boy: (um, what man doesn’t want a watch by this name?) 46mm diameter, anti-reflective convex sapphire crystal, stainless steel, screwed-in crown.
  • Roman: (the name of my son. Or rather, the thing that happened nine months after I experienced *DeepQUEST* with *Big Boy*.) 41mm diameter, automatic caliber, crocodile strap with stainless buckle, shock resistant to 5,000G’s.

CHARRIOL

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“St. Tropez” by Charriol

I remember 1983 like it was yesterday because of the wonderful and historical events of that year: “The A Team” premiered on NBC, Margaret Thatcher visited the Falkland Islands (awwwwkwaaaard), Hulk Hogan pinned The Iron Sheik to win the WWF title (and pandas around the world erupted in celebration… oh, wait), and French entrepreneur Philippe Charriol established Charriol – a global brand of prestigious timepieces – in Geneva, Switzerland. Yes, at ten years old, those are all things I remember for that year. I swears. For serious.

In any case, Charriol has established itself as a force to be reckoned with among the affordable Swiss watch brands that exist today. When they contacted me for an appointment to come see the line and their newest COLVMBVSTM  Cintre Convexe  collection, I was more than happy to oblige, since, I dig the name “Colvmbvs,” and honestly, even the name Columbus, because *that* Columbus was from Italy and because his *day* is a national holiday which means I get a paid day off. But even more importantly, I love the fact that Charriol is still a family-run, independent watch company, with husband, wife, daughter, and son all playing pivitol roles in the development, design, and branding of the product. I can’t wait to see what the new collection looks like, but here are some of my “must-see” picks from their existing timepieces.

Models of interest:

  • Parisii for Women: (We do so much in this life because of personal experiences, right? Don’t we choose our politicians, cities to live in, and lifestyles that way? Why not our timepieces, too? I love Paris, diamonds, and the women in my life. No further explanation needed.) 28mm diameter, mother-of-pearl dial, twelve round brilliant-cut diamonds.
  • St. Tropez: (Charriol calls this design… “delightfully feminine.”) 30mm diameter, steel cable, and a cool chain bracelet attached to the watch, giving off more of a legitimate bracelet look.
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“Caramellissima” by Swatch

SWATCH

If you’re in your forties, you know and I know that Swatch likely brings you back to fond memories of your childhood, except for that time those two girls beat you up on the bus over that fluorescent pink, limited edition Swatch guard you had covering your “Pink Betty” watch. Okay, maybe that didn’t happen to you, but it happened to me, and you get the point. Swatches were are fun, and bright, and hip, and fashionable, and affordable, and cool, and easy to wear. I’m proud to say that I still own the two that I purchased while in Switzerland for my birthday in 2003. I frankly covet this brand of watches and canNOT wait to put my eyes on what fun things they’ll be showing in Las Vegas this week.

Models of interest:

  • Caramellissima: (From the “Pastry Chefs” spring/summer 2014 collection.) This watch is an exact replica of those multi-colored candy bracelets we used to get from the tiny corner store next to elementary school on our way home. If this thing doesn’t put you in your “happy place” then you’re a cold-hearted snake and Paula Abdul will be very upset with you. I want one of these so. Freaking. Badly.
  • Olaf Hajek Limited Edition Set: (Set includes “Flowerhead” and Nature Man” watches. I mean, how do you not buy a watch designed by a guy named Olaf after all of the popularity of the Disney film, “Frozen?”) German-born painter, illustrator, and graphic designer Olaf Hajek collaborated with Swatch on these vibrant, floral-patterned watches for a Summer 2014 collection.
  • Sistem Red: (Released for Christmas 2013, the Sistem 52 collection is 100% Swiss made.) 3Hz self-winding mechanical movement, hermetically sealed, 90-hour power reserve, silicone strap. Oh, and radness. 
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“Freelancer” by Raymond Weil

RAYMOND WEIL

Thanks to our recent ten-year wedding anniversary, the name Raymond Weil will now go down in the history of my life as the first true Swiss watch brand I purchased for my husband. If anyone from Raymond Weil is reading this, know that he is absolutely enamored with his new Freelancer. I mean, he seriously loves it. Like, I found it under his pillow. Twice. And he just stares at it for hours. It’s kind of creepy, actually. Anywaaaaay, founded in 1976, this Geneva-based brand is still family-run, with Elie Bernheim now overseeing everything that his grandfather – *the* Raymond Weil – created.

Models of interest

  • Tango: (Of course I would be interested in seeing a watch named after the sexiest dance invented in the history of the world, and if you’ve never watched the movie “Tango Lesson,” I’m not sure I even want to know you.) 40mm diameter, sapphire crystal, water resistant to 100 meters, stainless steel bracelet and strap.
  • Maestro: (Because the word will always remind me of that Seinfeld episode.) 39.5mm diameter, stainless steel case with rose gold plating, 38-hour power reserve, water resistant to 50 meters.
  • Freelancer: (Duh.) 42mm diameter, 46-hour power reserve, beautiful silver dial accented by rose hands and indexes, mechanical chronograph with automatic winding.

And there you have it! My first in a whatever-I-have-time-to-write-part series about the upcoming shows in sunny Sin City! I hope you enjoyed this preview of what you will see and should see at the Swiss Watch show and I invite you to read what’s coming up next before you solidify your schedule.

Until next time. TIME. Get it?!?

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