Style File: Senior Sweaters Designer

Funky jewelry – check. Little black boots – check. Great floppy hat – check again…

Our senior designer for sweaters here at Free People has a modern day rock star style. She’s a master of textures, and knows how to rock a great sweater outfit (as she should).  Just by looking at her style you can tell she’s an expert.

Although you’ll often find her in sweaters which are soft and cozy, there’s a great grunge quality to the way she dresses.  She’ll mix in tattered pieces and vintage tees while piling on jewelry for that right amount of edge. I especially love the feather earrings that she often wears. Not only are they sweet pieces, but she will only wear one at a time, and it looks awesome.

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She has a great tattoo that says “feed the good” above a wolf. The words were inspired by a Native American folktale:

An old Cherokee told his grandson, ‘My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies, & ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, & truth.’ The boy thought about it, and asked, ‘Grandfather, which wolf wins?’ The old man quietly replied, ‘The one you feed.’”

Such a good lesson for us all to remember!

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Thursday Poll: Cup of Tea Accessories

It’s no secret that Free People has some of the best jewelry around. Unique, ethnic-inspired pieces are aplenty on our website. I love the small curated collection of jewelry, Cup of Tea, that is live on the website now, but as usual with Free People jewelry, I’m a bit overwhelmed by the amazing options, and cannot chose one. What do you all think?

The Amalfi Coast Pendant

Saldana Chunk Ring

Veda Stone Ringveda stone ring

Bergamo Onyx Ring

bergamo onyx ring

july featured artist: alkemie

“the art of transforming something common into something precious.”

…so states the bio for dara gerson and ashley lowengrub’s jewelry line, alkemie, summing up exactly what they aim to do with their designs.  after growing weary of the toxic working conditions and environmental impacts of the gem and fine metal industries, the two jewelry designers – now a husband and wife team – joined forces to create a line that only uses local, eco-friendly materials.  all of their designs are made of 100% reclaimed metal and manufactured by hand in downtown LA.  their amazing pieces are certainly precious and combine sculptural and organic elements that reflect their love of the environment and planet earth.



there is definitely something very 70s and spiritual about their jewelry – i could easily picture stevie nicks piling it on her wrists and hands before taking the stage for one of her epic shows. alkemie’s pieces are featured throughout our july catalog, and they suit our rock and roll theme perfectly.

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alkemie
an inspiration tear from our shoot

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the amazing legend buckle belt above is also by alkemie! and below is the beautiful dara of alkemie, wearing the pieces in a photo taken by her husband, ashley.

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pieces featured: butterfly wing ring, maltese cross lace cuff, crest moon wrap ring.

designer we love: talon nyc

emily hirsch was raised on a vineyard in the anderson valley where she grew up surrounded by the rich, earthy scents of northern california – mossy forests, redwood trees, fermenting grapes, warm earth and sea fog to name a few. she says, “i love how a smell can transport you to the time and place you first smelled it.”

now based in brooklyn, emily is a jewelry designer who started talon nyc. combining a love of vintage inspired jewelry and the aromas of her childhood, she designed the beautiful amulette necklaces that we are carrying at free people.

“fragrance has been worn in beautiful adornments since ancient times, to ward off evil, intoxicate lovers, enhance mood, and interact with the spirits.”

the amulettes are made entirely of recycled materials and hand cast in bronze, silver and glass. when filled with a scent and warmed by the body, they release subtle aromas that escape through the cork stopper, drifting up to the wearer throughout the day. the cork can be removed and used to dab the scent behind the ears, on the neck, or wherever is desired.

emily carefully blends essential oils to create the scents held inside the amulettes, and has made three custom scents. the signature is described as “an intoxicating aroma of tobacco leaf and newly opened orange blossom. it makes us think of sitting in our grandfathers’ old, worn in leather chair in a dimly lit, cozy room, surrounded by books, a scotch and a small branch pulled from the apple tree blooming outside.”

read on for an interview with emily and stay tuned for a guest post she wrote for the blog about a recent road trip she took with family band and warpaint!

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Can you tell me a little bit about the process of making the scents that go inside the amulettes?

The biggest trick to making scents is experimenting with as many combinations as possible. When I made Avalon, I knew I wanted to use Jasmine, as it’s one of my favorite floral scents. So I started with just Jasmine, and then would add one more thing to it. Then the next day I would go back and smell each combination. You have to also smell the scent on your skin as it is usually pretty different.

I would pick my favorites and then decide what they needed next. If it was too sweet smelling, I would add earthier, muskier or grassier scents next to balance the sweetness.  You also have to throw out preconceived notions about what will mix well together because it’s often the unexpected combinations that work best.

Once I have the final blends, I will start wearing the scent when I go out and see how it evolves throughout the night and how I feel wearing it.

How would you describe your personal style?

Sexy 70s! (Which happens to also be a nickname J.) I am very inspired by the 1970s, musically and stylistically. I buy a lot of vintage clothing and like to layer vintage and new pieces to create a look that isn’t over stylized in one era but has a definite 70s slant combined with a natural 60s vibe.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

When I’m not working I love spending time with friends, eating tasty food and drinking good wine! My husband, Scott, is a great cook, so most evenings he is cooking something we picked up at the farmer’s market and we are listening to records and having wine. We also have a cat named Arrow who I spend a lot of time spoiling.

What’s your favorite city or place?

I grew up in California, so the whole state is very nostalgic for me. But my favorite place is Ojai, where my mom lives. I try to get there at least once a year and love taking bike rides through the orange grooves with views of the Topa Topa mountains.

My favorite city is New York! We have lived in New York for about four years and I’ve never felt more creative than I do here.

What music are you listening to right now?

I am pretty much stuck in the 70s with some guilty pleasure 80s music thrown in for good measure. My staples include Fleetwood Mac, Rod Stewart (early stuff) and the Faces, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, David Bowie…

Favorite book?

As a kid it was the Secret Garden because I was always looking to find secret hiding places in the woods. As a college student, probably Love in the Time of Cholera because I lived in Costa Rica and fell in love with Latin culture and magical realism.

How did your road trip with the Family Band and Warpaint come about?

My husband has toured in various bands many times during our relationship, so when his band, Family Band, went on tour with Warpaint I asked if I could come to see what touring is all about. I went on the leg through the South because I have never been, and have this very romantic view of that part of the country. We went to Durham, Asheville, Nashville, Athens, New Orleans, Houston and Austin. I loved the humid rich tropical magic of the South.

What’s next for talon? Anything you can tell us about what you’re currently working on?

I launched Talon with just the amulette necklace, but for fall, I want to release a full line of jewelry. I’m obsessed with braids and twists, so I’m incorporating that pattern into a bunch of different pieces. I’m also going to have some castings and will be releasing the amulette in some vintage glass colors. I’m sure I will work on a new scent as well!

check out the amulettes online here!

featured artist: heather benjamin

our featured jewelry designer for the month of may could not be a more perfect match for the aura and location of our may catalog.  heather benjamin’s special pieces are handcrafted using fossils, minerals and gemstones reminiscent of the sea, and silver and gold worked into unexpected, organic shapes. inspired by coastal cultures, rituals and symbols, her one-of-a-kind rings are like pieces of treasure washed up on an island shore, carrying with them the beauty and mystery of the ocean and earth’s basic elements. the use of natural stones and gems ensures that no two pieces of jewelry are exactly alike.

here are some beautiful photos taken in bali where she has a design studio and hand-crafts all of her jewelry:

her inspiration photos, also from bali, beautifully illustrate what her jewelry is meant to symbolize.

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a ceremony making offerings to and honoring the sea.

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the fuscite glitter ring, cratered amethyst ring, quartz crater ring and sea glass garnet ring adorn the hands of models tallulah morton and elsa hosk throughout our may catalog. i love the idea of wearing one as a statement piece with a pretty summer dress and little other jewelry, or piling on with lots of jewelry to dress up a casual look.

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view our heather benjamin pieces here.

stories from our fans

i am so inspired by this story and artwork sent in from reader keely, from savannah, georgia.  a college student who paints on the side, she was inspired by one of our summer display bikes to create jewelry out of wood, hemp, floss thread, scrapbook paper, fabric and free people catalogs!

it was this bike – specifically the wheels – that sparked her inspiration:

and here’s a look at the jewelry she created:

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here are some of her paintings, which she creates using mixed media such as fabric, paper, glitter and acrylic paint.  i love how colorful and cheerful they are:

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Tee pee-N-feathers

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Dream VW van

finally, i had to share this photo of her christmas tree, decorated with all DIY ornaments!

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now that’s a free people tree if i ever saw one :)

check out more of her work here. thanks so much for sharing, keely!

sarah lewis

we’ve posted about the amazing jewelry designer sarah lewis on the blog before – as a former member of the fp team she is a part of the free people family and we love carrying her designs. she also has an adorable store in philly called adorn.  read on for a brief interview with sarah and to see photos of her beautiful store and jewelry!

How did you get started as a jewelry designer?

I’ve been making jewelry for as long as I can remember!  When I was really young, I did a lot of beadwork and macramé, and then started working with glass when I was in high school.  I started working with silver and stone while living in Arizona. I have only been focusing all of my energy on my jewelry business for the past year, (before that, I was working for Free People!), but so far it has been going well.  I guess the way that I got started was just making the initial decision to go for it!

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Where do you draw inspiration for your work?

I draw inspiration from everything around me.  My mind is always going, thinking of new jewelry designs.  I also am really inspired by the natural beauty of the materials that I work with.  Because so much of what I do is based on the materials that I work with, I really love going to gem and mineral shows to search for material.  I often can pick up a piece, and immediately picture what I will make out of it.  I am also inspired by the past.  I find a lot of materials and design ideas by shopping at flea markets, and vintage and thrift stores.  While staying true to my own earthy and bohemian style, I also draw inspiration from fashion.  I try to create pieces that are beautiful and timeless, but also stylish and on trend.  I also think of jewelry styles as how they relate to apparel, what they could be worn with, and how they could be used to complete an outfit.

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What are some of your styles that you’re really excited about right now?

I am really excited about some of my recent ring styles.  I’ve been doing a lot of rings with drusy quartz, amethyst, and crazy lace agate.  I also really like my new gemstone fringe bib necklace, and my concentric circles crystal necklace.  I also am currently working on a new collection of jewelry and handbags for FP for holiday that I am really excited about – so watch out for them in November!

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What are some of your other hobbies?

I really love to travel, and hang out with my friends, and I live for seeing live music – so I usually combine the three!  Also, even though I live in the city, I love the outdoors.  I try to go hiking, snowboarding, and make trips to the beach as much as I can.

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center, rocking the sequin slip at phish!

How would you describe your personal style? What are some of your favorite free people items?

I would describe my style as earthy and feminine by day and rockstar by night – so I am a total Free People girl!  I am obsessed with all of the versions of the birds of paradise dress, and  I could not live without my fp intimates.  I wear my bandeaus and halter tops all the time, and .I own two sequin slips that I have probably worn hundreds of times!  They are so great for layering, I can always find new ways to wear them.  I also have a few FP sweaters that will probably stay in my wardrobe forever, because they are so soft and comfy, and I love the FP beach styles too!

What is your motto?

Work hard, but play hard too.  I am a total workaholic, but I love what I do so much, that it doesn’t really seem like work.  My business keeps me so busy that I often have trouble breaking away.  But I know that it is important to take breaks and go out and have fun!

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What does free mean to you?

To me, freedom means being able to be creative everyday, making a living doing what I love, staying connected with nature and spending time with the people I love.

thanks sarah!! check out her website here, and see our collection of sarah lewis jewelry right here!

fp loves…sarah lewis

sarah, a long time member of the free people family, used to work with us here at the home office as an accessories designer, but more recently she has launched her own line of jewelry.  she has a shop in philadelphia called adorn, and her work has won several awards and has been featured in juried shows and exhibitions.  we are so excited to welcome her back as a featured jewelry designer!

a lover of nature, sarah was introduced to metalworking and lapidary (the process of taking raw materials like stones, minerals and gemstones and transforming them into decorative items) while living in arizona.  she loves crystals and minerals and creating simple settings that showcase the natural beauty of the stones, as well as combining materials like glass, silver and stones in unique ways. the result is a small-scale wearable sculpture that is earthy and bohemian, but modern and fashionable.  the use of raw, earthy materials, stones, feathers and dream catchers make her jewelry a perfect fit for the natural, free-spirited girl.  sarah appreciates the preciousness of jewelry, and most of her pieces are one-of-a-kind, making them even more special.

sarah also draws inspiration from everything around her and everything she does, including fashion, travel, music, her family and friends – we are inspired by her and all that she has become!

check out sarah’s jewelry featured throughout the march catalog, and on our website.

fp loves…eric saeter

i first heard about jewelry designer eric saeter when i spotted one of his rings on another fp girl and i instantly fell in love. now that we’re carrying a couple of his pieces i asked eric some questions about his work and inspiration. what did i learn? that in addition to making rad jewelry- he’s also just a really cool, nice guy.

how long have you been designing jewelry?
i began designing jewelry A/W 08/09. it was something i had always dreamt of doing; one of those ideas that kicks around until the day you say to yourself “so when is better than now?” and you do it. turns out the process is a natural extension of my love and work in the fields of fashion and art.

how did you begin designing jewelry?
frustrated by a lack of decent and/or imaginative men’s rings at the time — that is, rings over size 11 — i decided to do it right and do it myself. it was very inspiring to watch my work travel around the world to be worn by such different people in such wildly different contexts from my own. it was almost like vicarious experience. now i’m addicted!

can you briefly explain the casting process/how you make your pieces?
the process begins with an intuition for translating ideas to wearable shapes. i find that direct approach (grab a knife, start hackin!) facilitates better final product — where sketching and planning can hinder my creativity. i “invest” my model in a high-temperature plaster and heat it to temps into the thousands to burn out a cavity that is eventually replaced by silver or gold. i use both vacuum casting and centrifugal casting which suck or throw metal into the cavity, respectively. it takes a good day (or longer) to complete all of the steps of the casting process, and each step demands a precision i never had anticipated.

where do you draw inspiration for your work?
surrealism in cinema, in art, in literature. high fashion, penrose and aperiodic tiling, arabesques, rainforests, science, rococo. i come up with some designs as a symbol to supplant the lack of a place or feeling too distant or too difficult to immediately experience; a deep cave, a dream, the rainforest, historical events, a ritual. i want to extend people into these places with symbols that attach them to imagined spaces.

who are your heroes?
jean-luc godard, yves st laurent, vladamir nobokov, karl lagerfeld, gabriel garcia marquez, abdul mati klarwein, augustin lesage. there’s a revolving cast.

if you weren’t a designer, what would you do?
i would probably be painting and drawing more, as well as scavenging creative people to conceive fashion editorials with (for a long time i was photographing models). i would probably also still be modeling to fund my creative projects.

what are your favorite hobbies?
i like making things with my hands, drawing, finding fresh art and media. i love communicating with imaginative people, the further from reality the better. traveling is such a liberating activity that i wish i could say i did enough of. maybe i will try harder this year to do that. after all i never feel more at home than when i am a long way from familiar paths.

if you were stranded on an island, what three things would you want with you?
one: a ring by yours truly — you never know when an un-contacted tribe could appear and eat you. leading researchers in this field suggest that my jewelry effortlessly implies one may be of heavenly origin. two: an awesome hand-crank wheatgrass machine. three: a seed bank. is that cheating? from there i could grow stuff to look at, grow stuff to chomp, and grow building materials also! bamboo viaduct! hello!?!?

the above images are from eric’s blog and tumblr, where he posts lots of really great inspirational stuff along with images of his work. and check out his mountain gold necklace and pyramids ring on our website!

fp loves…jessica seaton

we’re so excited to introduce you to our new favorite jewelry designer – jessica seaton! here’s the story of jessica, how we found her, and why we love her work.

one fateful day, we were on a shopping trip in venice, CA when we went into a cute little boutique. we stumbled upon some of jessica’s brass & bones collection, and instantly fell in love. jessica happened to be in that very boutique when we were shopping…and the rest is history. she showed us some more of her collection and we knew we had to feature her in our boutique!

jessica, originally a fellow east coast girl who is now living on the west coast, moved to los angeles to pursue a career as a makeup artist. she took up sculpture as her art form, which in turn led her to jewelry design. her current collection was entirely hand sculpted using the method of ‘lost wax’. (lost-wax casting is the process by which a bronze or brass is cast from an artist’s sculpture.) in jessica’s own words, “the collection is entirely hand sculpted using the method of ‘lost wax’, which is a dying art because we live in the day and age of computer generated design and laser cutting…but i think you can feel the energy that was put into the handmade pieces, they carry the energy. i started the collection while i was on a short sabbatical in big sur, ca…finding dropped antler’s around the cabin and property i was living at…people responded to the pieces, which were bit more dramatic back then… and now we have brass and bones…the collection.”

jessica seaton currently lives in venice, CA with her cat bernadette.

check out our collection of jessica seaton’s designs here.

final jeweler bios

erica pena and melissa joy manning are the final two jewelry designers to be featured on the blog, and it makes sense to put them together as they are both female artists who create very feminine, romantic pieces that any girl would be lucky to own, and both designers also make an effort to be socially and environmentally friendly.

the inspiration behind erica pena’s first collection came from her move from manhattan to puerto rico, as she conveys this experience through jewelry that is a mix of new york’s rough edginess and the caribbean’s light airiness. her travels to places like bali continue to influence her designs and stimulate her to create unique and spiritual pieces that are chic, girly and bohemian. her travels have also influenced her to incorporate social and environmental causes into her work, and she joined with yayasan membina api cinta kasih (YAMACK), a non-profit organization in bali. one of the projects she has worked on in conjunction with this organization is building a unit/school for disabled children financed by the sales of a necklace and bracelet designed specifically for the cause.

we are very excited to be working with melissa joy manning, a US jewelry designer who creates one-of-a-kind pieces that are feminine and girly but with an edge, often mixing modern and traditional elements. she says that her jewelry “is not an accessory, but an expression… [it’s] about finding a piece that speaks to the individual and echoes their personality. i believe that jewelry can influence the way you feel; it can say and mean something different to every wearer.” the one-of-a-kind aspect of her items enhances this idea, as each piece and takes on a meaning entirely exclusive to its owner. she also uses stones believed to hold healing energy, and places tiny holes in the design of her work to allow the stone’s energy to flow through the metal and into the wearer. each piece of her jewelry is handmade in her studio in oakland, ca by an in-house production staff and using materials from only domestic suppliers. this is something melissa joy manning feels strongly about, as she pays close attention to running an environmentally responsible business.

view our erica pena and melissa joy manning collections on our website.