Seattle Girls, Creative Spirit, and Conversation Starters

Wednesday night I had the opportunity to attend an event hosted by the very talented and famous Seattle Lifestyle Blogger, Cass Lavalle of Coco+Kelly. It was the launch of her new venture, Emerald Studio, a project she aims to encompass interior design, supper clubs, party planning, and I’m sure, educating others on how to live a fabulous life.  In the last few years I have had the privilege of becoming friends with some incredible women from Seattle – all by chance, and all because of art, and as I think back upon the trail that lead me to these girls who are in my life, I am reminded of the saying that whatever we project, we tend to attract.

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The fun started out at E. Smith Mercantile, my new all-time favorite shop/ bar/restaurant/kitchen/science lab/classroom. Kim Brooks, the Seattle stylist, Erin Gainey, founder and president of the Seattle Design Foundation, and I cozied up for some serious cocktails created by E.Smith’s mixologist extraoridnaire, Brandon. It was belly up to the bar where I was introduced to Kate and Jessie – the mother/ daughter team who are half of the family running E.Smith. Needless to say, these women are the real deal – open, loving, creative, and crazy fun. If you’ve never been to E. Smith Mercantile, you need to plan to right away – the storefront is filled with beautifully edited items, hand selected by the girls. Kate has her own Apothecary skin care line which she creates right there in the science lab below. And, Jessie, well if you google Jessie you’ll find her list of talents are endless.. designer, teacher, creator, all around amazing woman…You’ll find trend-setting clothes, stunning jewelry, cards, kitchen items, all for the “in the know” crowd. After you browse through everything you need, head back to the bar – a smooth black granite countertop  in the shape of a horseshoe magnet – that truly attracts everyone who walks through their doors. The experience is unlike any other in city, not just because the drinks are so good, or the food is so delicious, but the vibe and the energy that the owners and staff project is over the top fun. This is the ultimate in doing what you love and loving what you do..
Then it was off to the event.. The launch of Cass Lavalle’s new venture, Emerald Studio was in the 95 Yesler Creative Space, and what a gem this is. If you ever get the opportunity to visit this building or decide to attend one of Cass Lavalle’s events, just stepping into the space will make it worth your while. One step into this creative space and you know these women who work here are changing the world. Cass is one of several talented women making waves in Seattle, and not surprisingly, they all share space here in Pioneer Square.
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We were treated to handcrafted cocktails and canapes created by Chef J.J. Proville, who by the way, was voted one of Seattle’s next hot chefs by the Seattle Met magazine. I wish I had taken more pictures because the rest of my evening was spent laughing and chatting with some of Seattle’s most creative women, like Brandy Brown of Maraboudesign, Moorea Seal, Olivia Knapp, the list goes on. What I felt in that room was really magical and as I reflect, what I loved so much about the evening was that everyone I met was completely filled with excitement, creative spirit, and genuine joy for others’ successes.
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As a side note, I’d like to leave this blog with a couple of thank yous. One, to my dear friend Erin Gainy who is as beautiful inside as she is on the outside.Her work with the Seattle Design Foundation is inspirational and she’s a real maverick.  I’d also like to thank my friend Angela. She stayed at my house over the weekend and sneaked off with a pair of my black ankle boots that I’d probably had opted for to complete my outfit for the night.. Since the boots were absent from my closet, and on a trip to Portland, I had to choose a pair of fun sexy pony hair pumps. This was the best thing ever in the end. I met more people because of those shoes, so I’ll leave you with my conversation starters.. It’s my “Owed”  to Pony…shoe
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Please check out the following creative works by these very talented Seattle Women (and man): www.seattledesignfoundation.com, www.maraboudesign.com, www.oliviaknapp.com, www.mooreaseal.com, www.esmithmercantile.com, www.cocokelley.com, www.chezjjp.com, kimbrooksstyle.com

On Going Global

I moved to Africa when I was just ten years old. My father had taken a position with the American International School of Lagos, Nigeria, so we packed up our things, bought a ton of non-perishable items, and headed off to West Africa. Little did I know at that age, what an incredible impact West Africa would have on my life. Firstly the experience of adapting to a new way of life, being introduced to new cultures, and embracing differences proved to be some of the most valuable gifts my parents could have ever given me. As I grew, and as my experiences expanded, my very narrow view of the world vanished and the veil was lifted. What I realized at a young age was that borders don’t create the differences we think they do. Language and looks may be different, religion maybe, but as humans, we all react to laughter, we all appreciate a kind gesture, we feel pain, and we love our families and the time we spend with friends. We also love to create.

Unless you’ve traveled to West Africa or you’re an art aficionado, you may not be privy to some of the incredible pieces created by the artists from this region. Many of the below mentioned artists have been showcased in some of the most prestigious galleries in the world and their works can carry price tags in the six figures. On a recent trip back to Nigeria I had the pleasure of staying with some very dear friends who over the years have amassed quite a collection of art from that area of the world. In fact, my friend’s passion for West African art has now landed him an official position with Bonhams Auction House based in London as the representative for that region. On that same trip I had the pleasure of meeting two incredible young women from Italy who landed in Lagos with a vision for fashion, and who have taken the town like a storm. They represent the generation of people who believe success in business goes hand in hand with the empowerment of others. With the launch of their fashion label, Kinabuti, they are mixing runway fashion and grassroots education for local Nigerians who want the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty and be a part of the skilled workforce. There’s nothing better, in my opinion. With a funky vibe and a wicked since of social media on their side, they are attracting bankers, investors, local celebrities, as well as foreign officials and foreign media. I invite you to visit their website at www.kinabuti.com and check out the what the buzz is all about.

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I mention these people because they represent the fusion of humanity. It was with this fusion in mind when I first designed my Ibeji ring., I was living in Mexico, an American who spent most of her life in and out of West Africa and Europe, and I was working with a local silversmith, trying to create a few small pieces to begin my “new venture”. My heart and my inspiration kept bringing me back to my African experience, and as I thumbed through countless books on African art, I knew that if I didn’t create something that came from my soul, filled with such love and light, I would never be happy with the end results. With the encouragement of a dear friend who was also a designer, we created about ten pieces, all with an African influence, and I never looked back.

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As I’ve developed my line, I’ve changed direction for a few collections within, but my love of Africa still shows how connected to that region I am. I hope my customers feel that connection to other cultures when they wear my pieces and understand how bonded we really are as humans through art, design, fashion, music, and literature. I leave you  with one of my favorite pictures of me as a young girl trading jewelry with a young Masai girl. Maybe it was already written in the stars that this would be my journey.

Tiff and Masai Girl 1981

For a peek at some incredible West African artist visit www.octobergallery.co.uk/artists/anatsui/  and www.mutualart.com/Artist/BenEnwonwu/