During the holiday season, frenzied buying at crowded shopping centers is part of the package. Some tough souls proudly call Black Friday a family tradition. But, come on — everyone needs a break from the mall madness to uncover that truly one-of-a-kind gift. Turns out, you can find it from hardworking artists right here in Preston Hollow.
Amanda K Jewelry
Gift idea: Statement jewelry
Where to find it: amandakjewelry.com
Amanda Paret doesn’t want your grandmother’s brooch to sit idly in some jewelry box.
“A lot of people have all of this old stuff,” she says. But because they don’t know how to wear it in a modern way, they don’t wear it at all.
That’s where she comes in. The Preston Hollow resident takes older jewelry pieces and asks, “How would someone wear this today?” Then she combines the old pieces with new parts — beads, stones, metals — to come up with one-of-a-kind statement necklaces for her jewelry line, Amanda K Jewelry. It’s a way for people to wear treasured pieces that previously felt dated.
“I like the challenge of taking something old and making it new,” she says.
You don’t have to have your own vintage jewelry to enjoy Paret’s talents. She finds pieces at estate sales and flea markets —“older pieces with a history” — and turns them into something “fresh and current.” When she finds a piece she loves, she doesn’t always know what it’s going to turn into.
“Sometimes I have a piece for years, and all of a sudden it pops into my head how to use it.”
Paret, an interior designer for Astleford Interiors, started designing the necklaces to fill her own needs.
“I had a hard time finding things I loved and wanted to invest in,” she says.
These days she has plenty of jewelry she loves — and in which she has invested her time and creativity. When asked how often she wears her own designs, Paret says with a laugh, “all the time — every day.”
Not only does she love to wear her jewelry, but it’s also great marketing for her business. She says that “sometimes it’s hard to let go” of her necklaces, but she has sold them right off of her neck before.
Normally, however, she sells her jewelry at trunk shows around town and through her website, amandakjewelry.com. She makes earrings, too, and does bridal jewelry, but the necklaces are her best sellers.
For Paret, making her jewelry isn’t just about having something pretty to wear. A devout Christian, she calls making things from scratch “one of the purest forms of worship.” Her talent, she says, is “a gift that God’s given me … Creating things is something I’m supposed to be doing.
“His inspiration is a huge part of what I do,” she continues. That includes encouraging women to try new things to boost their self-esteem. “I run across a lot of women who don’t think they can wear statement necklaces,” she says. “They say ‘Oh, but I could never pull that off.’ ” But Paret tries to give them confidence in their own beauty: “I want to see them knowing they’re beautiful.”
In 2006, Kelly Wilson needed a creative outlet.
The Preston Hollow mom had decided to take a break from her career in marketing and fundraising to focus on raising her two boys. Spending her days with them was “wonderful but chaotic,” she says. She had hobbies, such as “dabbling in art” and antiquing with friends. Then she figured out a way to combine the two.
Wilson began embellishing antique English china pieces with Victorian monograms. She chooses a font and color that matches each piece and then applies a large, striking initial via decoupage.
“It took a lot of honing,” she say
s of her technique. She “played around a long time trying to get it just right,” experimenting with different paints and inks and
taking a class with a well-respected decoupage artist.
She started small, giving plates to friends as gifts. Others would see them and want one, and before she knew it, she had a business. Plates by Kelly Wilson Antiques have since been featured in Southern Living and Southern Lady magazines, which makes sense, because, as Wilson says, “Southern women love to see a monogram.” In fact, she sees her work as a collision of two old Southern traditions: monograms and elegant china.
She says one of her favorite parts of her job is “the hunt” — a term any antique enthusiast can relate to — for beautiful plates and platters.
“That’s how this started,” she says. “I’m a treasure hunter.”
Many of her pieces are more than 100 years old. She buys everything from petite saucers to large platters. Some have bold colors and ornate patterns, some are sweet and dainty, and some have a simple, classic elegance. But she elevates every piece she brings home from an orphaned relic to a one-of-a-kind creation.
“It’s another way of recycling — taking something old and giving a new life to it.”
Wilson’s plates are popular as wedding and baby gifts — they serve nicely as keepsakes to mark momentous occasions — but they’re unique and distinctive enough to give anyone who loves to add special touches to their décor.
“I like to see them tucked up on a shelf with a family’s other favorite things,” she says. “It’s charming.”
And, of course, there are plenty of people who buy them for themselves, just because they’re beautiful.
Like many moms, Kristen Gibbins and Lindsey Croley had tummy-time troubles.
Pediatricians recommend “Tummy time” — putting a baby on its tummy— because it improves strength and coordination and relieves pressure on the back of the baby’s head, which can lead to plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome). Unfortunately, babies aren’t always thrilled with tummy time. Since today’s parents are advised to put babies to sleep on their backs, babies tend to be uncomfortable and fussy on their tummies.
Gibbins and Croley, who work together at the Nasher Sculpture Center and each have two children, noticed that “even while lying on tummy-time mats and playing with toys, babies quickly became disconnected and helpless, and moms struggled to provide comfort, encouragement and support.”
But Gibbins, a public relations director who lives in Preston Hollow, had an epiphany one day during tummy time with her son.
“He gravitated toward a T-shirt I was wearing,” she says.
Soon after, she called Croley, a graphic designer, and asked her to go into business with her.
It was the start of “tumtees,” which Gibbins says are “cool tees for moms with visual and tactile elements for babies.” When a mom holds her baby upright or does the “tummy-to-tummy” position —lying down with the baby on top of her — a tumtee gives the baby something to focus on and enhances bonding. Gibbins also wrote a clever, fun poem for each design. “They add another element” to the interaction, she says.
“The designs have to appeal to babies — the colors, textures and patterns,” Croley says. But they also needed to be “unique and modern” enough to appeal to moms. “They have to be something I’d wear without feeling like I was wearing a toy.”
The shirts are soft cotton, so they’re comfortable for both mom and baby.
“New moms are going to be wearing these,” Gibbins says, so they have a “flattering fit with slightly more room … and they wash well. We tested all this.”
The women have been working on tumtees for three years. Between jobs and families, their schedules were already busy. But, as Gibbins says, “When you’re passionate about something, you find the time for it.” After lots of designing, tweaking and testing, they’ll launch their website, tumtee.com, this month. There are three designs in production now, and the women will release three new designs at a time every few months.
Gibbins says tumtees provide “an interactive element to make it so mom and baby are connected and engaged with one another,” so they make great holiday gifts for new moms and unique shower gifts.
And any mom will tell you that having another way to bond with her baby is a one of the best gifts she could ask for.