Back in the ’70s, my friend Leslie Noble and I would take the tail end of the cash register tape and turn it into a Miss Dey Brothers sash while working behind the candy counter at the Shoppingtown department store in DeWitt, New York. This was the beginning of our retail careers, lol, at sixteen and seventeen years old, and the start of her creative life as an actress and mine as an artist. We learned to make change without a calculator and to always put the customer first. Actually, we used to include the customers in our social conversations while still sharing noteworthy sales information, providing them with a fun shopping experience to go along with their Swedish Fish gummmies and Godiva chocolate.
I have worked retail many times – I was a Co-Manager at The Limited in Florida in the ’80s. I used to always get A+ ratings from the secret shoppers. Used the dialect known as broken English to assist the Spanish speaking customers visiting Miami from Peru and Argentina. (In my defense, I took French in middle school and high school). I sold countless pairs of leggings and oversized shoulder-padded tops to them. It was all about nodding a lot and having a positive tone.
Michelle DaRin didn’t know any of this about me when she asked me to cover for her at the Skaneateles Lavender Festival yesterday, but somehow she knew she could trust me to do it. I did not hesitate with my response. It was like a gut instinct told me that I should be there. I just knew it would be an amazing experience that I would never forget – and it was! The festival was Saturday and Sunday at Lockwood Lavender Farm, 1682 West Lake Road, Skaneateles, NY, (13152).
I am a customer of Michelle’s and a huge fan. She is like fashion royalty to me here in Syracuse. A real-deal artist designer who lives and breathes her style. She creates hand-casted bronze charms then joins them with individually linked beaded chains. It is all her, start to finish, a one-woman operation, so you know her attention to detail contains the true spirit of her artistic vision.
I am particularly in love with the copper-enameled pieces. No two bracelets are alike. She shapes the pieces, glazes them and fires them in a small kiln then unites them with a leather cord or wristband. The colors are exquisite – a vibrant palette that pops in combination with the rich textures of the cowhides.
It was so special to converse with her customers, many of whom, like me, were wearing her pieces and were back for more. The bold jewelry works best when layered for that hippie-chick appeal. It is a youthful, yet more a sophisticated than trendy look for women of all ages.
And men too. There are cuff links and belt buckles in her collection. I think the geometry of the looks in bracelets, necklaces, and rings make many of them work as unisex.
Yes, I wore everything in my arsenal – two necklaces, five bracelets and my red enamel ring. I learned to use the Square credit card application to process charges. It was really surreal, like I was dreaming the whole thing up. I think back to last September when I spoke to Michelle for the first time at the Westcott Street Fair in Syracuse, and I remember seeing the bracelet rack and wishing my arms would look like it one day. Now they do.
I built up my collection piece by piece. Some were gifts, some I purchased on-line at www.michelledarinjewelry.com and some I bought at her various appearances at local arts and crafts shows.
I worked all day with only one pee break then somehow with help from the neighboring tent and my cousin Jackie, I managed to get the whole operation into my car and drive it home. It was actually more work than I do in a typical day at my job as an art teacher. Crazy!
It was exhausting but so fun. Thank you, Michelle’s customers, who visited me and supported her with purchases. It was like being a substitute teacher – praising my friend for her amazing talent and work ethic, and selling her wares while not having to make any of the merchandise (akin to not having to prepare lesson plans). It’s definitely not something I could do every day, which is why I don’t peddle my own artwork at those events.
I am so grateful for Michelle’s trust and friendship. Naturally, I worked for jewelry. Lol, I still have a little retail queen in me. I will do almost anything for fashion!
Michelle DaRin and her jewelry will be at the Syracuse Arts & Crafts Festival at the end of the month – Friday, July 29th through Sunday, July 31st, 2016. It is around Columbus Circle in downtown Syracuse. She is tentatively scheduled to participate in a ladies night event at Krebbs in Skaneateles, New York on Thursday, July 21st and she will be at another event at Pottery Barn in Destiny USA Mall in Syracuse on July 23rd. <3