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Meet the Artist: Margo Morrison

Margo Morrison New York is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year and for the past twelve years the Artful Hand Gallery has established itself as one of the leading independent retailers of this timeless, elegant and effortlessly wearable jewelry. We have cultivated many collectors of Margo Morrison jewelry over the years, as it is difficult to stop with only one piece, whether it be from the pearl collection or the many beautiful gemstone combinations, including aquamarine, labradorite and moonstone. Margo Morrison jewelry is a “go to” for many of our male customers seeking a gift as they can always count on it being a big hit.

An exciting collection of Spring 2021 designs arrives this week, and later this Summer the Artful Hand Gallery will hold it twelfth annual Margo Morrison trunk show from July 30th to August 15th.

We recently had a chance to chat with Margo about her career and her experiences during the past year:

AHG: What steps led you on the path to becoming a successful jewelry designer?

Margo: Aside from having a creative side, which is what got me into this business, I think what has contributed most to my success as a jewelry designer has been the ability to select only the best products for my line. I’m also an extremely detailed person and have been able to find the right people on my team, plus I like listening to my customers. Running a business is like following the ebbs and flows of the ocean. You must be able to move with direction of trends, and also be flexible enough to weather tough times like a recession or what we’re experiencing now with this pandemic. And you must be open to listening to what customers like and then determine whether or not it makes sense for you to incorporate their ideas into your designs.

AHG: You have a rich background which includes being a classical pianist, magazine publisher (Miami Guide to the Arts), interior designer (?), and actress in TV commercials, among others. Are there any take-aways from these experiences which you have found valuable in your present career?

Margo: I think it can all be distilled into one word. Discipline. I seem to have interests that are the opposite of being on a team, so there’s no one to cheer me on when the going gets rough. Classical piano involved a lot of time alone at the piano, focusing on a single passage for hours, or working on a piano concerto over several months, playing the same sections over and over. You have to enjoy what you’re doing, and you have to be disciplined. There was no one standing over me to keep me moving. I had to do it all on my own. And it taught me what I was made of.

AHG: Was there a specific inspiration for Margo Morrison jewelry?

Margo: I was inspired by a lariat I saw in the window of a store in Miami Beach, back in 2001. The stones were spaced along a cord and seemed to be suspended. I was just blown away by it. I had taken an adult eduction jewelry class in NYC a year or so before that. We were given beads and metal wire. I kept thinking how boring it was. There were only so many ways you could stack beads on a wire. I thought, “I have no talent. I can’t think of anything interesting to do with this.” Only after I saw that lariat with the stones spaced apart that my imagination kicked in and I couldn’t wait to get back to NYC to start creating my own designs.

AHG: You must love the search for the pearls and gemstones used in your jewelry. What have been some of your best discoveries? The most unusual stones? Do you have a favorite stone?

Margo: It truly is like being a kid in a candy store. My favorite trip is to Tucson each year, where I do most of my stone and pearl buying. It’s getting more and more difficult to find new and interesting cuts and colors, but I never give up and always find something fabulous. I’m pretty crazy about labradorite and call it the chameleon of stones. I love the light inside of it. I absolutely adore tourmaline and have found the thinnest slices of watermelon tourmaline that take my breath away. My birthstone is aquamarine, and I never knew how many colors of aquamarine there were. I tend to love stones that have interest and transparency. I like to see inclusions and markings in my stones and I like to see pitting and marks on my pearls because it means nature had a hand in it and they aren’t artificial. Before I added baroque pearls to the line, I remember buying baroque pearls for myself and wearing three long strands for months before deciding to introduce it into my collection. I started my business with very inexpensive stones and pearls with interesting colors and cuts, and was always hesitant to make more and more expensive pieces with more interesting and expensive stones and pearls. But each time I’ve done that, the reception has been phenomenal.

AHG: You describe your jewelry as “feminine with just the right dash of edginess”. Is there a “typical” Margo Morrison customer?

Margo: The Margo Morrison customer is someone who has a creative side to her and doesn’t want a “cookie cutter” design that everyone else is wearing. She likes color and she likes interesting combinations of stones and pearls. I can’t say we have a typical customer; the age range is from 20-90. We have classic pearl styles with a twist, and super edgy diamond charms and cool stretch bracelets. I think we have something for everyone.

AHG: You have a large celebrity clientele, including Julia Roberts, Gwyneth Paltrow, Blake Lively, and Julianne Moore. Is there a favorite celebrity story you are able to share?

Margo: I think my two favorite stories are with Blake Lively and Julianne Moore. I met Blake when she was 21 years old and was starring in Gossip Girl. She wanted to wear some of my creations on the red carpet, so we met at ABC Carpet & Home in NYC, where I showed her some pieces. She was incredibly sweet and was so in love with my jewelry. Here’s a 21-year-old who could wear anything she wanted, and she wanted to wear my jewelry! She continued to wear my pieces on the red carpet, for personal events, and of course, on the show. She was also incredibly generous, inviting me to her movie premieres and to her 21st birthday party. I also had the pleasure of meeting Julianne Moore, who loved my turquoise pieces. Blake had given Julianne one of my necklaces, a red garnet piece, I think, on a movie set, and I got a call a couple of weeks later. It was Julianne! She said she loved the necklace but preferred turquoise. I said “No problem!” I told her I would drop a couple of pieces off at her home and she said, “Let me know when you’re stopping by so I can be here.” That was such a great experience. When I arrived at her home, she opened the door, took one look at me and said, “Oh my goodness, you look just like me!” I will never forget that moment.

AHG: In normal times you are a world traveler, both for business and pleasure. Once international travel restrictions are eased what destination is at the top of your list?

Margo: I want to go to Cape Town, South Africa to visit my father. I was there a couple of years ago and was planning on going back last summer when Covid hit. My dad is 93 and I hope to see him soon.

AHG: You have traveled to Japan several times for trunk shows and have a lot of customers there. The Japanese are very discriminating in their taste; what do you think it is that they love most about Margo Morrison jewelry?

Margo: The Japanese are a very sophisticated and cultured people. Many are diminutive so they like small, delicate pieces. They also covet interesting pendants, so I tend to make very specific, special pieces for them. I call them my art collectors because they see my work as great art. Some of my collectors have over 200 pieces, and they like to bring every piece with them when I do a trunk show. We’ve been holding trunk shows in a hotel suite, so I sit with them, look at every piece, and we talk about the stones with a translator. They take extremely good care of their things, so everything is perfectly wrapped and kept in clear bags so they can see them.

AHG: A big part of the Margo story must include mentioning your love for your miniature Italian greyhounds, Ella and Charlotte. It was moving to witness your devotion and care for Ella in her last few years when she was blind and suffering from kidney failure. But now you have Charlotte; how is she and is her personality at all different from Ella’s?

Margo: Well, not only did Ella have kidney challenges, she was also blind the last half of her 10-year life. It was an honor and a privilege to take care of her. She was an amazing little girl. With Ella, I tried to keep up a normal life with walks both on leash in NYC and off leash up in the Berkshires where I now live full-time. She actually ran off leash when we went to an open field. She was so trusting and I never let her down. Charlotte is a spunky little girl. I never got to see Ella as a puppy. I only got her when she was two, so I had no idea what it would be like to deal with a puppy. Many sleepless nights. I was very stressed out and always anxious about Ella and her health issues, so this time around, I’m trying to be much more calm and cool when issues arise. I don’t get too crazy. Charlotte likes to be next to me all the time and lucky for her, I like that, too. Like Ella, I take Charlotte everywhere with me, so she’s pretty relaxed and social. She’s an easy little girl, as long as she’s had exercise and eaten. I absolutely love this breed. They’re like little humans. She even makes human sounds when she’s displeased with me. It’s hilarious. And she has her own Instagram account with more followers than I have!

AHG: This past year of Covid has been difficult for everyone. What were the challenges for your company and how have you overcome them? Were there any silver linings?

Margo: OMG, it was an extremely stressful year in 2020. Like most companies, we came to a full stop with absolutely no clue how to proceed. I have incredibly amazing people on my team, so we began to strategize and just worked to keep the business moving. We realized how important our website was and we read and participated in every marketing Zoom meeting and retail blog report we could get our hands on. We became hyper-aware of the importance of VIP customers and made ourselves available to answer any and all questions from our customers. And I loved being so intensely involved. We worked 24/7 and didn’t stop until we started seeing revenue again. The silver lining is in the fact that we can, for at least part of the time, work remotely. We have the capacity to be very creative when the going gets difficult. We just didn’t give up and we never lost hope.

AHG: What’s new for Margo Morrison jewelry this Spring?

Margo: We’re seeing a continuing trend with our beautiful, stretch bracelets in a myriad of colors and with cool charms attached. We’re following the Pantone colors of yellow and grey and what an interesting combination for jewelry and ready to wear. As always, we’re doing great things with baroque pearls and unexpected diamond and stone charms we offer.

AHG: What are your hopes and expectations for the year ahead?

Margo: I’d like to see us reach herd immunity so we can all get out and get back to some semblance of the life we had pre-Covid. Women love jewelry, even during a pandemic, so we’ve seen the value in what we do. I hope to get out to more shows and visit with my customers and let them know that we never gave up and we’re here to stay!

AHG: Thanks Margo! We can’t wait for the Spring 2021 collection and the Summer trunk show. We hope to see you in person again very soon!



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