Pin/Pendant (3″): 2 Jades w/antique bronzes-
Tibetan button,Afghan disc. Horn netsuke.
Margery Epstein wryly confesses that, sometimes, as she crouches over her workbench in her overflowing studio, assembling her designs from a mind-boggling collection of beads and artifacts, she finds herself feeling a bit like Rumplestilskin – “Straw into Gold – Straw into Gold”..! This can be especially true when a looming deadline – or irresistible inspiration – translates into late hours. But it could also refer to the remarkable range of materials she draws upon, from the most delicately carved gemstone to the humblest clay or wood – or straw.
Indeed, her work expresses a very broad aesthetic range. She derives much of her inspiration from indigenous world cultures, from Imperial China and Rome to tribal societies of Africa and the Americas. A lifetime of travel and unrepentant ‘book-aholism’ fuels her research of their history, symbolic art, and mythology. She sometimes draws upon her reserve of antiquities and authentic “collectibles” to provide the focus for a design. While much – but, by no means, all – of her work may be grounded in various cultural traditions, the finished design is fresh, classic – and wearable. Proof of its timelessness lies with the fact that her jewelry is collected and treasured across multiple generations (her youngest client, to date, being 2 weeks old…). Proof of her success is her 2-decades’long career supported by the patronage of a discerning and loyal international clientele.
“From earliest memory, I was the designated artist, both in my family (growing up in Binghamton, N.Y.) and in my community. I was also the “stage-struck” kid. I acted – I danced – I sang -” (Including classical opera at the age of 17 – with Placido Domingo.) “Costume Design became my professional focus when I was given an opportunity to design my first of several Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. I realized that, here, visually and physically, my work could help to define each character, affect every scene. Plus, it blended everything that I loved most – all the arts -theatrical, musical, and visual – rolled into one.”
Margery’s formal training includes the theatre design program at Boston University and a Fine Arts degree from Syracuse University. With the blessing of an unusually visionary academic advisor at S.U., Margery composed her own program encompassing disciplines from several schools within the university setting, including advanced courses at the graduate level. The study of costume history, psychology of dress, world cultures, e.g., as well as fundamental art and technical practice, provided the grounding, not only for her theatrical career, but for her eventual focus on jewelry design, as well.
Margery designed for stage productions from New Haven to San Francisco. Upon moving to Los Angeles, her television career ranged from assisting on such shows as Donny and Marie, Carol Burnett, and Cher, to supervising &/or designing specials such as the CBS Network’s 50th Anniversary Celebration and the Emmy Awards, period costume dramas,variety shows and, inevitably, sitcoms, including Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life.
Today, she credits her varied theatrical experience, designing for so many characters – and the actors who embodied them – for her ability to connect with, and complement, her clients’ personalities and lifestyles through her jewelry.
Such experience served to fine-tune her sense of the practical aspects of comfort and wearability, as well. At Saks 5th Avenue, management established an unprecedented tradition of monthly personal appearances in several stores ever since her first “sellout” Christmas event in Beverly Hills. This unique opportunity also provided a matchless education “on the hoof” in the practical aspects of design and customer service in the retail fashion industry.
“Beyond the obvious issues of aesthetics, we choose what we wear for symbolic and emotional reasons, often on a subliminal level. We are influenced by contemporary culture and sociology, certainly, but by history, as well.. History was always a vivid, visual subject for me. I think that was part of the original appeal of designing for Theatre rather than Fashion. Jewelry has become the pathway to the best education and life experience I could have ever imagined. I am continually reminded of the connections between cultures, civilizations, and, ultimately, individuals. Encountering carvings and beads, stones and metals, which have passed through so many hands and ‘lived’ so many lives, has shaped my own perception of the world and my place in it. This holds equally true for the amazing people I have met, both in my travels in pursuit of my materials from all over the world, and in presenting my finished work to the public. And I share as much information as I can fit onto the handwritten ‘story cards’ accompanying each piece.”
“It is gratifying when something I have made becomes a symbolic part of someone’s family history – a necklace worn by a bride – or mother of the groom, e.g., or a first precious-stone necklace and earring set for a grandmother’s newborn namesake, designed to ‘grow’ with the child.. It’s a constant joy to learn that, beyond its primary function as wearable art – or fashion accessory, my work has become, for many, a means of personal expression, emotional connection, and even – dare I say it? – spiritual communication.”
” – Factor in the occasional full night’s sleep, and it doesn’t get better than that!” she adds, with a grin…
Margery Epstein’s featured presentation for 18 years at Saks 5th Av., particularly in Beverly Hills, has won her a devoted clientele and established her reputation for superb, eclectic, personalized design. Her Los Angeles presence currently includes Steven & Co Fine Jewelers (Beverly Hills) and Gallery of Functional Art (Bergamot Station, Santa Monica). Margery’s work has been shown in various galleries and fashion stores throughout the country, the Smithsonian Institution, and has been featured at Galleria events and fashion shows for such cultural venues as the L.A. County Museum of Art, the Club 100 of the Music Center, et al. Her work appears in the frequent television show and theatrical film.
A “short”list of patrons include Jennifer Tilly, Joni Mitchell, Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, Dwight Yoakam, Cassandra Wilson, Terri Farrell, Hattie Winston Wheeler, Doris Roberts, Ann Bancroft, Mrs. Robert De Niro, Whoopi Goldberg, Jill St. John, Maggie Smith, Ann Miller, Julie Harris, Mrs. Steve Wynn, and Hillary Rodham Clinton.