Saturday, June 27, 2009

ALEXIS BITTAR

Today we stroll along the pathways of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in Brooklyn, New York. We will take in the beautiful scenery of the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden built in 1914, and designed by landscape architect, Takeo Shiota.

The garden's blend of hills, rocks, stone lanterns, and waterfall evoke serenity and calm.  New York is also home to featured jewelry designer Alexis Bittar.

Bittar was the quintessential Brooklyn youth: tough, street-smart, and fiery. However, Bittar had another side to him; a place inside fascinated with light, form, and color. In fact, his grandfather created abstract paintings and caftans.

Born to university instructors, Bittar was competitive and ambitious from the beginning. At the age of 10, he sold flowers from a hand-painted cart and bought a Yashica camera with the money he earned. Five years later, he sold vintage jewelry in New York's East Village.

During the years that followed, Bittar succumbed to his darker side; experimenting with drugs. "I had become quite thuggish. I was a total dropout, self-taught while detoxing, carving this Lucite!" This was a definitive moment for Bittar, and his destiny became clear to him.

At age 22, he created two lines of jewelry: one with sculpted Italian glass, and the other with Lucite. "No one was treating plastic like it was a precious material. It had gotten all mass produced and molded, so I thought `I can sculpt this.'" Three years later, retailer Saks Fifth Avenue took interest in Bittar's talent and began a relationship that exists to this day.

Bittar finds inspiration in many artistic forms from theatre to architecture to vintage jewelry, as well as the work of sculptor Isamu Noguchi. He embraces the artist inside him with three very different collections: Lucite, Elements, and Miss Havisham. Each collection is a distinct reflection of his creative light.

In his Lucite Collection, he hand-sculpts the material into cuff bracelets, pendant necklaces, earrings, and brooch pins. He then hand-paints pieces with exuberant colors, and unique semi-precious gemstones are added as a final touch. Giving a nod to his days selling flowers, his Begonia, Iris, Anemone, and Amaryllis flower brooches are beautifully life-like with their rich color and detailing.


For his Elements Collection, Bittar opts for 18-karat gold vermeil and semi-precious stones to create unusual pieces that combine unique shapes and bold color. In one particular pendant necklace, Bittar uses an uncut, stunning blue hemimorphite stone.

Finally, inspired by sculptor Constantine Brancusi, and actor/singer Grace Jones, Bittar's Miss Havisham Collection highlights sculptural and contemporary creations of rhodium, cultured pearls, and quartz.

His distinctive creations are sold in over 500 retailers around the globe including Harrods in London, and Isetan in Japan. In 2004, he opened his first store in SoHo, New York.

"When I first started, I didn't think I could get this. I was never given anything, no funding, nothing--I built this business from scratch and got here on my own merit. But I'm not done yet! I'm coming out with a line of fine jewelry--that's the next big venture."

With his unruly days behind him, Bittar has shaped an impressive career collaborating with Burberry, Tulle, Michael Kors, and Estee Lauder.

He even designed jewelry for the Sex and the City television series;, and most recently Bittar's fashion jewelry can be seen on actor Busy Philipps on the sitcom Cougar Town.
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Photo 1 (top right): Cinched Gold Vermeil Turquoise Cuff Bracelet from Elements Collection
Photo 2 (middle) Lucite Mini Sphere Ring
Photo 3 (bottom left): Getty Bib Necklace in Turquoise and Mint Green from Lucite Collection
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