Women of the Water

The following article by National Jeweler Editor in Chief, Michelle Graff, was originally published on National Jeweler's 10X blog on February 27, 2015

Michelle’s pieces first crossed my desk, and caught my eye, a few years ago when she started getting involved at New York Fashion Week as an independent designer. But her history with jewelry stretches back decades.

Growing up in the Cleveland suburb of Mentor, Ohio, Michelle said she made her first piece of jewelry at the age of 5, recreating the power bracelets and tiara worn by Lynda Carter in Wonder Woman. Just to clarify, Michelle came of TV-watching age in ‘80s so she watched Wonder Woman in syndication. She did, however, enjoy the original run of She-Ra: Princess of Power, a personal favorite of mine.

More formal training started in high school, where, luckily, her school’s art department had a small jewelry studio. Michelle got into the program as a sophomore and started with cold connections, riveting, wire work--basically anything that didn’t involve soldering. (Hot tools were reserved for seniors.) “I just took to that class,” she said, “and I loved it.”

She went on to study jewelry design at Kent State University, graduating in 2001. After graduation, she submitted her work to art galleries and found private clients before breaking into New York Fashion Week in 2012, getting her clothes on models as they strutted down the runways.

Last week, the Stow, Ohio-based designer experienced another milestone: her first “large, formal trade show,” as she describes it: the American Craft Council show in Baltimore.

There, she showed her newest collection, “Undina,” which is an overarching term of various water spirits. She said the collection is based on the water goddesses of mythology as well as the imagery of mermaids turning to sea foam when they die, as detailed in the Hans Christian Andersen version of the famous fairy tale The Little Mermaid. “That particular line struck me,” Michelle said. “What would that look like?”

Please enjoy five pieces from the Undina collection while I find some old episodes of She-Ra on YouTube. If you want to see more of Michelle’s amazing work, you can visit her website.

Photo credit Julie Stanley/JuleImages LLC