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Emily Harbottle is a trailblazing designer and director whose journey from a childhood passion for fashion to the helm of her own sustainable fashion brand, Defied, exemplifies creativity, resilience, and visionary leadership.

From the early days of watching her mother craft clothes, sparking a lifelong fascination with design, Emily has seamlessly woven her artistic talents with a deep commitment to sustainability and quality craftsmanship.

Her work transcends mere fashion, serving as a medium for self-expression and empowerment, particularly for women. Emily’s designs not only turn heads but also inspire confidence, celebrating individuality and the courage to defy conventions.

Through Defied, she has carved a unique niche in the fashion world, championing eco-conscious practices and creating luxurious, timeless pieces that stand as testaments to her dedication to both art and the environment. Emily’s story is one of passion turned into purpose, inspiring others to pursue their dreams with unwavering determination and integrity. We spent some time with Emily to delve a little deeper…

Emily, your journey from a passion for fashion to founding Defied is incredibly inspiring. Can you share a pivotal moment when you realised you were meant to create your own brand?

Fashion and design have always been a part of my life. From a young age, I watched my mum make clothing and fancy dress for me and my siblings, which inspired me to learn how to use a sewing machine and create my own clothes. I am also a very artistic and creative person, and I love expressing myself through art and fashion design.

The moment that really stands out for me was when I showed my final collection at Graduate Fashion Week and was headhunted for a prestigious fashion design job in NYC. Although it wasn’t the right time for me to move to the other side of the world, it made me realise that if I wanted to succeed in the fashion world, it would have to be me and me alone who could make it happen. This experience inspired me to create my own brand.

Fashion often serves as a form of self-expression. How does Defied embody your personal ethos and values?

When I work through a design process, it always starts with a feeling or emotion that I want to express through the designs. This could be a sense of freedom and fluidity in the fabric’s feel and appearance, or in the cut and shape of the design. With DEFIED, the brand is all about empowering women to be true to themselves, with no rules to restrict how they want to dress, and to make themselves feel powerful and confident through the clothes they wear. This is achieved by using padded shoulders in some of the garments to create a powerful look, along with glamorous, luxurious metallic fabrics that catch the eye with their glistening in the light.

Each design is tailored to emphasise the beauty of the body’s curves and is lined with soft but strong firming premium power mesh to make you feel secure and fabulous. Quality is always the top priority for the DEFIED brand, and I wouldn’t want to put my name to anything less. In the early days of creating the brand, there was a strong focus on promoting environmental awareness and criticising the negative impact of “fast fashion” on the environment. This led me to reconsider how I could make my brand more environmentally conscious. I decided to have all production done in the UK, where I could oversee the process and maintain the high luxury quality of every design. Fabrics are sustainably sourced, and we strive to create limited stock designs using dead stock, minimising wastage and reducing our carbon footprint.

Your designs are known for turning heads and empowering wearers. Can you walk us through the creative process behind a Defied piece, from concept to runway?

Every design begins with an idea that evolves through the process of sourcing fabrics, leading the original idea in a completely different direction. It’s important to work on an idea and explore other possible outcomes. Some designs have evolved over time while others have transformed more quickly. The original idea may have come from finding an alternative fabric that caught my eye while looking for another fabric for a design idea.

Once I am satisfied with a selection of design ideas, I will then handpick a smaller collection of the most powerful designs. Fabrics are then sourced and designs usually change again as new ideas are sparked from the feel and look of the fabrics I have found to work with. This cycle can revolve a few times until I am completely happy with the design and fabric together. I then collaborate the designs and fabrics with my production team in London, where we create the first samples together. These samples may be tweaked and altered many times until they are perfect.

Only when this process has been meticulously dissected and critiqued are they approved to be graded in different sizes and tailored into the full collection we see today. Designs are created with passion and emotion, much like art, and evolve and change based on the mediums available, and the feelings and expressions being portrayed. Fashion design is not a product; it is art.

As the founder of Defied, you’ve emphasised the importance of sustainability in the fashion industry. How do you integrate eco-conscious practices into every aspect of your brand?

I have become very conscious of the devastating effects of the mass production of clothes for cheap brands on the environment. As a result, I want my designs to be luxurious and long-lasting. Remember when you were a child, and clothes would last years!? Even centuries!

This isn’t the case anymore, unfortunately. I am dedicated to reducing our carbon footprint and setting an example for other fashion brands, encouraging them to be more environmentally conscious. At DEFIED we use recyclable and reusable packaging with our branding. I source fabrics in the UK whenever possible, using dead stock to reduce landfills and avoid creating new fabrics in factories.

I am also exploring organic fabric sources and handmade fabrics for future collections. Luxury designs crafted with the highest quality, built to last. We are committed to minimising our carbon footprint whenever possible.

Handmade in London with the finest fabrics—Defied exudes luxury. What inspired you to prioritise quality craftsmanship over fast fashion trends?

When you’re emotionally invested in creating art and fashion designs, it’s not acceptable to bring your ideas to life in the cheapest way possible. This approach doesn’t reflect the time and creativity invested in the design. Any creation infused with your pure emotion and heartfelt pride deserves to be crafted with the utmost quality. If you’ve created art, why settle for anything less?

If it’s not executed with the same desire and quality that went into the design from the start, then you’re just producing a product. I wanted my brand to speak quality and inspire. This can only be done with the very best quality throughout each design.

Defied encourages people to embrace their uniqueness and be unapologetically themselves. How do you hope your designs empower individuals to express their authenticity?

When I started thinking about what my brand would look like and its meaning, I was going through a healing journey myself, following abusive relationships. I was told I couldn’t do what I wanted or wear what I wanted; instead, I had to conform to their desires. This made me question my identity, eroded my self-trust, and shattered my confidence.

After a period of healing, I rediscovered inner strength and confidence, allowing me to express myself as I wanted. I want to inspire other women to break free from uncertainty and dress with confidence. My designs aim to empower women through powerful shapes, high-quality fabrics, and comfortable garments. When you look and feel great, you exude confidence.

Your journey involves overcoming obstacles and societal norms. What advice would you give to aspiring fashion designers facing similar challenges?

If you’re passionate about something, go for it! If it inspires you, inspire others with your work. Believe in yourself and make it happen. Someone’s got to design the next fashions of tomorrow, it may as well be you. When you want something bad enough, you’ll make it happen. Never give up on your dreams.

The crispness of the cold air on the Alps inspired one of your designs. Can you share a memorable experience or place that has profoundly influenced your creative process?

I have always been fascinated by opposites and mixing contrasting combinations to work in harmony in a creation. One of the creative concepts showcased in my collection involves the use of a durable, solid metal material that conveys both strength and firmness, yet captures the elegance, flow, and gentleness of silk. This presents both soft beauty and glamour in the designs and a combination of empowerment with something so stunningly strong. The metallic shiny surfaces of silver, gold, and black metal-like materials used in the collection convey a feeling of hardness and power alongside beauty.

Rachel Zoe once said, “Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” How does Defied help individuals amplify their voices through fashion?

Fashion is a way of expressing who you are: the sophisticated you or the creative side of you; whether you’re feeling happy or sad. We wear our emotions and how we want people to perceive us through our clothing and how we style it. My designs aim to empower the wearer through powerful shapes and the feel of the cuts and fabrics, ultimately elevating any mood.

Graduating in Fashion & Textiles in 2000 marked the beginning of your professional journey. Looking back, what advice would you give your younger self as you embarked on this path?

I only wish I had done it sooner! But then again, this has been a journey, a work in progress to become DEFIED Brand and to define the meaning and brand ethos. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. If I had started a brand years earlier, it would have been called something totally different and maybe wouldn’t have had such meaningful roots.

My advice to anyone younger looking to start their own brand is: don’t try to cut any corners. Greatness cannot be rushed or made easier. Trust your path, stick to the quality you adhere to, and stay focused. And most importantly, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t! Show them you can.

Defied garments are designed to last, challenging the throwaway fashion culture. How do you envision the future of sustainable fashion, and where does Defied fit into that vision?

I think people are gradually starting to consider ways to make things last longer and buy better quality. We are all gradually thinking about the effects our actions have on the environment. I hope to see more people turning to buying better quality clothing and realising that cheap throwaway fashion isn’t sustainable or the way of the future. At DEFIED, designs are thoughtfully created and crafted with the best tailoring quality and timeless looks that will last for years.

Pharrell Williams said, “Fashion has to reflect who you are, what you feel at the moment, and where you’re going.” How does Defied reflect these elements in its designs?

DEFIED designs aim to empower you to wear whatever makes you feel fabulous. The brand inspires women to dress and express themselves unconditionally, against any rules!

You’ve mentioned being self-taught in fashion design. How has your journey of continuous learning and growth shaped the identity of Defied?

After leaving university, I realised how challenging and competitive it was to break into the fashion industry at the level I aspired to. I didn’t want to start at the bottom and work my way up; rather, I wanted to showcase my creativity and have the freedom to create my designs. The only way I could do this was by starting my fashion brand.

So, I began by pursuing my passion as a hobby in my spare time. I’d sketch design ideas and create art pieces to fuel my inspiration. This led me to experiment with different ways of working with fabric and expressing my emotions through paintings and colour. It was only as my confidence grew over the years that I felt empowered enough to start my own fashion brand.

Back in 2000, I would never have had the confidence or knowledge to create my own brand. This path eventually led to the creation of the DEFIED brand.

The fashion industry is ever-evolving. How do you stay ahead of trends while maintaining Defied’s distinctive identity?

I am always looking at new designers showing their new collections on the catwalks around the world. You get a feel for what’s current and what’ll stick for the following seasons. This has been something you have to be in touch with. Also, it’s important to have the initiative to be a leader and start trends. I’m always looking for new inspirations. Which also involves what the street fashion is currently and what the trends are among the general public. What is current and what are the trends evolving into?

What legacy do you hope to leave through Defied, both in the fashion world and beyond?

I strive to motivate people to have more confidence in their clothing choices and to be more environmentally conscious when purchasing fashion. It’s important to consider the journey of the design, its production process, durability, and value for money. Additionally, I aim to spark a movement towards more responsible buying, encouraging people to invest in designs that can be used repeatedly over the years. For instance, a beautiful dress that can be worn to various events, both formal and casual, requires high-quality craftsmanship to ensure longevity.

Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?

I used to travel all over the world to some of the most exotic places. One of my favourites, from before I had my teenage twin sons, now nearly 16, was a holiday I took to Olhuveli in the Maldives. It really opened my eyes to a real paradise. With my full and active day-to-day life, a holiday for me has to be relaxing in order to recharge my soul. My second favourite place to visit would be the Greek Cyclades. It has become close to my heart for its natural unspoiled beauty and the tradition of these islands. The islands are uncommercialised and offer a peaceful, tranquil experience, with something different to offer on each one.

What’s your go-to quote when you are lacking motivation?

Always look forward and believe in yourself. You are stronger than you think. You can do anything you put your mind to.

Where can people follow you and find out more?

For the full collection and to sign up for the newsletters and get “Hot off the press” news! Sign up to the newsletters at: www.defied.co.uk or follow us on Instagram: defied_fashion_brand.

For more inspiring stories like Emily Harbottle’s, visit House of Coco and discover the journeys of trailblazers transforming their passions into impactful brands.

In the realm of illustration, there exists a luminary whose narrative transcends mere brushstrokes, weaving a tapestry of resilience, creativity, and unyielding passion. Meet Marty, a visionary artist whose odyssey unfolds like an epic saga, rich with trials and triumphs that have shaped both her art and her spirit.

Marty’s artistic voyage is a testament to the power of perseverance and determination. Inspired by the golden age of illustration and the timeless works of masters like Howard Pyle and Norman Rockwell, Marty embarked on a quest to carve her own path in a landscape dominated by tradition and whimsy.

But Marty’s journey is more than just a tale of artistic pursuit; it’s a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. Despite facing physical challenges brought on by a neurological disorder, Marty refused to let adversity dim her creative spark. Instead, she embraced her disability as a catalyst for innovation, exploring new mediums and techniques to continue her artistic expression.

Whether she’s crafting cover art that encapsulates the essence of a story or breathing new life into timeless classics, Marty’s indomitable spirit shines through in every stroke of her brush.

Prepare to be inspired, captivated, and moved by the story of an artist who defies limitations and embraces the boundless possibilities of imagination…

Marty, your artistic journey sounds like an incredible adventure. What inspired you to delve into illustrating adventure stories with adult characters in a market dominated by whimsy for children?

Marty: I’m old [and as Arnold said in “Terminator Genisys,” “I’m old. Not obsolete”]. Judging by your photos [always a risk], you are not old enough to remember when the primary difference between children’s books and older people’s books was a lack of sex and bloodshed.

Often, the books were simply labeled “Literature.” In the Golden Age of Illustration, generally before color printing, illustrations for literature were created by Howard Pyle, Maxfield Parrish, Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth, members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and many more. I grew up reading adult books and books aimed at younger audiences that came with illustrations. “Children’s books” didn’t really exist as a genre. As with life, adults and children share the same planet [or further out, in science fiction]. The sharing is no longer without borders.

Your goal is to revive the market for adventure illustration in children’s literature. What motivates you to persist in pursuing this improbable goal?

Marty: Stubbornness, mostly. The stated goal is somewhat facetious. So far, there is no track record that encourages the idea. I do not particularly like boxing, but I enjoyed the “Rocky” movies. Rocky is just too stubborn to quit. Some ‘magic’ [or Grace, or …] has happened at this point in my life, where I have been contacted regarding my work, totally out of the blue.

This opportunity is something that I could not have planned. I finally canceled my subscription to Children’s Illustrators.com. I don’t do cartoons, and 95% of the images on the website are cartoons. I don’t dislike cartoons; a lot of them are quite clever, and some are moving. My brain does not think in cartoons. My wife is fascinated with Studio Ghibli at present. Wonderful stories.

My brain does not work that way. There is a scene in “The Wind Rises” that I pointed out to my wife as to what I’ve worked to achieve for all these years. A hospital in the forest area at the base of Mount Fuji. Patients on a deck, in sleeping bags on lounge beds, in shaded two-dimensional cartoons. The background is painted and looks almost like a photo.

Your dedication to honing your skills for a decade is commendable. Can you share a pivotal moment during that period when you felt your artistic abilities truly flourished?

Marty: To be honest, I did not set out to spend a decade ‘rehearsing.’ It just took that long. Almost as long as this narrative… I don’t remember a time when I didn’t draw. I have pieces of paper from elementary school that have stick-figure drawings in the margins. I studied drafting in high school; for Spring terms, my drafting instructor assigned Technical Illustrations—presentation drawings showing how a finished product will look. I ‘found’ my life goal.

However, no one suggested researching colleges for what we thought we could be. I went to the college where my cousin was; I could not handle the idea of being at a college where I knew no one. The college I chose did not include Technical Illustration. My choice was between Art and Architecture. “Starving Artist” seemed like a bad choice. I did not want to design houses, neither did I want to starve. Five years later, I had a degree in Architecture. I had been at a drafting table for seven years by that time; and I never wanted to be an architect. I convinced my Dad [who had been a contractor] to let me build him a retirement house. Every day at lunch he came to the house site and yelled at me for what I did wrong.

When he brought a salesman around, I was great… I learned what I thought my Dad would teach me, from a retired Navy Sea Bee, whose son I hired to help with getting the house out of the ground… I’m sitting in what used to be my parents’ dining room. I still did not want to be an architect. I started working for a building contractor; five-plus years later, I was CEO of a design/build corporation that I ran into the ground.

I tried architecture. I was right, for all of the previous years. I started having health issues from stress. For the years ahead, I would be making drawings that I began in elementary school. The City of Portland was in need of a Building Plans Examiner. I talked my way into the job, assuming that I would be trained in doing the job. The Bureau of Buildings assumed that I was trained. I dealt with aversion to people, learned where to find answers in the Building Code, and thrived for 14 years.

While I was in construction, I ‘adopted’ a sister, a couple of years older than I was. She needed a brother; I’d always wanted a sister. Her family had a history of cancer; she had just lost her brother. A few years later, she acquired her family’s history of cancer; hers was her liver. With some friends, we sought out a way that a woman with a 12-year-old son and no insurance could find a new liver. A very few months later, the sky opened up [literally] and her story made the front page of the Living section of the New York Times. The wife of the Governor of Colorado wrote a column about her for their paper, and she was featured on CNN. My ‘sister’ was near death when she received a donated liver.

She’s still older than I am. A few months after all that, my appendix ruptured [this can happen, from stress]. I arrived at the hospital the day after the rupture. I woke up around a week later. I had used up most of my leave time with the City while the ‘Sister’ stuff took place. I had to go back to work, even though my surgeon warned against it—I no longer had an immune system from all of the antibiotics. He was correct; I contracted every virus the citizens of Portland brought to the Permit Center. I was finally ordered to go to work; go home, go to bed, every day until I felt better.

During this time, my wife suggested that I draw, rather than doodle, while on the phone. Thus began, in earnest, my decision to be a full-time illustrator. I copied Norman Rockwell, every day at lunch. I found photos of Indigenous leaders in books, started drawing faces. I sent drawings around the country to art shows for several years. Eventually, some of the drawings became paintings…

Marty, your illustrations for historical novels like “Oregon At Last!” are both informative and engaging. How do you approach capturing the essence of a historical period through your artwork?

Marty: “Oregon At Last” was my first children’s book. I was the third choice for the agents working for Scholastic Books. I know that because they tactlessly included a color print with two other illustrators’ data crossed out… Years before, I had been to a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators [SCBWI] convention and had a review of one of my paintings by a very well-known illustrator. He told me that my work was good, but why did I work so large—I’d never have time to meet deadlines. He was correct. OAL was made with graphite renderings, colored with my computer.

The last illustrations were rushed. I learned later that OAL was being published in a 5th-grade curriculum. When the curriculum was purchased, they would find OAL. Scholastic did not market the book by itself, in Oregon, or anywhere else… OAL started with movies, as many/most of my works do. Scenes from westerns, video turned into prints for reference. Research on wagon trains, prairie dogs, the Indigenous Peoples.

The story is written from the perspective of a girl who is traveling with her parents to Oregon by wagon train. My family had a cabin near the Mount Hood National Forest. I grew up hiking around forests that my cousin [the one I roomed with in college] found while working for the Forest Service.

The recognition you’ve received, such as the 2023 Terravarna Talent Prize, is impressive. How do such awards fuel your passion for adventure illustration and storytelling?

Marty: Being candid, and what will not look good in print, awards [and I have many] that do not lead to more opportunities to illustrate stories are merely facts, in my sometimes ungracious brain. Part of this feeling is from working with organizations that ‘promise’ to bring in more work for me because they are so effective in the world of art and illustration, who don’t do what they ‘promise’.

They gladly take a lot [in terms of my income] of money for showing my work, but it clearly isn’t a venue that is worth the cost. For the last few years, I have entered contests [whatever other name they use] in hopes of getting prize money. I am a Commercial Artist. During the COVID Lockdown, I decided, after 40 years, to stop trying to convince Building Officials and/or architects to think differently regarding Building, Zoning, and other Codes. That work always required an illustrator.

I happen to know a guy… This might not have been one of my greatest ideas. I had a fairly steady [small] income. Taking a step back, the awards are an affirmation that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. The illustrations do make a valuable statement—more people liking what I do.

Winning the Greatest Creators Cover Competition in 2022 must have been thrilling. How do you think your artistic style contributed to making your work stand out in a competitive field?

Marty: This is another example of something coming out of the blue. I did not seek the organization out; they contacted me. Much like this opportunity. My “Canticle of the Sea [Wooden Boat]” was featured on the cover of an industry I don’t really understand. “Canticle” wins awards. The painting of “Canticle” that I mention above—’why do you work so large?’ is the acrylic painting I made in the latter part of the last Century [old, not obsolete].

“Canticle of the Sea” is a text found in the Apocrypha, Biblical texts that are recognized by the Catholic Church, but not by the Protestant Church. I was associated with an Arts group that was based in a group of Catholic Sisters in a suburb of Portland. Having given up on acrylic airbrush painting, I decided I needed to remake the same painting in a digitally colored graphite rendering. It took a long time. It‘s a lot more detailed.

Being named Artist of the Decade in 2020 is a remarkable achievement. How has this recognition impacted your perspective on your artistic journey and future goals?

Marty: The Circle Foundation for the Arts has been gracious, and I have received several awards from them. None of them show up on their website any longer. I know that they have been on their website, in the past, for a time. “Artist of the Decade” is a title; the group from which my work was chosen is not a huge number. The award is a validation, it is a recognition of my work. It feels ‘wrong’ to say this award [it is after all, an interview; and I’m not running for office] doesn’t have much meaning, but for me, where I am on this day, it simply is a signpost on a marathon.

Your artwork is not only visually captivating but also emotionally resonant. How do you infuse meaning and emotion into your illustrations, particularly in projects like “Small Moments—Greatest Meaning”?

Marty: This was the title of a one-man art exhibition, another thing that ‘came out of the blue.’ The title came from the venue. All of the images in the gallery/assembly place were my graphite drawings. Including “Proud Family” below. When I was doing exhibitions, I would usually make something new to display. “Proud Family” came to life in a motel on the Columbia River, and its first showing was at this exhibition. My drawings were always portable. I believe I have a Creator. I don’t consider myself to be ‘religious.’ I left the Evangelical Church during the Pandemic.

The church I’d served for a decade or more listened to a guy with orange hair and bronze makeup, rather than the Centers for Disease Control, and they had a very strange view of a man with a very low standard of morality—contradicts most of the behavior they teach their young to have. My goal is always to infuse meaning and emotion into my work; I put part of who I am into all that I do. Sometimes the ‘magic’ works. A lot of the time it doesn’t. There are images that I’ve created that seem to be something that was flowing through me, rather than being by me. One that always comes to mind was for a “Hiroshima Diary”—a cultural narrative written by ‘ordinary’ people who experienced a horrible situation. I did not get the chance to finish the book.

There was a deadline that was unrealistic [again, the third or fourth contacted]. I publish it every year on Facebook on the bombing’s anniversary, and it is permanently attached to my “cover image.” I have not yet watched “Oppenheimer.” A long time ago, I watched a Japanese film called “Black Rain”… Before Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the firebombing of Tokyo. We in America are not taught about this atrocity. The US destroyed the largest city in Japan—left only ashes; and then decided to nuke two others. The US lost a large part of its Pacific Fleet, and a Naval Base. A lot of people died. The people in Japan, who were nuked, left only their shadows on buildings.

Marty, having your work as a part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Biblical Art is an incredible honor. Can you share the story behind “Proud Family”/“The Story of Esther” and its significance to you?

Proud Family: I am an immigrant son. My Mom was born in Norway. My Dad’s paternal grandparents were Swedish. His maternal grandparents probably arrived in Eastern Oregon after traveling on the Oregon Trail. Those born in Scandinavia came here because of famine where they lived. My Norwegian ancestors came from a small island in a fjord. All four adults in the drawing are from different countries.

There are a lot of members elected to office in this country who would probably tear up the drawing if given the chance. People fleeing their own country because they are not wanted, not willing, afraid for their lives, come to America because of the stories they have heard about the poem on the Statue of Liberty. “It was 1865 when Frenchman Édouard de Laboulaye proposed the idea of presenting a monumental gift from the people of France to the people of the United States. An ardent supporter of America, Laboulaye wished to commemorate the centennial of the Declaration of Independence as well as celebrate the close relationship between France and America.

He was equally moved by the recent abolition of slavery in the U.S., which furthered America’s ideals of liberty and freedom.” The Story of Esther: I really don’t remember my motivation for making the image. Probably for the local chapter of CIVA-Christians in the Visual Arts—the Catholic Sisters mentioned above. Esther is a beautiful young woman from the humble Hebrew people, being raised by her uncle Mordecai after the death of her parents. Esther wins an extended beauty contest to become the next wife of Xerxes, the King of Persia. The painting is based on archaeological information about the Persian Empire, stone carvings dating back to Biblical times. A lot of architecture.

Illustrating classics like “A Scandal In Bohemia” and “The Gift of the Magi” showcases your versatility. How do you approach breathing new life into timeless stories through your illustrations?

Marty: I grew up with these stories. Sherlock/Arthur Conan Doyle invented forensic medicine and changed the world. The Gift of the Magi was my first expedition into literature. The young woman in the story, “Della” is modeled after the daughter of good friends—somewhat different face. “Jim” is based on Jimmy Stewart. I chose monochrome because of the time period of the story—when the world was in black and white. My first journey into “A Scandal in Bohemia” was in the early 2000s. I’ve loved Sherlock Holmes since childhood. I was hired to illustrate a Korean version of the story [who knew…]. They sent me the English text as well as its Korean equivalent.

The Korean version was made from graphite renderings colored with my computer. As usual, my deadline was unrealistic, but I finished on time—just not as well as it could have been. The 2019 version used a ‘however long it takes’ method, a new version reflecting my new ideas about what I want to accomplish. All of the furniture comes from period photography from the period—largely from auction portfolios. Faces created by gaming software. Period clothing as well. The King who is shamed by a woman has orange hair. I suppose the life that I bring to the stories is because I am the publisher and editor and illustrator. I chose these stories because I admire them. These days, I approach fictional accounts as if they really happened. Kindle uses one of many jackets for “Scandal”—when I look for it, it’s always the wrong jacket. Computers are not all that Intelligent.

How has your faith influenced your artistic journey?

Marty: For me, life only has meaning because of the Creator [I generally don’t use the God word—too many definitions]. There was nothing, philosophically, in my life during my first two years of college. With the exception of Marcus Aurelius. I came there as an Existentialist [everyone has to make their own choice] and began suicidal ideation at the end of my second year.

I think I was born depressed. Or I was born somewhere on the autistic spectrum. I have very few memories of childhood. I was very self-focused. I don’t know that I had any reason to draw—creatively—before being Found. Drafting is a different thing—somewhere in the ‘work’ box. Learning how to imitate life with a pencil is an entirely different proposition.

Your work on “The Wolves of Yellowstone” for the Yellowstone Park Foundation’s online tour is intriguing. How did you translate the essence of Yellowstone into your illustrations for the electronic field trip?

Marty: Judy and I finally went to Yellowstone, a number of years after the ‘Wolves’ project. We went when there was still some snow on the ground, and fewer people. Had a great, slow car ride among a herd of bison. We were obstacles on the road, heading in the same direction… I was surprised as to how much of the Park I recognized from all of my research. I was either contacted by the Foundation people, or I responded to an ad somewhere. I really like some of the illustrations I made. One of them [a very small one] will be in the next issue of Vanity Fair UK.

The story is about a brother and sister who come to stay with their grandparents, just outside of the Park. He is a former Park Ranger; she is an artist. In the middle of the story is a slide show by the grandfather at a meeting hall, about the wolves that Yellowstone is bringing back to the park to help deal with the overabundance of elk, with no predators.

Ranchers adjacent to the Park were understandably very concerned about the wolves and their cattle. I read somewhere in the not-too-distant past that from the Park’s perspective, the project was a success. Habitats were returning, and foliage was growing without being eaten by elk; small mammals had come back to the Park.

More recently I read about people demanding the removal of the wolves. I was given a script to illustrate, maybe 93 illustrations if I filed them correctly. Most of the illustrations were adding an illustrated component to a photo. The Wolves portion was merely a ‘stage’ for the video to fit into. I ‘rebuilt’ a 1940s Roadmaster roadster for the Grandfather. I found photos from a wrecking yard and digitally painted over them. Also designed a custom motor home, and a stone ranch house for which I have the end product but lost [bad saving] the components. As to how, I immersed myself in Yellowstone Park via the internet, and probably asked questions of the Park staff.

“Rainbows and Other Promises” features your cover illustration. How do you approach creating cover art that not only attracts readers but also encapsulates the essence of the story within?

Marty: My first illustration contract. A long time ago. The story is about Alzheimer’s. And a granddaughter. Presumptively, I read the story a few times, so that I could find visual clues in the text. The size of the book was given to me, so what I could show was limited by outside constraints.

Being chosen for American Illustration 39 in 2020 is a prestigious accomplishment. How do you navigate the balance between staying true to your artistic style and meeting the demands of a given project?

Marty: “mushrooms, 30-40 feet high” is from Jules Verne’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” an exhibition that I think was in London, called Amazing Adventures. Prehistory designed by the text. I had two others in the exhibition, and I think I submitted more than the one image selected for AI39. Dinosaurs! For better or worse, my style is fairly limited from my perspective. What you see is what I do. I treat the context of the text as if I am looking through a window. Sometimes the background is central; other times the people are central.

As a freelance commercial artist for over 40 years, you’ve navigated the changing landscape of the industry. What advice do you have for aspiring artists seeking longevity and success in their careers?

Diversify Your Skills: Learn to see images all the time, regardless of the medium. Whether it’s 2D or 3D, the same principles apply. If you’re capable of creating images in different media, keep doing it.

Balancing Passion with Practicality: Find a day job to sustain yourself while you pursue your artistic career. Remember, your career is more important than indulging in distractions like video games.

Embrace Change: Understand that circumstances will change, and adaptability is key to long-term success in the ever-evolving field of commercial art.

When you are painting, how do you feel?

My emotional state while painting depends on whether I’ve solved a problem or created more. External factors like financial stress can skew my perception of my work’s quality. Over time, I’ve learned to be less critical of myself and appreciate the creative process.

If you could collaborate with any author, living or deceased, on an adventure illustration project, who would it be and why?

Without a doubt, I would choose Norman Rockwell. His storytelling style resonates with me, and I’ve always admired his ability to capture the essence of everyday life in his illustrations.

What’s your go-to quote when lacking motivation?

I find motivation in Steve Martin’s words: “Be so good that they can’t ignore you.”

What destination is at the top of your bucket list?

While travel has become challenging for me, I once found solace in helping communities rebuild after disasters. Reflecting on past adventures, I realize that sometimes, the most meaningful journeys are the ones taken to mend what is broken, both within ourselves and in the world around us.

Dive deeper into the world of Marty’s illustrations and let her unwavering spirit inspire your own creative pursuits. Follow House of Coco for more incredible stories of passion, perseverance, and the power of imagination. Join us as we celebrate artists like Marty who continue to redefine the limits of what’s possible.

Travis Cornish is a seasoned wedding photographer and innovative entrepreneur, known for his groundbreaking platform, Never Miss Moments. With nearly a decade in the wedding industry, Travis has expertly blended his photography skills with his e-commerce experience to revolutionize event photo sharing using QR code technology.

Travis’s journey from photographer to CEO showcases his adaptability and commitment to excellence. His user-focused approach ensures Never Miss Moments is secure, simple, and continuously evolving. Passionate about creating lasting memories, Travis remains a driving force in enhancing how people capture and share their special moments…

Never miss moments

What inspired you to start Never Miss Moments, and how did the idea of using QR codes for photo sharing come about?

As a wedding photographer for nearly 10 years, I’ve witnessed many trends come and go at weddings. I noticed that QR codes were used a few times but not very effectively, which inspired me to disrupt the market with a more simple and streamlined product. My experience in e-commerce and dealing with numerous couples gave me a significant advantage when developing the business model.

Can you share a memorable story from an event where Never Miss Moments made a significant impact on preserving memories?

I always offer our QR code services to the couples I photograph, receiving great feedback in return. One memorable story is from a couple who had a wedding in Adelaide earlier this year, followed by a separate party interstate. 

They used the QR code for both events and went out of their way to thank me for the hundreds of memories they could see and keep. Additionally, the bride’s grandmother, who couldn’t attend either event, was able to see photos and videos of both events through the access link we provided. It was heartwarming to hear how valuable our product was from various perspectives.

What challenges did you face while developing the platform, and how did you overcome them?

Starting out was expensive, and we didn’t have a large budget to fund a custom hosting platform, which can cost upwards of $50,000. We initially used a third-party site with limitations but proved functional. Once we knew we could afford the custom platform, we took the risk, investing $45,000 out of the $47,500 we had. Believing in our product, service, and abilities, we signed the proposal and never looked back. Since late April, our new platform has been excellent, with only a few bugs and problems that have since been resolved.

How do you ensure the privacy and security of the photos uploaded to Never Miss Moments?

We take privacy and security very seriously. A business-savvy friend in the UK introduced me to GDPR, considered the gold standard for data privacy in the UK and EU. After consulting privacy and data lawyers in Europe and the UK, we chose an Australian company to write all our legal documents. Our platform developer and I implemented various options and failsafes for customers regarding passwords and permissions. Even we can’t see someone’s login passwords, ensuring maximum privacy.

In what ways do you see Never Miss Moments evolving in the next five years?

Our goal of providing a platform for people keeps me motivated every morning. We have so many ideas and have had to employ more developers to keep up. We always take customer feedback seriously and seek ways to enhance our service. In the next five years, we plan to expand into new markets, integrate printing, and add slideshow and interactive options for customers via their portal.

Can you tell us about a time when feedback from users helped improve the platform?

We receive feedback almost daily. Our customer service team reports any new or different feedback directly to me. One surprising suggestion was the need for a slideshow function, allowing guests to project their gallery from a laptop and see new photos as they are added. This fantastic idea will be rolled out in the coming months.

How do you balance making the platform user-friendly while incorporating advanced features?

Simplicity is key. We use clear language, provide a comprehensive “Help” page, and maintain a user-friendly interface. Dealing with a diverse user base, we ensure effective communication, constantly tweaking words and sentences on the website and hosting platform.

What are some of the most unique events where Never Miss Moments has been used?

One unique event was an amateur wrestling event in Finland or Norway. Our QR code gallery can be used for any group holiday, event, party, or gathering, making it versatile for various occasions.

How do you handle the technical challenges of supporting large events with thousands of photos being uploaded simultaneously?

Supporting large events involves building out the backend of the platform, investing in extra space and operating power. Although expensive, it is a top priority for us.

What role do you think technology plays in preserving memories and enhancing the experience of events?

Technology plays a crucial role as everyone now has a smartphone, and even grandparents can take photos. Our service uses a simple QR code, enabling everyone to share their memories in one central location. While traditional methods like polaroid and disposable cameras still have their charm, our digital option offers simplicity and convenience.

How do you see Never Miss Moments changing the way people share photos at events compared to traditional methods?

We frequently encounter comments suggesting using WhatsApp groups or Google Drive for sharing photos. However, these methods require a lot of work from the couple, such as adding everyone to a group or ensuring they have the app. Additionally, chat feeds become cluttered, and downloading every photo is time-consuming. Our solution eliminates these problems by offering a streamlined process without apps or added people. Guests can upload photos as they wish, and couples can download all photos with a click.

Can you discuss the process of developing the QR code system and how you ensured its ease of use for all guests?

We put ourselves in the customers’ shoes, focusing on what they want and how to make it easy and simple for them. We aimed to reduce barriers through great development of the portal and clear, understandable language on the website. Recognising that this method of capturing memories is relatively new, we always kept this in mind when making decisions.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of running Never Miss Moments for you personally?

I love business and providing a service. As a hairdresser by trade, I understand that the appointment is all about the client and what they need to feel good. This mindset carries over to my wedding photography, where I play a crucial role in creating a memorable experience for couples. When I started Never Miss Moments, I ensured our business decisions always focused on providing value to our customers, which has led to our success and will continue to do so.

How do you stay updated with the latest technological trends to keep Never Miss Moments innovative?

Staying connected to real-world feedback is crucial. We listen to our customers’ insights and are always on the hunt for new offerings and ideas, constantly testing them to find what works best.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start a tech-based company in the event industry?

Be prepared to forgo sleep for a while. Surround yourself with great people and set aside your ego, as it has no place in a successful business.

How do you manage to maintain a high level of customer satisfaction with Never Miss Moments?

We continuously tweak, improve, and streamline processes. Our team of four handles emails and troubleshooting, ensuring we are always available to answer questions from social media and emails.

Can you share any exciting upcoming features or updates that users can look forward to?

Soon, we will introduce a slideshow function, a new image layout feature, and more image options. We also aim to offer printing services and are seeking a company that can service customers globally.

How do you ensure that the platform remains accessible to users of all tech skill levels?

We prioritise simplicity in language, buttons, and layout, ensuring easy navigation and user-friendliness.

What has been the most surprising use case for Never Miss Moments that you’ve encountered?

We were surprised by the sheer volume of photos and videos we needed to accommodate on our servers. Our rapid popularity required significant focus on growing and fortifying our storage capabilities.

How do you and your team celebrate your own special moments and successes within Never Miss Moments?

 Recently, we celebrated reaching 100,000 organic Instagram followers with a nice dinner and cocktails with the immediate team. We discussed our achievements, challenges, and business culture, making it a valuable and enjoyable gathering.

ur readers love to travel. What destination is at the top of your bucket list?

Travel is good for the soul and mind. My wife and I plan to explore more of Germany next year. We’ve also visited the Italian coast and Croatia, which I highly recommend. Any place with history and diverse culture should be on everyone’s bucket list. Just don’t forget to order a QR code gallery before you leave!

Where can people follow you and find out more?

\Please visit our website at www.nevermissmoments.com or check out our Instagram page @nevermissmoments. We look forward to being a part of your next event.

In a world where every love story is unique, Kingsdown Rings stands as a beacon of bespoke craftsmanship and personal connection. Founded by lifelong friends Laura and Hayley, Kingsdown Rings emerged from a shared passion for jewellery and a dedication to creating memorable experiences for couples. Their journey from traditional high street retail to establishing a beautiful, intimate space is a testament to their commitment to excellence and innovation.

At Kingsdown Rings, each ring is more than just a piece of jewellery—it’s a reflection of a couple’s journey, crafted with love and care. Laura and Hayley have redefined the wedding ring selection process, offering a private, personalised experience that allows couples to savor every moment. With a deep understanding of the emotional significance of wedding rings, they ensure that every design embodies the unique story and style of each couple.

Join us as we delve into the inspiring story of Kingsdown Rings, a brand that not only creates stunning rings but also celebrates the essence of love and commitment…

How did the idea of Kingsdown Rings come about?

Our journey began with a deep passion for the jewellery and wedding industry, backed by extensive experience in both fields. We’ve always cherished working with engaged couples, guiding them through the special process of selecting their wedding rings. We noticed a significant gap in the market for providing an exclusive, private experience that couples could cherish forever. This inspired us to transition from traditional high street retail and create a beautiful, intimate space where couples can savour every moment of choosing their rings.

What has been the most rewarding part of creating a bespoke wedding ring service?

Helping couples find their perfect rings without compromise. It’s incredibly fulfilling to see their dreams and visions come to life and to celebrate the significance of a wedding ring by crafting a unique design that truly reflects their love and commitment. Seeing how much joy this experience provides our couples is the ultimate reward!

Your studio sounds incredibly inviting. What was the vision behind designing such a cosy and welcoming space?

Our vision for the studio was to create a space where couples could feel truly relaxed, away from the hustle and bustle of a busy shop floor. We wanted to provide a private, comfortable environment where they could take their time and feel at ease while selecting their wedding rings. All of our couples comment on the awesome vibe and decor!

What has been the most unique or memorable ring request you’ve received?

One of the most unique and memorable ring requests we received came from a couple who had each inherited their grandparents’ wedding rings. They wanted to honour their grandparents but felt the original styles didn’t match their tastes. We helped them design rings that truly reflected their individual styles while using the metal from their grandparents’ rings.

We also extracted diamonds from one of the rings, setting several into the bride’s band, perfectly shaped to fit her beautiful engagement ring. Additionally, we set one of the diamonds inside the groom’s band as a nod to his wife-to-be’s ring and as a symbol of their two families coming together. When they collected the rings, the sentimental value was so evident that we all shed tears. Helping them honour their grandparents while creating a design that resonated with their own styles is a testament to what we are passionate about as a business.

How do you balance creativity with the practical needs of your clients?

We offer our clients the freedom to express their own style through our bespoke design service while also providing expert advice on important factors such as metal choices and settings. This ensures that their rings are not only beautiful and unique but also durable and suited to their lifestyle.

Can you share a heartwarming story from one of your at-home visits?

One of our most heartwarming at-home visits was with a couple who had recently welcomed their first child. They wanted their wedding rings to reflect this new chapter in their lives.

During our visit, the baby was present, adding an extra layer of warmth and love to the experience. We discussed various design options while the couple shared stories about their journey together and their hopes for the future. In the end, we crafted rings that incorporated the baby’s birthstone and a subtle engraving of their child’s initials. Seeing the joy and emotion on their faces when they received the rings was incredibly touching and knowing that we could create something so meaningful for their family is a memory we cherish.

What advice would you give to couples who are overwhelmed with the wedding planning process?

Our advice is to focus on enjoying the journey rather than striving for perfection. And when it comes to choosing your wedding rings, make the experience special and personal. Take the time to explore designs that truly reflect your relationship, and don’t rush the decision. Above all, remember to take moments to relax and appreciate each other during this exciting time.

How do you ensure your services cater to every budget and style?

We provide tailored recommendations that align with our clients’ vision and budget. Whether it’s selecting different metals or incorporating alternative gemstones, we strive to create beautiful and meaningful rings that reflect each couple’s personal style without compromising on quality or craftsmanship.

What trends are you seeing in wedding rings this year?

This year, we’re noticing several exciting trends in wedding rings! One prominent trend is the increasing popularity of lab-grown diamonds, which offer a sustainable and ethical alternative to mined diamonds without compromising on quality or brilliance. Couples are also embracing custom engraving to personalise their rings with meaningful dates, coordinates, or messages. Vintage-inspired details, such as milgrain and filigree, are also trending, adding a touch of timeless elegance to modern designs.

If you could design a ring for any celebrity couple, who would it be and what would it look like?

For Elsa Pataky and Chris Hemsworth: For Elsa’s ring, we would design a stunning band inspired by the landscapes they cherish from their travels. The ring would feature a mesmerizing Australian opal or a vibrant turquoise gemstone, symbolising their adventurous spirit and connection to nature. Surrounding the centre stone would be a halo of smaller diamonds set in a warm rose gold or yellow gold band, reflecting the colors of sunsets over exotic landscapes. The band itself could be intricately engraved with patterns inspired by their travel experiences, adding a personal touch and capturing the essence of their journey together.

For Chris Hemsworth, a rugged yet refined wedding band would be perfect. Crafted from durable materials like black rhodium-plated platinum or palladium, the band could feature a matte or textured finish reminiscent of the rugged terrains they’ve explored. The band might also include a subtle engraving of coordinates or a significant date from one of their favourite travel destinations, symbolising their shared adventures and deep connection. This design would encapsulate their love for exploration and nature, celebrating their bond in a meaningful and unique way that resonates with their adventurous lifestyle.

What’s your favourite part of the ring design and selection process?

Our favourite part of the ring design and selection process is witnessing the personalisation and creativity that unfolds during each interaction with our clients. We love getting to know our couples and hearing about their wedding plans, as it allows us to understand their unique stories, preferences, and emotions. It’s incredibly rewarding to see their excitement and satisfaction as we collaborate to create a ring that not only reflects their individual styles but also captures the essence of their relationship.

How do you stay inspired and keep your designs fresh and innovative?

Staying inspired and keeping our designs fresh and innovative is a continuous process that involves several key elements. Firstly, we draw inspiration from our clients themselves – their stories, personalities, and unique preferences provide a wealth of creative ideas. We actively listen to their vision and strive to translate it into designs that exceed their expectations.

Secondly, we stay on top of current trends in both fashion and jewellery design while also looking beyond trends to timeless elements that resonate with our clients. This helps us blend contemporary styles with classic craftsmanship. Additionally, we find inspiration in art, architecture, nature, and travel. These diverse influences often spark new concepts and approaches that we integrate into our designs.

What has been your biggest “pinch-me” moment since starting Kingsdown Rings?

Our biggest ‘pinch-me’ moment since starting Kingsdown Rings was when several highly respected local wedding venues approached us to collaborate and recommend our services to their couples, in our first year of business. It was incredibly validating to receive recognition from these popular venues for our dedication to creating personalised and memorable wedding ring experiences.

This acknowledgment not only affirmed the quality of our work but also opened up new opportunities to connect with couples who value craftsmanship and individuality in their wedding rings. It’s moments like these that inspire us to continue striving for excellence and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in our industry at Kingsdown Rings.

How do you support each other in the business, especially during challenging times?

Supporting each other is fundamental to our partnership and the success of Kingsdown Rings. As best friends for over twenty years, we’ve built a foundation of trust, understanding, and mutual respect that underpins our collaboration. We prioritise open communication, actively listening to each other’s perspectives, and making decisions together based on our shared vision for the business. In our business operations, we leverage our long-standing friendship to enhance teamwork and efficiency.

We understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses, allowing us to divide responsibilities effectively and play to our individual expertise. Furthermore, our enduring friendship encourages a growth mindset and a willingness to learn from each other’s experiences. Overall, our deep-rooted friendship is a cornerstone of our business partnership, enabling us to navigate challenges with unity, creativity, and unwavering support for each other’s success.

What does a typical day look like for you at Kingsdown Rings?

When we’re in the studio and not out on styled shoots or exhibiting, we always begin our day with a coffee and catch-up session. We prioritise contacting our clients with any updates from our workshop, as keeping them informed about the progress of their rings is paramount to us. Next, we review new emails and inquiries that have come in since our last studio session. This ensures that we promptly respond to new potential clients and address any questions or requests.

Following that, we dedicate time to social media. We discuss and plan what we’d like to share on our platforms for the day, ensuring our content reflects our brand values and showcases our latest designs. We also prioritise engaging with and supporting other suppliers, venues, and businesses in the local area by liking and sharing their posts. In the afternoon and evening, our schedule usually revolves around consultations with new clients who are eager to discuss their wedding ring preferences.

We also set aside time for our current clients to come and collect their rings, ensuring they leave with smiles on their faces. This structured yet dynamic routine allows us to blend creativity, client care, and business management seamlessly, ensuring each day at Kingsdown Rings is productive and fulfilling.

What are your future goals for Kingsdown Rings?

Our future goals for Kingsdown Rings are focused on growth, innovation, and sustainability within the wedding ring industry. We aim to expand our reach regionally and nationally while enhancing the client experience through streamlined processes and innovative offerings.

Sustainability is a priority, and we’re committed to integrating more eco-friendly materials and practices into our designs. Strengthening community engagement and partnerships with local venues and suppliers is also crucial. We aspire to push the boundaries of design by exploring new techniques and styles, ensuring each ring remains unique and cutting-edge.

If you could give one piece of advice to women looking to start their own business, what would it be?

It would be to believe in yourself and your vision wholeheartedly. Trust your instincts, embrace your unique perspective, and don’t be afraid to take calculated risks. Surround yourself with a supportive network of mentors, peers, and advisors who can offer guidance and encouragement along the way. Stay resilient in the face of challenges, learn from setbacks, and continually educate yourself in your industry. Most importantly, remember that your voice and ideas matter— never underestimate the power of your passion and determination to drive your success.

Kingsdown Rings

Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?

For Laura, Bali is her dream destination. She’s eager to explore the picturesque beaches, turquoise waters, and lush landscapes of this tropical paradise. Discovering the vibrant culture, indulging in delicious cuisine, and spiritual relaxation are all part of her dream getaway.

For Hayley, New Zealand remains at the top of her bucket list. She dreams of exploring the stunning landscapes, from the dramatic fjords of Milford Sound to the geothermal wonders of Rotorua and experiencing the rich Maori culture.

What’s your go-to quote when you’re lacking motivation?

Our go-to quote is “And so together they built a life they loved.” This phrase holds immense significance for us as friends and business partners, reflecting the journey we’ve shared in building Kingsdown Rings and creating a business and life that brings us fulfilment and joy.

It’s not just a reflection of our journey but also resonates deeply with our couples, symbolising the meaningful experiences and relationships we help create through our work. This quote is proudly displayed in the entrance hall of our beautiful studio, serving as a constant reminder of our commitment to pursuing our dreams and supporting others in doing the same.

Where can people follow you and find out more?

You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook @kingsdownrings to stay updated and learn more about our latest designs, client stories, and behind-the-scenes insights. Visit our website for detailed information about our bespoke wedding ring services, testimonials and how to get in touch with us.

The story of Kingsdown Rings is a beautiful example of how passion, creativity, and dedication can transform an idea into a cherished experience. Laura and Hayley have created more than just a bespoke jewellery service; they’ve built a haven where love stories are celebrated and turned into timeless pieces of art.

For more inspiration and to learn about their unique designs, visit House of Coco.

Meet Deanna Austin, the passionate and resilient Founder and Creative Director of Lingo the Flamingo.

With a heart full of courage and a mind brimming with creativity, Deanna has transformed personal loss into a thriving business that brings comfort and joy to little ones around the world.

Her journey is a testament to the power of determination and the unyielding love of a mother. Through her innovative and eco-friendly designs, Deanna has not only created a product that soothes the pains of teething but has also crafted a symbol of strength and hope.

Join us as we delve into the inspiring story behind Lingo the Flamingo and discover how Deanna’s unwavering spirit continues to touch the lives of parents and children everywhere…

What inspired you to choose a flamingo as the symbol and mascot for your brand?

I’ve always been fascinated by flamingos. They symbolize strength, courage, and determination—all qualities I discovered within myself while creating my brand after experiencing significant loss. These are also qualities little ones need when tackling life’s early developmental stages. Choosing a flamingo as the mascot was a natural decision for me when I decided to start a business.

How did you come up with the name “Lingo the Flamingo”?

Back in 2013, at a music event in Melbourne, Australia, my now-husband Mark and I were dancing with flamingo garden ornaments. The name “Lingo” just came to me, and I started calling them that. Since I always loved flamingos, the name stuck.

Can you share more about the process of designing the perfect teether for babies?

The design began with a simple drawing in 2022, focusing on the style I wanted from the beak to the wings and webbed feet. Lingo’s entire body was handcrafted, starting with a clay model. I tweaked the design for months to get each element perfect. Observing my son Phoenix when he was teething helped me understand the need for firmer areas that fit perfectly in a baby’s mouth. Hence, Lingo’s beak and webbed feet are firm, and the entire product is sized for little hands to hold and maneuver comfortably.

What challenges did you face in creating a plant-based teether, and how did you overcome them?

One of the biggest challenges was ensuring the product was the perfect size and design for little ones while meeting global safety standards. After over a year of adjusting the head and neck, I had to start from scratch. I didn’t rush the launch, wanting the product to be perfect. There were also setbacks with colour samples, but with determination, I launched Lingo on November 5th, 2023, and never looked back.

How has your personal journey influenced the mission and values of Lingo the Flamingo?

My personal journey has significantly influenced my brand. After losing my eldest daughter Harper Phoenix during pregnancy and my mother Christina when my son Phoenix was six months old, I dedicated my energy to raising my son and creating a product that is safe, sustainable, and eco-friendly. Lingo is made from 100% natural rubber, is biodegradable, and is hand-painted with food-grade dyes, making it hygienic and safe for babies.

What is the significance of the colours and design elements used in your products?

I love the colour peach and find flamingos fascinating because their colours vary depending on their diet. I wanted Lingo to be a soft peach colour, subtle and different. I found the perfect Pantone colour in September 2022 called PEACH FUZZ, which is the 2024 Pantone Colour of the Year. Lingo is designed to be super soft to touch, with raised elements for little hands to explore different textures.

Can you describe a typical day in your life as the Founder and Creative Director of Lingo the Flamingo?

As a mother of a three-year-old and a one-year-old, my days are busy. My kids come first, so I spend as much time with them as possible. We wake up early, have breakfast, and then I prioritize urgent tasks for the day. Balancing being a business owner and a mother is challenging, but I use my time wisely and work until 10 pm most nights to catch up on everything.

How do you balance your professional responsibilities with being a mother to Phoenix?

It’s challenging to juggle being a business owner and a mother. I prioritize urgent tasks each day, as I don’t have anyone to babysit during the week. My son Phoenix is full of energy, so we stay busy. Despite the challenges, I love spending time with my kids and making the most of these precious moments.

What has been the most rewarding part of your journey with Lingo the Flamingo so far?

The most rewarding part has been hearing feedback from customers who love Lingo. Seeing my product take off so quickly and being featured in prestigious magazines like British Vogue, Vanity Fair, Glamour, and QG is a dream come true. Being able to work and take my family along for the ride is incredibly fulfilling.

How do you ensure the safety and quality of your products?

The Lingo brand is environmentally conscious from start to finish. The natural rubber is biodegradable, and the packaging is recyclable. I am committed to reducing our environmental footprint and ensuring the materials used are safe for children. An independent company audited my product to ensure it meets global safety standards. I took almost two years to perfect the design before launching it.

What advice would you give to other mothers who are considering starting their own business?

Go for it! Back yourself 100% from the start. If you have a passionate idea and see a gap in the market, others likely see it too. Be prepared for challenges, but ride the wave and keep pushing. Include your kids and family in the journey; you don’t have to separate work and motherhood.

How do you stay motivated and inspired during challenging times?

I stay motivated by thinking of my mother. After she passed away, I vowed to do everything in her honor. She was the strongest person I knew, and her memory gives me the strength to keep going, even during tough times. The moments of grief make Lingo even more special to me.

Can you share a memorable story or feedback from a customer that touched your heart?

A customer recently told me she thinks of Harper every time she sees Lingo, knowing I shared my story of pregnancy loss on my website. Connecting with other parents who have experienced pregnancy loss is incredibly special to me.

What future plans or expansions do you have for Lingo the Flamingo?

I plan to expand the Lingo range and grow the brand, starting with expanding to the UK. Although I am only seven months into the business, I can see Lingo spreading worldwide, and I want to do it right.

What role does creativity play in your daily life and business operations?

Creativity is essential in my daily life and business. I strive to stay ahead of other teething brands by being different and telling my story through social media and other channels. Standing out in a competitive market requires constant innovation.

How do you keep up with the latest trends and developments in the baby product industry?

I don’t focus on following trends. I created Lingo because I saw a gap in the market for teethers with no holes and firm areas. I continue to innovate and develop products that make a difference in babies’ teething journeys.

What are some of your favourite activities to do with Phoenix and Halia when you’re not working?

I love taking my kids to the Melbourne Museum, where Phoenix enjoys the dinosaurs. Halia is happy wherever she goes. I enjoy being in nature with my kids and seeing them laugh and smile. My favourite date with Phoenix is going for a walk and getting a baby chino and gingerbread biscuit.

How do you envision Lingo the Flamingo making a difference in the lives of parents and their little ones?

I know firsthand how rough teething can be for both babies and parents. Lingo the Flamingo is designed to ease discomfort during those challenging moments, providing a reliable solution for teething pain. If Lingo can help babies around the world get through teething, I am on the right path.

Our readers love to travel. What destination is at the top of your bucket list?

My dream is to return to Palm Springs. I love the vibe, houses, and palm trees. I’ve even created a retro puzzle of Lingo in Palm Springs, which I will be releasing this year. I hope to take my family there for a holiday in a few years.

What’s your go-to quote when you are lacking motivation?

When I’m down or lacking motivation, I remind myself, “I can, and I will.” Those words make me feel strong and powerful, helping me push through challenging days.

Where can people follow you and find out more?

You can follow Lingo’s adventures on Instagram @lingotheflamingo_ or TikTok @lingotheflamingo. If you’d like your little one to have Lingo as an adventure friend, visit lingotheflamingo.com.au.

Deanna Austin’s journey with Lingo the Flamingo is a beautiful reminder of how strength, creativity, and love can turn dreams into reality.

If her story has inspired you, we invite you to explore more tales of resilience and innovation from other incredible founders and visionaries.

Stay connected with us for more uplifting stories that celebrate the power of determination and the impact of heartfelt passion.

Welcome to our exclusive interview with Tomasso Silvestri, an artist who’s not just painting pictures but predicting the future of art itself.

For over 20 years, Tomasso has been crafting a new language in the art world, one filled with dreams, messages, sounds, and visions. His work is a blend of scientific innovation and personal ritual, creating art that’s as technically impeccable as it is visionary.

Renowned for his unique morphic style, Tomasso brings provocative paintings and precise dreamworlds to life, challenging us to see beyond the canvas.

Get ready to dive into the mind of a creator who’s reshaping the boundaries of what art can be…

From Chicago to the World: How has your Italian heritage and upbringing in Chicago influenced your artistic journey?

Growing up with parents who were passionate about singing, dancing, and music, and inspired by my mother’s artistic sensibilities, my art has been profoundly shaped by the vibrant palette of Italian culture and the aromas of her cooking. The emphasis on quality of life and a love for living inherent in Italian culture has been deeply influential.

Can you share a memory of your mother’s Italian cooking and how it has inspired your art?

My mother’s cooking was a tour de force of authentic, inspirational recipes passed down through generations. These meals transcended time, enriching not only our family’s legacy but also inspiring the sensory layers in my art, which continue to resonate with me daily.

At what age did you realise that visual arts and music would be your lifelong passion?

At the age of 7, I discovered a drafting table and various drawing instruments in my parents’ basement. The moment I held those tools, I felt a cosmic connection to past lifetimes filled with artistic dreams and visions, which inspired me to draw with fervent enthusiasm.

How has your work evolved from early drafting and designs to contemporary design, sculpting, and painting?

Initially, from 1990 to 1997, my work primarily featured large abstract figures set against a narrative backdrop. Over time, the drafting skills I had honed became the foundation for my explorations in surrealism and avant-garde, morphic art.

How have your extensive world travels and studies of ancient cultures shaped your artistic style?

My travels have led me to develop a unique artistic language characterised by morphic art energetics and multidimensional symbolism, which employs innovative techniques to communicate profound messages to the viewer.

Your work delves into dreams, symbolism, and spirituality. Can you describe a dream that has particularly influenced a piece of your art?

My creative process is deeply embedded with transits, phases, frequencies, and vibratory waves, which are the lifeblood of my artistic endeavours, influencing the themes and execution of my artwork.

What role does astrology and occult knowledge play in your creative process?

Astrology and occult knowledge are integral to my work, helping me develop critical analytical theses and personal rituals that shape my artistic methodology and narratives.

How did artists like Carrie Ann Baade, Salvador Dali, and Miro inspire you to push the boundaries of your contemporary art style?

These legendary artists have inspired me to embrace the unique gifts and risks associated with creating transformative, visionary art, pushing me to produce masterpieces that resonate across lifetimes.

Can you describe a moment when you felt particularly inspired or connected to your art during a live performance?

In April 2024, while attending a performance by the Ellis String Quartet in Santa Fe, I was moved during the second movement of Beethoven’s Op. 58. This experience immediately sparked the vision for my artwork, “Fantasia Adagio,” which I began creating upon my return to the studio.

What is your favourite medium to work with and why?

I find all my artistic mediums equally fulfilling, as each offers unique avenues for expression and creativity.

How do you balance the different facets of your career, from music performance to sculpting and painting?

Rather than balancing, I prefer to immerse myself completely in my art, allowing my creative passion to burn intensely.

Is there a particular piece of your artwork that holds special significance to you?

Disturbances,” a groundbreaking piece from my early career, represents a significant phase of artistic exploration and vision, pushing the boundaries of multimedia mural work.

What message or experience do you hope to convey to people who view your art?

My goal is to confront the viewer directly, provoking deep emotional responses and sparking the imagination by tapping into their fears and dreams.

How do you stay motivated and inspired in your creative endeavours?

I find solace and inspiration in silence, which I consider the truest language of God. My studio serves as a sacred space where I meditate and connect deeply with my creative spirit.

What advice would you give to aspiring artists trying to find their own personal style?

I encourage artists to discover and nurture their authentic selves, exploring and developing their unique artistic voice within the natural world.

How has the rise of digital art and platforms like OpenSea influenced your work and its reach?

What is your process for starting a new piece of art, from concept to completion?

My creative process is an endless spiral of inspiration, where ideas and visions continually emerge and evolve, manifesting into tangible art forms.

Can you describe a day in your life when you’re immersed in your artistic work?

My days begin by merging with the divine light, and as I delve into my artistic flow, I lose all sense of time and space, fully engrossed in my creative process.

Our readers love to travel; what destination is at the top of your bucket list?

I am eager to explore Indonesia, Egypt, Vietnam, Turkey, UAE, Iran, Patagonia, and Kenya, each offering rich cultural experiences and artistic inspiration.

Where can people follow you and find out more?

Follow me on social media and visit my website to explore my art and keep up with my latest projects and exhibitions.

Don’t miss out on more inspiring stories like Tomasso’s! Dive into the creative worlds of other remarkable individuals at House of Coco.

Whether you’re looking for artistic innovation, fashion forward-thinking, or lifestyle transformations, we bring the most captivating stories right to your fingertips.

Stay tuned and let us continue to inspire your journey.

A name synonymous with luxury, sunshine and glamour. It has long been a magnet for the rich and famous, and now, it’s experiencing a renaissance.

3SA Estate, a leading lifestyle and property consultancy, is at the forefront of this revival. Their latest offering, The Penthouse, embodies the new spirit of Marbella – limitless luxury that combines unparalleled service, breathtaking design and a seamless blend of indoor and outdoor living.

This haven for discerning travellers isn’t just a place to stay, it’s a home away from home, meticulously crafted to fulfill every desire and exceed every expectation.

We’ve nabbed a moment with Jimmy Widen, the CEO, so that we can delve deeper into The Penthouse, exploring its unique features, exceptional amenities and the inspiration behind its design. We’ll also discover how it caters to the needs of today’s luxury travellers, from digital nomads seeking a perfect work-life balance to the jet-set who crave discretion and sophistication.

Get ready to be transported to a world of unparalleled luxury on the stunning Marbella coast…

1. What inspired the creation of The Penthouse, and how does it reflect the vision of 3SA Estate?

The Penthouse was created by its visionary owners by combining two apartments into one extraordinary duplex space that optimises on its unique and exquisite beachfront location, arugably the best and rarest in Marbella, Spain and Europe. 

The project took nearly five years to complete, with its architects and designers briefed to develop a penthouse that incorporated the highest and most exacting standards of internal and external living space to surprise and delight the most discerning of guests.  

As the leading lifestyle and property consultancy in Marbella, 3SA Estate reflect all of these qualities to innovate and inspire which is reflected in our vision to be 3 steps ahead in every aspect of what we do. In this way I am delighted to say we have become a trusted partner to our clients to deliver the very best in terms of standard of properties, whether to rent and buy, matched only by the level of services we offer to manage every aspect of the guests experience be it a short or longer term stay.

2. Can you describe a typical day for a guest staying at The Penthouse?

For us there is no such thing as a typical day as we aim to reflect and serve the individual needs of our guests. For some, it may be waking up gently with the sound of the lapping ocean as guests step out onto the expansive terraces, then enjoying a delicious breakfast served by our butler, a dip in the private pool before heading out to explore glorious Marbella, perhaps a visit to one of the very exclusive beach clubs on the Golden Mile before returning for a sundowner on the terrace and a beautiful crafted meal created by our private chef to our guests personal wishes and desires.

Alternatively for those in search of a more active day, our concierge team can arrange anything and everything; hiring a supercar to cruise down to Puerto Banus or up into the hills behind Marbella, horseriding on a local beach, 18 holes on a world famous golf course, wine tasting in one of the vineyards in Serranía de Ronda a few hours out on the ocean in a super yacht, tennis at Puerto Romano’s famous tennis club, or for the ultimate birds eye view of this area there are also helicopter tours to take in the stunning sights and sounds of Andalusia.

3. What unique features of The Penthouse do you think guests will be most excited about?

That’s a tough question as there are so many extraordinary features that stand out in The Penthouse. However, one of the main sweetspots has to be the uninterrupted views out to the ocean from the expansive 211m2 terraces, views which are second to none in Marbella and arguably Spain and Southern Europe.

Another feature would be our dedicated penthouse team including our maid, butler and the highly respected private chef all passionate about ensuring every last wish is met. Finally I think a unique feature is the 3SA Concierge Team who are on hand to book the very best spots at the best places in town, ensuring the VIP treatment never stops.

4. How does The Penthouse blend indoor and outdoor living to enhance the guest experience?

The spectacular 452m2 penthouse space offers guests a unique and imposing elevated oceanfront position and mesmerising 180-degree views of the Mediterranean, which fuses indoor and outdoor living with terraces that stretch to a breathtaking  211m2.  The design of the apartment has been meticulously planned, enabling it to seem as though the ocean blends effortlessly with the penthouse, its presence felt throughout the entire expanse on both floors. The light bounces off every surface and highlights the thoughtful interiors, all of which have been carefully considered to amplify the sea’s connection to the penthouse.

5. What was the most challenging part of designing and building The Penthouse?

The entire project took nearly five years to craft from start to finish to the exacting standards required to create the most exclusive penthouse in Marbella, perhaps the most challenging aspect being the required licences to develop the property. But the entire team were amazing throughout the journey and it has been worth the wait to launch this exclusive Penthouse to the luxury rental market.

6. How does The Penthouse cater to the needs of digital nomads seeking luxury accommodations?

The Penthouse has everything a digital nomad needs to create the perfect work-life balance especially for those seeking a more luxurious way of life. And when we talk of luxury we mean luxury in its broadest sense, be it property, services, climate, location and therefore across the entire lifestyle offering. 

The expansive penthouse itself is discreet, quiet and self-contained in every way it has its own full equipped gym, plunge pool with resistance tidal mechanism, its own self contained kitchen, six stunning bedrooms including the breathtaking master suite on the top floor. 

In addition, the property sits in one of the most exclusive destination resorts in the Meditterrean in the Puerto Romano Resort which offers guests everything they could wish for from private beach club, a selection of some of the finest restuarants from around the globe but also relaxed cafes and eateries for simple dining, an award winning tennis club.

Beyond the resort, Marbella itself offers digital nomads a thriving community of likeminded travellers who have found this idyllic location and who are thriving by immersing themselves in a place that enjoys one of the best climates in the world with over 300 days of sunshine and prides itself on an exceptionally healthy and outdoor focussed way of life. A short drive away takes guests to Tarifa one of the kite surfing hotspots, or up into the mountains guests can ski in the Sierra Nevada mountain area or short train journey takes travellers to Saville or Madrid for a cultural and gastronmic immersion.

The final gift is that Malaga airport now serves the digital nomad community to many locations worldwide, making Marbella the perfect pinpoint destination that combines logistical and lifestyle benefits in abundance.

7. Can you share a memorable moment from the development process of The Penthouse?

We were not the developers of The Penthouse, it was created by a fantastic development company that we work with from England.

8. What do you think makes Marbella the best European Destination for 2024?

Marbella has always been a magnet for the rich and famous; an iconic destination for an international and intellectual jet-set, and the Hollywood glitterati, who frequented it back in the 1950s and originally put the Andalusian gem on the map. Of course, Marbella has evolved over the years and we are delighted to now be experiencing an exciting renaissance, which reflects its former glory days but dials up a contemporary new vibrancy. Its incre

dible climate, easy accessible location and the relaxed laid back beach and sporty lifestyle have always been the core pillars of its appeal yet the high standards and choice of accommodation, gastronomy and overall experiences have been further amplified to reflect this new interest making Marbella one of the most highly desirable holiday and living choice for the discerning traveller. Forbes has just named Marbella Best European Destination for 2024 by saying “This is a sunny, five-star, natural, sporty, gastronomic destination with everything to please the most demanding travelers.”

9. How does The Penthouse contribute to the renaissance of Marbella?

The Penthouse represents the extraordinary and inspiring innovation that is happening in Marbella at this time and reflects a ‘ limitless luxury ‘ philosphy that we at 3SA are championing. We are seeing an exciting new wave of thoughtful International investment in and around Marbella that seeks to compliment Marbella’s history and protect its natural gifts yet elevate and attract a new type of traveller and resident who really appreciates the finest things in life. Dolce & Gabbana and Fendi are both investing in branded developments in and around Marbella.

10. What local experiences and activities would you recommend to guests staying at The Penthouse?

At property level we would recommend our full butler service package and daily cleaning. In this way you live with all the benefits of a 5 star hotel but you are totally private with the most stunning front line beach view and effectively your own private restaurant in the Penthouse. As far as local experiences are concerned the 3SA Concierge team can arrange the perfect day as Marbella is full of activities.

We can arrange beach clubs, every kind of sport, hiking tours, horse riding, excursions to some of the best beaches in Europe at Tarifa and Chiclana, wine tasting in Rhonda by helicopter, a yacht charter with dolphin spotting. There really are no limits to the luxury lifestyle in Marbella with 3SA Estate.

11. How does the design of The Penthouse incorporate the surrounding natural beauty of Marbella?

I think the fact that The Penthouse has been designed specifically to blend its stunning external surroundings and ocean position into its living space, both compliments and amplifies the local natural beauty of Marbella whilst having a low impact footprint on nature.

12. What role does sustainability play in the design and operation of The Penthouse?

At 3SA Estate we work tirelessly to raise the standards of sustainability, but it is fair to say we are not where we want to be yet in Marbella. We are totally committed to responsible tourism and our goal is that within 3 years we will have properties and a service that are all 100% sustainable.

13. How do you ensure that the service provided at The Penthouse is unparalleled?

We are super proud of the entire 3SA Estate team who are handpicked for their personalities and skills. Each and every one is committed to delivering the very highest standards of service be it with the domestic and housekeeping support through to concierge and estate staff. We invest heavily in training to ensure the team are fully equipped and briefed to support all guests, but perhaps most importantly we all love what we do, so we know that are team deliver a very personal and heart-felt service that we feel is second to none.

14. What are some of your favourite features in the master suite of The Penthouse?

The size of the master suite is both unique and breathtaking, as it spans the entire upper floor and is bigger than some villas. 

The floor to ceiling glass doors peel back to open up to the expansive terrace with your own private plunge pool and a view to the ocean that is second to none.

The master suite also has its own private lift from the main entrance.

15. How does the location within the Puente Romano Resort enhance the luxury experience for guests?

The Penthouse is discreetly tucked away in a gated complex within the world famous Puente Romano resort, which offers the highest levels of amentities yet also reassuring personal privacy and security. Guests of The Penthouse are granted full access to the entire award-winning Puente Romano resort which has raised the benchmark for what a world-class resort can deliver.

Repeatedly acclaimed in magazines and newspapers worldwide for setting a standard that few live up to, since it opened it has been awarded the International Hotel Awards as Best Golf Resort, the World Spa Awards as Spain’s Best Spa Resort, and Europe’s Leading Lifestyle Hotel in the World Travel Awards. The Penthouse is nestled in the heart of this exclusive resort yet offers its guests their own perfect escape and sanctuary.

16. Can you tell us about the dining experiences available both within The Penthouse and at the Puente Romano Resort?

Within The Penthouse itself we can offer a fully catered private chef service to prepare and cook all our guests meals from locally sourced ingredients, allowing for personal preferences and dietary requirements. We are also able to fully stock the fridge and bar if our guests would prefer to cook their own meals. 

Alteratively, Puente Romano Resort itself is home to more than 20 restaurants and bars that offer our guests a truly gastronomic experience. From finding their inner Inca at COYA to enjoying the beachside favourite Chiringuito; from Cipriani to Nobu to the legendary Sea Grill. Puente Romano Resort are also proud of the quality and sustainability approach to sourcing ingredients with their our own local market garden, supplying farm fresh, seasonal, and organic vegetables & herbs directly to their kitchens. Locally sourced, naturally reared meat is also prioritised, as is locally caught fish and seafood.

17. What upcoming trends in luxury real estate do you see reflected in The Penthouse?

The Penthouse reflects a new trend where discerning travellers require all the standard services of a luxury hotel but also want total privacy and discretion – this is exactly what we can offer at 3SA Estate and at The Penthouse.

At property level we think The Penthouse reflects the continuing demand from travellers to deliver a hyper personalised experience that is tailored to their specific needs.  And finally and at a granular level I think the fully serviced bar in The Penthouse is a feature that will be seen more and more in luxury real estate.

18. How does The Penthouse appeal to the jet-set and Hollywood glitterati who have historically frequented Marbella?

The Penthouse by 3SA blends the perfect mix of discretion with sophistication, a shot of hyper personalisation, a small dash of opulance and a twist of modernity. The perfect cocktail for the discerning traveller.

19. What personal touches have been added to The Penthouse to make it feel like a home away from home?

We are delighted to tailor the entire Penthouse experience to every guests personal wishes making it a very special home away from home. For example The Penthouse can be filled with the guests favourite flowers to greet them as they arrive, a bar fully stocked with their preferred drinks, and a fridge brimming with the guests favourite treats. Then there is their own personal gym and private pool – The Penthouse truly is a home away from home.

20. How do you envision the future of luxury real estate in Marbella, and what role does The Penthouse play in that vision?

The Penthouse celebrates a new generation of exquisite ultra luxury real estate in Marbella and we are super proud to be launching it at a time when the market has a real appetite for this innovative type of property. 3SA Estate are also involved with another amazing project very close to The Penthouse that will be complete in two years which will also raise the bar and compliment this entire segment. It is a very exciting time here in Marbella and we are very much at the core of this new wave of innovation and inspirational in luxury design and hospitality.

So, if you’re dreaming of sun-soaked days, opulent surroundings and a seamless blend of indoor and outdoor living, The Penthouse by 3SA Estate awaits you.

Discover a new pinnacle of luxury on the stunning Marbella coast and make your next vacation an experience of a lifetime.

In the dazzling world of jewelry, where every piece tells a story and every sparkle holds a promise, Cate’s Jewelry shines brightly as a beacon of passion, craftsmanship and timeless elegance.

Founded by a jewelry enthusiast whose love for all things sparkly transcended into a thriving business, Cate’s Jewelry is more than just a brand; it is a journey of dedication, creativity and an unwavering commitment to quality.

From the first sketch to the final polish, each piece is crafted with the utmost care, ensuring it brings joy and beauty to its wearer. Join us as we delve into the inspiring story of Cate’s Jewelry, a testament to the power of passion and the pursuit of excellence in creating pieces that are not only beautiful but meaningful.

We spent some time with Catharine Bass, the founder, to find out more…

What inspired you to start Cate’s Jewelry, and how has your journey been since its inception?

I was inspired to create Cate’s Jewelry based on my own love of jewelry and all things sparkly! It’s been an interesting journey since I started this business. Photographic techniques, wording, suppliers, and advertisements are just some of the things you need to learn. You’ll never feel like you’re working when you’re doing this! The passion for jewelry translates into a deep commitment to providing customers with exquisite and unique pieces that make them feel special. It fuels the drive to constantly improve and learn, ensuring that every aspect of the business, from the photography to the sourcing of materials, is done with utmost care and attention to detail.

Quality is a cornerstone of Cate’s Jewelry. Can you share some insights into your process of ensuring above and beyond quality in every piece?

Achieving success in this business requires quality assurance. My eyes are always on each piece to ensure perfect condition. It is very important to me to provide high-quality products and to keep my customers in mind at all times. My goal is to make sure that the jewelry they receive from me is the best that it can be. It’s part of building a strong, lasting relationship with my customers.

Building sparkling relationships with customers seems to be a priority for Cate’s Jewelry. How do you cultivate and maintain these relationships?

In order to build these relationships, I am always available to answer any questions anyone may have. This availability ensures that customers feel valued and heard, fostering trust and loyalty.

In a world where fast fashion dominates, how does Cate’s Jewelry stand out with its focus on timeless pieces and lasting quality?

Despite the competition, Cate’s Jewelry stays true to the styles of jewelry I like. Instead of following trends and fads, I specialize in bright, colorful pieces for formal occasions and everyday pieces for my Modern Collection.

Sustainability is increasingly important in the fashion industry. How does Cate’s Jewelry incorporate sustainable practices into its operations?

Though Cate’s Jewelry focuses on a certain style, it is always adapting and changing. Every day, I look for ways to do things better and figure out how to put them into practice. The experience of making a mistake is a valuable one that helps me learn.

Can you highlight some of the unique materials or techniques used in crafting your jewelry pieces?

I currently have some handmade pieces in my store, and I plan to add more in the future. Additionally, I intend to start offering more genuine gemstone jewelry.

Innovation often drives success in the industry. How does Cate’s Jewelry stay innovative while maintaining its commitment to quality?

Though Cate’s Jewelry focuses on a certain style, it is always adapting and changing. Every day, I look for ways to do things better and figure out how to put them into practice. The experience of making a mistake is a valuable one that helps me learn.

What challenges have you faced as a founder, and how have you overcome them to establish Cate’s Jewelry as a reputable brand?

I think there have been many challenges with this business but I never really look at it like that. For me, it’s always how do I do that? Who can I talk to about this? How can I learn about this?, etc. Because I truly love this jewelry business, I don’t ever think of things as obstacles or challenges. I just figure it out.

Collaboration can be key to growth. Have you partnered with any other brands or designers to create unique collections?

I do offer several pieces from Carmen Miller Jewelry. I thought these earrings were fantastic as they are long-lost pieces found in a trunk in Australia. They are gorgeous Swarovski earrings that you just can’t find anywhere else!

Your promise to treat customers with honesty and respect sets a high standard. How do you ensure this promise is upheld in every interaction?

Frankly, I was once deceived by an online jeweler who was selling his products via livestreams. It took me a while to understand that the gemstones he was selling, such as tsavorite, sapphires, and tanzanite, were actually cubic zirconia, a lab-created gemstone that mimics the appearance of these precious stones. This experience led me to make a commitment to open a jewelry store that prioritizes transparency and honesty about the products being sold. For me, the highest standard is to be truthful about what I offer, demonstrating the utmost respect for my customers. Honesty and respect are the foundations of trust.

Personalisation is becoming increasingly popular. Does Cate’s Jewelry offer any customization options for customers?

Yes, my harshest critics are my three daughters and five grandchildren! With my oldest daughter being 38 and my youngest grandchild aged 6, I get a wide range of opinions on jewelry. I periodically seek their input on various style and fashion ideas, which helps in customizing and personalizing pieces.

What role do customer feedback and suggestions play in shaping the direction of Cate’s Jewelry?

Customer feedback is incredibly valuable. My harshest critics are my three daughters and five grandchildren! With my oldest daughter being 38 and my youngest grandchild aged 6, I get a wide range of opinions on jewelry. I periodically seek their input on various style and fashion ideas.

Can you share any memorable stories or experiences you’ve had with customers since starting Cate’s Jewelry?

One memorable experience was when a customer shared how a piece of jewelry from Cate’s Jewelry brought her immense joy and confidence during a significant life event. Such stories reinforce the importance of what I do and inspire me to continue creating beautiful pieces.

Cate’s Jewelry offers affordable prices without compromising on quality. How do you achieve this balance?

My purpose is not to sell jewelry at high prices in this economy. The price of quality jewelry should be affordable for everyone. Each of us deserves to feel beautiful and special, and wearing beautiful jewelry can ignite that sparkle within each of us! It’s a great way to show yourself love and care! Think of it as self-care!

The jewelry industry is often associated with luxury. How does Cate’s Jewelry make luxury accessible to a wider audience?

My jewelry radiates elegance and luxury yet remains accessible due to its affordable pricing.

Your pieces often exude elegance and sophistication. How do you stay attuned to current trends while maintaining a timeless appeal?

My harshest critics are my three daughters and five grandchildren! With my oldest daughter being 38 and my youngest grandchild aged 6, I get a wide range of opinions on jewelry. I periodically seek their input on various style and fashion ideas.

Innovation in design can set a brand apart. Can you discuss any recent innovations or trends that Cate’s Jewelry has embraced?

Though Cate’s Jewelry focuses on a certain style, it is always adapting and changing. Every day, I look for ways to do things better and figure out how to put them into practice. The experience of making a mistake is a valuable one that helps me learn.

Beyond the allure of the jewelry itself, what values or messages does Cate’s Jewelry aim to convey to its customers?

Cate’s Jewelry embodies honesty, respect, and trust, and genuinely cares for every customer.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to break into the jewelry industry?

My advice is to stay passionate and dedicated. Challenges will arise, but if you love what you do, you’ll find ways to overcome them. Always be open to learning and improving, and never compromise on quality and honesty.

Looking ahead, what exciting developments or plans can we expect from Cate’s Jewelry in the future?

I currently have some handmade pieces in my store, and I plan to add more in the future. Additionally, I intend to start offering more genuine gemstone jewelry.

What’s your go-to quote when you are lacking motivation?

While I don’t have a specific quote, I believe in the power of perseverance and passion. When you truly love what you do, motivation naturally follows.

Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?

I would love to visit London sometime! The history, the sights, and of course, the Royals are all reasons why I’d like to make that trip! There is so much to see! And because I love beaches, my list includes Hawaii, Bora Bora, and the Fiji Islands.

Where can people follow you and find out more?

People can follow me on Instagram to stay updated on new collections and offers. Additionally, you can visit our website for more information and to shop our latest pieces.

Thank you for diving into the world of Cate’s Creations with us. If you enjoyed this story of passion and elegance, be sure to explore more inspiring tales on House of Coco.

Discover the people, places, and brands that make life a little more beautiful.

Keep shining, and stay curious!

Imagine a world where jewellery isn’t just an adornment, but a story waiting to be told. A story that whispers of heritage, dances with innovation and embraces the beauty of a sustainable future. This is the world Neil Ventura, founder of Ventura Fine Jewellery, has set out to create.

Neil’s journey is one of passion and purpose. After a distinguished career at De Beers, he didn’t settle for the status quo. Instead, he drew upon his experience and deep understanding of the industry to forge a new path. A path paved with exquisite craftsmanship, breathtaking designs and an unwavering commitment to responsible sourcing.

Ventura Fine Jewellery isn’t just about creating luxury pieces; it’s about creating heirlooms that resonate with the soul. It’s about empowering clients to tell their own stories through jewelry that reflects their individuality. It’s about pushing boundaries and rewriting the rules of what it means to experience high-end design.

Neil, you’ve had an illustrious career with De Beers. What inspired you to start Ventura Fine Jewellery, and how does it feel to extend your family’s legacy in the industry?

It’s something I’ve always wanted to do – call it a lifelong ambition. My grandfather was a jeweller and he piqued (no pun intended!) my interest in the industry at a young age. However, whilst I was too young to take over his business when he passed away, I narrowed down my initial career choices to a jewellery making apprenticeship in Hatton Garden in London, or to join the market leader in diamonds, De Beers, with the promise of international travel. I opted for the latter.

Over the next 34 years I had the good fortune to live and work all over the world with extensive stints in Africa, India, Europe and the Far East, where I spent a lot of my career. I built up an in-depth experience buying and selling diamonds all over the world, including numerous exceptional diamonds, and ran several businesses for the De Beers group, including a global auction business. 

And so my considerable career in diamonds has provided an ideal launch pad for a new jewellery business. Over more than three decades I built up a unique black book of the world’s best producers, cutters and polishers, and jewellery makers. Pritam, as a long-term friend and now business partner has similarly deep connections across the gemstone world: he is a 3rd generation jeweller and former ambassador of the International Colored Gemstone Association (ICA). 

My wife, Kanta, is a former fashion designer as well as being a qualified jewellery designer.  She has an incredible eye and so between the three of us, it was a natural development that we all sat down and made a plan to launch Ventura Fine Jewellery; pooling all our knowledge, contacts and experience to build something that extends our contributions to the industry to date. It also sees me coming full circle as I follow in my grandfather’s footsteps.

How does your grandfather’s influence manifest in the designs and operations of Ventura Fine Jewellery today?

Even though my grandfather‘s operation was a small affair, two things stick with me from the hours I spent with him as a young boy. One was his painstaking attention to detail. The other was his focus on each customer as an individual. I’m determined that we bring both of these aspects into our business. Customers appreciate the attention to detail and craftsmanship that goes into our jewellery. And the way we have set ourselves up is entirely designed around a different and unique customer experience where each client is treated as an individual and provided with our focused attention to deliver their jewellery wishes and desires.

How do you approach innovation at Ventura Fine Jewellery, given your background in strategy and innovation at De Beers?

As a relatively new business, we fully embrace experimentation through iterative test loops across many aspects of the business from marketing activities; testing and learning different formats for our private sales events; through to our design processes. These low cost, rapid cycle tests allow us to learn quickly in order to move the business forward. 

We are also busy testing different ways in which we can integrate digital technologies into the customer experience and our overall operations. For example, we are currently testing the use of a number of different technologies that allow a customer buying a piece of a high jewellery to be able to pull up a range of content detailing the story behind each piece. This can include the original design inspiration; the diamond and gemstone sourcing; the craftsmanship journey to create a unique piece; as well as various supporting information regarding their purchase, such as certificates. Proof of ownership can also be logged on the blockchain. As we iterate on these tests and learn which aspects of the story behind each piece really resonates with customers, we will refine it and look to extend this across more of the jewellery we make. 

Innovation in design is also an important element in our business. Many of our designs are multifunctional pieces where, for example, a pair of earrings could be worn two or three different ways, creating day to evening wear pieces all in one. But in all aspects of innovation we try and put the customer at the centre of what we do, and ask ourselves if the innovation helps with our mission to change how jewellery is experienced for our clients. 

What do you believe sets Ventura Fine Jewellery apart from other high-end jewellery brands?

Our view is that over the years the typical retail jewellery experience has become stale and formulaic, even intimidating for clients. Similarly on the design front, whilst there are some great pathfinders out there, there are large swathes of similar designs that all look very similar to each other. We are therefore trying to do things differently. I don’t think one single aspect makes us unique, but rather how we are combining a number of elements together that in combination make us different. 

We tend to be quite uncompromising on our designs. Kanta is very adept at combining colours, textures and patterns in ways that create designs that have warmth, energy and a sense of adventure. We like adding elements of surprise into our designs, such as creating multifunctional pieces. For example one of our first high jewellery creations – ‘The Mandarin’ – is a ring that can be transformed into a pendant. We also like using graduation in size and colours to create pieces that have a timeless, yet contemporary edge. 

We are advocates of sustainability and go to great lengths to ensure our diamonds, gemstones and gold are responsibly sourced. To this end, we work extensively with partners who are members of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC). 

We are equally uncompromising on our craftsmanship and are privileged to work with some of some of the world’s best jewellery makers. Customers frequently comment on the quality of our finishing, several aspects of which are aimed at presenting customers with jewellery that is so comfortable they simply won’t want to take it off.

We also take a different approach to customer engagement. We promote ourselves as being  trusted and knowledgeable guides for our clients. As industry veterans, Pritam and I each bring over three decades of industry experience into client engagements. The world of diamonds can be confusing; gemstones even more so; with aspects such as rarity often misunderstood. We can help cut through the noise and impart some of our knowledge so our clients can make informed choices. We choose to engage clients differently from conventional retail, by providing our clients a private space in which to spend time with us, alongside a design studio where they have the opportunity to get involved in the design process directly. We find this helps us get to know our clients better, and equally for them to understand our story and the added value we can offer more effectively through our personal engagement. We also try and bring the same elements to bear with our private sales events and exclusive pop-ups.

It’s the combination of these elements that clients tell us make us different, and engender great trust, and this is an important part of our mission and how we can change how jewellery is experienced and appreciated.

What challenges have you faced in establishing Ventura Fine Jewellery, and how have you overcome them?

Awareness of Ventura Fine Jewellery is probably the biggest challenge. We know we have the capability to create just about anything in terms of bespoke commissions for clients, and we demonstrate some of these capabilities through our jewellery and high jewellery offerings. Of course, unless potential clients find out about us, they are likely to remain blissfully unaware of what we can offer, so raising awareness through multiple channels is a key activity and a constant challenge. Friends and those in our immediate networks have provided a great starting point.

These introductions, alongside an integrated marketing campaign including conventional print and digital channels; private client sales events; pop-ups events; as well as targeted media marketing are collectively proving effective.  But equally, we are a business that sees a lot of value in collaboration and partnerships with other brands sharing similar values. All this helps raise awareness of Ventura Fine Jewellery. Our approach offers fertile ground for creating something different for clients – such as our new partnership with a leading British sculpture artist where we are bringing the realm of art and fine jewellery together to create a new ‘wearable art’ offering. 

How does Ventura Fine Jewellery balance timeless elegance with contemporary design in its collections?

Jewellery has a very rich and storied back catalogue of designs, many of which might be considered timeless or classic. These provide a great starting point for inspiration. But to keep trying to move the category forward, it’s a constant challenge to build on some of the timeless designs and find new ways to make them contemporary and relevant. Sometimes this is through changes to design; sometimes it’s through the incorporation of innovative materials that provide a contemporary edge, such as ceramic or titanium, for example.

Our new London Jewellery collection is our celebration of some of London’s most iconic markers. We have combined some classic design elements with different patterns, textures and colours to create a collection that we think represents exactly this timeless yet contemporary balance, reflecting the timeless yet contemporary edge we feel in London today. 

What has been the most rewarding part of founding Ventura Fine Jewellery?

The challenge of building a business is fun, and something I thoroughly enjoyed during my corporate career. Each new business is of course different, but I love the challenge and find a lot of joy in setting our own agenda and having the freedom to quickly move into areas that we think are promising. It has also been highly enjoyable getting back in front of clients after many years in a corporate centre. 

How does sustainability factor into your sourcing and production processes at Ventura Fine Jewellery?

Sustainability is a major part of what we do, and responsible sourcing is part of our broader sustainability journey. I think from the customers standpoint, it’s often overly difficult for them to know what they are buying. It’s not just that there are many technical aspects involved in wisely selecting a diamond or gemstone for a given piece; whether it’s subtle changes in colour or distinguishing from a jewel that is superbly cut to maximise its brilliance, or is simply well cut. There’s also just not enough transparency out there, and sometimes there are misleading images or minimal information provided, so it’s easy for customers to end up buying something suboptimal – or worse. We are fortunate given our industry backgrounds and connections that we are uniquely placed to guide clients through this maze of information to ensure they get the very best. Beyond diamonds and gemstones, the gold that is used in our jewellery is also responsibly sourced. 

Sustainability also extends beyond sourcing into other areas such as steady improvements we are making in sustainable packaging for example. We pride ourselves on the level of transparency that we provide customers, seeing every engagement as an opportunity to impart some of our learning so the customers don’t just walk away with an amazing piece of jewellery, they also feel that they have expanded their knowledge in the process.

Can you share your vision for the future of Ventura Fine Jewellery and how you plan to achieve it?

There are a few key elements to the business we are building.

Firstly, we are building a business grounded in relationships – with the people and places who inspire our creations who co-create them with us, and of course our clients who wear our designs. 

We are also building a business that is relevant. Yes, that means balancing timeless yet contemporary elements into our designs, and finding ways to make our designs recognisable as a Ventura Fine Jewellery piece. But it also means being relevant in this era of sustainability and digital technologies as well as relevance in terms of location. We are global citizens at Ventura Fine Jewellery, and so we want to build a business with global appeal. We are building out from our UK presence – we are excited about setting up in Dubai in the next couple of months, and want to expand into Asia beyond that.

Lastly we want to build a business that can contribute to changing how jewellery is experienced for our clients – where the goal is to allow our clients to explore and discover new sides of themselves and, through wearing one of our pieces, ‘look a little less like everyone else’. 

What trends do you see shaping the future of the jewellery industry, and how is Ventura Fine Jewellery preparing for these changes?

I would say two standout trends are sustainability and digital technologies.

On sustainability, the shift I see is from ‘saying’ to ‘doing’ to ‘evidencing’. We have seen a lot of businesses make claims about being carbon neutral at some point in the future. But making claims is the easy part, and credible sustainability journeys demand that steady progress is demonstrated towards these targets consistently, and that progress can be evidenced. I think the shift will continue in the years ahead. 

On digital technologies the two domains that excite me the most are blockchain and AI, particularly generative AI. Blockchain is very real, and the technology works and is not the limitation. I am fortunate to have had a lot of first-hand experience with blockchain and related technologies as I had executive responsibility for an end-to-end digital trust platform called Tracr™ at De Beers.

I think blockchain provides a great foundation for jewellery storytelling that can include origin information and subsequent steps involved in crafting a given piece, all made relevant for clients. And it is a movement that is already well underway. AI is also a real game-changer and the rate of innovation is already testament to that. In the luxury world, AI (and particularly generative AI) is already changing and enhancing the creative work of designers; numerous marketing activities from product descriptions to marketing campaigns; and the retail experience. And despite the great progress made to date, we are only at the outset of the developments with both of these technology domains.  

At Ventura Fine Jewellery we are on our own sustainability journey, and we fully intend to integrate aspects of both these technology domains into our operations and offerings over time. We are already experimenting in ways that remain client-led and client-focussed. 

Can you tell us about a memorable custom piece you’ve created and the story behind it?

One of our high jewellery pieces, ‘Lily Pads’, really caught a client’s attention recently; so much so that they worked with us to design a customised version for themselves. The client wanted a ring with two lily pads slightly overlaid on one another, with tsavorites graduating in colour from the outer edge of each lily pad to the centre. They also wanted each of the lily pads to be movable. This required some clever design enabling each lily pad to tilt and rotate so that when worn, the client’s natural hand movement, combined with the movement of the ring would ensure that the light will catch the ring from every conceivable angle. 

What role does customer feedback play in the development of new designs and collections at Ventura Fine Jewellery?

We often test design concepts that we are considering introducing into our jewellery collections or our high jewellery pieces with existing clients. But beyond that, through our bespoke work, our process gives clients as much opportunity as they would like to get involved in creating their unique piece. We often find clients really enjoy this opportunity to explore, learn, and create with us, and end up with a piece that they genuinely cherish as a consequence. 

How do you ensure the quality and authenticity of the gemstones and diamonds used in your jewellery?

Our extensive knowledge, technical training and deep industry experience sets us apart here – no one is going to pull the wool over our eyes. Cut is everything for us and so we usually start there. A diamond or gemstone that is superbly cut simply looks incredible, interacting with light to sparkle as it should, and subtle differences even amongst well cut diamonds can make a big difference. We know what questions to ask about diamonds and gemstones to quickly ascertain the best options, filtering out any unscrupulous activities. Beyond certification, we like to pull together a broader suite of information so we can evidence the origin of the gems in our pieces. This for Ventura Fine Jewellery, is a critical part of the story. 

What advice would you give to someone looking to invest in high-quality jewellery?

Buy the best examples you can find and afford. Everything is becoming rarer, and so it pays (even if only from an insurance replacement value perspective) to buy jewellery that features diamonds and gemstones that are superbly cut and that exhibit the best possible colour and so on, and we encourage clients to avoid compromising on this. Over time a better cut diamond or gemstone with great colour credentials will remain rarer, and thus more valuable, than an averagely cut gem with average colour, all other factors being equal. 

We also encourage an understanding of relative rarity. White diamonds are rare, but there are many gemstones that might have been less well marketed that are even rarer. Tanzanite for example has much more rarity, as are Paraiba Tourmalines. We help clients looking to invest in a piece of high quality jewellery to understand gemstone rarity and the details that underpin that rarity. 

Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?

South America is high on our bucket list primarily because it’s somewhere that despite our global travels we have never been. India is always on our bucket list, and even though we have lived there; worked there; and visit frequently, there is simply so much to see and explore. India is a constant source of inspiration. Incredible India is indeed incredible. 

How do you stay inspired and motivated in an industry that is constantly evolving?

The constant evolution of the broader luxury sector, and developments beyond our sector is what I find motivating and inspiring. I’ve often held a belief that whilst there is some inspiration in your immediate industry, it’s really important to look up and out into the broader sector and beyond. In the case of jewellery I think that what is unfolding in fashion is something of a bellweather for what will then wash across the jewellery and watches space. So I mostly look for inspiration in places beyond our immediate sector. 

What’s your go-to quote when you are lacking motivation?

If it were easy everyone would be able to do it. 

Finally, what future projects or collections can we look forward to from Ventura Fine Jewellery?

We have recently come together with Winterburn Fine Art, one of the U.K.’s leading sculpture artists. The Winterburn Ventura collaboration will see us launch our first collection of ‘wearable art’ and we are really excited about this crossover. Through our partnership we have worked out how to take stunning full-size sculptures and transform these into wearable pieces of art such as broaches and pendants, retaining all the incredible detail of the original sculpture. We have chosen one of Winterburn‘s iconic sculptures, ‘Grounded Serenity’, as the basis for our first limited piece collaboration together. We will be launching this soon. 

I’m also looking forward to refining the ‘digital storytelling’ approach behind each piece using the digital technologies that I described earlier. We think this sits well with our mission to change how our jewellery is experienced, and adds a digital element to our offering.

We are also excited to be expanding the business into Dubai where we have a growing clientele interested in our creations. Our plan is to complete our set up there in Q3 this year. 

Inspired by Neil’s vision? House of Coco is dedicated to showcasing the journeys of passionate individuals who are shaping the future of luxury. Explore more inspiring stories and discover a world of creativity, innovation and timeless elegance. 

Want to learn more about Neil and Ventura Fine Jewellery?

Head to their website www.venturafj.com or give them a follow on Instagram and Linkedin.

In the heart of Florida’s lush landscapes, where the serene beauty of nature meets the enchanting allure of romance, lies Mill Pond Estate—a wedding venue unlike any other. Founded by the visionary Toni Miller, Mill Pond Estate is a testament to the power of dreams, passion and a deep respect for the natural world. 

Toni, a trailblazer in the wedding industry, has transformed her love for nature and design into a breathtaking sanctuary where couples from around the world come to celebrate their love. Her journey from a dreamer with a vision to the proud owner of this extraordinary estate is nothing short of inspiring. With a commitment to inclusivity, sustainability and genuine connection, Toni has created a space where every love story is honoured and every moment is magical.

Join us as we delve into the story of Toni Miller, the heart and soul behind Mill Pond Estate. Discover the inspiration that guided her, the challenges she overcame and the unwavering dedication that turned a simple piece of land into a beloved destination for couples seeking a wedding experience as unique and beautiful as their love…

What inspired you to create Mill Pond Estate, and how does its concept differ from traditional wedding venues?

We wanted to emphasise what makes this place special to everyone, so the natural beauty of the property has been my guiding light and inspiration throughout the entire process. All design choices and property development are made with a deep respect for nature, ensuring all spaces are designed to fit and intertwine with what was already here. The best example of this is our Broken Oak ceremony space. Couples are literally embraced by the boughs of a giant centuries-old live oak tree as they say their vows and commitment to each other. There’s something magical and powerful in that moment. It’s not something that can be recreated elsewhere.

Could you share a bit about the history or significance of the name “Mill Pond Estate” and how it ties into the venue’s identity?

It’s a cute story I tell couples when they tour the venue. When we bought the property, we discovered a low area where all the water would naturally pool. We decided to create a small pond in that area to avoid a giant mud hole. We also happened to hit a spring during the process, resulting in a much larger body of water than originally planned, thus creating our lily pond. Another name for a lily pond is a Mill Pond, and coincidentally, my last name is Miller, so it all kind of worked out.

As the lead floral designer, how do you incorporate the natural surroundings of Mill Pond Estate into your floral designs?

We utilise a lot of greenery that naturally grows around the property and some that we planted after purchasing it. One of our couples’ favourite picture spots is called Eucalyptus Alley, which consists of around 20 large eucalyptus trees planted in a row. It also doubles as a eucalyptus farm, allowing us to harvest as much as we need to incorporate into our floral designs year-round.

Transparency in pricing can be a rarity in the wedding industry. How do you ensure that couples understand and feel comfortable with the pricing structure at Mill Pond Estate?

It is! Many venues won’t list prices on their website. As a consumer, I find it off-putting if I have to call for a quote or endure a sales pitch. I wanted to make it convenient for our couples to choose us, so we provide as much information upfront as possible. This approach serves the couples and ensures that those who choose us are a good fit.

Can you tell us more about the Equally Wed Certification that Mill Pond Estate earned in 2021 and why it’s important to you?

One of the core values of my business is ensuring everyone feels welcome at Mill Pond Estate. I knew it wasn’t enough to say we are allies to the LGBTQIA community; we needed to take action. The wedding industry is still behind in this regard, often using gendered terminology in communications with potential couples. For example, not everyone identifies as a bride or groom, yet they encounter these terms repeatedly during their planning journey. It was important for me to learn how to be a safe landing for the community and appreciate the diversity and beauty of everyone. Getting to know our couples, asking what terms or pronouns they use, and including that in our contracts and messaging makes a big difference.

For couples interested in a destination wedding, what makes Mill Pond Estate an attractive option compared to other venues?

Many think of a Florida wedding and imagine beaches. While our beaches are amazing, we also have beautiful wildlife and natural fauna ready to be explored and appreciated. At Mill Pond Estate, you get full access to 18 acres of Florida’s natural beauty. Additionally, we are only 15 minutes from the famous Hard Rock Casino and Hotel. Many of our couples have come from out of state and even from different countries, including Canada and Spain.

What are some common misconceptions couples have about wedding venues, and how does Mill Pond Estate address or dispel these misconceptions?

A common misconception is that venues only provide a space, but your venue is the most important decision in planning your wedding. It sets the entire tone. Your venue team needs to communicate effectively with all your vendors, from the planner to the caterer and even the saxophone player. The venue has touch-points with every aspect of the day. It’s a big job with many responsibilities, countless emails, and meetings over several months to achieve the couple’s vision.

What advice would you give to couples who are just starting their wedding planning journey and considering Mill Pond Estate as their venue?

Don’t be afraid to embrace the natural environment of an all-outdoor wedding venue! Florida weather can be unpredictable, but don’t be intimidated. We will be right there with you, offering support, inspiration, tips, tricks, and expertise. Whether it’s providing cute parasols for warm weather, incorporating bright colours, enjoying light and refreshing signature drinks, offering blankets as favours during cooler months, having a hot cocoa bar, or using our fire pit for s’mores, embracing the weather and natural environment can create a special and memorable experience for you and your guests.

Can you walk us through how you work with couples to bring their wedding vision to life at Mill Pond Estate?

It all starts from the very beginning at the tour. During the tour, we discuss your colour palette, theme, and overall vibe to highlight key venue features and discuss how your vision can come to life in our space. Once booked, you will have access to our in-house decor catalog and those of our trusted design partners to curate a unique look for you. We are there throughout the planning process, setting up design meetings, creating digital floral mockups, and working closely with all vendors. We’ve never had two weddings look the same here.

Can you share any upcoming plans or developments for Mill Pond Estate that our readers should be excited about?

Yes! I want to explore my passion for sustainable floristry more, including growing our own flowers on the estate for use in our events. Florida weather is harsh, so I plan to use Florida-friendly flowers that can withstand our climate. I’ve successfully grown sunflowers, wildflowers, carnations, and anemones for events and would love to scale this further. We will be creating more production beds and a greenhouse during our off-season this year. The wedding industry can be known for excess and waste, and I want to do my part to make this beautiful industry better for the planet.

What’s your go-to quote when you are lacking motivation?

As small business owners, burnout is real. I often focus on the future—how can I improve in this area or make this aspect easier for my couples—and then forget to celebrate where I am today and what Mill Pond has accomplished. My motivational quote would be, ‘Keep an eye on the future, but your heart in today.’ Truly appreciating and acknowledging your hard work and accomplishments can help fuel and nourish you when it feels hard to push forward.

Where can people follow you and find out more?

My team and I are mostly on Instagram @MillPondEstate. You can also reach us through our website, www.millpondestate.com. We are very responsive to emails and have a quarterly newsletter where you can keep up with our latest events and what’s been happening around The Estate. The animals are always a big hit with readers.

Discover more captivating stories from around the globe by exploring our Worldwide Wonders series on House of Coco.