Spring break, spring move!

The Passage is closed for the weeks of March 17th and 24th.

Son Jules will move here April 1; we are delighted to have the family in one city again, and I've launched into full apartment-prep mode.

He'll have his first "very own place", a ten-minute bike ride from us.  

Remember that, your apartment? Mine was only a bedsit–but oh, the freedom! A waterbed that leaked, orange crates for bookshelves, burlap drapes. Two Polish guys lived next door with their pet boa constrictor; I never visited.

What was yours?

The Passage reopens Tuesday, April 2; please drop by to meet a remarkable jeweler and, yes, there will be pearls!

Update: The recession and friends who lost jobs

A ten p.m. phone call is not dire, but in our house, it's lateish. When the voice on the end was a former colleague whom I'd not spoken to in a year, my stomach dropped.

"Today was my last day", "Marylou" told me, "and I did not see it coming." She was the sole Human Resources manager for a branch office of a vast  multinational telecommunications company. Her job moves to a group of remote managers.

She reminded me of the three friends who lost their jobs the first week of 2009. Where are they now, four years after that first crack of recessionary thunder?

C., 55, works in corporate banking. She landed first at a consulting firm, and was then hired by one of the firm's client banks. 

She recalls the first six months of 2009 as a "mad scramble" that felt precarious, despite her advanced degrees and executive experience. She is working 60+ hour weeks; though she keeps saying this has to end, it has not. While I believe some of that is due to her own very high standards, the culture rewards this behaviour, and will take every hour she's giving. Her role has been "expanded"– no promotion, but more responsibility.

During last summer's vacation, she worked so much from the resort that, on her return to work, she requested a reduction in vacation time taken–but her husband says that's not the point, and refuses to book again unless she promises to be present.

M., 60, lost her job at a nonprofit when donations dried up, worked lightly for the past four years as a subcontractor, applied for dozens of jobs, and got some interviews but not an offer, until December. 

She applied to a posting on a job board, defying conventional wisdom about the "hidden job market" being the only one to pursue, and was hired on a one-year contract. The organization is her dream employer, and she's having a stimulating, fulfilling time. She's hoping to be asked to work on projects when the contract ends.

She has health benefits through her partner's job, but must exert discipline to replace retirement savings that she spent during the four lean years.Of the three, she was most financially affected. 

J., in her late 40s, was laid off from a corporate job in technical sales. She went to work briefly for a friend of mine who has a small business, but it didn't work out. J. was more of a researcher than a closer, and they parted ways after fewer than six months. J. then spent her life savings to train to be a luthier. (She's not even a musician, but always loved woodworking.)

After nearly two years' study, she is now a modestly-paid apprentice to a master builder. But I should add, she has no dependents and is content living on very little.

These trends are their reality: contract work, performance by one person of a role that used to be done by two or three others, and the strategy of finding work that cannot be done by offshore outsourcing. (Though guitars can be built anywhere, the musicians who order from J.'s atelier want direct involvement in the process.)

J. is happier than before; M. has regained her happiness after years when she often felt depressed and lost hope that anyone would hire her at her age, and C., though exhausted, takes pride in her achievement.

And Marylou? Marylou did something prescient. While at the corporation, she used their flextime policy to pursue, though part-time study, a certification in an entirely different line of work (medical aesthetics) as a hedge.  

The company permitted compressed work hours, she paid tuition. She already has an offer from a busy salon near her home, which she will use to tide the family over if needed.

But Marylou is also negotiating for a better severance package. At 43, she anticipates making at least two career changes over her remaining working life, and plans to invest in more education.  

The Passage will close for the next two weeks 
for spring break; 
see you April 2!

Birkin & Rodin: Autonomously chic at 60+

My girl crush on Jane Birkin is probably eternal, despite a rather dismissive interview published here.

I still avoid any shop where I couldn't imagine running into her. (Le Duc once said, surveying a crowd at a rooftop bar, "Not one woman here looks like Jane Birkin". I guess the crush is family-wide.)

However, like any crush, you eventually have your head turned by others, and these days I–and many other women–admire American Linda Rodin, former stylist and model, current skin-care entrepreneur. 

She is quirkier, more costumey and recherché than Birkin (as you would expect from a stylist), and makes that grey hair look terrific. (She cuts it herself, gets weekly blowouts and uses Clairol Shimmer Lights shampoo.)

Photo: IntotheGloss.com
Photo: Refinery29
But she also has a definite commonsense streak, and that no-nonsense glamour  appeals to me. Rodin has said:

"I don't buy anything I can't wash." She buys Uniqulo $39 jeans in quantity.

"I’m a creature of habit, and I’m easy. I can’t bear to do anything with my hair—I’ve been wearing it up for the past 10 years and I cut it myself. I started going gray at 35, and I just let it go."

"I can’t always afford to buy designers—unless they’re on sale... I only buy designers for very special things and for handbags and shoes."
She mixes these with items from discounters, department stores, markets or little shops she finds on her travels, searching for pieces like the vintage Czech blouse, left.

"I won’t wear high heals anymore–except maybe once a year—because I’m not comfortable. I love ballet slippers and Mary Janes and lace-up men’s shoes." 

"You can't chase youth; you'll just look old with a facelift." (She mentions using restylane and getting facials monthly.)

Beyond blessed 

Photo: Sarah Lee for The Guardian
Both are exemplars of unfussy, individual style that is the antithesis of the strenuously-preserved image some women in our cohort attempt in an effort to "look young".

Yes, both have maintained their lithe model figures and have beautiful bone structure. 

(Before new readers jump on me, it is not their slimness that incites my admiration, it's their self-knowledge. I've been looking for ages for a rondelette Birkin equivalent; Adele might age into it, she's elegant.)

Both can afford great skincare so they can say they don't need makeup. (Birkin uses the horrifyingly expensive Sisleya, Rodin her own pricey product, Olio Lusso.)

They have access to fashion industry luminaries, which  means deals, perks, gifts: considerable advantages. But let's not throw the beauty out with her bathwater: they have the eye. Each has a fondness for found treasures and personal objects, creating living spaces full of memories and meaning.

For a peek at Rodin's NYC apartment, see this slideshow at refinery29, written by Christine Barberich.

Each says that her approach is to float above the trends, to live with what they have become (though Birkin uses haircolour), to reject surgery on their faces. These are two cool girls, but also grown women. Should you stand next to them, they would look at ease.

I like it, and I'm seeing it on the street more and more, regardless of size or shape. Is it me (or where I live?) or is there a shift to more natural-looking women past 50?

Matthias Ostermann: More serendipity and a rare opportunity

Last spring, I posted on the enormous surprise of finding several pieces offered for sale in a gallery; I instantly recognized them as made by the late, renowned ceramicist Matthias Ostermann

I was moved to tears to find the exact tile I'd had to leave behind when we moved from Toronto, installed in the walls of one room.

Wait, it gets better. The original owner, D., found my post while searching for images of his work, and the gallery manager confirmed that I was the buyer.

D. contacted me to say she has other pieces for sale; she has decided to sell her collection as part of a retirement downsizing. I chose four soup bowls. Here we are, each holding one.

She is selling several Ostermann serving plates, which also look beautiful hung. His work is part of the permanent collection at London's Victoria & Albert Museum and, as I keep saying, there simply will not be more. The plates have never been used.

If interested, send me an e-mail (see bottom of right-side menu bar) and I'll put you in touch with D. Prices range from $65-$125.  

I was delighted to meet D., an ebullient, charming bonne vivante who is an art collector and herself a potter. How wonderfully the world brings us people!

These events have been like a potter's wheel, each turn bringing a discovery, a gift. I only wish the gracious, kind Mathias Ostermann could witness how we continue to cherish his work.

Cool spring special: Keshis with South Seas

Pearl Paradise March specials, made with white Akoya keshis and South Sea baroques, are quite the buys: sumptuous, current, unusual enough to please those who like their serene with a shot of style. 

PP always have good monthly specials but the designs usually sit on the safely-classic side of the oyster bed. This month they offer two exceptions; great timing for spring gift-giving or just to put a glow near your pretty face. 

The necklace mixes seven white South Seas (9mm-10mm) with lustrous Akoya keshis; it's available in 16, 18 or 20 inch sizes; price for 18-inch is $314. Baroques read as more casual than rounds; if you feel your pearls are too 'formal', hop over to baroques.

This piece will not only "go" with everything, it will lift and twirl you. 

The pendant, with a tiny keshi "chain" that holds a white South Sea, begins at $200 for the 14mm-15mm size which is perfectly plush, but there are also options for an estimable 15-16mm and a fan-yourself 16-17mm (only $70 more). 

If you can wear a 16.5-inch length, I'd jump. (Now, madame;  I've heard too many heartbreak stories that go, "I dithered, and PP sold out.") 

There is also a bracelet but with only three pearls, I say it's for a petite, fine-boned woman.

Seriously special prices, reputable dealer, thirty-day refund policy. (I see new readers in the Passage so will say again, I'm not a paid reviewer for any vendor.)