Thursday, December 30, 2010


I was walking down Abbott Kinney Street in Venice this week and I passed by the window of the restaurant, Lemonade. I passed and then I walked backward to get another look at the coconut cake in the window. I smiled and not just any smile, but a very big one. When I looked at that cake it took me to the Blanche Reynolds School cakewalk fundraiser circa 1965. How I loved cakewalks. There was a very long table filled with cakes of all sizes and varieties baked by all the moms of the 1960's...that means homemade! I stood in front of that table for a very long time setting my sights on the cakes that I was sure were meant for me. Top of the list was the coconut cake! My mom bought the tickets so we could enter the walk and off we went. The music started and when it stopped, whatever number I landed on in the circle corresponded to the number of the cake I had won. I would hurry over to the table with the hope that it was the coconut cake. Well, over the years I won many cakes but somehow, never the evasive coconut cake. So fast forward to Wednesday and the window at Lemonade and there we have the perfect coconut cake! Where do you think I had lunch that day? We ordered lunch and then at the very end I asked for a piece of the coconut cake. When we got to the table I told Alain the story of the coconut cake....the one that got away! We both had tears in our eyes thinking about how the little things in life matter and how, if we are lucky, the child in us never leaves. Every bite of that cake made me smile....many years later I had the winning ticket!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

This is a list of what I want....

There is just enough of a child left in me that I still believe I can have all that I want. Granted I now know that it will be me who has to supply it and not Mr. Claus! Today I woke with a sense of longing...I wanted to be surrounded by my loved ones, to make holiday plans, share wish lists and finish the day with a fabulous cooked meal. I love my alone time but not today. No reason, no rhyme, just not today. I was about to think that I couldn't have what I wanted and then I opened a old book. I was researching the crown jewels and inside was an old envelope addressed to Mr. Claus, 1 North Pole Avenue, North Pole, NP 00010. My heart started jumping as I read Camille's Christmas list to Santa. Just her handwriting made me happy! Long ago I began to place letters in books and forget about them on purpose. The thinking was that I would find them one day again when I truly needed to find them. Like magic they would take me back in time, flood me with memories and reminders that would then inspire me anew. With today's discovery, my longing lessened and I was filled with so many wonderful memories of times past when the Christmas list would get written, holiday plans would begin brewing and visions of that year's Christmas dinner would begin to develop. I could hear the excited voices and see the bright eyes full of dreams both material and otherwise and, in that moment, I felt surrounded by my loved ones. Instead of wishing for everyone else's lists and excitement , what I got today was that I would make my own.
So here is a list of what I want for Christmas:
Christmas spirit even when I am alone
Holiday recipes to share
Letters sent to me that I can keep hiding
Books to tuck them in
Oh, and maybe one of the jewels I saw in the Queen's crown...
Love, (one and only, I think) Carla Labat

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Holding Steady

I finished a long 3 day event in Los Angeles to promote Camille K. Exhausted, I am on my hotel room bed reviewing everything in my mind. I have had 53 years to figure out what my passion is and now is the time to live it and make something of it. Funny, I didn't expect to be 53 at this junction in the road but life is surprising that way. I met over a hundred people and talked about the vision for Camille K jewels to each and every one of them. It was Carla Labat and Camille K in capsule form. What I know was that there was a lot of buzz around the jewelry--serious buzz and I am making sure that I draw the line between taking myself seriously and taking myself too seriously. I'm holding back yet striving to stay joyful. I want to believe and I want to hold steady.
During my dancing days, I taught students how to work from their "center". Imagine a dancer stopping in high relevé. Then imagine the dancer in that very controlled pose while allowing her arms to swing about through the air, with the head following and the body not far behind. There is freedom in the movement but the freedom comes from being able to control oneself, staying on center. I always loved the feeling in my body of the push and pull dynamic of dance and while I am not any longer dancing, I still feel the push and pull of life going on around me.
Now I am using my creativity to make jewelry. I am still presenting myself as I did in dance but only in a different form. I make the jewelry but the jewelry now performs for me. When it is on display as it has been this week, I am hearing people talk about it as though it is something unique and special. Something created outside the box. This makes me happy and I feel that what I am doing is good . Yet when I hear the words from Vogue and Glamour magazines, stylists for Hally Berry, Hilary Swank, Cate Blanchett, Cher, seasoned costume designers, buyers and young interns helping at this event, I listen, but I listen more to that part of me--my center as it were, that strives to keep me on balance. The biggest gift that their words give me is the gift of seeing myself through their eyes. They don't know me at all except for the expression that my jewelry allows them to see, and yet they offer me the chance to glance at myself from their distance.
There is so much emotion involved in creating anything. People explain their projects, visions, accomplishments and desires to me not knowing what my history is. I smile knowingly as the 2 time Emmy award winning costume designer explains to me how she feels her way through to developing a concept for a singer, dancer or actor. She explains it to me as though I don't know that world. Maybe I don't on her level and yet I do. I keep that to myself. There is no way that I could make the jewelry I make without knowing how to set a stage or choreograph a dance, how to interpret a character or how to feel the spirit of another human being. My jewelry sets its own stage. That is why I make statement pieces--the thrill of the "performance". I see so many things and feel so many things and I hope that my jewelry carries those emotions through to the wearer. If I do have this opportunity to design jewelry for "Dangerous Beauty", it will be the most amazing way for me to have "danced" on a stage of this size. And to design for a Venetian courtesan, well that would fulfill my fantasy of living that life each time I sit in the Palais Royal in Paris and imagine how that would have been. My jewelry is made for the courtesan in all of us and I know that. Somehow I know that and I don't know why. This is one why that isn't important. I am just happy that I know. Knowing is believing and that leads to believing in myself. That's the deal. I believe in myself and I hope my jewelry speaks that for me.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Run Unleashed!

My convertible has a way of making me feel "unleashed"! Off to LA!
The hand-painted sky in Ventura was dramatic....
and the man on horse back in Summerland was a sight to behold.
But nothing is better than a sidewalk seat at the Brighton coffee shop in Beverly Hills for people watching. High drama!
Is this the fashion police?
As this young lady kept tugging at her skirt, I thought the pole offered the perfect place to hide!
Plaid versus paisley? Hmmmm...
Like mother, like daughter! Chanel handbag? Check! Louis Vuitton handbag? Check! L.A. never disappoints!

Monday, June 14, 2010


My father, Adam, is a perfectionist. As a hobby, he has always worked with wood making beautiful furniture and accessories. When I think of my dad, I smell sawdust and hear the saw grinding. For all the years I have travelled home, I looked forward to seeing his new projects, tried to be patient while he was explaining his detailed techniques and quite simply, to smelling the wood curls that lay all over the floor. Now when I go home the first thing I see is this sign, "Tools for sale". In the same way he has always organized his workspace so perfectly, he has begun to display and sell his tools. I appreciate this and at the same time I am saddened by it. With each tool that sells, another memory seems to go with it. I have reserved some of his special tools...can't bear to have them sold and even though I don't know how to use them, I will always know that he did. Lovingly so.


Many years ago I had a college friend named Bob. After college, Bob dabbled in dance and worked his day job at Measurex. Bob worked with Susan and Susan was looking for a dance studio for her daughter Aimee. Aimee became my dance student and when she was old enough, helped me with Camille. Camille loved Aimee and I was very fortunate to have a reliable, mature and loving babysitter. Fast forward (and believe me, life is moving fast) to last week when Aimee stopped by with her two lovely children, Nya and the baby, Teyo. Aimee has always kept in touch with me and I treasure our visits. She reminds me of the value of my teaching years and for that I am grateful.
Nya is so sweet and clever. I loved her moment in the old French bucket and her choice of stuffed animals from Camille's bedroom. That dog was one of my stuffed animals when I was a child. She is a charmer! And Teyo....well, he took me back in time. He reminded me of the joy and peace that is found in holding a baby. I closed my eyes and remembered my Camille...He fell asleep in my arms for the rest of the visit and I fell under his spell. His smell, his soft breath, his absolute trust in the person that was holding him--a perfect calm. The sun was shining, the breeze was gentle and I was in the presence of grace.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Feeding Success!

I worked a pretty full day today, June 3, 2010. It wasn't an ordinary day today as it is the day on which Camille K took the first steps toward producing its secondary jewelry line. With thrill and fear ( more thrill than fear!) I am choosing 15 pieces of my primary line to be reproduced in larger quantities. So with a bag full of jewels, I left my atelier to head home and work some more! Part way there I thought about dinner....hmmmm. Alain is in Tokyo, Camille is in London and I will be dining solo. What would I like? Yes! Sancho's fish tacos--the absolute best! That decided, I started thinking about the importance of the day and what I would do to seal Camille K's success. I'm always looking for a lucky charm, a sign, a way to wish, or a deed to perform to bring on the good karma! I pulled into a great parking spot and headed into Sancho's. There was a young man, bike helmut still on, ordering his dinner. It was his first time at Sancho's so he had a lot of questions...I was still occupied thinking about finding my karma moment so I was patient. When it came time for him to pay, the cashier told him they only accept cash. He stood there crushed while staring into his very empty wallet---no cash! And so it appeared that my moment had arrived. I asked him if he would mind if I paid for his dinner. He turned red and smiled and in a very timid voice replied, wow...thank you! He said that he wished there was something he could do for me. I told him that he already had...with his red cheeks and kind smile! And to myself I added, and you just contributed to the success of my business!
I have always believed that what you give out returns to you and so tonight I fed a stranger dinner, myself some fabulous fish tacos and I fed Camille K's success!

Monday, May 31, 2010

In the Field! Outstanding!

I have always wanted to attend a dinner hosted by the organization, Outstanding in the Field. They began in 1999 and David Kinch was one of the first chefs to participate in the event. They combine farmers with chefs and winemakers to create an amazing dining experience. We chose their event in Ojai at Rio Gozo Farm. I love Ojai and it was a great chance to combine this with a quick trip home to Ventura.
We brought our own dishes....a way for the guests to bring something to the table.
And walked through the dirt to where the gathering would begin.
Jim Denevan, the man in the hat, is the founder. What a visionary! His organizer is in the middle and the farmer, John Fonteyn is on the right. They all spoke about their ideas of the slow food movement and what the harvest represents for us all. It was quite inspiring and John the farmer, was the most eloquent farmer I have ever heard speak (besides Alain, of course!).
The plates began to arrive along with the guests and the Rio Gozo pixie tangerines were sweet!
As we walked and toured the farm to arrive at the surprise location of the table, this was the first glimpse we had of it!
The table was set for 170 guests!
Yes, 170 people on the farm....dirt under our feet, bugs flying in the air, the Ojai mountain tops as the backdrop and food and wine as local and purely organic as you can dream of!

Our first course, Rio Gozo roasted beets and mint. Petty Ranch blood oranges and avocado. Healthy Family Farms goat cheese and Ojai olive oil! We had a wonderful Santa Ynez Valley Rose (2009 Vogelzang Rose) along with it.
The 2nd course was Rio Gozo grilled squash, fennel confit, wilted romaine leaves, fennel frond bagna cauda, and grilled Meyer lemon. For the wine, we enjoyed a 2007 Nebbiolo from Stolpman Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley.
Oh, the Niman Ranch braised short ribs melted in our mouths! Served with green garlic creamed swiss chard and Nantes carrots, we were in heaven. The wine, and my favorite of the evening, was a 2007 Petite Sirah, Branham/Obsidian Vineyard.
Dessert was grilled brioche "French toast" , Ventura Limoncello sabayone (who knew Ventura had a Limoncello maker!) and Rio Gozo mulberries picked just that morning. They were the first mulberries I had ever experienced! So sweet and so beautiful!
Toward the end of the evening, the winemaker looked pretty relaxed. We all were. What an experience to sit down to dinner with so many people who are interested in food; from farm to table. It was an honor to sit across from farmer John and hear the passion in his voice when he talked about his crops. How wonderful to know that Chef Tim Kilcoyne (The Sidecar Restaurant, Ventura) treats John like a visionary and not like a guy peddling his crops. Everywhere you looked there was fabulous food, beautiful color, and fine wines all made more special by the respect that the guests brought to the table. Outstanding! Outstanding in the Field! (
As we strolled back off the farm and into our car, we headed to the Ojai Valley Inn for a good night's sleep. With such a great moment behind us, we felt the joy of a most nurturing and inspiring evening. Only sweet dreams could follow!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Straight Shooter!

The time has passed quickly and slowly in moments. Camille, it seems, left just a moment ago for her four year college experience in Saint Andrews, Scotland. And now, as the week ticks by, the time is up and the next phase is in the works. How can that be?

All I know is that when Camille was warm and cozy inside of me, I promised her that I would do my best to help her be a balanced, generous and respectful human being. I promised myself that I wouldn't hold on too tightly so that she could grow and become a confident, self-reliant young lady. I think I kept my promises to both of us and now as she graduates, I know that she will take aim and fire in the direction of her dreams and that with luck and support, she will hit her target! Camille is a straight shooter and I am her lucky mother.

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

We can hope for many things in life and heaven knows I like to dream big! I am here to say that there are days when the gifts we can only imagine, appear right before our very eyes. The rain turns to mist, the sun sneeks out and nature dances across the sky.

Today was a day like that. The sky opened up and my world was filled with people whose generous hearts pumped life back into mine. Sometimes I feel depeleted, in need of a deep breath and a good friend. I found my breath in the kind, written words of a friend who understood my heart and shared his. And then, I found another breath in two other friends who took the time out of their day to visit my parents and to pay hommage to the home where I grew up. They described the experience as a completion of the bond of our friendship. I was moved and honored.
Somewhere over the rainbow, is right here in my heart.

Dressed to Kill!

Once in a great while, I am invited to a party where it is imperative to "dress to kill"! This party in San Francisco was that invitation. So dressed, masked and pouffed just right, I headed out into the night to attend this masked ball!
Doormen the likes I had not seen before greeted us...
Liquid mini pools of vodka, everpresent!
The master of ceremony, Ken Fulk!
Mask back on until 11:30!
Multi-levels of eye candy, detail, vibe, and music.
Ms. Hale, the honoree.
Ambience like no other.
Imagery that lasted well into the night.
Who is that masked man? Anyone you want him to be! Crazy, crazy, fabulous party!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Can You Imagine?

...I almost missed it! Spring showed up in my garden and I was so sure we were still in the midst of Winter--I didn't notice. It's good to be sure about things in life, but it isn't good to be so sure that we miss something important.
My peony plant had bloomed and I was so busy with work, people, worry and life in general that I didn't notice. What else had I missed?
I was in the garden tonight cleaning up after the dogs....quite a mundane task at best and there they were! Three blooms. Three! They were hanging their heads as if they were sad...disappointed maybe, that noone had noticed them. We all know that feeling...
But there they were, in all their glory--holding strong until I could get there. This is my peony plant that Camille offered me for Mother's Day so many years ago. When it blooms, it is a heartfelt event for me. When I hold the flower in my hand, I see Camille's face smiling up at me. So very special.
And then, one thing led to another and I started noticing the colors and blooms all around me!
I think that reds and pinks will be my colors of choice for the Spring!
More peonies ready to be noticed!
And the Camelias already out and about!
Even the fallen blooms were alive with color...

And if in my haste and self-absorption I had missed all of this? Can you imagine?