Four years ago, I spent a year in New Orleans. This past February, since I had begun working at Etsy, I decided to try to meet all the Etsy sellers of New Orleans, and see how they were spending their Mardis Gras. It was great to be back there to see how the city was doing. I hadn’t been back there since Katrina, and now, just after the anniversary of the storm, I’ve revisited some of my New Orleans video footage. I’ll be sharing those here on The Storque as a series. Here is Part 1 and below you’ll find Part 2.
I was in touch via email with Monique Leon from gurlygirl.etsy.com before my trip, but she missed our first face-to-face meet-up at the coffee shop. Later that night, at a circus-themed party, she overheard me talking about Etsy and we found each other! Luckily I had my video camera and I interviewed her right on the spot.
The next day I went to visit her at her home studio in the Bywater neighborhood, which is adjacent to the 9th Ward. In fact, Bywater used to be called the Upper 9th Ward until residents decided it needed a more specific name. They borrowed the telephone company’s designation, Bywater (by-the-water), and it has been known that way since the 1940s. It’s a special neighborhood situated right on the curve of the river between the Marigny and the Industrial Canal. The houses are all charming and close together. Stepping out onto the porch in the Bywater guarantees conversation with neighbors. When Monique came out to say hello to me, she saw several people she knew walking by, and they stopped to talk. We all shared a laugh about the skywriting overhead that protested the fact that people were having too much fun in the French Quarter!
The first thing I noticed about Monique’s home was the color. The outside of the house is painted bright lavender. People in New Orleans love to paint their houses in bright colors (not unlike Burano, one of the islands of Venice). A hot orange house with bright blue trim won’t turn a head. It just complements the turquoise house next door, whose bushes and trees are strewn with glittering beads, built up from past years’ Mardi Gras.
Monique’s home is a shotgun and it’s set up with her studio in the front room. Her jeweler’s bench takes up the majority of the space and her polishing station is nearby. She has all of the tools a professional jeweler needs and the enviroment of her studio is cheerful and inspiring! There was a striking hot pink Georgian era wig on the wall. Her television was gilded in gold from a previous experement just to see how it might look. Pretty amazing, it turns out! Her closet was stuffed with costumes. All the boas and sequins mixed unassumingly with her everyday clothes.
You’ll find that her jewelery has a similar character to her home. Superb, traditional craftsmanship meets the whimsy of a costume ball, like in these “stearling heart fluff earrings”.
I bought this ring from Monique — and would you believe it, I ran in to a guy in Williamsburg, Brooklyn last week wearing the same ring! I think gurlygirl is catching on…..