Beyond the doors of an unassuming storefront in Corona del Mar is a gem of a shop filled with unique jewelry and ceramics that are ethically made and created on site. The output springs from the creative collaboration of Husband-and-Wife team Mark and Josette Patterson.
or over 30 years, the Pattersons have been honing a design ethos that centers on creativity, innovation and exquisite craftsmanship. Their journey began in the early 1980s on the west coast, took wing in New York City, and came full circle when the couple relocated to Newport Beach in 2007.
Not only did Mark and Josette fall in love with the gems and jewelry early on but they also fell for each other. Easygoing Mark, who was enrolled in gemology studies at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in Santa Monica, where the couple met, would end up teaching at GIA’s New York campus. It was in the Big Apple that Josette doubled down on design coursework, this time at the Fashion Institute of Technology and the Parsons School of Design. Two years after arriving in New York, the couple married.
WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA?
JOSETTE: After finishing high school in Rome, I wanted to come to the Gemological Institute of America to figure out what exactly I wanted to specialize in. I wanted to learn about jewelry and I knew that GIA was the place for that. The good thing about the program is that it is a continuous college with classes from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. I liked the condensed format because I could more quickly figure out where I would go from there.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO DESIGNING JEWELRY?
MARK: I was on a teacher’s salary, which was nothing, and Josette was freelancing, which was the opposite of a salary since you couldn’t depend on it. We knew that that wasn’t sustainable, especially with rent and the cost of living in New York. So I started hustling, just like I did when I was a working college student. Besides my teaching job, I helped students find suppliers in the Diamond District. That’s how I learned about the industry and met people in the trade. At GIA, we would have prominent guest lecturers come and we’d visit diamond-cutting workshops in the city. It was a good immersion. In 1983, we started designing jewelry together.
JOSETTE: It was wild! But the truth is, if you wanted to be in the jewelry industry, New York was the place to be.
HOW DID YOUR COLLABORATIVE PROCESS EVOLVE?
MARK: Our process has remained the same through the years. Josette is the artist and I am more the craftsman. I am definitely more focused on sourcing the gemstones, working on the technical aspects of engineering, like how a necklace sits or how a lock works. Josette is the pure art and design of it. JOSETTE: Mark tells me: Just design it and I’ll figure out how to make it.
MARK: This bracelet (right) is one of the first pieces we made together. We didn’t have enough money to buy gemstones, but we could buy gold. So we made this 18-karat gold band with design elements of 24-karat gold. We’ve probably made a dozen of these over the last 30 years. We call it “18 and 24.” Back then, naming conventions for jewelry were pretty straightforward.
JOSETTE: If it’s a good design, it’s timeless. This one still looks pretty good.
SPEAKING OF TIMELESS DESIGNS, TELL ME ABOUT THESE BUDDHA-LIKE SCULPTURES AROUND THE SHOP.
JOSETTE: When I was taking design classes at Parsons, my teacher from Cartier — he was awesome — told me that I was designing (jewelry) too much and that I had to slow down. I couldn’t believe he said that. But when you are in your 20s you don’t really listen. He was right, of course. A few years later, I had a creative block, so I took time off from designing jewelry and took up ceramics. It was something I’d wanted to learn. I started with pots and moved on to sculptures. I’ve always liked building things with my hands. Funny you should call them Buddha-like because what I was going for was a peaceful face.
MARK: Even if the ceramics are all Josette, here’s an example of how we collaborate: When she started making the faces, she asked me if I thought she should sculpt ears. I told her yes and at first, she found making them a challenge. She’d ask me again: Do you think I should make ears? And I told her yes! Pretty soon she perfected the ears.
WOULD YOU CONSIDER JOSETTE’S SCULPTURES TO BE JEWELRY FOR THE HOME?
MARK: Why not? There are many similar elements between the design of jewelry and the sculptures. It’s the same creative design, phenomenal craftsmanship and the fact that each sculpture, just like each piece of jewelry, is one of a kind.