Marti Heil dreams of childhood joys and whimsy, which has led her to the founding of her jewelry making company, Fables. Through the use of quality craftsmanship from the heart of America’s finest jewelry district, Marti exudes her playful and feminine personality. Each of her pieces tells a story and is drawn upon the many inspirations she holds dear to her heart.
These quirky fantasies make Marti a true Dreamer Embodied and we’re excited to share her jewelry line (and the chance to win a piece of it!) with you today.
Darling Magazine: What lead to the start of Fables in the Air?
Marti: My original “landed” company was Fables – “stories in sterling silver”, so it seemed a natural progression to airlift those stories and create a magical space in the internet. Fables by Marti Heil, is like a French circus – with fortune tellers, all kinds of nooks and crannies to explore, and a vintage “virtual” slot machine that really works. I wanted people to go there to relax from the stresses of life – and to bring them back to childhood joys, in the same way my jewelry’s nostalgic edge evokes feel-good memories. I created the store within the site, and you enter by clicking on the clown in the opera house as Edith Piaf sings “La Foule”. The point of my site is not to sell jewelry, it is just meant to delight, distract and renew the soul — whether or not one clicks on the circus tent marked “store”. (I designed my site with the brilliantly creative and talented Brigitte Gavin at the helm. She brought my ideas to life and can do the same for you.)
DM: Why is it important that your jewelry is made in the USA?
Marti: My jewelry is primarily made in the heart of America’s finest jewelry district for three reasons: First is quality. Fables Jewelry is known as much for its quality as it is for its uniqueness and whimsicality. Second, I believe in paying a living wage to my craftspeople, and I’m happy to say that I do. Third, I live in the United States.
That being said, I am extremely happy to announce here, that I am currently working on a jewelry project with the Italian luxury brand, Montegrappa, and more details will be revealed in due course! I will be designing an exclusive line for them, and it will be made in the cradle of the fine jewelry industry – Italia!
I wanted people to go there to relax from the stresses of life – and to bring them back to childhood joys, in the same way my jewelry’s nostalgic edge evokes feel-good memories.
DM: How long does it take to make one piece? What is the process?
Marti: If you are speaking of the design process, it depends on how long it takes for me to have the particular vision and then develop it, mentally engineer the whole idea, have a wax carving (or, in intricate pieces, perhaps several wax models made for the one concept). If I have done my job well and I get it right with the first model, after an initial casting and a bit of tweaking, a rubber mold is made. Each and every piece is done with this tedious and time-consuming process. Since I tend to do large pieces, it can be a bit tricky sometimes and might take a few model adjustments to get to a final first piece.
Designing jewelry is a bit like engineering, because you may have a certain scale in mind but the wax cannot be carved too thinly or the waxes which follow after the mold is made will have uneven or thin areas and that will translate into the final silver casting. I’ve spent many years learning that ratio and how to achieve my vision. After that is accomplished and pieces are cast in silver (or gold), they are sent to my craftspeople to be filed, assembled, finished and polished. I work on two to four week turnaround, although I do my best to accommodate special requests for “rush” orders. All of my work is made-to-order.
DM: How do you mix your quirky humor with feminine style?
Marti: I love being disarming – I mean to say, surprising people once they think they have a handle on who I am. Tinkerbell was my favorite character in Peter Pan – the mystery, the femininity, the feistiness, the sensitivity, the energy, the devotion (not the jealousy) and, ultimately, selfless love leading to the light, which was her essence.
My mother is my mentor. She looks like Jackie Kennedy and is the epitome of femininity and the very definition of a “lady.” She could have been a top fashion designer, and she is, in my opinion. Because my father was an Episcopal priest, we were regulars at rummage sales, where she taught me to look at a piece of clothing and envision a transformation to an entirely new design. I would sit by the sewing machine and was her fascinated student. The clothing she made for herself left remnants, and my Barbie’s handmade clothing was the envy of all of my friends who could actually afford to buy the clothing by Mattel.
DM: What (and who) inspires you?
Marti: Coco Chanel, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Jacqueline Kennedy, Barbie (the heck with her disproportionate measurements, I just loved her wardrobe and how she could be a doctor and still have a fashion sense)! I love charm bracelets and the stories they tell, and I love things with mixed messages, or, what is referred to in “Fablesland” as “Tongue-in-Chic”.
I am inspired by what I think I see, because if it has already been done, I am not interested.
I am inspired by what I think I see, because if it has already been done, I am not interested. I strive to create a feeling, provoke an emotion, stir a memory, bring a smile, and to create pieces which make the wearer feel incredibly unique and special — jewelry which is not dictated by a fashion “season” but to be worn through generations, because its story is perdurable. I like to mix my knowledge of fashion and fabrics and sewing to create seemingly impossible translations in the form of wearable art jewelry.
I’m inspired by far too many different people, places and things to answer this question at one sitting. Music inspires me. My three children inspire. Being told an idea is impossible inspires me. I’ve been known to stand by my caster, as he is shaking his head, smiling and repeating, “I have faith in you.” I’ve also been told that I turn women’s drudgery into fashion statements and that makes me laugh.
Oh, and laughter inspires me.
DM: What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own jewelry line?
Marti: Don’t try to be anyone but yourself. Try to do something unique and develop your own style and start small. I’m seeing some amazing jewelry made from repurposing and recycling — a sort of green school of design and I love it. Doing what I do is an expensive start up; you have to have models, molds and samples made. If you use less expensive materials you don’t run into the problem I have had which is to have been my own “factor” or backer, so money which comes in, goes right back into the business and you have to allow for having double samples made if you want to add a good rep (which I HIGHLY recommend) into the mix.
Once you get some sort of small line together, don’t be afraid to contact fashion magazines and tell them that you are just starting off and would love to show them what you do. That is how I started and Vogue was my first magazine editorial. That was also how I landed the best rep in the business, and they called me. I’ll give you my late Papa’s sage advice: “Don’t be afraid to ask. The worst they can say is ‘No.'” Also, don’t be afraid to help other people. It will never get in the way of your success, but learn who you can trust and work only with people who guard your designs. Mostly, have fun with it!
DM: What does being a dreamer mean to you?
Marti: That’s akin to asking what breathing means to me. I have never been bored for a moment of my life. My problem has always been one of not enough hours. I’m grateful for that. I have a list of things I can’t wait to do and they include: Re-reading my old music theory textbook, studying electric bass again, really learning French, playing the violin again, recording a Christmas album, learning to drive a stick shift, and figuring out how to actually see those Magic Eye puzzles I used to pretend I saw. I have a friend who is about 85 years old and she has never stopped learning and growing. She is most excited these days by the fact that she goes to the New York Public Library twice a week to take computer classes and is about to master email. I gave her a few hand-me-downs and she told me she is all set with her great fashion pieces for the next ten years!
When people tell me my balloon hasn’t landed, I take it as a compliment. I’ll dream as long as I have breath. And I’ll thank God for every last one.
Win one of Marti’s unique creations, the Tresse Dome Cocktail Ring! See below for how to enter. Contest open until July 3rd!