When Anna first contacted me to test out and review her earrings, I couldn't believe my eyes. Every single pair was so detailed, so unique, and completely made to order by hand! They are miniature works of art and I wanted them all.
I met Anna and her sister Janice at our shop Navette (it always goes back to that, somehow!) but I hadn't seen her earrings before. I wanted to review everything in person and had "narrowed it down" to about 15 potential pairs before we met.
When I arrived, she had over 50 pairs spread out neatly on a white table, and fresh chocolate chip cookies waiting for me. We tried on earrings and talked for a couple of hours- not a bad way to spend a golden autumn afternoon!
It wasn't easy to pick but I chose the Molly earrings in shades of mint, pumpkin, and yellow. I loved the movement of this pair, and thought the color combination was really sophisticated and surprising. They look beautiful with my three favorite neutrals- navy, grey, and ivory- so I've been wearing them constantly.
My Molly earrings (rainbow sailor stripe top is older Agnes B.)
And- because I'm asked this consistently- they are so incredibly LIGHT. These aren't heavy earrings at all so they are very comfortable!
Q + A with Anna:
Your earrings are so unique! Can you tell me a bit about how you began?
I have always enjoyed creating. I started sewing probably earlier than my mom would have wanted me playing with needles- but my grandmother had this HUGE avocado green box filled with every notion you could imagine! A rainbow assortment of threads, scraps of fabric for patches, elastics, buttons, and pins. Every time I would visit I would persuade her to drag the box out and allow me to “assist” her in the mending. This quickly turned into my grandmother allowing me to sew scraps together. During these little experiences something woke up in me and I have loved sewing ever since. Growing up I always dreamed of being a famous designer of accessories, purses, bags, belts, and jewelry.
I made my first earring in the winter of 2012. My wedding was the following spring (May 25th) and I was on the hunt for something unique and special to gift to my bridesmaids. I thought it would be nice to give each girl a pair of earrings to wear on the big day. But in all of my shopping, I couldn’t find anything that felt special and unique. So I decided to create my own pair of earrings. The only problem was, I had never made jewelry before. Then I remembered a few months earlier I had seen a style of jewelry that was super unique and loved the idea so I went about finding the materials and gathering my ideas. Each design took so long that even on my wedding day I got up the at 5am to finish the last pair – but I did it…I made each bridesmaid and attendant in my wedding a unique pair of earrings. They were a HUGE hit at the wedding!
At what point did you realize you could turn this into a business?
Following my wedding, I continued to make earrings occasionally. I would want something to “match this outfit” or a pair for some big event. Then my friends would ask me to make them “a green pair” or “something to match this” and I loved creating new designs for them. Then my aunt (who is a lot like me) asked me to make “a few pairs” that she could show her lady friends. I went a little overboard and made 20 pairs- they loved them.
During the 2 months I was making those 20 pairs, my husband (who frequently was sitting next to me on the couch watching sports) started saying things like “You should sell those”, “That’s a great pair, I bet if you posted those people would want to buy them.” I would immediately dismiss the idea– I was NOT doing this to make money! Soon he started getting more insistent. “I want you to post this pair”, “Annie, you are so talented, I’ve never seen anything like that”, “Every woman that sees you wearing these wants a pair”. One day, he overheard a woman ask me how she could find my earrings. After this he immediately started researching and then got my sisters on board. Soon I couldn’t go anywhere without my family or friends insisting I create a website.
So I did. I did it to honor my husband– we brainstormed names together and landed on my formal name “Anna Livingston” and he researched the best website platform. Fortunately for me, I had all the resources I needed. One of my sisters is a photographer and the other designs and builds websites.
Without my husband’s encouragement and the support of my family and friends I would never have had the guts to start Anna Livingston. Truth be told, I would dream at night of selling my art– but when the morning came– I was too scared. Fearful that people would not like what I was creating, fearful of putting myself out there, and scared to death to fail. The thought of rejection had been paralyzing up to that point.
Anna hosting a trunk show at Pottery Barn this year
These are so intricate – can you describe your process bit? Im so impressed with all the hand-picked details and craftsmanship.
Thank you!! I pride myself in the details. I’m a bit of a perfectionist– as much of a perfectionist as any artist can be, because I do believe there is beauty in imperfection.
There are a few different ways to start making a pair of earrings. I either get an inspiration for a design I want to try and start there or I start by wanting to use specific colors or a specific focal bead that inspires me- and then allow the design to develop organically. Either way I start with the necessary materials- I only use the best braid and beads/stones or crystals. I personally have sensitive ears and expensive taste and I never want to make anything I wouldn’t wear myself. I source my materials from all over the world and many are vintage items I won’t be able to get again so everything is truly unique. I’ll never make 100 of the same pair.
Once a pair is stitched together, I pick a corresponding color of leather for the backing. As each pair is done completely by hand, the pairs will never match EXACTLY, so the leather back has to be custom cut and fit. After I cut the fabric and before I adhere it, I brand it using my AL logo – that’s one of my favorite parts! Once a pair is backed and ready to ship I slip them into a handmade pouch and package them with care.
I love all the little details from start to finish and take great care in making sure everything is thought through and done properly.
Where can you find your pieces? What are your plans for the future?
You can find Anna Livingston earrings on my website AnnaLivingston.com. Each pair of earrings is made to order start to finish. This allows me to customize according to my customers needs. For instance, I can make any pair of earrings into clip-ons if requested or I can change a backing color. I like that I am a small local business and I plan to stay this way.
Favorite places to find unique jewelry?
I love to shop in antique stores and pawn shops. You never know what little treasure you will find and I enjoy dreaming about where a newly acquired piece got its start.
Many people see my earrings and think that they are to be worn out and about or reserved for something special. This is not so. I love to style my earrings with a casual pair of jeans and a sweater or tee shirt. It gives any outfit a little punch of flair.
What do you do to get out of a creative rut? What inspires you?
I find that my creative ruts usually come about when I get tunnel visioned in life. This can mean doing the same thing day after day or even those times when I am self-focused. Traveling and/or helping someone else in their life is a sure-fire way to get me out of a creative rut! If I can’t physically travel I make a point to visit friends and areas locally that are visited by a diverse grouping of people. I love to meet, engage, and relate with people who aren’t “like me."
Lucia earrings from our @downtownannapolis giveaway- love the navy and gold.
Favorite thing to bake?
The thing I bake most is chocolate chip cookies- my husband LOVES cookies. But I also love to bake a beautiful and tasty apple pie!
Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Someone once said this to me and I say it back to myself almost everyday.
“It’s not about me. Even when I think it could be about me – it’s not.” Gives me a great perspective on life!
Most beautiful place you’ve ever travelled?
I have been fortunate enough to travel a lot in my life. After graduating I went off to visit family friends in 13 different countries for 5 months in South America, Africa, and Asia. It’s hard to pick the most beautiful. People are what makes a place beautiful.
What are three things in your purse that you can’t live without?
I am such a loyalist when it comes to “stuff." I research the best– or what I like best- and stick with it FOREVER. I’d rather have one really nice thing than 10 “just-ok” things. I do this in every aspect of life- pillows, hairbrush, shoes…everything.
Reve De Miel Lip Balm
Pilot Extra Fine Point Permanent Marker
Mulberry Credit Card Zip Pouch
What is your dream weekend in Annapolis?
Ugh I love Annapolis! I am a born and raised Annapolitan. So first of all, my perfect weekend would DEFINITELY be end of summer/early autumn.
I would wake up and go for a run (obviously this is a “perfect dream weekend scenario”…so I wouldn’t be pregnant.)
I would then get my girl friends to meet up at Bakers and Co.– I don’t drink coffee but I'm a sucker for their morning bun. We would definitely sit outside.
I would absolutely stroll around downtown with my husband and son and stop into some of my favorite shops- Alpaca International, Lil Lamb Shop, and a few others.
For lunch, we would grab a sandwich from The Big Cheese– their Apple/Brie is to-die-for!! We would eat it at Ego Alley and Rhodes would feed the ducks.
I would visit the Amish Market and grab fresh pretzels for a little snack.
At night, we would feast on crabs for dinner and finish the night probably playing a board game with friends and homemade chocolate chip cookies!
Janice (Anna's sister) on her wedding day in custom earrings.