Keisha Noel began her love affair with statement jewelry as a little girl in Chicago, showing a flair for eclectic elegance far beyond her years and more sophisticated than the characteristic childlike fascination for sparkly trinkets. Keisha landed here as a student, marrying and making Atlanta her home. It wasn’t until accompanying her husband on a business trip to China and discovering the pearl market there that Keisha fully recognized she wanted to turn her passion into a business. She began designing her first collection on that trip and returned to Atlanta with the focus that would bring her to where she is today — the talented designer of the successful KZ Noel jewelry collection. We met up with Keisha at Huff Harrington Home, one of the local stores carrying her line, and learned about her personal influences.
When you were a little girl, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a teacher and a mommy. Dreams do come true, I’ve been both. I taught at St. Martin’s Episcopal School for years, and now I have precious toddler twins.
Do you remember the first piece of jewelry you had that made you giddy?
I will never forget it. It was a yellow gold ring with a small diamond. My grandmother gave it to me.
How did you get started in jewelry design?
I started designing jewelry while playing in my mother’s jewelry box. Whenever I purchased a piece of jewelry, I always envisioned changing some aspect of it. I’ve taught myself the basics and have been apprenticing under two wonderful craftsmen, one here in Atlanta and another who travels between Jaipur, India, Miami and New York.
What was the first piece you ever made?
The first piece of jewelry that I designed was an amethyst ring that I turned into a pendant. I was 8 years old. The first piece I designed as part of my KZ Noel brand was a crystal and pearl necklace. My dear friend, Kimberly Evans Paige, purchased that design. Soon, many other wonderful girlfriends followed, selecting pieces from that first Asian-inspired collection.
Tell us about your creative process. Do you get an overall vision of what you want? Do the stones speak to you and guide you along?
My creative process varies. I usually consider the collection while I’m traveling, inspired by my journeys. I also find architecture and nature to be strong catalysts for me — elements, water, rock formations. When I find stones that speak to me, I listen, designing around that influence.
Describe your design aesthetic for us. What does KZ Noel say about you?
My design aesthetic emphasizes the importance of versatility with most all of my pieces able to go from day to night. I hope I embody this idea myself, trying to be as versatile and fluid as possible. I don’t take life too seriously. I like to think of myself as a surfer that likes to ride the wave and see where it takes me.
What advice would you give someone starting their own business?
To remember the saying “Rome was not built in a day.” Growing a business takes time, so be patient!
Give us a few of your personal beauty secrets, techniques or products you swear by.
Do you have a personal reading list rolling right now?
Currently, my reading isn’t too exciting for most people. I’m reading Once Upon a Potty … I am working on potty training my toddler twins.
The wonderful world of twin parenting can be a joyful challenge. What have you been most surprised to learn about yourself as you’ve become a mother?
I thought life was wonderful before becoming a mother, but now I think life is just plain AMAZING!! This is the most exciting time in my life. Seeing the world through their eyes is beautiful. To love, protect and nurture while letting them grow into their own identity is challenging.
That joyful challenge can also make date night a necessity! Which restaurants do you and your husband hit once that sitter is confirmed?
My husband and I have date night once per week. We absolutely love Umi. When the weather is warm, we like to sit on the river at Canoe. We have also recently starting enjoying the restaurants at the Shops of Buckhead.
Name three things you just cannot live without, other than faith, family and friends.
Meditation, which I do every day, the feel of the sun on my face and the sound of the ocean. All of these put me in a peaceful and thankful mood.
Keisha, thank you for giving us our own private showing of your incredible pieces. See more of Keisha’s pieces online at kznoel.com and at the KZ Noel trunk show coming March 4 and 5 to Neiman Marcus.
And thank you to Catrina Maxwell of Cat Max Photography for another round of beautiful FACES photography.