Memphis native and New York resident Saundra Messinger will be back in town this week visiting friends, communing with the Mississippi River and showcasing her stunning jewelry during a trunk show October 20 – 22 at Kittie Kyle. Her connection to the Mississippi and the Hudson Rivers are what inspired the signature look of her jewelry, which primarily features hammered sterling. “Every morning I would look out at the steely grey (Hudson) river, with the sunlight shining brightly on the water, and I kept thinking ‘diamonds on the water.’ That vivid image printed itself on my brain and I was obsessed to develop jewelry that brought the image to life,” says Saundra. Jewelry design was not her first career, however; she left Memphis to pursue a singing career in New York where she met her husband, Chuck, while recording a demo tape. We are thrilled to introduce you to this creative genius! Meet Saundra Messinger, today’s FACE of Memphis!
Where did you attend school here and where did you go to college?
I was born in Memphis, graduated from White Station High School and what was then called Memphis State University. I was a big Memphis State basketball fan! I moved to New York after college to pursue my singing career. I met my husband, the love of my life, in New York. We’ve been married a few months shy of 25 years. We’ve rescued a number of children — the four-legged kind. Currently, Stella-the-Wonder-Dog helps us stay amused and fills us with love.
Describe your early career. You had a successful singing career and also worked at EILEEN FISHER. Clearly creativity is in your DNA!
My parents were and my sister is incredibly creative and maybe I was lucky enough to inherit some of that. Singing in New York was very hard work but so much fun and very rewarding. I recorded a number of jingles – I was the voice of Windjammer Cruises, Black Flag and a few more. I was introduced to Chuck at ServiSound Studio. We worked together on a demo tape for my agent and then he came to see my show a few weeks later. Afterward, he asked me if I was interested in doing an album. We began working on the album and, during that process, fell in love and got married.
While we were working on getting the album released and distributed, I went to work with Eileen Fisher. I started as her personal assistant and then I really got into it. I went on to create the PR and Advertising Department, produce runway shows, launch the company’s first national ad campaign and I eventually became the executive vice president of the company. A tiny part of my job was buying jewelry and accessories for the EILEEN FISHER retail stores. I began thinking that I needed to jump into one more thing I knew nothing about — and I began designing jewelry.
At the same time I was starting my business, my dear friend, Cindy Gambrell, was buying Kittie Kyle and she asked if she could represent me exclusively in Memphis! It’s been wonderful having such a major presence in Cindy’s store and it certainly helped me grow my business and develop my work. Despite the way it may sound, none of these opportunities came easy. I’ve worked very hard and I’ve followed my father’s philosophy every step of the way: “Don’t tell me it can’t be done. Help me find a way to do it.”
Vogue fashion editor Tonne Goodman calls your jewelry “cutting edge.” How do you describe it?
Hearing Tonne say that at the beginning of my jewelry career gave me a lot of confidence at a time when I wasn’t sure I had any idea of what I was doing! I say that my work is timeless — but with a funky twist and an elegant feel.
Your jewelry is distinct for its use of sterling and diamonds but it’s the matte finish to the metal that’s really your signature. Tell us why you focus on these materials. And what is it about them that work so well together?
I’ve always loved sterling silver. I was never really a gold girl. Chuck and I had a cute little cottage on the Hudson River at about the same time I was designing my first sample line. I’ve always loved rivers (my corporate name is Two Rivers, Inc. in honor of the two rivers I love: the Mississippi and Hudson.) Every morning, I would look out at the steely grey river, with the sunlight shining brightly on the water and I kept thinking “diamonds on the water.” That vivid image printed itself on my brain and I was obsessed to develop jewelry that brought the image to life. The whiteness of the silver — turned slightly grey during the sandblasting process — the imperfect geometric shapes (like sea glass) and the sparkle of our tiny diamonds embedded in the silver became our signature: perfectly imperfect silver and a shimmering matte finish sprinkled with diamonds.
Your trunk show is coming up soon at Kittie Kyle. What will we see at the show?
I am excited to bring my new fall and holiday collections to Kittie Kyle, along with many strands of delicious, colored gemstone beads and ring stones. One of the new collections has a tribal feel, another focuses on beautiful small diamonds in silver bezels and there’s an expansion of the chunky chain-linked pieces that are a staple for us. We began the custom aspect of the trunk show — the part that features the colored stones — in March and, based on the success we had then, we’re doing it again. This is so much fun because it gives me a chance to work with our very creative customers to create a one-of-a-kind piece.
Where’s your must-stop, or stops, when you come back to Memphis for a visit?
I make sure that I schedule a little trip downtown so I can see the river. It never fails to calm my spirit and inspire my soul. It brings back happy memories of growing up in Memphis, my parents’ real estate business at Main and Union and the condo Chuck and I still own in the South Main Arts District. We rent that out now but I always wish I could stay there when I come for a visit!
Finish this sentence: If I had a superpower, it would be…
To create peace, love and equality for everyone, everywhere.
What one word describes you?
What inspires you?
My husband, nature and the women who wear my jewelry.
What’s your best piece of advice for others?
Don’t ever let an obstacle become a road block.
What are three lighthearted things you can’t live without excluding faith, family and friends?
Bubbles (the kind you can drink); shoes and boots; and a great haircut.
The Saundra Messinger trunk show at Kittie Kyle is October 20 – 22, 2016, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Kittie Kyle is located at 3092 Poplar Ave. (in Chickasaw Oaks Plaza), Memphis, TN 38111. Learn more at (901) 452-2323.
Thanks to Micki Martin for her wonderful photos of Saundra and her jewelry!
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