These sisters don’t just talk the talk, they walk the talk: California-based Patti and Lizanne Pagliei not only create jewelry under their Waxing Poetic brand that is handmade, beautiful and full of meaning, it’s also a watchword for “conscious manufacturing.” They take to heart the personal needs of their design staff in Bali and the ecological challenges facing our planet. Now they’ve planned a Mother’s Day event to raise money—and the spirits of the suffering community—in the aftermath of the Thomas Fire that devastated Southern California last December. We asked Patti what fuels her passion, and what led to the “Make Mom Sparkle and Shine” event.
Tell us about the origins of the name “Waxing Poetic.”
Early on, when I first had the idea to cast our wax seal insignias, I was “poetically” inspired by the process: each seal was a signature, a timeless identifier just like the artifacts used in ancient cultures that weren’t just for adornment, but carried information too. So I channeled this idea into our jewelry, and began crafting a palette of jewelry expression that allowed customers to combine and “author” in their own way. It wasn’t until my husband said something like: “These are Waxing Poetic” that I knew I had found my path: becoming (“waxing”) more connected to the expressive and emotional (“poetic”).
You founded the business in 2002 and are Creative Director; your sister Lizanne took over Business Development in 2008. Is it tricky for sisters to work together?
Working closely with Lizanne has been the greatest blessing. We have indeed experienced times that tested us, but they gave us an understanding of each other’s vulnerabilities, as well as our powers. It’s a mutual appreciation that is everlasting. We show up as who we are— siblings, lifelong witnesses to each other’s lives, and individuals with shared values and a commitment to our business. We LOVE what we do, so if we need to, we talk shop, but we are family, and that comes first, always.
You are a Fine Art graduate—what prompted you to choose jewelry design? How did you first get your jewelry pieces noticed? Was it a leap of faith to take something you love doing and transform it into a global business?
The treasures in my mom’s jewelry box were probably my first memory of how sacred and precious jewelry can be as an artifact, a memory, a meaning. One of my first jobs was working in a beadworks store after high school, where I would help people choose beads and make their own pieces. Customers would usually have a story: they were making a gift, or restringing pearls they were given when younger, or a vintage piece needed to be reworked. I loved helping them create something meaningful.
Then, after studying Fine Art I spent a few years in set design and film development, during which I studied story structure. Somehow I knew that storytelling would be part of my journey—plus, it led me back to making jewelry, which, in the beginning, was scrappy and involved taking my handmade jewelry to trunk shows and shops. The turning point came when the lovely actress Jane Kaczmarek wore a necklace I had designed to the Golden Globes. It was seen in The LA Times and people started calling, so I thought: “Hmm, I might have a business here.” I went for it, and soon after, the first Waxing Poetic designs took off.
What differentiates Waxing Poetic from its competitors?
There’s a quality, a poetry to our pieces that’s hard to pinpoint. I think people see themselves in our jewelry, so they return to something that feels good and special. It’s emotional, spiritual and personal—we’re not trying to tell you what to wear or do: we listen and interpret, authoring pieces for you to make your own.
Do you dance to your own design tune, or do you keep en eye on the runways, too?
Both. I love fashion and I always know what’s happening on the runways, but when it’s time to design, I tap into my own source and let the creative process happen with very little censorship; then I refine the best ideas.
We admire the care that you show your Bali staff and your respect for the planet. We feel an affinity with this, as it also defines Swarovski’s ethos.
There’s much work still to be done, but if you want to be a responsible business, then green practices and recycling are mandatory. We have to keep trying to uphold this. Even though it may not be 100% possible to get the whole checklist right at once, we need to keep moving in an “earth first” way, and share our knowledge. We are committed to manufacturing in a conscious way.
Do you have favorite Swarovski crystals that you return to, or are you lured by new-season innovations?
Yes! There are certain Swarovski crystals and color ranges that are very Waxing Poetic. We’ve been using the color Greige for a while and we love how it works with the metals. Our Eveningstar pendant and Kristal collection are favorites that combine Swarovski crystal rocks with our creamy brass finish—it’s a contrast that’s sparkly and relaxed, delivering the ease and versatility that are hallmarks of our line. As regards innovations, we love our Swarovski representative, Libby—she’s part of our process. I always look forward to seeing her latest trend boards.
What prompted the inspired idea of combining a Thomas Fire fundraiser using proceeds from the Light Loves Through Pendant with Mother’s Day on May 11?
The Thomas Fire was so devastating to our community in Santa Barbara that, as a local business, we wanted to do something. Our flagship store at The Shopkeepers was already set for a Mother’s Day event featuring Swarovski Crystalpixie manicures, and because it’s such a community hub we decided to use it to show people that we can also celebrate the community’s resilience while we’re working towards healing. We’re so grateful to our longtime friends at Swarovski who generously supported this initiative, and who have always supported what we do at Waxing Poetic.
Any big plans for Waxing Poetic in the near future?
We have several global community-themed collections launching this fall, as well as a conservation awareness line in 2019 inspired by my recent trip to learn more about the human/wildlife conflict in Kenya. We’re also excited about the growth of Personally Poetic—an empowering business opportunity embraced by our social-selling community. And look out for our first licensed collection of accent furniture with our fantastic partners at Klaussner Furniture: Waxing Poetic Home officially makes its debut this October!
Don’t miss it!
The “Make Mom Sparkle and Shine” event takes place from 4–8pm on May 11, 2018, at Waxing Poetic’s flagship store: The Shopkeepers, 137 Anacapa St A, Santa Barbara, CA 93101. It will include pieces from Waxing Poetic’s jewelry collection made using crystals from Swarovski. To add extra sparkle, professionals from Swarovski’s Crystal Beauty Academy will be offering free Swarovski Crystalpixieä nail art manicures.