Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dallas Dweller: Shona Gilbert

Dallas is full of colorful characters. There are those you see monthly in the society pages, whose stories are legendary in this town. But, this feature is inspired by the people that I think you should know more about because of their fabulous style, interesting back-story or amazing accomplishments.  Dallas Dweller seeks to introduce you to these fabulous faces and this week, I want to introduce you to a jeweler who's fame is on the rise. Her line has recently been picked up by Neiman Marcus and she's set to rock the accessory world with her innovative creations:

Shona Gilbert

I first met Shona Gilbert at an event at TOOTSIES this past Spring. She was there with a mutual friend, Rhonda Sargent Chambers, who introduced us. The first thought that ran through my head as we were being introduced was that she had on the most amazing jewelry. As I'm thinking this thought, Rhonda says to me, "Shona is a jewelry designer. Her pieces are in the Dallas Museum of Art's gift shop for the Gaultier exhibit." Well, there you go!  After 5 minutes of talking to her, I was captivated by her bohemian spirit and charming style. I hope you enjoy getting to know her through this article.

Shona Gilbert (photo: Thomas Garza Photography)
Q:  Tell me the story of your life in under 2 minutes.

A:  I’m a California native and grew up in in the Valley of Sonoma County. For a handful of years we lived in Los Angels where my father served in the Air Force and I surfed tournaments on a national level. I pretty much grew up on the beach during those years and so it is only natural for me to have a collection solely inspired by the elements in ocean.

I worked and put myself through school (at the University of Texas). Growing up I gravitated to themes like, life and death, afterlife, or nonexistence. Religion, art, and psychology intrigue me too. When I first started school in Austin I thought I was going to pursue seminary studies, but since I was very agnostic and leaned more to ‘eastern philosophy’ for guidance, I studied Art History. In the end, all these studies merged into a very loose and guarded view of Humanities.

Shortly after having my first child, my husband and I re-located to New York City’s Upper West Side of Manhattan. While living in New York I grew very active in the Jewish community and spent most of my time running - literally. Yoga, veganism, and health grew as a way of life in New York and then in Connecticut. Also, it was during some very difficult times of my life, I learned the value and power of community giving.

Maggie Kipp is one of Shona's biggest fans and customers. She is seen here in one of
Shona's signature pieces from the "Pebbles" collection

Q:  When did you start making jewelry?

A:  I’ve always loved to make pretty things and started doing so mostly in college. I didn’t have much money so I shopped on a very strict budget and made all my own accessories. Accenting myself with statement pieces was something I discovered at the early age of 14. After relocating to Dallas in early 2010, my youngest daughter started pre-school and because I have had the good fortune of being a “stay-home-mom” I had time on my hands to get back to being artistic.  SHŌNA evolved very quickly.  My “first born” pieces all defined the collections, and the collections created themselves with little effort. When this little hobby started to get expensive and I didn’t see an end to this growing “project” it became a serious business!

Q: Neiman Marcus just picked up your line - which is amazing for any designer! Talk about how that partnership came to be.

A:  I have learned that it usually just takes one hit to get a foot in the door and I am so lucky to have had that. The DMA was a big success and gave me credibility going forward. I walked into the Neiman’s flagship store with my just completed look-book, tied with burlap ribbon, and handed it over to a sales rep in designer jewelry. I received a phone call one day later to talk about a trunk show. It was a little bit of risk for them and trial and error for me, in that Neiman Marcus went out on limb to see what would happen during a two day sales event. Thankfully I had an angel on my shoulder and sold 39 pieces retailing over $24,000, which blew me and everyone at Neiman Marcus management away.

Q:  Let's talk about Dallas... Where do you love to dine around town?

A: Villa O’ is a mainstay and I love the organic flat round goat cheese pizza coming out of the oven. Any night of the week Steven Pyles ranks among my favorite for the “greens with really good olive oil” fish, and their wine selection is good too. One of my favorite things about Dallas is that you can eat out on a patio all year round. On the Katy Trail my favorite place to brunch is Company Café. Hands down the best Bloody Mary ever!

Q:  You have 2 little girls. What are a few of your favorite things to do (or places to go) with the kids in Dallas?

A:  By far my favorite thing to do with my children is a casual day with our friends at the pool. I really enjoy either the pool in my back garden, or the public University Park Pool with all their slides and diving boards. I’ll be looking for the shade if I’m not sitting on the steps of the shallow side. Also the Dallas Arboretum is a beautiful place to go let the girls run around as long as it is not too hot and if so then it is back to the pool for us;)

Q: You are very involved in the charity scene. What are a couple of your favorite groups to support and why? 

A: Since moving to Dallas two years ago it has been a priority to support the schools my girls attend and then our Shuls, which is another word for Temple. I am also patron of the arts at the Dallas Museum of Art and the Texas Ballet Theater. Some of the campaigns I have supported are Breast Bridge, Leukemia Lymphoma, and Family Gateway. I will be supporting many others and, with any luck, I will have the success to really make a difference in our charitable community!