For years, Westporter Ronit Tarshis worked at introducing the wonderful creations of artists and crafts people to TV audiences as an Emmy Award-winning producer of the "Martha Stewart Living" show. Now she's taken her own creative talents with crafts to the public.
For almost two years, Lera Jewels has been combining the elegance of high-quality materials with more casual aspects of design. Owner Tarshis has turned her childhood love of craft work into a thriving cottage industry.
"I would say all my creative influences come from my mom," said Tarshis, who was raised in both Israel and the U.S. "She was a weaver ... We grew up with a loom in the middle of our living room and a pottery wheel in the basement. ... We had a sewing machine in the middle of the kitchen."
"I learned to knit when I was like 4 years old," she said. "I made my first sweater when I was age 10."
But before she began her full-time devotion to Lera -- which was named in honor of her three daughters, Lily, Evi and Ruby, and her husband, Andy -- Tarshis was spending her days as a producer on Stewart's show.
"I loved it," she said. "It was the best job I ever had ... I loved being around creative people."
Stewart, whose television studio was modeled after her former Westport home, was convicted and spent time in prison on charges related to insider trading. She took back the reins at her company Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, last year.
"I love Martha Stewart," she said. "I have nothing bad to say about her. ... She was on your side," provided you demonstrated yourself to be intelligent and hard-working.
Tarshis proved herself both, winning an Emmy Award in 2005 for her work.
The draw of being a stay-at-home mother, however, prompted her to cut back on her production work. When all her kids finally started school, it gave her the opportunity to explore jewelry-making as a business.
"Her pieces are low key but incredibly special," said Kerri Rosenthal, a fellow artist and customer. "(They) can be worn with jeans or to a black-tie event. They are understated but completely modern in the very best way."
"It appeals to all ages, all tastes," Tarshis said of her jewelry, describing herself as someone who never really wore it before. "And I designed for the woman who doesn't really wear jewelry."
Lillian August in Norwalk is one of several stores carrying Lera Jewels, and will feature them exclusively at its soon-to-open Greenwich store.
"I don't take my bracelets off," said Lorin Klaris, whose mother-in-law founded the company, and who handles all its photography. "And the necklaces are easy to wear with jeans or a beautiful dress."
"And she sells. That's the best part," she said. "She sells very well."
For more information, check http://lerajewels.com