Create personalized keepsakes with embellishments.
Buttons and beads, ribbons and rhinestones. The emphasis is on embellishing at Gilding the Lily, a boutique in the business of selling accoutrements that add a little splash and a lot of charm to just about anything.
The store’s name says it all. “When something doesn’t need embellishment, it’s called ‘gilding the lily.’ People don’t need this stuff, they want it; they treasure it,” owner Nancy Jamar explains.
As with many people whose life’s work was a long-held dream, Nancy received her calling at a young age. “My mother had a button collection. She used to give each one to me on cardstock with a note attached,” Nancy recalls. “For example, one note said, ‘This button is from the gray suede sports coat your dad bought on our honeymoon.’ Each button had a story woven into it.”
Nancy loves how embellishing brings a piece to life, infusing them with a sense of history once it is a personalized keepsake. Her collection started with children’s hats from the 1930s that were being sold at a flea market. The hats were not in perfect condition, but she bought more than 100 of them, seeing it as an opportunity to adorn them with veiling and millinery flowers to enhance each one. Thus began her journey into acquiring the accessories that would make their way into her store.
In addition to selling vintage hats and buttons, Gilding the Lily offers vintage jewelry and handbags, writing papers, artisan jewelry, feathers, Victorian seed packets, vintage sheet music, old magazines (including wonderfully illustrated vintage French men’s magazines), whimsical paper doilies and more. These materials are used to create one-of-a-kind pieces and are also sold on Nancy’s website. The self-described “book junkie” turns to old reference books to see how jewelry, hats and clothing were made through the decades. She advises novice collectors of ephemera to scour flea markets, thrift stores and yard sales in search of materials, and downplays the need for advanced skills.
“With basic skills you can create cold connection jewelry,” she says. “You don’t have to know how to solder or weld. A beginner can dive right in by wire wrapping and linking. Just get basic tools. Half a yard of ribbon can be used as binding on a journal; old jewelry gets a new life when a relative’s brooch is made into a necklace.”
Blogs are another source of inspiration for Nancy (Lidy Baars’ French Garden House blog—littlefrenchgardenhouse.blogspot.com—is one of her favorites). Nancy began blogging in 2007 and finds it an important vehicle in connecting with other women.
“Blogging is a very important component of the women’s creative movement that’s so huge right now,” she says. “People started out scrapbooking and are now art journaling. I find it amazing that you’re meeting people from all over the world through blogs. My store is constantly evolving in response to what women are creating.” Vintage jewelry making, for example, is a hot topic right now.
Taking an active role in bringing women together through making personalized keepsakes, Nancy offers classes and workshops at Gilding the Lily. Her most requested class is jewelry making, in which she teaches skills such as stringing and beading, as well as hammering bracelets. One particularly popular class focuses on making bracelets from buttons.
Gilding the Lily hosts many talented artists, including Dede Warren, Robin Dudley-Howes, Holly Stinnett, Kelly Kilmer, Christine Rose Elle, Sid Hanner, Arlene Baker, Debby Schuh, Kristen Robinson, Jane Perry, Sherry Goodloe, Lisa Guerin and Pilar Pollock. They teach classes from jewelry design, art journaling, textile and mixed-media creations to French beaded flowers, paper dolls and embellished aprons.
Some of Nancy’s favorite materials to work with are old metals, particularly brass; silver filigree beads; citrine and quartz. She also enjoys using pearls and has several strands pinned on the wall for inspiration. Her students enjoy making brooches, bracelets and earrings using the materials, and are effusive in praising the experience of creating keepsakes in the company of other women.
“For me, it’s like being in a church. There’s no place else I’d want to be,” one student said to Nancy. Even her husband, Alain, has come to understand the significance of her role in bringing women together to express themselves using the embellishments.
“He used to call it a bunch of junk,” she says. “Now he’s changed his tune. He says, ‘Ninety percent of your clientele give you hugs hello and goodbye. I don’t know anyone who has such a customer base.’”
Gilding the Lily
305 N. Harbor Blvd. Suite 101
Fullerton, CA 92832
By Meryl Schoenbaum
Photography by Jaimee Itagaki
Styled by Jacqueline deMontravel