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Meeting Bob Dylan and My Forrest Gump Life

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Life is Hard, Clay is Soft – New Chapter!

Life is Hard, Clay is Soft

Picture of Jeck Gell, father of fashion jewelry designer Wendy Gell.

Jack Gell

My father Jack was an artist.

When I was little, my room had murals of nursery rhymes on all the walls. Jack jumping over the candle stick. Mary and her little lamb. The cow jumped over the moon. And a little mouse running up a clock. I still remember them. Dad painted them for me. But we moved from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to Long Island when I was 5 years old, leaving the painted walls behind.

 

The coolest place in our new house was the basement. Going down the stairs was a stained glass window my Mom had found covered in dust in an antique store. For some reason they had it installed going down the dark staircase to the basement instead of a window. It was a beautiful reclining lady, her face and hands were hand-painted and illuminated in a garden with butterflies and flowers around her, and round glass circles above and below.

picture of stained glass window in Wendy Gell's childhood home

marilynWhen I grew up the window resided at my lake house in Connecticut for 18 years, enjoying the western light passing through. Now she lives at my brother’s ranch on Pioneer Road only five miles from me above a fireplace well lit from behind. It is our Family’s Treasure.

There was a bar downstairs and above it was a nude picture of Marilyn Monroe with her elbow up above her head, turned aside, posing all pink and blonde and pretty. It wasn’t this one but this was the closest I could find.

The best part was the Art Table, a large piece of plywood always filled with projects on it. My father had made a life-size bust of my face and head out of a plastic clay. I wanted to make something too. My father had used up all the clay. He was a generous-spirited man. Out of the back of the head—the clay one of course, all curly hair—he took a handful of the cool gray clay and gave it to me. It felt wonderful as it squished through my small fingers.picture of Wendy Gell as a child

Day after day Daddy would give me more and more clay, and the figurine of Wendy’s head went hollow as the clay became giraffes and tigers and snakes. Soon the clay replica went limp and was gone.

Now thinking about, it a sadness flows through me, tinged with great joy, that Dad gave me a wondrous adventure as we cannibalized his own sculpture  creation of his daughter—allowing my wild creative energy to grow and flow like the raging river it is.

Sometimes when I paint now, I hear his voice…Alizarin Crimson…Rose Madder Light…Ultramarine Blue…In life he never taught me the painting colors (that I recall), but somewhere in the Akashic record, my father Who Art in Heaven tells me the colors to use and I am filled with a Cadmium Yellow joy to hear his voice. Over and over again.

Creativity and Duality, painting by Wendy Gell,1974.

Creativity and Duality, painting by Wendy Gell,1974.

“Thanks Daddy,” I say in my head.” Thanks again.”

He answers back, tenderly, “Of course, Wen.”

Years later I made a plaque of clay and jewels, it says My Truth. ” Life is Hard – Clay is Soft. ”

It stands outside my front door now, beaming a welcome to all my visitors who come by.

Life is Hard, Clay is Soft - picture of clay wall art with this saying on it by Wendy Gell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Another Story from my Upcoming Book

Here is another sample story from my upcoming book, an example of the true (and sometimes pretty harrowing) stories that will be incorporated into my memoirs. I’m so excited about this memoir editing project and hope you will visit my GoFundMe campaign to learn more!

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GoFundMe.com Campaign to Fund a Book Editor

Hi Friends, Family and Collectors!

I have just started a GoFundMe.com campaign. Through this campaign, I hope to find an editor for my memoir and to raise the funds I need to pay him or her. Please read on to find out why this is so important to me, and why I need help to complete this project.

Wendy’s Memoir Needs an Editor

I have been working on a book for many years. Many people have asked me to write a memoir, and I want to tell my story.

As a jewelry designer and artist, I had a fantastic career in the 1970s–1980s. Many said I was number ONE in my field! I was on Oprah Winfrey’s show as her favorite jewelry designer, had more than seven Vogue covers, and enjoyed tons of press all over the world. The Walt Disney Company gave me a license to produce the characters from Disney as jewelry, scarves, and more. In 1990, we were making 3 million dollars a year and I had 45 employees. Disney also granted me a license for the Wizard of OZ. Creating these pieces was so much fun and the collection sold out. We designed a Wizard of OZ scarf which I still list on eBay.

All the details of my amazing rise to success and why we went out of business is in my book. I even tell the story behind my invitation to appear on the Oprah Winfrey show.

GoFundMe.com campaign to raise funds for Wendy Gell's autobiography

A few years ago, Vera Wang called and asked me to do a tiara for her perfume princess. It appeared in many print ads as well as on TV. It was a rental, so after the shoot was over, they returned my crown and I sold it to a girl—also named Wendy—in Australia through eBay.

GoFundMe.com campaign to raise funds to pay Wendy Gell's autobiography editor
Why Wendy Needs Help to Pay for a Book Editor

This year I got very sick. I had an intense surgery with many complications and was in the hospital for a whole month. For three weeks I was on a feeding tube in my stomach. At one point I had a hemorrhage in my esophagus and violently vomited blood. All I could think of was that I never finished my book, and what would happen to all my art and jewelry, for which I had never made arrangements?

I didn’t know then if I would live or die.

My emotions were so close to the surface that all I could do was write. I filled up several spiral notebooks, writing about my life and my dreams. After returning home from the hospital, I started organizing it into chapters. Now I am ready for an editor.

The first person I thought might work out called me back to say she didn’t think she should take the job, as it was too avant garde for her.

Thanks G-d, I am getting well again, and starting to eat more solid food, so I am looking for an editor and the money to pay him or her.
GoFundMe.com campaign to raise fund to pay for editing of Wendy Gell's amazing life story as a high-end fashion jewelry designer

Behind the Scenes, Wendy’s Secret Battle with Mental Illness

The hidden undercurrent beneath this amazing career was my battle with mental illness. No one knew about this at the time. Living with bipolar disorder has presented many challenges, but under medication I’m quite happy and stable. Panic disorder and a suicidal nature complicated my life, and I was hospitalized twice after suicide attempts.

For many years, I was afraid to tell my true story, but now I want to. Many people have the same struggle and I am not ashamed about it any more.

I have experienced so much love and appreciation and live in gratitude for what I have. I’m so happy now and grateful for my life. I want to share my story with you.

Here is one of my classic folded cuffs, featured in a Detroit newspaper when I did a trunk show there. Wendy Gell GoFundMe.com campaign

Pictured here is one of my classic folded cuffs, featured in a Detroit newspaper when I did a trunk show there.

Help Wendy Pay an Editor for Her Memoir and Receive Her Book

Below is a pdf file of a chapter from my book. When you read it, you will see why I want so much to share the story of my life, and also why I need help editing the project.

Anyone who donates to my fund will get an autographed copy of my book and so much gratitude from my heart for being an important supporter of my project.

Love,
Wendy

Download (PDF, 3.68MB)

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The Gravity Free Zone at Pangea

Wendy Gell’s art exhibit The Gravity Free Zone at Pangea in Ashland, Oregon started on November 3rd and continues through the end of the month. These oil paintings on canvas, board and wood were painted between 2013 and 2015.

Wendy Gell is an artist and celebrated jewelry designer, with The Wizard of OZ, Dick Tracy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Broadway Show, and the Phantom of the Opera, among her licenses. Wendy made runway jewelry for Oscar De La Renta and Bill Blass, and appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show as Oprah’s favorite jewelry designer!

The artist just returned from teaching her second annual jewelry making workshop at the Costume Jewelry Collector’s International Convention in Providence, RI.

Shown below are some of the works available for your consideration in The Gravity Free Zone at Pangea in Ashland, Oregon. Come see them in person, or better yet, join Wendy for lunch at Pangea and hear the stories behind each painting!

Bunnies by the Shed, 18" x 24" oil on canvas by Wendy Gell, 2015
House in the Woods, original oil painting, Gelastic Art by Wendy Gell
Old Firetruck in the Apple Orchard, original oil painting, Gelastic Art by Wendy Gell
My Cup Runneth Over, by Wendy Gell
gravity-free-zone_clearer
Gravity Free Zone, original oil painting, Gelastic Art by Wendy Gell
Artist in the Gravity Free Zone, 4' x 4' oil on canvas by Wendy Gell
Peace Offering, original oil painting, Gelastic Art by Wendy Gell
Three Giraffes, oil on canvas by Wendy Gell
Magical Horse, 18" x 24" oil on canvas by Wendy Gell
Bunnies in the Forest, oil on wood by Wendy Gell
Smiling Stars, 18" x 24" oil on canvas by Wendy Gell

 

CJCI Workshop

Wendy with two CJCI jewelry making workshop participants and the jewelry they made at the 2015 CJCI workshop in Providence, RI

Wendy with two CJCI jewelry making workshop participants and the jewelry they made!

The Costume Jewelry Collectors International invited Wendy to teach her second jewelry making workshop at their annual convention in Providence, Rhode Island this year! Show here are two of the participants in the 2015 CJCI workshop with the wonderful jewelry pieces they made with Wendy’s instruction.

Here are more images from the convention workshop, click to view larger versions:

 

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Rhinestone Rosie Appraisal in January!

A Wendy Gell wristy was brought to the Antiques Roadshow by an 93 year old woman to be appraised. Rhinestone Rosie, the jewelry expert from Seattle, valued the cuff at $1000! The segment was taped in Tucson, Arizona, and will be featured on the show. It should air in early to mid-January 2016 – it promises to be a fantastic segment, so don’t miss the show!

UPDATE: A recent check shows the Tucson episodes of Antiques Roadshow will be airing in March and April 2016. Here is southern Oregon, they will be airing on SOPTV at 8pm ET on March 28, April 4, and April 11! PBS airtimes could vary by region and PBS affiliate, so if you don’t live in our area, please check your local listings for airtimes.

The Enchanting Jewelry of Wendy Gell

The Enchanting Jewelry of Wendy Gell

by Melinda Lewis, Costume Jewelry Collectors International. Reposted from the CJCI website

Wendy Gell, whose jewelry designs were seen on the wrists of the “who’s who,” during the wild-style of the ’80s, has had an extraordinary career that most in the fashion industry can only imagine. Her pieces graced the covers of Vogue, famous movie stars, and her technique was copied by many who wished to emulate her creative style.
Jewelry Designer Wendy Gell

In 1976, as a taxi driver while trying to think of a birthday gift for a friend, Wendy came up with the concept of her now famous “Wristie.” It was at that moment that her future career as a respected jewelry designer was born. The need to come up with a glitzy gift would later turn into a multi-million dollar contemporary jewelry business.

Wendy Gell Wristie Courtesy of Melinda Lewis

Her jewelry has a very distinctive style. It is bold, whimsical, and glamorous. As a jewelry designer, Wendy leaves no surface unadorned; each piece is a complete encrustation of jewels and other materials. The covering of all surfaces is analogous to creating a painting with jewels that she successfully achieves through her medium. The materials she uses form not only textural depth, but a visual delight. As a contemporary designer, Wendy not only uses present-day materials such as rhinestones, pearls, and beads, she incorporates old findings into the work. It is not unlikely to find Indian carvings, netsukes and Eisenberg pins from the ’30s and ’40s as a center focal point in the designs.

Her designs are greatly sought after in the collector’s market and her past clients include Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Isabella Rossellini, Judy Collins, and Cher. Wendy Gell’s jewelry can also be found in the private collections of Elton John (she designed sunglasses for him), Hillary Clinton, the late Andy Warhol, Elizabeth Taylor and Princess Diana.

Wendy Gell Wristies and Pins

Wendy’s first true exposure came after Vogue magazine wrote of her artistry in 1982. The magazine featured a multi page spread of the up and coming designer’s creations which showcased Isabella Rossellini wearing two highly-adorned cuffs, which were favorably received by the public and fashion press. In 1986, Wendy appeared as a featured guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show as Oprah’s favorite jewelry designer. The appearance came just one week before Oprah’s show went national.

Early in her career, Wendy began designing for fashion notables such as Oscar de la Renta and Bill Blass. Following the runway success of her designs, she began to design for numerous fashion houses. Later in 1987, she designed shoe clips for the couture designer Charles Jourdan, as well as create a seven foot Christmas tree for the store’s famous window design.

By 1990, Wendy Gell had 45 employees, and her business was tripling each year. Her off of Fifth Avenue workroom, staffed by skilled jewelry makers and young people just out of art school, produced Wendy’s jewelry collection of one-of-a-kind Wristies, and more than 1,000 different earring designs.

Disney and The Gell Success Story

Wendy Gell Minnie Mouse For Disney

Approached in 1986 at a trade show by a Disney representative to become a licensee, Wendy soon signed a million dollar agreement with Disney. Her cartoon-based line debuted in 1987 at Saks Fifth Avenue in a Wendy Gell Disney Boutique and also sold at Nordstrom, Disney stores, and the Disney theme park.

The items she designed included the 1989 Wizard of Oz characters, created in celebration of the film’s 50th anniversary. Among the many designs she produced, the line included hand-painted and pavé-set Swarovski crystal pieces, and sterling silver tin man. Along with the jewelry, Wendy designed scarves with Disney characters in sophisticated floral motifs.

In addition to the first Disney contract for her famous Mickey Mouse and other characters, Disney Enterprises Inc. later contracted with Wendy to design the accessories for the movie, Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Steven Spielberg himself ordered a 12-piece set of champagne glasses decorated with the characters for a special dinner party. The line sold out. Ironically, in 1999, Wendy herself was searching for the collectible Jessica Rabbit brooch for her personal collection. Today, the Jessica Rabbit pin is a rare collectible.

Wendy Gell Hand-screened Disney Scarf

Later, in 1995, when The Napier Co. obtained licensee privileges to manufacture jewelry product, Wendy was hired by the company as a consultant to design Disney themed jewelry, including Mickey, Minnie, Pluto and other Disney characters.

In the early 2000s, Wendy enjoyed the stimulating life of an artist, and made a name for herself through paintings that capture the spirit of the beloved canine. Her Chagall and Matisse-style paintings whimsically and magically project the inner soul of the animal that seems to speak a message of deep connection between the artist and subject. This work is a far cry from the fast pace glitz of the 1980s, yet so Wendy.

Today, Wendy teaches her jewelry techniques at OLLI at Southern Oregon University and the Ashland Art Center. Her students range from teenagers to women in their 70s and 80s. Always, there is a waiting list for her classes.

Wendy is also painting and making jeweled mosaics of late. She has two sections of her online shop, one featuring the Mezuzahs and Hamsas in her Judaica line and another showcasing her artwork and jeweled mosaics and mirrors. Wendy has also been writing a book about her life in New York working in fashion and rock music in the 1970s and 1980s with a working title A Portrait in Rhinestones.

Wendy continues to sell her jewelry and other creations on eBay, Etsy and her website www.wendygell.com. She will also be conducting a jewelry class at CJCI Convention 2014. For more details about Wendy’s class “Have Glue Gun Will Travel!” click here.

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Bring on the Bling! Jewelry Design with Wendy Gell

webwendygeneladyof thelakeJoin celebrated jewelry designer Wendy Gell and make fabulous wristies, pins, necklaces and more out of old jewelry, stones, beads etc from your drawers!
  • Sundays in October 2:00 – 4:00 pm or by appointment
  • $20 per class
  • Some materials included – but bring your own bling or purchase some of Wendy’s precious findings.
  • Held upstairs in Studio #8
  • Participants must register ahead of time with Wendy at 541-535-1954 or [email protected].
  • Held at Ashland Art Center, 357 E. Main St., Ashland, OR 97520