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AN ODE TO MY FRIEND CATHY WATERMAN
AND HER MAGIC
AND HER MAGIC
My first visit to Santa Monica to meet Cathy Waterman in November 1997 was challenging. I had tricked an InStyle editor into sharing her unlisted phone number, and when she answered, her first question was: How did you get my phone number? After a lengthy conversation convincing her that I HAD to have her collection, Cathy said that Friday “You may have my collection if you are here Tuesday to get jewelry for holiday.” She later said she was surprised I showed up. My first solo drive in LA (pre-GPS and with a map in hand) almost brought me to tears trying to navigate the Santa Monica hills, as the key road to her studio was closed due to mudslides. Undeterred, I powered on and spent the first of my many blissful visits picking out jewelry. The rest is history, clearly…
“Do you want to see my baby raccoons?” laughed Cathy Waterman on a studio visit later in our friendship.
This memory as well as other special moments in my 23-year friendship with Cathy is why I can’t wait to get on a plane to get back to California to see Cathy and her family, discover new treasures in her Studio and enjoy her ever-changing garden. Of all the travel I have missed because of Covid, the hills of Santa Monica have been calling me to visit Cathy Waterman first.
THE STUDIO AND GARDEN
Cathy’s studio is magical. There has never been a visit that I haven’t discovered something unexpected and special, and often it was not something Cathy intended me to see. I am curious, and truth be told, nosy. When I visit Cathy, my eyes feast on photos on the wall, trays of jewelry, flowers and trinkets casually tossed into tiny bowls on her desk. Years ago I found a shiny daisy with diamonds and with unfinished connectors and was so taken with it that I asked her to make exclusive pendants for Ylang 23. We named them Joanne’s Flower, and I’m happy to see so many clients who have added it to their charm collection. My eagle eyes have spotted stones which I have asked to have made into earrings or a pendant. It’s a candy store to me, and my sweet tooth can never get enough of it.
I am never without my camera (my huge Sony Mavica in the ’90s, Canon or various digital cameras in the 2000s, and most recently my iPad and iPhone) to take as many pictures as I can of the jewelry and whoever is in the studio that day. There is no better place to photograph Cathy’s nature-inspired creations than outside in natural light, either hanging from her vines or against mossy pots. It’s just not the same back in Dallas.
Moments very special to me have been celebrated in Cathy’s studio. I have visited several times on my birthday, as January is a great time to reboot for the season and besides, I like being out of town for birthdays. Cathy’s daughter Coco of Coco Bakes, her namesake baking company which specializes in gluten free bread and pastries, has crashed our meetings with a medley of mini poppy seed and carrot cakes with birthday candles and hand-painted cards, and longtime and treasured employee Blanca always keeps my cup filled with tea. When there’s not cake, Cathy serves her famous chocolate chip cookies for which I have the recipe (but it’s not quite the same when I make them) or her roasted almonds with a kick of cayenne. Cathy’s cooking is the real deal, and spending time in her kitchen inspires me.
Speaking of homemade, I have always had ‘homemade’ envy when it comes to Cathy, who hand-stitched memory quilts for her girls when they were small. I always kept those quilts in my mind, and when Alysa graduated, I found someone to do the hand-stitched work as a graduation present.
It was all meant to be. Cathy and I, while from different backgrounds (California vs. Arkansas), are the same age and anchored in the same family values. We say all the time that we are the luckiest girls in the world to have husbands like her Eddie and my Charles who by the way adore each other. And what has been most special is that daughter Claire joined her company around the same time as Alysa joined ours. Alysa and Claire have woven in and out of each other’s lives for many years, starting with Claire’s Bat Mitzvah and continuing to a shared time living and working in New York City. They now have a friendship that is sisterly. Cathy and I both miss our Jewish Mothers dearly and often talk about life in a way that is uniquely ours. And we miss each other; the Zooms and even FaceTime just don’t do it. Our friendship goes far beyond the love of jewelry we share… We are constantly trading ideas, thoughts, and book suggestions.
ON THE JEWELRY AND OUR DIFFERENT APPROACHES
Cathy’s first personal appearance in Dallas was nerve-wracking for me. She landed with severe homesickness because she was missing one of Claire’s soccer games; she was Vegan and we carefully selected a top Italian restaurant for dinner. When her order arrived, she called the waiter back and asked what the specks were in her pasta sauce, and to our chagrin, he said bacon bits. But my stress moment came when she laid eyes on our store which was a glass Pavillion (affectionately called a “kiosk” by many longtime clients) and said, “But Joanne! Where do I have private appointments with clients?” I explained that we didn’t sell by appointment and that it would be a happy mash-up of everyone crowding counters, which was an understatement. Needless to say, it was an amazing trunk show and we felt we had passed a test with flying colors.
When Ylang 23’s selling website launched in 2000, we offered 6 items for sale, and by the end of the year, had added our highest-end jewelry which was Cathy Waterman. I couldn't tell Cathy over the phone (fear factor!) so I hopped a plane and watched her shocked reaction as she powered up her (quite slow) computer. "But Joanne! You can see my things!" (Added to the drama was Cathy covering her eyes with her hands). I had to explain that yes, we had to show it to sell it.
Throughout the last year, Cathy and I have continued to become indescribably closer. I’m proud to say that my friend relaunched her own website (where yes, you can see the jewelry!). She does everything with so much care and thought. We at Ylang 23 do too, it’s just different. Where the two of us converge is magic - We look forward to the next decades of working together and being friends.
As a footnote, on a recent and late night, I was smiling from my bed. Cathy, Claire, Alysa, and I were on an hour group text, reassuring each other after a stressful day which included a Coup attempt. We made some great decisions: Claire needed to read Goodnight Moon to Cy every night, I needed to make Cathy’s Cardamom Cake, we needed to investigate Nick’s Breathwrk App, and we need to attack our reading lists (Alysa and me: A Promised Land; Cathy: Daisy Jones and the Six; and Claire who is wading through a stack of Children’s books including 5 Love Languages of Children.