TODAY ONLY – 50% of DDS Jewelry

TODAY ONLY — which means click on this link now — Living Social is featuring Dixie Dunbar Studio as their Deal of the Day.

I still have yet to learn about how Living Social works, but I think if you get the deal, and then share the deal, and then three of your friends get the deal you’ve shared, you get it for free.

I’ll tell you right now, I’m not sharing the deal for my own personal profit (because my sister is the proprietor), BUT YOU SHOULD! Please do! Go forth and multiply!

Also, in the fine print, it *does* say “in store only”. But why on earth would you let that stop you? Pop on over to the website right now and treat yourself to some really nice & affordable earrings. You deserve them. And they make great gifts (which also justifies you buying a pair for yourself)!

Support the arts! Support independent shop owners! Support people who share my DNA!

(And, if you click on the link, you will also find out what really awesome film star will be sporting DDS jewelry to promote her new movie…)

I would say have a lovely Monday, but Mondays typically suck. Make your Monday suck less. Go get yourself something shiny, share a great deal, and make the world a better place. *hugs*

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The Jewelry Designer Diva

Just because it’s not May anymore doesn’t mean I won’t be hosting interviews on my blog anymore. They just don’t always have to be about writers…like this one!

I talk about my sister Soteria and her spectacular jewelry all the time–heck, I’ve handed out her business cards to people who have complimented me on the New York subway–but how well do you really know her? Here’s your chance to find out!

I asked her these questions a while ago — she took her time answering, and I took my time posting them. I say this because in one of the questions I reference “this holiday season,” and I actually have NO IDEA WHAT FREAKING HOLIDAY I’M TALKING ABOUT. Just so we’re clear. Enjoy!

And when you’re done, pop on over to the Dixie Dunbar Studio website and check out the pretty shiny stuff!


Alethea Kontis: When did you start making jewelry?

Soteria Kontis: I started making jewelry when I was a kid…of course I moved up the bead ladder from making friendship bracelets and daisy chains to knotting pearls, soldering and working with semi-precious stones. I always considered myself the jack of all trades until one day it occurred to me that I am actually really good at making jewelry. It’s nice to have one thing in your life you feel you’re really good at, whether it’s parallel parking or doing your taxes…it doesn’t matter what it is, just having something that makes you feel more confident about yourself is an awesome thing.

AK: Where did the name Dixie Dunbar come from?

SK: There is a Dixie Dunbar who was a famous actress in the 1930’s, but the one my store is named after is the Dixie Dunbar I helped to open this shop with 10 years ago. We worked together as best friends for years until she decided to retire two years ago. She is the coolest. I have never seen her “unadorned”, she wears jewelry when she gardens or even when she goes out for a jog. She taught me so much, her style is so unique and unmatched. People always said that Dixie could pull off so many things that they never could, and after being around her all day I finally realized why Dixie COULD in fact pull off her outlandish style…because she DOES. She doesn’t let insecurity get in the way of being who she is, and that’s her secret perfume. I aspire to be more like her. I kept the name because she lives on in the hearts of people who dare to try something new and different for themselves.

AK: How did you manage to get that famous red door?

SK: You have to offer up your first born in this town to get anything you want. I hope my husband doesn’t find out that our future son will be adopted by the city of Charleston. No, kidding. But you do have to make about 16 phone calls to city appointed members and then create a porfolio of pictures and color samples and show up in person to the Charleston Historical Society and beg and plead your case. FOR A DOOR. It’s the city’s policy, they want to keep people from “tackying” up Charleston, I suppose. I just wanted our shop to be noticed on king st. The city almost made me hire a “city approved Contractor” to paint our door FOR us, but luckily I talked them out of it.

AK: How often do you change the decorations in your shop window? How labor intensive is that?

SK: I have the most wonderful woman who helps out on occasion in the shop, and she calls me to remind me of upcoming events and holidays in which we need to decorate.  She has FABULOUS ideas, for valentines day we had huge blow up lips in the window and fuchsia pink busts with giant purple hearts behind them.  I can’t wait to see what she comes up with for the Spoleto arts festival we have in May.

AK: Who are your favorite customers?

SK: Men make the best customers. They are always content with everything. They never want anything in the shop that you DON’T have, unless their wife/girlfriend sent them on a mission for something. They are so easy to please, I swear sometimes I think I should have opened a cigar shop.

AK: Can you tell us some “worst customer” stories

SK: OH no, do I have to?!?!?  Okay, okay, well without naming any names I had (or currently have) this woman who saw a necklace in our shop window that she couldn’t live without.  Over the course of the next three months she proceeded to call us 8 to 10 times a day just to “talk” about the piece and sent us payments for it in small increments of money orders and by western union.  It got to the point where even though she was considered a customer, I felt I was being harassed.  8 to 10 times a day was a little much, and she would get angry if no one answered the phone. I tried to explain that we had a very small store and only one person in here at a time and that if we were currently helping customers there would be no one available to take her call.  She ignored my pleas and continued to call anyway.  After the three months it took to pay off the necklace we shipped it off and thought we were done with her, but she recently called back to “see what else we might have that she would like.”  I tried to direct her to the website but she didn’t seem interested.  I don’t want to jinx it, but we haven’t heard from her in a couple weeks.

AK: What are some of your favorite local independent shops?

SK: There’s a really cute shop called Willy Jay’s on middle King with some of the most adorable clothing and they are really affordable!  I also love the little local businesses that have opened up on my block, Lucinda Eden has beautiful dresses and housewares and LIly has cute little Charleston keepsakes. We are really making quite the little “locals corner” on lower King st!

AK: What would you like to tell everyone this holiday season?

SK: As a struggling owner of a local shop I must say I’d love to try to talk people into supporting local business more.  I promise we’re not that intimidating, I really don’t mind at all when people come in and let me know what they were thinking of spending…that way I can either help them find something in the shop that’s in their price range or even make them something special to give as a present.  Not only can you give a sentimental gift but you can help support the little man, I’d hate to think that one day this whole world will be one giant wal-mart.

AK: Where can people find your jewelry that don’t actually LIVE in Charleston?

SK: We do have a website,, and I now have pieces in a couple of stores around the US besides South Carolina…

Teri Anns, 290 Front St. Marietta Ohio, 45750

Artemisia, 101 S. Third Street Geneva, IL 60134

AK: If you could have one superpower (or be one superhero), who/what would it/you be?

SK: I always thought it would be cool to be able to go to any country and automatically be fluent in the language, but is that necessarily a superpower?  Or maybe I could just be Temp-Girl, who’s superpower is perpetually being 72 degrees with a light breeze.

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The Affair of the Necklace

I recently met a few friends in Fuquay-Varina, NC (still one of the coolest town names ever) for the weekend.  That Saturday was Drew Williams’ signing at the Lazy Lion (where I scored a lovely signed copy of his new book The Corruptor…do you have your copy yet?)

We didn’t want to crowd Drew, so we browsed through the store a bit, like the hungry bibliophiles we are, and when the manager got sick of us we popped out to explore the quaint little burg that is Fuquay-Varina. We stopped in to Stick Boy Bread Company first and got some smoothies. I had a divine cookie called something like a Hootenany (it doesn’t appear to be listed on their website) with oatmeal and cranberries and pecans and fairy dust mixed in.

After that, Rhonda and Joe and I split off from the group and headed down the street to gawk through shop windows down Main Street. Enticed by a VERY enthusiastic dancing ice cream come, we sought respite from the heat in an indoor mall — not like a big-bucks-anchor-store mall, but one of those minimalls where you’d find booths of Antique dealers. Only these little independent shops dealt in custom birdhouses, vintage clothing, shoes, and some awesome jewelry. As cute as the dancing ice cream was, we were put off by the overly-zealous woman trying to hawk her apple cider, and shifted further into the bowels of the mall.

Joe pulled me back to one kiosk (that was far too close to the cider woman for my taste) to check out some jewelry he thought I’d like. I certainly liked the Victorian-dressed doll with wires for hands she was using as a necklace-display, and I coveted it. The woman behind the counter, who was in the middle of telling another woman how she hand-makes all her beads, stopped long enough to tell me where in town I might find something similar. I thanked her and let her continue on her spiel while I half-heartedly browsed. I wasn’t really trying to find anything, so I wasn’t really looking. I wasn’t really looking until I saw an old-fashioned key through a glass bead filled with roses at the same time a voice above me said, “Do you know what steampunk is?”

I looked up at the woman with a sparkle in my eye and said, “You are talking to the right person.” And then I started to examine–really, truly examine–the jewelry, and it took my breath away.

Marilyn–for the shopkeeper was indeed the artist herself–returned the sparkle and began to do that whole artist thing where you start explaining to someone what went into a piece, what elements you used, and what you were trying to achieve. We both got excited and a little carried away, and we probably drove Rhonda and Joe both nuts, but I didn’t care. Her designs were EXQUISITE. And regardless of whether or not she jumped on the Steampunk bandwagon, the movement is right up her alley. Marilyn has the Victorian sensibility to make her PERFECT for this kind of work. She went on to tell me that she gives classes on how to make glass beads. This was one thing about Fuquay-Varina I adored: from coffee roasting to stained-glass work, almost every single store gives a class on SOMETHING. I wanted to stay for a week or two, just to take them all. I definitely took a card, and promised that I would check out Marilyn’s website. She has some glass bead tutorials there, and a myriad of other things to peek through and find. She also has an Etsy shop (though there are no Steampunk items currently for sale there) and a place at 1000 Markets (there is currently a Steampunk ring there for less than $40. You better snap it up before I do.)

The best way to see the Peraza Beads merchandise, of course, is to visit the shop in Fuquay-Varina, if you can. Tell Marilyn I said hello. And be sure to pick up a piece or three while her artwork is still affordable. I got the cross-and-rose necklace at the top, of course. I couldn’t resist the handmade chain, or the fact that the center stone of the cross was a garnet — my birthstone. And Marilyn’s…and Rhonda’s daughter. We’re all just a bunch of stinking Capricorns.

But boy do we make gorgeous art.

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