Interview with Catherine M. Zadeh

“Born in Iran, schooled in Paris and finding a place in New York, inspired by all her past lives, the historical buildings and places, ancient art and multicultural influences that shape a life, Catherine Zadeh creates pieces that are impressions reincarnated as sculptural shapes in silver and 18kt gold.”Her designs have been featured in magazines such as Maxim, Forum and Town & Country and are currently at the prestigious Bergdorf Goodman in New York and most locally at Gary’s
in Newport Beach. With her uniquely inspired designs for men, including cufflinks and belt buckles, and her new women’s collection, Catherine Zadeh is truly one of the designers of the moment!

Please tell us a little about your background and experience in design.

I was never formally trained as a jewelry designer. Growing up in Paris, I
was always attracted to art, fashion and beautiful objects. I used to spend my free time holed up in a chambre de bonne dabbling with oil colors on canvases, or hand painting on silk, making pillows and scarves that I would sell to my friends and neighbors.

Did you always know you wanted to be a designer?

Even though I graduated with a degree in business management, I always wanted
to be a designer, no matter the industry. One can express one’s feelings, emotion and sense of style through many venues. Mine happened to be through designing jewelry.

I am in this field today because my husband who was incidentally in the diamond industry at the time encouraged me to design my own pieces that he could manufacture. I think that if he were in the fashion industry, I would have become a fashion designer; if he were an architect I would have been an interior designer, and so on.

Tell us about the starting point of your career.

10 years ago, a male friend saw 3 self made stackable rings with diamonds that I was wearing and commissioned me to create a necklace for his wife. This was the starting point of my “career”. After 3 other commissions, he suggested that I design some cuff links for him. He loved the designs so much that he encouraged me to put together a line to sell to stores.

It was beginner’s luck when I landed my first appointment with the prestigious Bergdorf Goodman Men. They picked up my line and I have been there ever since. Today several other high-end menswear and jewelry stores carry the men’s collection.

What challenges, if any, did you face in the beginning?

I was not really challenged at the beginning of my career, for Bergdorf Goodman set the tone and others followed. There weren’t that many men jewelry designers per se and my designs stood out. I think my real challenge was having to juggle between being a mom to my three young daughters and having a career.
I wanted to grow at a reasonable pace as to never jeopardize the well being of my family. Today is a different story: My daughters are older, and I have
since decided to give women’s jewelry a go.

Tell us a little about your new women’s jewelry collection.

I created a line of jewelry in 18kt green gold, with an organic aura to it. The metal is encrusted with small and delicate diamonds, giving the piece understated brilliance without being too overwhelming. I have also created a new collection of bold belt buckles in sterling silver with candy-colored straps to be worn casually, with a ripped pair of jeans for instance.

What inspires your designs?

The “Bubble” collection was inspired by a day at the beach in the Hamptons, as I intently observed the foam created by the water on the sand. Circles of different sizes and shapes seemed to connect in my mind creating striking earrings and necklaces. Every thing inspires me: architecture, nature, color, texture, people, a particular state of mind, an event, a smile.

What is your advice to young aspiring designers?

Being a designer is easy; being successful is a different story. If I had to do it all over again, I would get an MBA, to understand how to market a collection and how to run a business. You can’t learn to be creative. You either have it or not! Learning about the manufacturing end of it is also crucial. I think understanding how a piece is made is vital to the appreciation of the final product. Then I would intern or work within the industry to learn more and acquire some more experience.

Aside from these minor technicalities, it is all up to you, your creativity, your passion, and your persistence. Never take rejection personally. Respect and believe in yourself. I also think it’s important to be patient. I have been working at this business for over ten years now, and it is still not at the level I have dreamed of. Nevertheless, I remain confident that, in time, my collection will be embraced for what it is and I will one day feel fulfilled for all the time and effort I have invested in my job. Some luck wouldn’t hurt either!

The Cravery

As an artist who has lived and worked on several continents, I rely on
my world view to inform my inner mind. Living in Los Angeles, one of
the most iconoclastic cities of all, inspires me to draw upon my self-training and motivation to constantly produce unique, personal artworks. My conceptual pieces are a mixture of found objects and paint in a
three dimensional format, directly communicating my thoughts and representing my life. I invite you to look at the world through my eyes.

Farzad Kohan’s sculptures are characterized by gracefully bending figures, moving through space on a fluid journey.

The rough-hewn shapes, braided from a mixture of clay and wood chips laid over a wire frame, clearly represent our human core, free of gender, race, culture or anything else that we use to judge one another. Even the pieces that contain more than one figure exude a palpable sense of loneliness; no one touches, not even the aloof mother and child in “What Have We Done to Our Children?”

While his older works like “The System”—which traces a symbolic path through the many man-made rules and societal pressures a person faces in their lifetime, feature open-air compositions, his more recent pieces present restricted spaces populated by those same expressive beings. Ironically, by confining his dramas to black painted boxes, like a theatrical set designer’s diorama, Kohan has freed his characters. By making quite literal the “boxes” we put ourselves into, he allows the figures to transcend those limitations. In “Searching,” the solitary entity perches on top of his cage, arms outstretched. He may still be alone, but he is free.

Of this new stage in his art, Kohan comments, “What I’m trying to say now is that we place these regulations on ourselves without thinking twice. At the same time as they separate us from one another, they bind us together, so there’s an ambiguity to stripping away those exterior trappings. In the end, all we really have in common is our limited time on this planet. All we can control is how we spend that time. Will we separate ourselves, or will we seek out the common ground?”

Qara Qoyonlu and Aq Qoyonlu 1378-1508

These two confederations, known as the ‘’Black’’ and ‘’White’ sheep respectively, were groups which had originally formed part of the eleventh and twelfth century Central Asian immigration, and had settled in eastern ANatolla which became a ‘’sink’’ for turbulent and unwanted nomads. With the disintegration of the Mongol II Khan empire the Qara Qoyonlu were able to expand and control northwest Iran and much of Iraq, and although they bowed to Timur’s approach, they were able to hold on to the area and block any effective western Timurid aspirations.
The Aq Qoyonlu were situated further west in Anatolia, but after 1469 they were able to expand eastwards into Iran having defeated the Qara Qoyonlu and effectively controlled Iran and Iraq down to the Persian Gulf. They were mainly concerned with fighting the Ottomans and Anatolia, and were eventually crushed by these and the rising Safavid power.

One interesting feature of these turkmen confederations was their religious affinities. The Qara Qoyonlu were predominantly of the Shi’ite party, whereas the Aq Qoyonlu were Sunni Muslims, and it has been suggested that one of the reasons fo the eventual fall of the Aq Qoyonlu was the spread of Shi’ite propoganda among the various Turkish tribes in Anatolla by Safavids.

Of the monuments which can definitely be assigned to these confederations, the most important is the Blue Mosque at Tabriz. This mosque is particularly fascinating because of its plan and also because of the beautiful blue tile mosaic which gives it its name. The plan is unusual for Iran in that it is a covered mosque as opposed to a courtyard one, and the central dome is surrounded by a series of small domes, quite unlike any contemporary Iranian building, but strongly related to the Ottoman mosques. Thsi would certainly seem to indicate a major Anatolian connection through to the main Ottoman centers in western Turkey, as might well be expected given the common language and orgins.

The decoration of the Blue Mosque attained an incredible richness with deep lapis lazuli blue as the foundation upon which a series of carved arabesques wandered. Much of this is now destroyed, but enough remains to attest the skill of the craftsmen. The upper section of the mihrab chamber was entirely covered with a deep blue mosaic on which patterns were stencilled on gold, below which was a dado of immense slabs of alabaster.

Other Turkmen monuments in Iran include the Darb-i Imam shrine at Isfahan, some fine tilework in the Maydan Mosque at Kashan, and the tile mosaic in the courtyard of the Isfahan Jami’ Mosque. All of this, however can be regarded as a continuation of the Timurid style which was maintained in the eastern Iran until the end of the fifteenth century. The Ottoman-style plan of the Blue Mosque was a unique importation and had no major progeny in Iran, so that the Turkmen contribution to Iranian architecture lay mainly in continuing and maintaining already established traditions.

Already during the fifteenth century many of the extreme Timurid characteristics, the high dome and monumental scale, had been refined by Persian influence within Iran proper. the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were to see the triumph of Persian style and taste under major native dynasty, which paradoxically was Turkish speaking, but which emphasized its Iranian antecedents and sought to reform and consolidate the country as an Iranian entity.

The Safavids 1501 – 1732

In the early part of the fourteenth century Shaykh Safi established the Sufi order of the Safawiyya at Ardabil in Azarbayjan. This order flourished among the Turkic tribes in that area, and although it was probably Sunni in origin, the area has a historic tradition Shi’ism, and by the middle of the fifteenth century, at which time an intense propoganda was carried out among the tribes, and then leader was able to seize Azarbayjan from the Aq Qoyonlu in 1501, and withinf ten years was master of the whole of Iran, which he ruled as Shah Isma’il, and founded the Safavid monarchy.

Shah Isma’il was not only temporal ruler of the country, but also a major spiritual leader claiming descent from the family of the Prophet and an exalted status as representative of the Shi’i Imams. These ideas were accepted by their tribal followers, known as Qizil Bash because of the red caps they wore, and therefore Shi’ism became the state religion to which most of the population eventually adhered, although Azarbayjan was always a center of religious controversy. This policy also had a major political reason in that the Ottomans were devout Sunnis, and the religious difference helped to create a rallying point around which Iran was able to become a nationaly entity, and which has enabled it to survive practically unchanged geographically into modern times. The new Safavid state was surrounded by potential enemies, the Ottomans to the west, the Ozbegs to the northeast, and even at times the Mughals to the east. All of these were Sunnis and unrelenting in their hostility to the new Shi’i regime. As a result the northeast and northwest borders were in a constant state of flux, and it was judged advisable to move the capital from Tabriz, which was vulnerably near the Ottomans, firstly to Qazvin and then to Isfahan, but the central heart of the country was forged into a permanent unity.

Pro Dance Center

It was 5 PM sharp as we entered Pro Dance Center in Irvine. There were a group of little ballerinas gathered after their class waiting for their parents to pick them up. Their happy, energetic faces were lit up and full of energy! Today we were meeting with Nasser Maddi, the owner of this center and a professional dancer with 16 years of experience from Belgium, choregraphing for music industry pros in Europe. His dance experience includes: 14 years of hip hop, break
dance and control dance; 7 years of Cuban salsa, Rue da, and meringue; 3 years jazz; and 1 year of ballroom. Nasser’s wife Maryam Sadollahy, married four years, is the friendly face you will see in the waiting room helping out, keeping things running smoothly and making sure everyone leaves happy!

Nasser was getting ready for his next class with two of his young dancers, Mel, 24, and Molly, 18. Both of the girls are members of Nasser’s performing group called the Pro Dancers. This group of professional dancers perform for video clips, films, celebratory functions, parties, and festivals. Today the dancers happily posed for our photographer and showed us their energetic moves!
Pro Dance Center offers classes like Salsa, Belly Dancing, Hip Hop, Persian, Freestyle, Ballet, Mommy & Me and more.

So make sure you stop by the Pro Dance Center in Irvine and take advantage of the special 10% discount off the first time sign up fee as well as a free first class… exclusively for OCPC readers! And while you’re there, make sure you stop by the Pro Dancewear Boutique where you can find an eclectic selection of dance gear as well as gift items!

Literature The Powerful Words of an Iranian Woman

Farideh Goldin is the author of Wedding Song: Memoirs of an Iranian Jewish Woman. In addition to her own stories which have been widely published, Farideh has shared her knowledge of Iranian Jews, Iranian Jewish life under Islam, Iranian Jewish women, their lives and literature with audiences in the U.S. and abroad…

Read on to learn more about this talented Iranian author:

Q. Tell us about your background and education as a writer.

A: I studied English Lit at Pahlavi U. Before the Revolution, I transferred to Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia for my senior year, where I received my BA. I married, had my daughters and then went back to school. I had been a pretty good writer in Iran and I missed that, but my English, I felt, wasn’t adequate. I was also shy about writing. I received my MA in Humanities, which was great. They allowed me to design my own program. For the first time, I read books by International women. This opened the door to a world I had never imagined, quite different from the classics, for example, Shakespeare or Chaucer, or even Thomas Hardy, Mark Twain or Ernest Hemingway. I connected with these women. I knew these stories. I felt them in my blood, in my bones. Once again, I wanted to write. I went back to ODU, this time to study Creative Writing. My memoir was my thesis for my MFA.

Q. What/who inspires your books?

A: I write nonfiction, so they are inspired by life. I write about life in Iran. I am Jewish, so I write a lot about my own life as a Jewish woman. I also write research oriented articles on Iranian women writers in general, and Jewish women in particular.

Q. Is there a particular issue that you tend to focus on in your writings?

A: I just sent an article to be published in JQ, a British journal about Literature by Iranian Jewish Women. I am absolutely obsessed with Iranian women writers. Why didn’t we write more? earlier? I wrote an article last year about Iranian women and memoirs. It is astonishing how many books of memoirs have been published by Iranian women in exile. I love to watch Iranian women shine. It is something to be very proud of. I think this past decade should be dedicated to Iranian women such as Shirin Ebadi, Mehri Kar, Azar Nafisi, Shohreh Aghashloo, Simin Behbahani, Shirin Neshat, Nahid Rachlin and the list goes on and on. We rock!

Q. Tell us about your latest book.

A: I am working on a novel this time. It was inspired by a trip I made to Israel and met both Israelis and Palestinians. I also met a lot of Iranian refugees. In the story, I try to give humanity to everyone in this conflict. I also hope to convey the Iranian idea of ghorbat, how so many of us suffer for not being able to touch the soil of our homelands. What does it mean to be refugees be it Jewish, Palestinian, or Iranian?

Q. How did you get your start/ break as a writer?

A: When I was studying for my humanities degree, I was told that I needed to choose two categories as fields of study. I chose comparative Lit. Then I heard about Women’s studies. Quite frankly, I was so naive. I was surprised that women needed to be studied. I took the classes just out of curiosity and I was soon hooked. I loved it. My teachers encouraged me to write and to publish constantly. I wrote my first stories then and read them during “Work in Progress,” a conference WS had initiated. The word got around and soon I was sending my stories out to be published and reading them in various places. I also started my research on Iranian women for one of my women’s studies classes. After so many years, I am still enjoying it.

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