Friday 24 November 2017

Melinda Maria: In design and fashion, it's very cut-throat

Melinda Maria (40) is a jewellery designer and business woman. Born in Spokane, Washington, she lives in Bel Air, Los Angeles, with her husband, Art Spigel, and their sons - Max (5), Levi (4) and one-year-old Sam

Jeweller Melinda Maria.
Jeweller Melinda Maria.

Ciara Dwyer

I wake up with three men in my bed, which is amazing. Levi, the four-year-old, jumps on me, while Max, who is a year older, likes to snuggle. They are either jumping up on me, or breaking my leg. All during this time, my husband Art is fast asleep. He likes to work late, but I'm more of a morning person. On a bad day, the boys come into me at 4.45am, but 5.15am is usually their latest. I get up with them, and then we go into the baby, Sam. The boys jump in his crib and he wakes up. I play games with them. Even though I'm really tired, I try to savour every moment I have with them. Our lives are so busy, and it has all gone so fast. I feel like I just gave birth to our five-year-old yesterday.

I'm from Washington State, and now I live in LA. I kind of miss having the four seasons, but the nice thing about living in LA is that you don't ever have to worry about how you're going to dress, in terms of keeping warm. It's permanently summer, and it's beautiful. I have orange and lemon trees in my garden. Often, the boys will go out to the balcony and pick some oranges, and we'll eat them together. I have to run my house like the military. The boys aren't allowed to go downstairs until they have made their bed, brushed their teeth and put on their clothes. They tend to flop around when they are sitting around, and a doctor told me that I should work on their core strength, so I do some exercises with them. Then I change the baby, and we all go downstairs. I make breakfast for the boys and their lunch, too. I usually make a separate breakfast for my husband. I don't know what he eats when he goes out into the world, but when he's at home, I need to know that he is putting something healthy in his mouth. I don't have time for breakfast at home. I just make myself a coffee with a lot of milk. I don't eat until I get to my office, which is around 9.30am.

I drop the kids off to school, and then I kiss the baby and give him to the nanny. It's hard to leave him. Some days, I wish I could put my business on hold and be with him until he's in school, but that's not my reality. With the other two boys, I took a little more time off, but two weeks after Sam was born, I went back to work. We were expanding the business - Melinda Maria Jewellery - and department stores wanted bigger collections and they also wanted them quicker, so I had to go back. That was very hard to do. I hate it when feminists say that you can have it all and do it all - you can't. Something always suffers, whether it's your kids, your husband or yourself. I make sure that I'm the one who doesn't get any me-time.

I'm in the car for 45 minutes each way, so that's when I make a lot of work calls. I also use it as time to catch up with family and friends. I try to be efficient with my time. My office is in Hollywood. There is usually some fruit waiting for me when I get in.

I check with my assistant to see what I have on that day, and if I have some meetings, I'll prepare for them. I usually have a design and development meeting with my CEO and design assistant and a designer who recently started working for me. It's really fun that I'm in a place in my career where I can bounce ideas off another person, because it was just me for so long.

I've been in business for 10 years. I work very hard, and I feel that you are only as good as your last collection. In design and fashion, it's very cut-throat. If you have three bad seasons, they might take you out of department stores.

I've been designing jewellery ever since I was a kid. I was always hanging around the local bead shop, talking to the owners. My mom had some great pieces of jewellery, and I used to take them apart and re-work them, without her permission. I still remember the look on her face - it was a mixture of pride that her daughter had been creative and horror - as in, 'What the hell have you done to my expensive necklace?'

School didn't come easily to me, but design did, thankfully. It was always a passion. When I'm designing, I usually sit in a chic cafe. I'm inspired by people. I might look at their hairstyles and think about what pieces would work best. My earrings tend to have movement, but after I had kids, I designed more studs.

Most people start their careers early, but for me, it was later in life. I was 28. Up until then, I was doing a bunch of things - working as a make-up artist, and I was an assistant in some TV stations. All the while I was designing jewellery. But everything changed when I met Art. We met on a dodgeball TV-game-show. He's a big dodgeball fan. We were both contestants. I was on his team, and it was love at first sight. It just shows you that anything can happen.

Never in a million years did I think I'd meet my husband on a game show. I used to go on game shows to pay my bills. It was so easy to make money on them, and it helped pay my rent. I went on The Price is Right, and I won so much money on Hollywood Squares that it supported me for six months. Then a casting agent offered me a place on other shows.

Art is a wonderful businessman. He told me to pick one thing and be a master of it. He helped me to create a company. It was a bit daunting, because I didn't know anything about business. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but that has been good, because you learn. I thrive on failure. Art and I have been together for ten years now, and I'm still obsessed with him.

When I get home in the evening, the boys are usually bouncing off the walls. Let's just say that they are highly spirited. They are great fun. If I don't run my house like a drill sergeant, it will be bananas. I make sure that my kids are in bed and asleep by 7.30pm. I'm really militant about it, because I want to be alone with my husband. I love him so much. I need that time with him.

In conversation with Ciara Dwyer

Melinda Maria Jewellery is available at Arnotts. Prices start from €50.

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