August 02, 2017

Up next in our Summer Interview Series is... Criscara.  We are turning the interview back on ourselves this time to share some of the story and inspiration behind the brand.  Up first is an interview with founder and jewelry designer, Crista Grasso.  Stay tuned for an interview with the other half of the husband and wife duo, Criscara co-founder and photographer, Jeremy Pollack.  

I hope you enjoy learning more about the Criscara brand and our story.   

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An Interview with Crista Grasso, Criscara Founder and Designer

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Tell us about Criscara.

Criscara is a modern bohemian jewelry brand featuring limited-edition jewels for one-of-a-kind babes.  We are a husband and wife team - I personally design every piece of Criscara jewelry and Jeremy brings the pieces to life through his gorgeous editorial photography. 

We launched in 2013 with an extensive collection of bohemian body chains, foot chains, and hand chains, and have expanded the line to now offer a full range of modern boho jewelry to take you from beach to bonfire and farmer's market to festival.

Our collections are inspired by our passion for creative expression, and our love of travel, antique markets, and vintage textiles. We release new collections multiple times per year and always keep our designs original and intriguing, just like the women who wear them.


What does the name Criscara mean? 

Criscara is a play on my name and the Latin word circāre, which means to wander, to explore.  It embodies the free-spirited and adventurous spirit the Criscara brand and jewelry inspires. 


Tell us about the person who loves Criscara.  What are a few words that describe their style and vibe?

I design for the woman with a gypsy soul. She is one of a kind. Curious. Adventurous. Kind hearted. Eclectic. She isn't defined by any one style - she has a style all her own.


Tell us about you. What was your inspiration to start Criscara?

Criscara was born at a primitive camping event called Rendezvous, which was also the inspiration for our 2017 jewelry collection bearing the same name.  The seeds were planted much earlier - I was making jewelry as early in childhood as I can remember - but taking that passion and turning it into something "real" all started at Rendezvous, aka Vous

I regularly did a few things to relax and occupy my day while at Vous - I would read, write, and make jewelry.  I would throw a blanket down on the grass, kick off my moccasins, and sit for hours making jewelry.  

In addition to the beads and supplies I would bring with me (lots of turquoise, baltic amber, and turtle themed components), I would take a walk down Trader's Row (think of it as a primitive marketplace) and pick up beads and interesting vintage pieces to design with.  Sometimes I would take a walk out into the woods and look for feathers, nuts, seeds and other natural elements to use in my designs.  I found the design and creation process to be so peaceful and relaxing, almost meditative.

People would see me making jewelry all day and then wearing the pieces I made.  I started to get requests to make other people jewelry.  I had always just designed for myself and I found I really loved making pieces for others.  Best of all, I found that people really loved my unique sense of style.  Part of why I started making jewelry (and clothing at the time) was because I wanted something different - not the same boring unimaginative pieces everyone else wore.   Turns out a lot of other people wanted something different too - and they loved what I was doing. 

So finally in 2005 I set up my own spot on Trader's Row and opened my first jewelry shop, and called it AmberTortoise (which was the name given to me during a Native American naming ceremony in 2004). 

One of our 1st shops set up on Trader's Row at Rendezvous

Around that same time, a few local boutiques asked to sell my designs, and what started out as a fun and relaxing hobby at Rendezvous started to turn into something much, much more...  

Things evolved over the years and when AmberTortoise grew beyond what I could maintain by myself, I re-imagined things and relaunched what is now Criscara in 2013 with an amazing team to take me through the next stage of our journey.  And I can't wait to see where our story takes us next!

Read more about Rendezvous in our Vous Vibes Post Series. 


Was your brand name always Criscara?

When we first launched, our brand name was Nearly Naked.  That had been the name of our AmberTortoise collection of body chains, foot chains, and hand chains.  It was our most popular collection by far so when I built out my team and re-imagined the business, I wanted to start off super niched and focused on the products I already had a lot of demand for, so I formed the whole business around the Nearly Naked collection.  I knew I would eventually offer a full product line again and once we made that expansion, we rebranded as Criscara.  


What do you love most about being a designer?

The design process itself for sure!  I love immersing myself in the creative.  Also the photoshoots!  We work and collaborate with such amazing models and brands, it's sometimes a little surreal.  It's when all the pieces of the puzzle come together and the vision for the collection and the designs themselves come to life through the gorgeous photos.  Shooting our Rendezvous lookbook series was especially fun - recreating the Vous vibe and using authentic props and clothing from Rendezvous, including our tipi.

And my favorite thing of all is getting to work with Jeremy every day.  He is amazing! And I am not just saying that because we are married.  He is such a talented photographer and visionary and our combined skills are really what make the Criscara brand what it is.  The designer usually gets all the credit, but it's really the designer + the team that supports them that makes a brand.  


Any fun facts we should know about you?

I am a very unique blend of creative / free-spirited and highly organized / planner. I get just as excited planning the projects for the week for our team as I do designing a new jewelry collection.  I am definitely not your typical designer / artisan. :)


Do you have a favorite quote or mantra you live by?

One of my favorite quotes is: "Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the wind longs to play with your hair."

There is something about feeling the earth under your bare feet that really grounds you.  No pun intended.  It makes me feel connected to nature - truly barefoot, wild and free.  Hence my love for foot jewelry. 

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What pieces of jewelry do you personally wear the most often?

I am all about layering and very much a more is more kind of person when it comes to jewelry - so the list is long.  I build my outfits around my jewelry.  I believe that clothing is the accessory and jewelry is the foundation of any look! :)

I ALWAYS have on a hand chain.  I feel completely naked without one.  I would be more likely to leave the house without makeup than without a hand chain.  I typically wear the Simply Sexy or Gypsy Soul hand chain, layered with the After Midnight cuff and Daytripper bracelets, an Inara long necklace layered with the After Midnight Pendant necklace and with my new favorite Drifter necklace, and Gypsy Soul fringe earrings.  I wear the same styles on repeat, but mix up the gemstones.  Turquoise, opalite, sodalite and hematite are my go to stones most days!  


Any favorite tunes you listen to while designing?

Bret Michaels!!!  Fairly obsessed with the man (okay completely obsessed...).  The Mighty Mighty Bosstones.  Michael Franti. Milky Chance. I have pretty eclectic taste in music (and most things), but as long as it is happy and boppy, and I can sing along at the top of my lungs (sorry Jeremy), it gets my creativity flowing and helps put me "in the zone".


So, what's coming up next for Criscara that you are most excited about?

We have so many exciting things in the works!  Here are just a few...

We are adding a line of curated home accents that go back to our AmberTortoise and Rendezvous roots - think gemstones, turtles, crystal candle holders, etc. 

We are growing our team and just added a wonderful new member to the Criscara family (welcome Kelsie!).

We have some amazing collaborations coming up that I can't wait to share. Plus we are about to launch our Fall collection - Jet Set Gypsy, featuring some of my personal favorite gemstone pieces with photos shot by the amazing duo Jamie Kidd and Blake Mansfield.

And... be sure to keep an eye out for the next Step It Up movie, where you will see our belly chains on all the dancers. Fun times!


Where can people find your products?

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Photo Credits: Jeremy Pollack | Nema Saadaie | Blake Mansfield

✧ ✧ ✧ Shop the Rendezvous Jewelry Collection ✧ ✧ ✧

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