VIP Interview: Handmade Jewelry Artisan Suzanne McKinney of Beauty in Stone Jewelry

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If there is one thing I love more than sweet tea and shopping sprees, it’s handmade jewelry. So, when I met Suzanne McKinney of Beauty in Stone Jewelry at her trunk show at Monkee’s of Johnson City, we chatted about fashion and accessories–and we could have chatted about these fabulous things for days! Suzanne is such a bright, fun, and fashionable spirit with a true passion for her craft and quality, and that is why I just had to interview her for VIP. *wink*

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With a true desire to always look and dress her best, Suzanne started her handmade jewelry business, Beauty In Stone, on fate one might say. “It just sort of happened…I saw a picture-jasper bead, got really inspired, and that’s what sort of motivated me to start beading and making jewelry for myself. Then, one  day, I said, ‘I don’t want to ever stop doing this, so I might want to start selling it!’,” explained McKinney. “I love to make my outfits really pop! [Before I started making a lot of jewelry], I would spend hours just looking around at jewelry stores in search for the perfect accessories.”

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VIP: What is your favorite piece of jewelry to make?

Suzanne:love to make [these] leather cuffs because of all the…variations of stones that I can put together and get a different look. And recently, I started naming each of the bracelets and signing the insides.

VIP: So, it’s like little wearable pieces of your art! I love that!

Suzanne: Yes! It’s kind of fun how each piece speaks to me and almost says “I have to be called ‘yacht club’ or ‘night on the town.'” 

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VIP: Is there one particular stone that inspires your pieces or do you just go with the flow?

Suzanne: Oh, I totally go with the flow! I like to see what different stones are out there, combine colors, and just see what the whole thing looks like when it’s finished. 

VIP: How would you describe your personal style–how you dress everyday?

Suzanne: I am very artsy, and I like the funky; however, I typically dress very classic. I wish I was [your age] again so I could wear some of the crazy funky things I see [you] wearing because that’s what I really love. But, that’s when accessories come in handy…I can wear something simple and classic with fun statement necklace or an artsy piece and get the style I want. 

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VIP: What is the one-stop-shop piece you make for Beauty In Stone that is appropriate for shoppers of all ages?

Suzanne: Definitely the leather lariat. It can be worn so many different ways, [and in fact], we keep finding different ways to wear it, wrap it, and layer it every time we play with it. From the neck to the wrists to even as a belt–the leather lariat is a really good, simple, versatile piece that can really fit anyone’s style. I make it in a variety of leather colors and bead them with gold or silver…and recently I have started making some leather lariats with pearls for a different, more classic look. 

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VIP: One thing I love about your pieces is each one is a little different. Yeah, you have the same styles but you name certain items, you add little initial charms to some, the stones are different in each look….You’re not buying the jewelry just because it’s pretty, you are buying it because of its personality.

Suzanne: Thank you! I really thought people would like that because they will start looking and wondering, “What is this one called? What is this one called?” I’ve also noticed that a lot of times the leather bracelets people pick for the color or beads, the name often reflects their personality or lifestyle in some way. For example, a woman today bought one, and I asked her if she happened to live by the water. When she responded with a yes, I just had to tell her to look at the name on the bracelet because it was called “Beachfront.” 

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VIP: I know we talked about this before, but you make your own leather, correct?

Suzanne: Yes! For the bracelets, I start with a shoulder of cowhide leather and slice it into strips, drill the holes into the leather to put a snap in, cut the slices and then start laying out the design of beads I want to attach. I am always experimenting–I have even mixed some leather dyes to make different hues. 

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VIP: Now, I have to ask you the VIP Question–what is one thing in your closet you would never toss out and why?

Suzanne: Oh, I could never toss out a raincoat I got from Monkee’s last year….I absolutely love outwear because it can be worn so many different ways year round. 

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Stay Fabulous,
Abby Hathorn

The VIP Opens Up About Her Celeb Interviews

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The VIP wearing autographed jeans from Chip & Pepper. To see her interview with the designers behind the brand, click here.

Hello, fabulouses, and welcome back to the blog!

This week on VIP, I am taking a step back from the hustle and bustle to open up + answer some fabulous fan questions :)

One of the biggest questions I get from blog readers and fans on the street is how old was I when I conducted my first celebrity interview + how did I not “fan girl” over the celebs I met. Good questions–good questions *wink* And I am going to address those in  THIS POST :) SO, hold onto your socks because the VIP is about to open up and spill the beans! 

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February 2012

When I started VIP at 16, I had no idea that I would be interviewing fashion designers and famous TV hosts at 17. The first celebrity interview that I ever conducted was with wedding gown designer and TV personality Heidi Elnora. Heidi has a brilliant business mind and is a talented designer who has been climbing her way up the ladder of the fashion world since way before I met her. From co-founding Birmingham Fashion Week to now starring in her own show on TLC, I have to say that it is humbling to know the 17-year-old me got to interview her *wink*

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The VIP and Ty Pennington joking around backstage during their interview.

After interviewing Heidi, my celeb interviews skyrocketed. Before I knew it, I was interviewing designers like Donald J. Pliner, Hilton Hollis, and Karolina Zmarlak and celebs like Ty Pennington and Mark Brunetz. Looking back, it’s amazing to see how God put all the right people in my life to help build my dreams. I could not feel more humbled and blessed. 

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The VIP with Betsey Johnson in Charlotte, NC.

I have also had the opportunity to meet my STYLE HERO Betsey Johnson. To be honest, I have NO IDEA how I did not fan girl at that moment *wink* I remember telling my mom that I felt like a 13-year-old girl backstage at a One Direction concert because I have looked up to her since I was a little kid. After that, I got to meet and chat with another fashion hero of mine, Rebecca Minkoff! *girl squeal* She also autographed my RM purse *wink*

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I think my maintaining of cool-calm-and-collective composure while interviewing the celebs comes down to the fact that I was living life in that moment. Maybe that sounds a little silly *wink*, BUT it’s true. I feel that it is important to center myself in those situations because in reality, “celebs” are no different than you and me! They are real people–real human beings *gasp* Who knew? *wink*

I have conducted a wide variety of interviews over the past few years–from jewelry artisans to TV stars–so picking just one favorite is basically impossible *wink* Click here to scroll through the VIP Interviews archives and be sure to let me know which interview is your favorite by commenting on this blog post, Facebook or Twitter.

Keep those questions coming because you never know what the VIP might open up about next *wink*

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Stay Fabulous,

Abby Hathorn

VIP Interview: Tracy Weslanger of Sincerely Yours

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Hello, fabulouses, and welcome back to the blog!

It’s Friday–woo hoo! And what better way to celebrate the weekend than with fabulous stationery?!

I must confess to y’all that I have a bit of a cute notepad obsession…addiction. I am always looking for new ones to jot my to-do lists on, and with SincerelyYours by Tracy–the search is easy as click, add to cart, and check out! 

Tracy Weslager, owner of SincerelyYours, has “stationery for special occasions and every day” + she also does custom orders. *gasp* CUSTOM notepads, thank you notes, and gift tags. Yep–you read that correctly *wink*

Now, I am going to stop talking and let Tracy take the spotlight! Without further ado, I introduce y’all to the fabulous Tracy Weslager! Yay!

VIP: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Tracy: My name is Tracy Weslager and I live in the northern Chicago suburbs. I have always enjoyed stationery products and decided back in 2006 to make my passion my business. One of the best decisions I made. I enjoy networking with other small businesses and also developing long-term relationships with my amazing customers.

VIP: What inspired you to start making stationery and sweet paper accessories?

Tracy: Having to move around a lot in the past years, I have always had a passion to keep in touch with the special people in my life….I always enjoyed handwriting, passing notes in school and sending cards. One of my best friends from high school and I would keep in touch and after months of her sending me adorable cards, I finally decided to pick her brain on her creations. She soon became my card creator mentor and taught me so much about designing wonderful stationery! From those wonderful moments, I haven’t stopped…In 2006 I decided to take my passion and turn it into a dream….Sincerely Yours by Tracy was born. We are small, but they always say, quality over quantity counts! We strive to please our customers every day and design something they will “ooooh and ahhhh” over. If we have that, our day is complete! We have a blast sitting in our bright green studio, just north of Chicago, IL and designing fun things for you all! Our possibilities are endless and we always love getting fresh, new ideas from our customers! Let us know what you are looking for and we’ll make it happen!

VIP: I saw on a few of your Etsy listings that with every Sincerely Yours card purchase, a card is sent to an active military member. I think that is so fabulously amazing, and I would like to know more about it to share with my readers. So, what details can you give about that?

Tracy: With the passion and admiration we have for our United States Military, we want to be able to give back and thank our troops. What better way than to send them a unique, designed card from Sincerely Yours. And we want you to be a part of this great, ongoing event! For EVERY card you order with us, we will send a card to an active member of the Armed Forces in your honor!!! It’s that simple! You don’t have to do a thing…just know that we are sending a card with your family/business name on it thanking our military personnel!

VIP: If you were not designing and creating fabulous stationery, what would you be doing and why?

Tracy: Running away to the mountains and skiing!!! LOL …if that doesn’t work out….I would dive into my 2nd passion/hobby of interior design

VIP: What is one hardship you have overcome that you think has made you a better designer or independent business owner and how did you learn from it?

Tracy: Time Management….Being a mom, wife, and business owner, I have found many challenges on how to balance my time. In the past, I wanted to do it all and be everywhere at the same time. However, as my daughter has grown and business expanded, I realized I am not supermom or superbizowner…..I had to take a step back and plan a daily, weekly and monthly calendar to make sure I fit in all my passions…my family, my business…even some me time. If I don’t stick to a daily schedule, I’m thrown off and not productive at all

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Connect with Sincerely Yours + SHOP! SHOP! SHOP!

FacebookTwitterInstagramWebsite.

Stay Fabulous,

Abby Hathorn

VIP Interview: Brent and Josh of The Fabulous Beekman Boys

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Hello, fabulouses, and welcome back to the blog!

While at the 2015 Birmingham Home & Garden Show, Dr. Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell of Beekman 1802 sat down with the VIP to chat about how losing their big-city jobs changed their lives like they never would have imagined. In addition, we chatted about how “small farms can grow bigger than their fences,” adorable goats, and tomato sandwiches. 

Meeting Brent and Josh and hearing their story was such a fabulous experience, and now I am ready to share all of the details with y’all, the VIP readers. So, without further ado, I introduce the Fabulous Beekman Boys! Yay!

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VIP: How did y’all get started with doing all of the awesome things that y’all do–Beekman 1802, The Fabulous Beekman Boys, and so forth?

Josh: We were just too city guys. He [Brent] worked for Martha Stewart, and I was in advertising. In 2006, we bought a big ol’ farm in Upstate New York; and then, in 2008, we both lost our jobs in the recession. So, we had this giant farm that was just supposed to be for fun that we had to turn into a farm that paid for itself. So, we had about 130 goats, and we started making goat-milk soap and cheese and working with different places to create products. We set up an e-commerce site ourselves and started selling to places like Anthropologie and William Sonoma. It just grew, grew, and grew to what it is now.

VIP: What is y’all’s favorite thing to do on the farm?

Brent: Our favorite thing to do is just sit on the farm! But anyone who owns a farm today knows that the work is never ending. We can work twenty-four hours a day, and we still feel like we did not get everything done. One thing that makes our situation a little bit different is we are a business and a farm–but not just any farm. We are a farm that grows beyond its fences. Without the great team of people we have behind us, we wouldn’t be able to have done all that we have done.

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VIP: Whenever you feel the need for good comfort food, what do you immediately go for?

Josh: We raise almost all of our own food on the farm. So, for us, I think our comfort food is when we get back late at night from a trip or something, and we just go out to the hen house and get a couple of eggs and go out into the garden with a flashlight and pick whatever we are in the mood for to make a good omelette with our own goat cheese. There is nothing like being able to pull a meal together literally from scratch.

VIP: I think that is so awesome! You can just walk into your backyard and tah dah–a meal is born!

Brent: Oh, yeah! For me, there is nothing more perfect than a tomato sandwich with Duke’s mayonnaise.

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Baby VIP with her Paw Riley.

VIP: When I was little, I used to hate tomatoes until my Paw Riley made me a tomato sandwich with tomatoes from his garden. Since then, I have found comfort in a fresh tomato sandwich. Two pieces of white bread, mayonnaise, tomato–it’s just good!

Brent: And you cannot forget to add a little salt and pepper! It [a tomato sandwich] is just the best–I could eat ten of them!

VIP: Other than losing your jobs and overcoming that hurdle, what would you say is one challenge y’all have conquered going into farming?

Josh: One of the biggest things we had to learn is how to be patient. As busy as we are all the time, living out in the country and on a farm, we had to learn to embrace patience. In the city, you could get anything you wanted delivered to your door in less than an hour, but out in the country, you have to make a special trip to the grocery store, if you want a certain kind of food or beverage. So, for instance–tomatoes. We don’t eat tomatoes, if they are not growing in the garden. So, there is a full ten months or so that we don’t have tomatoes. One plus side to waiting that long is that when it is finally tomato season, they taste so delicious because we have waited and waited for fresh tomatoes.

VIP: Oh, I totally agree–patience tastes delicious!

Josh: Oh, definitely! And I think people who live in the cities and suburbs that just buy whatever they want whenever they want it do not learn to appreciate things to the extent that those who have patience.

Brent: Exactly! Patience makes the heart grow fonder.

Photo via Beekman 1802 Facebook page.
Photo via Beekman 1802 Facebook page.

VIP: What is each of y’all’s personal style?

Brent: Well, I think we have sort of meshed city and country together to create our own style. Working in media, I had to be aware of the trends; and when we moved to the country, we took our city wardrobe with us! So, often people will see us working on the farm in designer clothes, and even when we go into the city every now and again, people will see us wearing our muck boots with something city-style.

Josh: This winter, we had a stylebook we released on decorating, and it really highlights the idea of opposites attract. We have city stuff and country stuff–

Brent: My stuff and your stuff–

Josh: Yeah, you’re stuff and my stuff. We also have stuff from when the house was built in 1802 as well as a variety of modern stuff. Instead of conforming to the world of matchy, matchy, matchy, we take the things we love and put them together to create a style that not only we wear, but that we also put into our decor.

Brent: Exactly. A perfect relationship isn’t two identical things–it’s two different things or persons that get along with each other. A little contrast is important in every aspect of our lives.

Photo via Beekman 1802 Boys Facebook page.
Photo via Beekman 1802 Boys Facebook page.

VIP: Now that we have talked about y’all’s style, I have to ask my VIP question. What is one item in y’all’s closet y’all would never toss out and why?

Brent: Hm…I would probably say our muck boots.

Josh: Yes–definitely our muck boots. We have probably thirty pairs or so, and we use them everyday. They are kind of like part of the lifestyle now.

The VIP, Josh, and Brent walking to the main stage for The Fabulous Beekman Boy presentation at the Birmingham Home & Garden Show 2015.
The VIP, Josh, and Brent walking to the main stage for The Fabulous Beekman Boys presentation at the Birmingham Home & Garden Show 2015.

Stay tuned to the sister blog for the rest of the interview with Brent and Josh coming soon!

Connect with Brent and Josh and stay up-to-date with all things Beekman 1802:

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Website | Shop | Live Baby Goat Cam

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Stay Fabulous,

Abby Hathorn

VIP Interview: John and Whitney Spinks of HGTV’s Flipping the Block

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Hello, fabulouses, and welcome back to the blog!

While at the 2015 Birmingham Home & Garden Show, John and Whitney Spinks from HGTV’s Flipping the Block sat down with the VIP to chat about how Whitney’s blog, Drab to Fab Design, changed their lives. In addition, we chatted about the couple’s time on the show + big design must haves + Whitney’s obsession with skinny jeans *wink*

Meeting the Spinks and hearing their story (and not just the one from Flipping the Block) was such a fabulous experience, and now I am ready to share all of the details with y’all, the VIP readers. So, without further ado, I introduce to y’all John and Whitney Spinks! Yay!

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VIP: What was y’all’s experience like on HGTV’s Flipping the Block?

Whitney: Flipping the Block is probably one of the most intense and one of the most rewarding renovation projects that we’ve ever done. The timelines are crazy, the rules of the show are very strict, and you only have a few days to get these major projects done. It was so crazy, but at the same time, it was so much fun. 

John: And the cool part about it is it all came from Whitney’s blog. They [creators of Flipping the Block) sent her an email inviting Whitney and myself to apply to be on the show. Out of all the teams on the show, we were the only ones not to go to a casting call–mainly because we did not even know it was going on! Other people had been interviewing and going to casting calls while Whitney was over there blogging and got an email about it. 

VIP: I think that’s awesome! Such a lucky opportunity!

John: Yeah, we really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Almost everything that we learned from the experience was captured on camera, and that’s one thing I think was really great about Flipping the Block. It didn’t just highlight dramatic moments, it also showed the troubles and the good times. 

VIP *to Whitney*: So what is the name of your blog?

Whitney: My blog is called Drab to Fab Design!

VIP: That’s a super cute name! How long had you been blogging when they contacted you about applying for the show?

Whitney: Well, I started the blog in November of 2011, and they contacted us about November 2013–so, I had been blogging for two years.

John: And who knows–we will see you [talking to the VIP] on TV soon! Like Bravo or the Style Network!

VIP: Hey…I would not reject to that at all! I love the Style Network! *giggles*

John: In all seriousness, a lot of people like you, me, and Whitney get the opportunity to be on channels like HGTV because the shows need good talent and good personalities!

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VIP: Y’all have your design company 27 South Design Group–what can y’all tell me about that?

Whitney: Well, 27 South is our design business, and we started it immediately after we were done with Flipping the Block. We always knew that we wanted to open some type of design business, and Flipping the Block was sort of that push to make us actually do it. The show gave us the confidence we needed to start our dream and launch our business….We live and run our business out of Jacksonville Florida.

VIP: Ooo! Warm down there! I live in Northeast Tennessee now, and it has been a bit since I have seen any warm temperatures. 

John: Oh, where at [in Tennessee]?

VIP: Johnson City, Tennessee–up towards the Virginia line. 

John: Johnson City!

VIP: It is warmer here [Birmingham, AL] than when I left Johnson City on Friday. 

John: Well, where we are from in Indiana is about two hours from Nashville, so we go through Tennessee all the time. We take family vacations to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

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VIP: What color would you say best describes each of you?

Whitney: That’s a great question! I am really into blues in design–

John: *motions to Whitney’s outfit*

Laughter among everyone

Whitney: …but I also love grays too. A big part of me really likes deep, sort of moody blues, but I really love bright greens as well.

John: Man…what color? It is so hard to pick one color because when I think of “color”, I think of pink or other bright colors, but when I work with colors, I think more along the lines of leather or steel.

Whitney: He likes a lot of industrial elements.

John: Yes! Industrial–like deep grays. I also like a lot of natural color or color from nature. 

Whitney: Think of like natural textures and the colors that those textures have.

John: Oh, texture is a great thing from a design standpoint…then add some color. 

VIP: So, what got y’all into doing design?

Whitney: I think it really evolved when John was in the Navy. He was deployed, and I was home by myself. I have always been creative and hands on, so I sort of just dived in with the blog trying new things. And after I started my blog, my love for interior design just sort of blossomed, and I started learning more and more about the processes. I got a lot of inspiration from online and other bloggers, and it all sort of went up from there!

John: Yeah, my thing was like we grew up in a little farm town in Indiana where guys are expected to be a “man’s man”. I was in construction working for a custom-home home builder, but I have always been sketching and designing so the seed was already planted, so to speak. Whitney’s blog and the show just watered it and made it grow. I always felt like designing “wasn’t cool” to do, and as I got older, I realized that I have to do what makes me happy–that is what design does for me. 

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VIP: Whitney, what is one item in your closet you would never toss out and why?

Whitney: I am a huge, huge fan of a good pair of skinny jeans, so I could never toss out my skinnies! If I find a brand or a style that I really love, I will buy two or three pairs of them. Skinnies are pretty much my staple fashion piece–I am almost always in a pair of skinnies!

John: *joking with the VIP* What? You’re not going to ask me about my favorite clothing piece? 

VIP: *joking back* Okay, John–what’s one item in your closet you would never toss out and why? *wink*

John: Well…these worn-out boots I have on right now…and…Ah, who am I kidding. Whitney still dresses me most days.

Whitney: *joking with John and the VIP* It’s true…but his style is evolving haha I don’t care what he wears though. I like him just the way he is. 

*awh moment–John and Whitney are pretty much the most adorable couple ever*

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CONNECT WITH JOHN & WHITNEY:

Facebook | Instagram (John) (Whitney) (27 South) | Blog | Website

Stay tuned to the sister blog for the rest of the interview with John and Whitney coming soon!

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Stay Fabulous,

Abby Hathorn