Independence Is Reflected in Design Concepts

Times Staff Writer

Angela Cummings gave up Tiffany & Co. in New York for a barn in rural Connecticut. But it's not all that grim.

She gained her own company in the process. Cummings, who was known for her graceful, nature-inspired jewelry at Tiffany, has added silverware, china and crystal to her repertoire since going solo. And she probably won't stop at that.

"I've always let loose. I do exactly what I like to do," says the 43-year-old designer, who came to I. Magnin in Palm Springs recently to promote her jewelry.

Keeps Things Interesting

Cummings seeks the unconventional. She likes taking friends' neat, graduated pearls and restringing them chaotically, just to keep things interesting. She also says her latest china pattern has insects all over it:

"Very beautiful bugs, really. There are seven different bugs on these plates. I didn't make them up but they look like fantasy bugs."

In her jewelry, which is priced widely from about $60 to $120,000, Cummings makes everything from sterling-silver bows, hearts and twist beads to gold and gem-inlay collections. She especially likes combining precious with non-precious materials, and she once paired diamonds with wood. She says it takes the public "about a year" to accept her offbeat ideas.

"I look for different ways of seeing nature: the grain in the wood and the cells that make up the grain," she says. "Everything that I look at--a tree or a blade of grass--I see structures that inspire me.

"My style is my personality."

Such an unchained personality might appear out of place in the rigors of a European art school. But that's where she got her start--at Italian and German art institutes. She was a nature lover amid professors who preferred the look of high tech.

"They're not nearly as tolerant of your own ideas in Europe. It's a much harder way to go in the beginning."

But she said the training gave her discipline, which is increasingly meaningful as head of her New York-based Angela Cummings Inc. (she still designs in the barn at home) and as mother of an 18-month-old son.

Has Opened a Boutique

Raised on the U.S. East Coast and in Austria and West Germany, Cummings landed at Tiffany at age 23, where she stayed for 16 years.

For much of that time, Cummings' jewelry was sold under her own name. Since going on her own four years ago, she has opened a boutique at Bergdorf Goodman in New York.

Besides her garden, one of Cummings' latest inspirations is, unexpectedly, the computer. She says it helps her picture shapes three dimensionally.

"To me, the real challenge is in the design--not in the materials," she says, adding that the world seems to be running out of new materials to play with.

"No one is digging up things that I haven't seen before."

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