Meet the Designer

Hello and welcome to my workshop! I'm Marina, the pair of hands behind Pliers & String. I am a doodler, a hoarder of antique shiny things and an animal lover (especially dogs!) – and I also carry on proudly the immigrant tradition of running a small business.

As a child in Bulgaria, I would watch my grandmas' – my babas' – needles slide through canvas, guided by a skein of characters outlining the color matrix that would result in a work of art made entirely of tiny stitches. I can still feel the homemade wooly pants they made for me, which I wore in the snow, layered two pairs thick, their knobby homespun fabric a reminder of my babas' hands.

My grandmothers instilled in me from an early age the ardent desire to use my own hands. At the age of seven, this resulted in my little paws sewing a regrettable two-piece swimsuit made from a punctured beachball...

My father, mother and I left the snows and shores of Bulgaria when I was nine. We couldn't take much with us, because... well, legally we weren't allowed to leave. The Berlin Wall had just fallen, and the Eastern Bloc had crumbled into a chaos of transitional power vacuums. I did, however, manage to sneak away one toy: my old Barbie doll; my father had sent her to me while working the oil wells in Syria.

Everything else we left behind.

Well, other than the jewelry hidden in our car door panels. These last valuables we used to bribe our way past western border guards; we pawned the remainder in Italy. This allowed us to afford progressively worse hotel rooms while we awaited our US visas, until finally we slept in our car.

In the backseat, before sleeping, I would make clothes for my Barbie. When finally we reached the States, my design instincts really kicked in, beginning with a poofy, to-the-floor princess dress I wore for Halloween when I was ten. Later, as a sophomore in high school, I walked blazing Phoenix concrete, thinking of my first sewing machine – an old but steady 1968 Sears Kenmore zigzag table-style cabinet.

My newfound creative freedom raised in me an instinct to do everything. I took up macramé, sewed new curtains, drafted dress patterns and even made my own prom dress. Soon I was attending the University of Arizona, making the dean's list, which led me exactly where I needed to be: attending The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, where I graduated magna cum laude.

I didn't yet know the passion I would have for a good ol' pair of comfy jeans. This culminated in my designing hundreds of pairs at the world's leading retail denim manufacturer: as a lead designer at GUESS? my doors opened to the world – the glitz and grime of Hollywood, the long streets of Hong Kong and Tokyo's Shibuya District.

So here we are now, together, at my very own jewelry atelier! Since you're here I know you have an appreciation for love given by way of creation. The story of my life informs my jewelry, and that which bought my family safe passage to freedom has become my art, made with my own two hands.


P.S. by MIV

Marina Ivanova