Personal Touch

By Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

Photo by Michael Moore


n a modern world where it feels like innovation moves at the speed of light, there’s a growing nostalgia for “the old way.” Vintage fashion, classic cocktails, turn-of-the-century beards and mustaches and rustic designs that call back to pre-Industrial times are everywhere. And in a comical juxtaposition, anyone can share their old-fashioned inspiration at the touch of a smartphone, posting imagery from another era to Pinterest, Snapchat and Instagram.

All jests aside, there is something undeniably appealing about items made by hand. No two handcrafted objects are exactly alike, and there’s beauty in their imperfections, too. I think that the essence of the maker — a living, breathing human being — is imparted as well. When so much of our lives are dominated by virtual reality, it’s no wonder that we crave something tangible, where we can see and feel the creator’s mark.

All of the people featured in this week’s Style issue are masters of their crafts, who bring a distinctly hands-on approach to what they do.

Janna Sheehan, the focus of our cover story, has created perfumes that are, essentially, Ojai in a bottle. Her Ojai Wild collection is made from botanicals harvested herself from her Meiners Oaks farm, which she distills using a centuries-old method of extraction. Her fragrances are anything but old-fashioned, however: They appeal to a luxury clientele, as evidenced by her relationships with fashion designer Johnny Was and such fine retailers as C.O. Bigelow. 

Peruvian-born Hugo Ormachea isn’t merely a jeweler, but an artist whose muse resides deep in the earth, where the gems and ores of his trade are formed. All pieces are made by hand, using hammer and anvil, crucibles, torches and custom molds – not a single tool requiring electricity. And yet these age-old techniques tell a modern story, where contemporary designs are rendered with an organic elegance.

It’s no mean feat to sew sequins, beads, feathers and crystals individually onto delicate fabric. But her skill at such embellishment is one of the secrets to Patricia Samaniego’s success as a haute couture designer, whose glittering gowns go down the aisle or red carpet with panache. Makeup artist Niki Metz is no stranger to the red carpet, either, having spent decades in the world of high fashion, where celebrities and runway models depend on her to make them into images of beauty and style.

Modern technology has given us many wonderful things, but sometimes, the human touch is what’s called for. A discriminating eye, a practiced hand, skill gained by knowledge and experience and a vision that springs from the mind of an artist, not an algorithm. These qualities can’t be duplicated by a machine, and thus will never be obsolete — even if the methods by which they are achieved spring from a time that has long since passed.


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