Life’s a beachfront boutique for Heather Kraty of Island Cowgirl Jewelry in Huntington Beach. The store’s decor includes pop-art wall hangings such as a “license plate map” and rough-hewn display cases perched on brightly painted legs from various tables. The mood is restless, gritty and romantic, the style “funky chic, barefoot elegance with a Western twist.” Each of Kraty’s creations is hand-carved and cast in sterling or 14-karat gold. Necklaces suggesting silver dog tags can be personalized with an initial on the front and a saying such as “Not all who wander are lost” on the back. The collection also offers rings, earrings and anklets. Men’s selections include a silver surfboard amulet.
Where do you find the inspirations for your pieces?
When I was little, I used to doodle on my homework; that’s where a lot of the drawings, the hearts, come from. Words also—I would write poems. I had a journal full of quotes. When I went to school for jewelry design, I incorporated those two things. People love the symbols on the jewelry, but they’re more inspired by the words, the quotes and sayings. They work together. A lot of my pieces are nature-inspired—horse and dog jewelry.
What’s your favorite piece in the shop right now?
A new bracelet, Bold Soul. Olive leather and a Swarovski crystal. A lot of people have had some pretty hard times—it’s a nice reminder of who they are.
Wasn’t there some big-time clubbing in your background?
When I left school, I traveled a lot. I met my ex-husband, a sound and light engineer. We lived in Hawaii, France and the Caribbean, where we decided to open our own club. We moved to Miami in 1991 when it was starting to explode, and we opened Nikki Beach. I knew Sean Penn from New York, and he was our partner, along with the lead singer from Simply Red. It was on the cutting edge of South Beach—the first outdoor club, all on the beach, the dance floor on the beach, and beds. That’s also when I left Miami.
How did you go from clubbing to jewelry?
I wanted to do something quieter. I came to California and started my jewelry line 12 years ago. You never know when you start something, but it took off. We now have the retail boutique and studio, and we wholesale to 450 stores across the country.
What are your other passions?
I love riding horses. I ride at Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center. They have 400 horses there, trail rides every day. They do birthday parties. The red horse barn is a wedding venue. I’m getting married there in the fall!
What do you do with an absolutely free weekend?
I head for the beach. I take a bike ride down the Balboa Peninsula to the Wedge and play volleyball with my friends. That is my favorite thing to do in Orange County. Or I’ll go down to Laguna Beach, to the Sawdust Festival or Festival of Arts—the Festival of Arts is amazing, just amazing. If you are here in the summer you have to go see that! I’ll have dinner and shop. There’s a great place on Forest Avenue, the Sundried Tomato—really good avocado rolls. I shop at Art for the Soul. A lot of my friends’ artworks
are in there—my pieces are in there as well.
La Cave. It’s completely out of the way, an old-school steak house. The garlic cheese bread they give you when you first sit down. Twice-baked potato. It’s amazing they cook all that in that tiny spot downstairs. Great music, too. It reminds me of a Tony Soprano place in New York—I’m from New York originally—only in Costa Mesa.
Free People at South Coast Plaza. The clothes are amazing. Such a great design aesthetic. Bohemian chic. Every time I go in there I get in trouble, serious trouble. Amazing displays, amazing windows. I love their dresses and tops. Funky, unexpected fabric combinations. Having a fashion background, I am always surprised. Velvet with crochet—and they make it work!
Art for the Soul 272 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach, 949.497.8700; Festival of Arts 650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, 949.494.1145; Free People South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, 714.708.3794; Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center 18381 Golden West St., Huntington Beach, 714.848.6565; Island Cowgirl Jewelry 320 1/2 Main St., Huntington Beach, 714.580.9909; La Cave 1695 Irvine Ave., Costa Mesa, 949.646.7944; Sawdust Festival 935 Laguna Canyon Road, 949.494.3030; Sundried Tomato Cafe 361 Forest Ave., #103, 949.494.3312