|photography by Colleen Duffley|
Dallas designer Rebecca Collins has made a name for herself by creating original jewelry using gemstones, minerals, and other treasures she gathers on her expeditions around the world. She designs jewelry in her home, which can only be described as an amalgam of gallery, museum, and sanctuary. She sells her jewelry at her shop in Preston Center, at Forty Five Ten on McKinney Avenue, and at Neiman Marcus. Daughter Amy Bradley helps run the business, and the mother-daughter team is uniquely simpatico.
Rebecca’s clients have grown to include big names such as Cher, Jane Fonda, and Elton John, but she says that her greatest accomplishment so far is that she’s still here, doing what she loves.
We arrived at Rebecca’s home in a friendly, older neighborhood outside of Highland Park on a warm summer day to shoot photographs for our Christmas issue. As we entered the parlor, we were greeted by gentle holiday music and burning candles. Rebecca strolled in, adorned with many of her own beautiful jewelry creations, and offered us her complete attention.
Rebecca surrounds herself with the things that she loves. Each journey through a room in her house brings the discovery of yet another unusual piece. It’s a scavenger hunter’s playhouse and an antique lover’s delight. But more important, the house is a dream come true for Rebecca, who finally found a way to live day to day with the things that inspire her art.
DH&G: So, you got your dream house!
Rebecca: Before I had this house, I didn’t have room for all of my things. A girl who I worked with at the time—I call her my angel—was living in an apartment in this neighborhood and she said, “Oh, they’ve put this house on the market over here and it looks just like you.” The last time she told me about a great house, it was $2 million! But the timing was important. Only minutes before I had come to the realization that I was miserable where I was. I just collected stuff forever and I didn’t have room for any of it. Things worked out. I’m here and I love it.
DH&G: Every surface of your home is covered with your treasures, all arranged as if to tell a story. The most unlikely objects are combined.
Rebecca: Yes. I love history, I love using old pieces, and I love very eclectic colors, things that you wouldn’t think go together. That’s the way this house is. It’s not a good place for, say, a garden club meeting, but it is a great space for a party. Or just to be alone. It just makes me feel good to be surrounded by the things that I love. I remember where and when I bought every single thing. Everything is from someplace else in the world and has its own reason for being here.
I love this house—it was built by the very first person in the tile business in Texas. It’s my funky Tuscan villa. I just think finally I have a house that I can put all of my things in and be around them and feel good.
DH&G: You have several different motifs at work in the house—a painting of the Madonna with child sits next to a Buddha, which is next to a palm tree lamp with coconuts. Is there a method to your decorating?
Rebecca: Well, there’s not a lot of wall space, and there’s not a lot of table space; everything’s crammed on one table. But I try to consider every surface an altar in a way. I think Thomas Moore wrote that in Care of the Soul. He talks about making your house sacred in some way, like every little scene is really just an altar. Also, I painted before I did jewelry, and I think there’s a lot about composition, mixing colors, and texture that goes into it.
DH&G: Do you still paint?
Rebecca: I have all my canvases upstairs in my studio, but it’s so jam-packed that you can’t even walk in there. I’ve got rocks and stones and beads everywhere, and painting is a whole other thing. What I need is seven more rooms—like everybody! I have a little watercolor set that I travel with and sometimes I’ll do a little watercolor, but I’m so rusty. I used to paint for John Astin Perkins. He’s a famous decorator who died recently. I call him my fairy godmother, because when I brought him to my house to look at my paintings many years ago, I felt like I was going to be standing naked in front of the king—but he bought every painting I had. So I would see my paintings in people’s beautiful homes and people would come up to me and say, “I saw your painting in so and so’s home. I miss that. But, the thing about painting that I don’t miss is that it’s so solitary. You’re always alone. Designing jewelry is solitary, but then I go out and meet my customers. I really love that part.”
DH&G: What’s your new artistic passion?
Rebecca: Definitely the table talismans. I use minerals from jewelry to make them, and they are just exquisite. I even made one for Richard Gere with pieces of Tibetan art and he was so touched. He said it was the most thoughtful gift he’d received in a long time, and that made me feel really good.