Little girls dream about one day becoming Cinderella or Snow White, finding their Prince Charming, and living happily ever after. For jewelry designer Cathy Waterman, fairy tales still play a role in adulthood, coming to life through her magical jewel-encrusted baubles. Gothic and regal, her rings, bracelets and earrings seem to tell a story, one that dates back to a bygone era, another place and time.
So when esteemed costume designer Colleen Atwood signed on to Universal's Snow White and The Huntsman, the only logical pairing seemed to be Waterman. Though the film comes out June 1, exclusive photos indicate this design decision was a match made in heaven: Waterman designed breathtaking pieces for the characters played by Charlize Theron, Liberty Ross, and Kristen Stewart, her fantastical visions adorning leading ladies on the big screen. Here, I sit down with the designer to discover the secrets behind the scenes.
Julie Bensman: How did the collaboration with Colleen Atwood originate?
Cathy Waterman: Colleen saw some of my work and recognized that it embodies the beauty of both the dark and the light side of the story — and of one’s own nature. I've admired her work for years and was flattered she thought of me to work with her on this fabulous version of a fairy tale. Colleen was not looking for the quotidian, and my work is anything but that. We connected immediately, like-minded in a way, and the collaboration turned into a friendship.
JB: How does your aesthetic resonate with this story?
CW: I make jewelry you haven’t seen before. Whether it’s a result of the hundred hours it took to make the “Falling Leaves” pendant that Ravenna [Theron's character] wears in the “Mirror, Mirror” scene or the lyricism of the black sapphire crawling vine earrings, I strive for something new that takes your breath away. I don’t much believe in limits and know that if I can dream it, I can make it.
JB: How would you describe Queen Ravenna?
CW: Strong and beautiful; desperate and scared.
JB: Where do you find inspiration?
CW: I am a student of history. At university, I studied the early church and ancient empires. I travel so much and it gives me a broad perspective — most recently, to Egypt and the Dordogne in France. The former was filled with mythical structures and wild reeds along the Nile. In France, I visited all the farmers markets I could find, as well as the prehistoric caves and medieval forts. Recently, I did a road trip down the west coast of the U.S. with my youngest daughter, focusing on wild beaches. All of this informs my work and my sketchbooks. And to live in Southern California, surrounded daily by the beauty and ferocity of nature? That’s just the icing on the cake.
JB: What’s your favorite fairy tale?
Snow White, of course.
Photos: Alex Bailey / Universal Pictures