BY JASON ASHLEY WRIGHT World Scene Writer
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
6/19/12 at 4:57 AM
View the entire line from Rustic Cuff.
Jill Donovan has her eye on the White House.
But her ambitions aren't political - they're purely fashionable.
Donovan - a funny, married mom of two and adjunct law professor at the University of Tulsa - is a jewelry designer, creating celebrity-worn wrist candy under the name Rustic Cuff.
"I think if I could get President Obama to wear one during the State of the Union, I will feel like I've accomplished something," joked Donovan about her cuffs.
When we first met her in 2009, she was making jewelry out of old Scrabble tiles and photos. She kept it up for a year and a half, even brought in a business partner in Kansas City.
But the partner started taking the reins a bit more, and Donovan wanted to do something a bit more diverse. So she took a break - sort of. She still taught law and had two little girls to mother: 7-year-old Ireland and 4-year-old August, whom they call "Peanut."
Lying in bed last April, she started thinking about cuffs. That's not quite as random as it sounds, once you hear that she's apparently had a "love affair" with cuffs for years.
So she got out of bed and started watching YouTube videos on how to make cuffs. She spent hours viewing them, studying the process, and eventually she bought the tools to make her own.
'It's just never stopped'
After fashioning one for herself, a friend who worked at the Chanel counter at Saks Fifth Avenue asked her to make her one. That friend wore it to work and, a week later, told Donovan she had 22 orders for cuffs.
More orders came in, which led to a launch party at someone's home. About 75 people showed up, and she sold more than 100 cuffs.
"At first, I just thought they were all feeling sorry for me," she said.
But late last year she tried out for "Project Accessory," a spinoff of Lifetime's "Project Runway" reality series. That didn't pan out in the long run, but the experience inspired her to come back to Tulsa and expand her business, leading to several full collections of cuffs.
"It's just never stopped," said Donovan, who puts her girls to bed by 9 or 9:30 p.m., then works on her jewelry business from 10:30 p.m. to about 4 a.m. a few times a week.
"My husband wants to know at what point I will ever go to bed at the same time he does," she said. "Maybe in 10 years."
He's joked about moving a PODS storage container in the backyard.
"He's staying at the Renaissance right now," she said.
"No, not really," she said, laughing.
"This is a really fun thing for me," Donovan added. "I don't take it too seriously."
Donovan knows how to garner attention for her business. She had hand-carved wooden boxes made for her cuffs and shipped off sets of them to more than 10 celebrities, including Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb on "Today."
"You know what happens when people see a celebrity wearing it," she said.
One day, she watched an episode of Gifford and Kotb's show when Barry Manilow performed. Apparently, Donovan's a Manilow fan, which explained her reaction to seeing one of her cuffs on Gifford's arm.
"He actually touched a Rustic Cuff," Donovan said, "and that, for me, was more exciting than seeing my cuff in front of 10 million people - seeing Barry Manilow within two feet of the cuff."
She felt the same when one of the show's hosts wore a cuff while interviewing Tom Cruise.
It was also really cool to show up at Miranda Lambert's concert this spring and see the Grammy-winning country siren and wife of Oklahoma's Blake Shelton wearing one of her designs on stage.
And to check the mail and see a thank-you note from Bethany Frankel? Fabulous.
Now, she's like, "where in the world can I send a Rustic Cuff today?" Recently, Donovan sent some to the hosts of "The View."
From hobby to full-time job
As business grows, Rustic Cuff has gone from hobby to full-time job, said Donovan, who's had to hire four employees to help.
Among her pieces - of which her favorites change "like the flavor of the week" - include ones made from exotic animal skins and printed like tiger stripes, leopard spots and giraffe hair in various colors, and the ocean blue and coconut brown "Hawaiian Islands" Brazilian calfskin cuff.
Other collections include an art-deco style, another with etched quotes, cuffs with leather flower blooms and studded, triple-wrapped leather ones.
Prices range from $40 to $90, but most are about $55-$60, she said.
You can find Rustic Cuffs locally at stores such as Little Black Dress, Glass Slipper, Donna's Fashions, Posh Style and, soon, The Boutique, which will open in Owasso next month.
Of course, you can probably spy one again on Gifford's arm during "Today" - and, who knows, maybe during Obama's next online weekly address.
Jason Ashley Wright 918-581-8483
Pieces from TU law instructor and mother-of-two Jill Donovan have been worn by celebrities such as Kathie Lee Gifford and country singer Miranda Lambert. Shown above is the studded, triple-wrap leather bracelet ($52). Courtesy photo
The "live out loud" cuff with stamped gold plate on black cherry leather ($58) Courtesy photo
The "M.S." cuff with overlapping straps ($68) Courtesy photo
From the "Etched Quotes" collection, a gold cuff beginning with "Do what you love" and ending with "Be thankful" ($42) Courtesy photo
A two-inch concave silver metallic stingray cuff with custom monogrammed initials ($72) Courtesy photo
Jewelry designer Jill Donovan — mom to Ireland and August — created Rustic Cuff, a line of bracelets made from metals, resins and animal hides. Courtesy photo
The "Hawaiian Islands" Brazilian calfskin cuff on two-inch concave silver ($55) Courtesy