Temple Saint Clair, Jewelry Designer


"I come from a sort of matriarchal family of very strong women who were very much travelers and explorers and collectors—I'm all of those things, too. They were all Southern women, and they all embodied that Southern aesthetic of their homes being their own curated environments. They all traveled the world for education, and knowledge, and cultural curiosity. And those things drive my work. You can see it in my house, which is totally a reflection of myself. I know where every last thing comes from, and everything here has a story. This is my 30th year doing jewelry, and I’m still very driven by things I haven’t been able to explore yet. I approach jewelry like an anthropologist, in a way... I love the symbolism and the storytelling behind it. The stories behind why someone wears something, that is what fascinates me. It's never just 'jewelry.' It goes much deeper than that.

I'm from this dynasty of Southern women who are sometimes concerned to a fault about their appearence. But on the other side of that coin, they present themselves very well. I just posted this portrait of my mother and that's pretty much how she looks every day. Not overly done, but fresh. I'm not good at that. Some of my best travels have been to places where I didn't have access to water for days, and I had to learn to keep it together. In Honduras, we were allotted a bucket of water a day, and we'd have to manage. I couldn't care less. When I travel, I never seek out the hotel with the spa.

The Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer is something I've used for a million years. I like it because you don't really see it. Again, it's all about looking groomed but keeping everything super natural. This Lancôme Mascara Base is probably the most complex I get. My biggest fear with mascara is that it ends up on my cheekbones, so I think this helps. And then I use the basic Maybelline Great Lash. I used to use Lancôme mascara, too, but I've found that this one stays in place. I just put it on the upper lashes, and it just makes my eyes open and pop a little bit. Plus a little Laura Mercier Eye Basics on my eyelids. Just a neutral shadow to brighten and even things out.

This Benetint I love, and I've had it for years. When I'm looking a little green mid-winter in New York, I'll use this on my cheeks and lips. I love the idea of stains. Years ago, I was in Morocco and bought these stain pots, and it's very similar to that. I do have another Tata Harper Lip and Cheek Tint, the Very Charming and the more pigmented Very Vivacious. At this point in my life, I just like something stained and light. In my younger years I used to play with makeup more, almost like an art form. These days, not so much. [Laughs]

I've been playing with my hair color forever, though—since my teens and through my 20s with lots of henna. When I lived in Italy, there was this crazy thing that all of us would do, where everyone got this really strong chamomile extract and we'd pour it on our heads in the summer. By the end of the summer, our hair would be some form of orange or yellow. But we didn't realize until the summer was over. [Laughs]

These days, I go through varying shades of red. A few years ago I looked up who does red really well in New York and I found Marie Sigismondi. She just gave me Milbon Shampoo and Conditioner that's good for finer hair. It's Japanese, I think. Otherwise I just use Kérastase, which I discovered in Italy when I was younger. In fact, when I'm there, I still stock up. From what I understand, it's best to wash your hair as little as possible, so I wash it once a week. After I get out of the shower, I generally use a little of the R+co Mannequin Styling Paste and Kérastase Orange Classic Oil and twist up my hair and leave it. That'll take any frizz away, and I'll use them again throughout the week, or before dinner. Those are kind of my essentials. All I want is for my hair to look neat and simple. Just like my jewelry, it's perfectly imperfect, so I embrace that.

SPF every day—I've been doing that forever, and I'm trying to get my children to do it, too. I've been taught well by my mother. Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch is great, because it goes on really light and not oily at all. I love Weleda's products—I use the Gentle Cleansing Milk twice a day. It takes your makeup off and leaves your skin feeling moist, too. That's key to me. I don’t want anything that feels like it’s completely stripping me of moisture... That’s not good. The other thing I love is this Dr. Alkaitis Organic Toner. I like his daytime moisturizer, too. If I'm working from home, I'll just slather it on. It’s got a good group of oils in it—it does have Vitamin D and E complex, so it is nourishing. It's lasting moisture, too. It's more of a treamtent thing, but I do love the Skinceuticals CE Ferulic. I'll skip the toner and rub that in. It feels like I'm working something.

As far as anti-aging, I think your activity and how you use your body is much more essential. I've done yoga since I was in college in the early '80s. Everyone does it now! [Laughs] I've practiced mysore ashtanga for the past 10 years or so. That's a major skin enhancer too—even my husband is taken aback when I come home from a class. That's how we met, too. We both practiced kundalini yoga for a long time. It’s incredibly stimulating for the whole system, and mentally. It's very recharging, and the practice that I do takes an hour and a half, with very concentrated breathing. I think the rest of the time, New Yorkers don’t breathe.

In New York, my house is my oasis. It’s surrounded by green, and I have lots of projects at home that have to do with greening my house. Part of it is just that I love it, and part of it is some environmental interests. But I’m constantly fussing and gardening, whether it’s on my roof or wherever. And then I paint a lot—I do a lot of watercolors and things. So all those are my ways of stopping and focusing. Those are my recharging activities that take me out of the day. And another recharge involves putting my phone very far from where I am. That’s essential. Not having my phone in my pocket—that’s probably number one."

—as told to ITG

Temple Saint Clair photographed by Tom Newton at her home in New York on April 24, 2017.