Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 Reflections

Since 2010 is now over, I felt it was time to reflect on my past adventure filled year. Over the past year I was lucky enough to get to experience what most don't get to do in a lifetime! One year ago today I was a new citizen of Paris, France. I had just finished my apprenticeship with Lesage (atelier house owned by Chanel) and was ready to experience a new Parisian life! Listed below are some of my most memorable moments over this past year!

Earning my certificate in Professional Couture Beadwork and Embroidery from Lesage

Meeting Karl Lagerfeld at Couture Fashion Week

Hanging out with Jeanne Becker at Couture Week, and Fashion Week

Spending my birthday shopping at Chanel

Moving in with my boyfriend into our new apartment beside the Eiffel Tower

Meeting my nephew for the first time!

Having my story published in papers and magazines

Photographing celebrities including Kanye West, Elizabeth Hurley, Anna Wintour, Puff Daddy, Jared Leto, Clair Danes and Jessica Alba

Happy New Year!! Here is to a fabulous fun filled 2011! I have a feeling that this will be my best year yet!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Glimpse Beads

Are you a fellow beader?? I have just started an online bead shop where I will be selling unique beads and findings. New pieces will be added daily!!
Check out "Glimpse Beads" and find some great pieces for your beading project!!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

West of the City

Thank you "West of the City" magazine for featuring me in their artists profile this month!

by Melanie Cummings
A tour through the couturier House of Lesage that aired on an episode of the maven of all things homespun, Martha Stewart's show last year, sent Sarah Cownley to Paris, with no more than high school French to communicate with, no place to live, nor any familiar face to help her get settled.

Before the 31-year-old embarked on her Parisian adventure in September 2009, she worked three jobs to raise the $8,300 tuition for the three-month long professional training course at the prestigious embroidery atelier (studio).

“Anything creative I follow. I'm a constant learner,” says Cownley, who is in Burlington now but plans to go back to Paris in the new year.

By the end of her six-month stay, Cownley invested more than 450 hours into the course and in the process, created a stunning collage of all of her lessons that is worthy of becoming an heirloom.

As a House of Lesage graduate, she is one of an ever-diminishing group of artisans capable of 
creating wearable art, of stitching gossamer canvases replete with tiny cut glass beads, sequins and rhinestones. Owned by Chanel, the skilled craftspeople at the House of Lesage are currently responsible for 85 per cent of all the beading and embroidery that graces the world's famous couture collections including, Chanel, Christian Dior, and Lanvin.

For Cownley, her newly acquired embroidery skills will now be incorporated into the jewelry she designs and makes by hand for her own well-established label, Glimpse Beads. She plans to create cuff bracelets and collar necklaces on vintage silks that are covered with the intricate bead and embroidery work she now knows how to do.

Cownley started Glimpse Beads shortly after graduating from Sheridan College's textile design program, and the fashion merchandising and design program.

After that, to hone her jewelry-making skills she relocated to Chicago to learn silversmithing and earned her level 1 certificate in precious metalwork.

And when Cownley returns to Paris the learning will continue. She plans to begin an apprenticeship at either the 130-year-old artificial flower-making house called Legeron, or learn feather and accessory design at Le Maison Lemarie, which was also established in 1880. Both working atelier houses create pieces for clients such as Dior, Chanel and Givenchy.

As well as meeting her new love in France during her time there, Cownley also connected with a bevy of vital contacts in the fashion world.

Among them was Daily Telegraph fashion journalist Hillary Alexander. While circulating outside Paris' fall/winter fashion week venues Cownley revved up her courage and introduced herself to the influential reporter, asking her if she would wear one of her necklaces — a chunky amethyst piece with draping chains.

The tough critic agreed upon seeing Cownley's work.

“I hope to see (Alexander) wearing it one day.”

In the meantime, Cownley has registered her company in France where she will develop her web-based business for Glimpse Beads, continue doing sample work for a Canadian handbag company, and teaching jewelry-making at craft centres, design schools and home parties, as she did in this part of the world.

Ultimately, she hopes to one day open her own boutique in Paris.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Jewelry for Studio Rasa

Check out Studio Rasa for beautiful hair and make-up! Rasa Jurenas is a multi award winning hairstylist and make-up artist, including the Canadian Hairstylist of the Year, 2006. Visit for more information about Studio Rasa. Her latest collection titled "Primitive Vogue" features jewelry and feather headband by Glimpse Creations!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Paris Inspirations

Since I am back in Canada for a couple of months, I am working on my Paris Inspired jewelry. This new collection called "Bisous" is inspired from my last year that I spent in Paris. I was influenced by Parisian fashions in the couture world were I was lucky enough to get an insiders view from my time spent at Lesage. I was also inspired by the beautiful architecture found throughout the city.
Please visit my website at or my Etsy shop at
Below is a sneak peak at some of my designs in my new collection!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Art of Fashion

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to be involved in the Art of Fashion Trunk show at Nuit Blanche Toronto in Liberty Village. There were many talented designers showcasing their latest creations, and lots of media there to capture the moments of the night. I had a table to fill with my jewelry to sell.

There were many beautiful designs being shown throughout the night. Below are some images of the stunning gowns that were part of these upcoming collections. Overall, it was a fun filled night, and I just love the energy that fills the city at Nuit Blanche.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Art of Fashion at Nuit Blanche

Join me this Saturday Oct. 2 at Nuit Blanche Toronto in Liberty Village. I will be showcasing my new collection "Bisous" inspired by my life in Paris!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mastering the art of embroidery, Paris style

Check out the article all about my adventures in Paris! This article was published in the Burlington Post on August 21, 2010 and written by Melanie Cummings. Follow this link to reach the original article

Mastering the art of embroidery, Paris style

Fashion artist Sarah Cownley has seen a part of the haute couture world that few ever see.

Over three months she’s been working inside the ateliers (fashion studios) of Paris learning a craft that is as precise as it is beautiful, and sadly, waning.

The 31-year-old grad of Sheridan College’s textile design, as well as fashion merchandising and design, signed herself up for a haute couture professional training course to learn embroidery at the prestigious House of Lesage.

“I wanted to get a chance to learn from the masters of the craft,” said Cownley who took the initiative to contact the atelier house, pay the $8,300 tuition and dedicate 150 hours to class time, and twice that in painstakingly precise homework, to learn the craft.

In the House of Lesage, 50 seamstresses hunch over wooden frames stitching hundreds of tiny cut glass beads, sequins and rhinestones onto gossamer cloth into wearable art.

Over one year these artisans hand sew 100 million sequins and 150 pounds of beads. Owned by Chanel, these skilled craftspeople are currently responsible for 85 per cent of all beading and embroidery that grace the world’s famous couture collections including Chanel, Christian Dior, and Lanvin.

“Each day, I attended Lesage for three hours to learn new stitches, then worked on my project back at my apartment for another five hours,” said the Burlington resident who left for Paris in September 2009.

The embroidery technique for beads and sequins hand sewn on the reverse of the fabric used by Lesage is called Luneville (named after the town in France that started it in the early 19th century).

Cownley considers the hefty tuition well worth the money as instruction was usually one-on-one, or sometimes two instructors per student, and even the school’s 80-year-old head and last remaining heir of the 150-year-old establishment, Francois Lesage, personally inspected.

“I was pretty nervous when the master of embroidery was looking at my work,” she said.

Cownly also got an up close look at vintage samples of embroidery and beadwork done for Valentino, and Yves Saint Laurent. And she toured through the atelier bead room where there were drawers and boxes filled with more than 60 tons of beads, sequins, threads and 100-year-old jet (a highly polished black coal used for beading, jewelry or buttons).

“I am truly lucky to have been able get such an inside view of the couture fashion world,” said the eager student.

The award-winning jewelry maker is parlaying her newly honed embroidery skills into a new line of embroidered cuff bracelets with silver and gold threads, and collars drenched in beads and sparkling Swarovski crystals stitched into vintage silk fabrics.

Her time in Paris also opened other new doors to the fashion world. She is writing for fashion magazines and websites about Paris’ couture week (July 5 to 8) and reporting on the Paris street fashion scene in her blog, where she’s posted photographs of her with rapper Kanye West, actor Jessica Alba, designer Karl Lagerfeld and fashion reporter Jeanne Beker.

Cownley started her hand made, one-of-a-kind jewelry business, called Glimpse Creations, in 1999 and has sold her pieces, which are dripping with sterling silver, Swarovski crystal and semi-precious stones, in local galleries and retailers, including Artists Walk in Burlington, The Haberdashers in Oakville and Bijoux Star ( in Paris, as well as at local art and craft fairs.

She’s home now but plans to head back to Paris in January to stay for another year or longer and sign up for an apprenticeship at either 130-year-old artificial flower-making house Legeron, or feather and accessory designer Le Maison Lemarie, which was also established in 1880. Both working atelier houses create pieces for clients such as Dior, Chanel and Givenchy.

“When something has been handmade, it carries the soul of the artist with it. I strongly believe that the work done by these skilled craftspeople are works of art. We cannot allow these crafts to diminish due to lack of knowledge about the art of couture,” said Cownley.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fashion's Night Out

If you are in Paris, this is an event not to be missed. I wrote the following article for a Paris website!

In its second year running in Paris, “Fashion’s Night Out” will take place Sept. 7th 2010. This fabulous global fashion event that is sponsored by Vogue International is one that should not be missed! Many boutiques within the golden triangle shopping area of Paris will open their doors late in the evening and throw glitzy, star studded parties. This area includes Ave Montaigne, Rue Francois, and Ave. Georges V.
For many people, it is only a dream to be able to rub elbows with the fashion elite, and browse the couture dresses in the world’s top fashion boutiques. For this one night only, you can have these once in a life time experiences. Paris Vogue editor, Carine Roitfeld and other fashion celebrities such as designers and models will be at the various locations to meet and greet shoppers. There will be chances to get style and fashion advice from the pros, and get exclusive services throughout the evening. Famous boutiques such as Chanel and Dior will open their doors and make it inviting to be able to come in and browse through their current collections. Fashion’s Night Out allows shoppers to be inspired by fashion and bring the fun back into shopping. If you are not one who usually visits these high end boutiques, and usually just peeks in the windows from the outside, then this is your chance to go in and experience them easily without the pressure of sales people around you. The sex and glamour of Vogue with the added treats and goodie bags that will be given away will give this evening a sense of style and excitement, while making it easy to move from store to store enjoying a complete evening out.
Some of the events happening will include, a 3D film of Dior’s Fall Couture 2010 collection, a live jazz band at Ralph Lauren, and a DJ spinning at Diane Von Furstenberg. Louis Vuitton will host a fun, special photo studio where customers will get the chance to feature on mock covers of French Vogue magazine. Pink Champagne will flow and there will be live entertainment in almost every store. Overall, around 60 stores will participate in this event, each offering a fabulous fashion night out!
Last year, the event was a huge success where the streets were filled elbow to elbow with excited fashionistas sipping champagne and enjoying fashion advice. This fabulous event is held in 16 cities worldwide, lasts up to 23 hours and is quickly becoming an event that is not to be missed! For more information visit the Fashion’s Night Out Website at

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ladurée Macarons

This weekend my boyfriend and I boarded a Eurostar in Paris and headed to England for my cousins wedding. We finally reached our destination after a 6 hour train ride which included 4 of those hours being stuck on a broken down train in Calais....but that is a whole other story! Usually the trip takes about an hour and a half.
Anyway, since this was the first time for my parents and other relatives to meet my boyfriend he wanted to bring them a little taste of Paris as a gift. What better present is there than fresh macarons from Ladurée. I went to the restaurant/bakery on Champs Elysees early in the morning and joined the line to buy the famous macarons. If you plan on going to buy some, I suggest going before 10am as the lines after this may be up to a 35-40 minute wait.

Laudrée not only sells macarons, but also serves breakfast and lunch in their restaurant. As I stood in line peeking into the restaurant, I saw plates of delicious looking food passing my by. I may have to try it one day for a special lunch out!
Once it was my turn at the counter, I was greeted by not only about 20 different types of macarons, but also fresh baked croissant, and cakes filled with luxurious creams topped off with fresh fruits. I ordered my box of 24 macarons and avoided temptations of sneaking one little pastry into the bag for my metro ride home.

If you are not familiar with macarons from Paris, they are small little "cookie like" sweet confectioneries. They are meringue-based: made from a mixture of egg whites, almond flour, and both granulated and confectionery sugar. Their name comes from an Italian word "maccarone" or "maccherone". Almond paste is the principal ingredient.

The French macaron differs from macaroons in that it is filled with cream or butter like a sandwich cookie, and can be found in a wider variety of flavors that range from the traditional (raspberry, chocolate) to the exotic (truffle, matcha tea).
Since being here in Paris, I have been lucky enough to taste a few different macarons and I can honestly say that Ladurée ones are the best by far. However, they are not easy on the wallet. Each one costs approx. 2 Euros each....but they are worth it!

Monday, July 26, 2010

La Tour de France

Happy Tour de France day! Today my boyfriend and I fought through the crowds on the Champs Elysees to get a glimpse of the Tour de France. It was set up with a jumbo screen which followed the tour into Paris. There were also food stands, and merchandise stalls set up to buy hats and t-shirts. It was almost like being at a concert.

Before the cyclists came through the street, there was a parade of advertising cars and floats. There were many different vehicles there which were quite well done.

I must admit, I don't know much about the tour, other than flicking past it on the t.v. previously in Canada. The only person I know in it is Lance Armstrong, yet seeing it live is quite spectacular. We waited by the side of road, and suddenly the crowd started cheering as the cyclists flew by us. If you blinked, you might have missed it. Luckily, they do 8 laps around the Champs Elysees so you do get to see them a few times. I couldn't believe how many people are cycling, and how fast they go by! I am so glad I went to see it live!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

YSL Retrospective

Tuesday morning I got up early and set off to Petit Palais for the Yves Saint Laurent Retrospective. I had tried to go the week before, but after waiting in line for over half an hour only to find out that the wait was at least another two hours to get in, I decided to come back another day before the exhibit opened.
I picked a morning that was raining thinking no one else would stand in the rain waiting for an exhibit to open. I was wrong. As I walked up towards Petit Palais from the Seine, I could see about 50 people waiting there already. I guess I was not the only one with the idea to come early.

Once the doors opened to the exhibit, I was finally granted access to see the fashions created by the legendary YSL. The retrospective showed over 300 designs of haute couture and ready-to-wear, from his start in 1958 with Christian Dior to loosely pleated chiffon gowns in his final collection in 2002. The collections were divided up into different rooms to showcase the stages of the designers career. From "Trapeze" dresses to tuxedos for women, every noted design in the fashion industry was there.

Of course, my favorites were the haute couture pieces. I was thrilled to see the Iris jacket on display embroidered by Lesage. Since studying with Lesage, I have am able to spot their amazing hand embroidery and beadwork easily!
One room was dedicated to evening gowns that were dripping with crystals, bows, sequins and beads. I never wanted to leave this room!

Longtime partner Pierre Berge painstakingly conserved all of Saint Laurent's work, including scraps of cloth to put this show together. I think he truly captured the magic that is brought to life in the Yves Saint Laurent designs.
Overall, it was a great retrospective and a MUST SEE for all fashionistas!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New Sterling Silver Designs

Over the past few days I have been hard at work making some new designs for I have new chunky necklaces, and also my new line of sterling silver and gemstone necklaces and earrings! Please visit my website or my Etsy shop and let me know what you think!! All designs are made in Paris, and inspired by the city of lights!