From Chicken Soup for the Entrepreneur's Soul

It Started with a Sparkle

It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else.

Erma Bombeck

My parents have always told me that when I was born, I opened my eyes and they sparkled like blue diamonds.

My childhood was filled with colorful, creative days. I spent endless hours transforming lumps of colorful clay into wondrous, creative pieces of jewelry. My bedroom was my first boutique, and my parents were my first customers. I dreamed that someday I would make and sell beautiful, sparkly things to people all over!

I never lost the desire to design unique and wonderful pieces of jewelry and became obsessed with developing innovative techniques. As a teenager, I made tiny collage pins with pictures and bits of fabric and lace. My love of collage inspired me to create an entire collection of brooches from old watch parts, vintage costume jewelry and interesting found objects.

In the early 1990s, I had the opportunity to travel to Europe and work as a fashion model. I spent the daytime hours traveling to castings and bookings, but when the sun went down, I whiled away the hours making jewelry. I often went treasure hunting, scouring Parisian flea markets and antique shops in search of beads and crystals to transform into new treasures. I mixed them with my own hand-sculpted crosses designed from polymer clay and wore the finished pieces to fashion shoots. There I was, amid such beautiful people and beautiful things, but it was my jewelry that often garnered the attention! Many times, the stylists, makeup artists, designers and photographers bought my designs and then asked for more!

When I returned to the States, I made the decision to change careers. I had grown weary of starving myself in order to stay “model thin” and did not feel creatively fulfilled. I began working behind the scenes as a makeup artist and discovered that I was much happier behind the camera than in front of it! I also fell head over heels in love! Alfonso was handsome and goofy, and we laughed about the same corny stuff. He was also an artist, and we liked the same music. I had found my creative match.

While I was passionate about Alfonso, I also remained passionate about designing jewelry. I chose to devote more time to my sculptural jewelry process and created a small work studio in a tiny apartment. Visions of beautiful, sparkly things not only danced in my head, but on it; when I was unable to find the clips that I envisioned to wear in my new short haircut, I simply decided to make my own. I made micro-clips that were designed to be worn in clusters, crystal butterflies and delightful insect silhouettes. I created “anywhere” clips adorned with flowers that could be clipped anywhere from a purse to a ponytail. There were even glittering crystal headbands fashioned from wire and crystal beads. I was so inspired that I stayed up night after night coming up with new ideas. I often wore my designs as I left in the mornings, but frequently returned unadorned. Girls sometimes stopped me as I sauntered along, inquiring about my creations and purchasing them on the spot.

It was Alfonso who suggested that I take my jewelry to some hip boutiques. He was certain that my designs would be a big hit with the trendier crowd who frequented those retail establishments. I was reluctant to do so. Who would want to buy my quirky designs? I thought. Nevertheless, Alfonso was not deterred. He created beautiful boxes to showcase my collection, and off he went. When he returned, he had a stack of orders and our little company, Tarina Tarantino Designs, was born.

In August 1998, a high-profile magazine did a feature story on Tarina Tarantino Designs. Soon after, we moved the company out of that tiny, cramped apartment and into a small studio space in West Hollywood. We hired a half-dozen employees and worked many long hours to meet the demand for our collections. Actresses, entertainers and people who simply wanted to feel like movie stars were wearing my wonderful, whimsical creations!

In October 1999, Alfonso and I married after a three-year engagement. This was our opportunity to celebrate everything that we had accomplished as a couple and as business partners. Everything from the cake to the tables to the wedding party was decorated with our designs. It was a beautiful day, and there were sparkling crystals everywhere you looked!

Alfonso and I now have two sparkling daughters, Chloe and Olivia. We have moved the business twice to accommodate our growth and recently opened a gorgeous retail shop on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. The creation of Tarina Tarantino Designs has been an amazing journey. Sometimes, I have to pinch myself just to be certain that all of this is real. How fortunate I am to be living the dreams I had when I was just a little girl with sparkling blue eyes!

Tarina Tarantino
As told to Terri Duncan

EPILOGUE: Tarina Tarantino Designs recently marked its ten-year anniversary. The designer’s whimsical collections feature jewelry, hair accessories and belt buckles beautifully crafted from Swarovski crystals, Lucite, wood and semiprecious stones.

Tarina serves as the company’s vice president and designer, and her husband, Alfonso, is president and creative director. In addition to the Tarina Tarantino shop on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, California, there is also a boutique in Milan, Italy. For more information or to purchase items from Tarina’s numerous collections, visit

Terri Duncan

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