my travels have been a major source of inspiration and have provided me with a wonderful opportunity to purchase materials for my designs. in 2001, I traveled to Indonesia and visited the Spice Island of Banda Nara. meeting the king of the island and purchasing freshwater pearls for the first time were both unforgettable experiences. I learned that one must rub the pearls against one's teeth and if the pearls are gritty, they are natural. it was a thrill to purchase freshwater pearls against the tropical backdrop of the island, and this image inspires my whenever I create necklaces with freshwater pearls. on the same trip, we went Australia and had the opportunity to snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef. during our snorkeling adventures, we constantly saw bright blue starfish and stars soon became my favorite shape. I often use starfish-shaped gemstones in my designs.