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Behind The Scenes

Elena’s Easiest Pasta Sauce Ever

Elena, demonstrating the joys of starch and butter. To create the jewelry for her line TOMTOM, Elena Coleman Howell employs high-tech design programs, 3-D printers, and water jets that cut through metal. But at the end of the day, Elena takes comfort in Italian food—the making of which is more of an art than a science. “I am an unabashed Italophile. I studied Italian language for two years in college—so I know enough to get by after two glasses of wine,” she says. “I love pasta. When the South Beach Diet came out, I told everyone I was on the North Beach Diet: All carbs, all the time.” Here’s the sauce she makes—from her bible, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcela Hazan—that pairs especially well with architectural tortellini, made on a Marcato Atlas pasta maker. Before! After! Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter2 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes* or 2 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juices5 tablespoons butter1 medium onion, peeled and cut in halfSalt1 to 1 ½ pounds pastaFreshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese for the tablePut either the prepared fresh tomatoes or the canned in a saucepan, add the butter, onion, and salt, and cook uncovered at a very slow, but steady simmer for 45 minutes, or until the fat floats free from the tomato. Stir from time to time, mashing any large piece of tomato in the pan with the back of a wooden spoon. Taste and correct for salt. Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with the pasta.*If using fresh tomatoes, blanch first by plunging the tomatoes in boiling water for a minute or less. Drain them, and, as soon as they are cool enough to handle, skin them and cut them into chunks. Don’t miss out on the ring Elena cooked up for us. There are just 25!
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Elena Howell’s L.A. Mid-Century Tour

Before Elena Coleman Howell started making clean-lined jewelry under the name TOMTOM, she was all about creating buildings, working as an architect for the firm Marmol Radziner and Associates. “They were the architects famous for restoring such mid-century gems as Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann House in Palm Springs and another Neutra home in the Hollywood Hills belonging to this guy Tom Ford,” she notes. Her own affection for the mid-century look came from her hometown—and a movie you probably didn’t pay money to see. “Although I grew up in Los Angeles, the epicenter of mid-century modern architecture, my obsession with the style didn’t begin until 2001 when I saw the film The Anniversary Party. The movie is about actors playing actors, on ecstasy, with Jennifer Jason Leigh crying a lot,” the (straight-up hilarious) designer explains. “But what really captured my attention was this beautiful, light-filled home in the Hollywood Hills where all of the drama unfolded—a mid-century modern home by Neutra.” Here, the local places she suggests you hit up for inspiration and era-appropriate furnishings. Sheats-Goldstein Residence Check Out These Homes:Schindler House and Eames House: “Most of the mid-century homes in L.A. are lived-in, making them impossible to tour. These two are open to the public and worth checking out.”Sheats-Goldstein Residence: “In grad school, a few friends and I somehow finagled a private tour of John Lautner’s property, which has made appearances in such films as The Big Lebowski. This house is amazing. I try to make my jewelry look like it. If you can’t get a tour, this video is a close second.” Dinnerware by Heath Shop at These Spots:Heath Ceramics: “My husband and I registered for their dishware for our wedding. I will never regret forgoing china for this.”The Rose Bowl Flea Market: “The second Sunday of every month, score mid-century furniture gems on the cheap.”Danish Modern: “It’s not inexpensive, but you can find gorgeously restored mid-century furnishings—and you don’t have to wake up early on a Sunday to get the best pieces.” Make sure you don’t miss out on the architectural ring Elena created for Of a Kind.
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Elena Howell’s Ring: Now Showing in 3-D

Before doing a deep dive into the world of jewelry, Elena Coleman Howell was an architect. “The Southern California Institute of Architecture, where I received my master’s degree, is known for being avant-garde and innovative—the curriculum emphasizes digital design and digital fabrication,” the she explains. “When I make jewelry, I utilize the same processes I learned in school, the only differences being the scale of the designs, the materials I use, and the hand-finishing.” Here, a pictorial guide to the creation process. Like what you see? Scoop up one of the 25 rings here.“First, I design the ring in a 3-D software program called Rhino. This is the initial ring form.” “Here I’m experimenting with different shapes.” “The final ring form, as viewed from four angles.” “Then, the digital design is ‘printed’ out of wax using a 3-D printer.” “This is a finished wax model—the one for this ring ended up being too delicate for human fingers.” “The ring is cast in brass using the lost wax casting technique. Then it’s hand-polished to a satin finish and plated with 18-karat gold.”
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