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February 07, 2022
When I sit down to design a new piece of jewelry, I bring the best parts of myself to the table. I have to. There’s no room for fear or doubt or broken promises at the work bench. To turn raw metal into a finished, wearable ring or bracelet is a kind of alchemy, really. It requires patience, creativity, problem-solving, and trust. (And just a little bit of fairy dust!)
That moment when it all starts to come together does feel a bit magical. When the abstract visions in my head begin to make sense in my hands, I get excited — and humble. Out of my hard work and best intentions, I have created something meaningful and beautiful to pass on to another person.
To me, handmade is more than a process. It’s a belief in human connection and community. Making something for another person, or wearing something made lovingly by hand, is to take part in a human tradition as old as time.
People like shiny things. I know I do. A vein of gold in a dull rock, an abalone shell on the beach, even the gleam of a penny on the sidewalk is enough to catch my eye. The first jewelry appealed to our sense of beauty and wonder, but it also had a purpose. We wore pieces of nature to mimic its power — to heal the sick or offer protection for travelers. Our ancestors understood the strength of symbols, and they wore jewelry to effect positive changes in their lives.
When I design jewelry I always start with a good feeling. Hope. Peace. Wonder. Power. The idea is to capture that feeling in a way that speaks to other people and harnesses their dreams too. When I designed my Desert Botanic Collection, I was overcome by the strength and beauty of the Opuntia Prickly Pear cactus. It’s a hardy plant that not just survives, but thrives, in the desert near my home. When someone chooses this design, I know they’ve haven’t just picked the first shiny thing in sight. They’ve chosen a symbol of resilience and possibility. That means something to me.
When we wear mass-produced jewelry we can copy the sparkle on a magazine cover, but I think we miss out some of jewelry’s deeper rewards. To caress a piece of hand-cast silver, to feel the movement of a wire-wrapped gemstone dangling from your ear. There’s a feeling of grounding and connection that comes from knowing that this metal was shaped by human hands with care.
Over the last 20 years there’s been an artisan renaissance of sorts in America, changing the way think about everything from bread and chocolate to clothing and, of course, jewelry. (Etsy anyone?) It seems like just when we figured out how to execute everything to cookie cutter perfection by machine, people realized that wasn’t actually what they wanted at all.
Why are we so drawn to handmade things? For the artist, I think it’s the very tangible joy of working with your hands to create something beautiful, useful and amazing for the world. Finding someone who will cherish your creation is an integral part of that process.
While factories may churn out thousands of identical necklaces (and, honestly, exploit people and resources in the process), a handmade artist works much more slowly, carefully, and ethically. She takes time to source materials and craft smaller batches of high-quality items with real people in mind. When a person buys something handmade, they are choosing to be part of this thoughtful, nurturing process. In my mind, that makes us all artists.
The renewed popularity of handmade jewelry is a return to real relationships and trust. It’s a celebration of the connection between the person who solders and hammers silver into a pendant and the woman who wears it proudly around her neck.
I hope it gives people real confidence to know that each piece of jewelry they buy from me at Lila Clare has been ethically sourced and responsibly, lovingly made. I use recycled silver and primarily source in the USA to be conscious of my studio’s imprint on the earth.
Whenever you make things by hand, you open yourself up to fate, to the little uncertainties that make life interesting: the angle of the hammer on gold, the flow of the solder, the exact wrap of your metal wire. These slight differences don’t make a piece of jewelry any less perfect, long lasting or beautiful. They make it yours.
Every piece of my jewelry tells a story as complex and beautiful as the person wearing it. Like a thumbprint, no item is exactly the same because each was born individually, from concept to work bench to finished piece. The bundled sprout designs in my Joy Collection were inspired by the lush, happy forests of my childhood. I made my Luna Collection with connection and inner strength in mind. When you wear any of these pieces, you also become a part of the story, embracing strength, joy, hope or whatever quality is that you need right now in your life. And the best part is, you get to decide what happens next.
Thank you so much for being a part of my story. If you have more questions about how Lila Clare jewelry is made and sourced, I’m always happy to talk shop. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.
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