How long have you been a part of Artistic Portland, and what appealed to you about joining the Co-op?
I've been involved with Artistic Portland from when it was an idea that was brainstormed with a group of artists in somebody's living room to participating as an artisan at the previous location and our current downtown store. I enjoy being with such a terrific variety of talented artists. Everybody is so helpful with providing ideas, critique, support and knowledge --so as a Co-Op and as individual artists -- we are successful.
What jobs have you had other than being an artist?
Prior to becoming a jewelry designer, I was part of creating a private, non-profit corporation in Redmond, Washington that enabled organizations and commuters in Redmond and the greater eastside of Puget Sound to achieve transportation demand management goals. I directly created and managed 19 out of 24 innovative programs that received international/national award recognition and developed and implemented broad-based marketing campaigns which included creating a board game and professional playing cards.
I worked for the City of Redmond, Washington coordinating the Planning Commission and worked directly with the Planning Director and City Planners.
I was a computer programmer at Schnitzer Steel back when there weren’t very many women in the field.
What do you think about when choosing the specific stones and material you create with?
I get excited to see a strand of semi-precious stones and have a vision of what the piece of jewelry will be before I get started. I call myself a “gem nerd”. I love researching stones and their meanings. It’s rewarding to see jewelry designs I envision become a reality – especially a design that leads to a new jewelry collection for my business. It keeps things fresh and helps me grow as a person. I look for gemstones that are unique so clients have one-of-a-kind pieces.
Where do you create?
I work in my office.
What inspires you?
My clients and people who stop by at events and comment on my work makes me want to work even harder to create new designs to keep them coming back for more. It makes me feel good to have a customer purchase something for somebody special and they – or the person on the receiving end – contact me and tell me how perfect the piece was and how much they enjoy it and the compliments they receive. It makes me happy to have people feel good when they wear my jewelry. I always say glamour is an inside job, but I can help make people sparkle on the outside.
What is it like designing jewelry for the Rose Festival Court Princesses and how did that come about?
I was asked to design jewelry for the Princesses ten years ago and have been doing it ever since. I feel these young women are our future business women and entrepreneurs and it’s an honor to design something special for them. They have worn my designs for Queen Coronations, Grand Floral Parades and Knighting Ceremonies. I get excited to see how they grow as individuals from the time they are first selected to represent their school until crowning of the queen.
I understand some of your jewelry sales also go to raise money for specific causes. Tell us about that.
I design bracelets that represent five different cancers where part of the proceeds go back to their foundations. I also design a line of jewelry that the purchase of stones goes back to Nairobi tribal women in Kenya. It’s rewarding to help others, and that’s why I continue my work since I feel that is what life is supposed to be about
If you could wake up tomorrow with a new artistic skill, what would it be?
I used to watch Bob Ross when he had his television show The Joy of Painting. He made painting beautiful landscapes look so easy – especially painting “Happy little trees”. I want to attempt painting in the future. My husband’s grandma started painting when she was in her 80s and painted from memories of their ranch. I have some of her blank canvasses in storage just waiting for me.
What do you like to do when you're not creating?
I like helping colleagues grow their business and giving back in the community.
I enjoy motorcycle rides. My husband and I go for a long ride every year to explore different states. We just got back from Yellowstone and Cody, Wyoming. This included a trip to my husband’s family homestead from the olden days where lots of items his family used on their ranch is in a museum in Thermopolis. The Mayor came out and spent the afternoon with us showing us the history and telling us tales of the families who were there. At Yellowstone, it was amazing to have buffalo walk at arm's distance from us and seeing the beautiful country. I like to also fish, travel and help the elderly.
Stop by Artistic Portland to see and purchase Lea's work in person!