Of the up-and-coming designers to watch, make sure that @lilythejeweller at @lindens_jewelry is on your radar. Working in jewelry since she was 16, this C.A.R.A.T. award-winning goldsmith and designer already has almost a decade of experience and is making a name for herself in the industry.
I sat down with Lily (and her vintage locket and coral ring) to discuss her designs and get the skinny on the oh-so-secretive jewelry line that Lily Ellicott Designs is dropping this September. While she didn’t tell me or show me the new collection, I think I may have gathered enough intel to make a pretty good guess about what it is. Read the article and let me know what you think the big secret is that will be revealed this fall.
Lily got her start in a jewelry store doing inventory and bookkeeping at only 16 years old. An artist looking for a creative outlet and driven by the desire for a successful career, she was encouraged by her stores’ jeweler to attend the Texas Institute of Jewelry Technology. Coming from a small community and an unconventional background, the encouragement of her colleague gave her the boost she needed. Motivated to be independent, Lily was attracted to both the science and art aspects of the jewelry arts, and made the decision at 17 to apply to jewelry school.
Fast forward nine years later, Lily works for an independent jeweler as the Senior Goldsmith and Shop Manager. When asked about this her exact words were “I never wake up and dread going to work.”
Was it your original goal to be a jeweler?
Lily: “It was actually because of Joseph, who was a goldsmith [at the store where she was working] who had gone to the Texas Institute of Jewelry Technology. He is a ridiculously good jeweler and he let me do some stuff at the bench. I discovered that I could actually exercise that artistic muscle while doing something lucrative and science-based. He got me a bunch of information for the college and basically told me ‘Hey, you might think you’re an idiot…But…I think you’re not.’ So that was really encouraging. I took the entry exam and got into the school. That was kinda how I got started in it: Scrambling at the first thing I saw that I could be independent with.”
You won a C.A.R.A.T Craftsmanship Award in 2019, talk a little about your craftsmanship as a goldsmith.
Lily: “The area where I’ve really been taken seriously is in craftsmanship. Craftsmanship is where I’ve had both the easiest and the hardest time as a goldsmith. Immediately, people see a 23, 24 year old girl and say ‘What can you do? You learned how to size rings last week, didn’t you?’ “
Me: “But that’s not true, you’ve been doing this for years.”
Lily: “I have, since I was 16. I think the time I felt most validated was being accepted into the master level classes at GRS and being able to do the advanced courses for stone setting and scrollwork.”
Me: “Do you feel like your continuing education training is what helped move you forward?”
Lily: “Frankly, I think it was having an employer who was willing to invest in me and took me seriously and pushed me to design. Ashley encouraged me to further my education and I think that showed me that I could do something. It was Ashley who, didn’t even ask me, she straight up told me to design something for the AJA competition.”
Me: “The C.A.R.A.T. awards, right?”
Lily: “Yeah, I created a terrific piece, honestly it’s pretty good. Apparently I’m a bit of a masochist because I always design stuff with half millimeter diamonds pave’d into large, flat surfaces.”
Me: “And you have to set them, right? So you’re doing it to yourself.”
Lily: “Yeah. Difficult to set things don’t intimidate me. I would say stone setting is my favorite thing to do.”
What advice do you have for people who are wanting to become a goldsmith?
Lily: “Work on your discipline. The first moment that you think you’re good enough is the first sign you should be doing something different. And don’t brag. There is nothing that will turn someone off from teaching you something like bragging about your own abilities. The best jewelers out there don’t call themselves the best.”
Would you recommend formal education for aspiring jewelers?
Lily: “I think it depends on your level of discipline and your learning style. For me, it was a fast track. I wanted to be successful in a career by the time I was 20, that was my goal. They do a really good job in giving you the basics, especially if you aren’t familiar with hand tools. I had a certain level of experience working with my hands because I was a hobbyist mechanic.”
Me: “A mechanic? For…cars? So you’re like ‘I like jewelry, I’m good with my hands, I’ll be a jeweler.’?
Lily: “I like art. And creating it. I’m good with my hands but I don’t want to be the broke artist peddling paintings on the street corner.”
Me. “So this was your application of your artistic ability — you didn’t give a lick if it was jewelry or something else.”
Lily: “Yeah, and it seemed prestigious. That’s something selfishly that I’ve chased my entire life: being taken seriously.”
Me: “Well, from looking at you it looks like you’ve grown to love jewelry. So I’m guessing that attitude kinda changed.”
How do you make your jewelry?
Lily: “I normally fabricate. So with this new line we’re launching, it’s felt really luxurious to draw a detailed picture for somebody and let a team of people largely produce it for me to do the stone-setting, finishing, and engraving. Coming from a fabricating background, it feels a little weird. There’s a little part of me that says ‘Can I still take credit for this?’ And I know there are a lot of sticklers who say ‘Can you even say you made a piece if you didn’t do 100% of the work?’ and I agree you should be able to do 100% of the work as a goldsmith, but you get to a certain point where it’s more financially reasonable to pay someone else to do parts of it.”
What is your favorite piece that you’ve made?
Lily: “A lot of the pieces in the new collection that I’m working on are some of my favorites. I can’t say why, that would reveal the entire collection. Actually, I have one I can talk about: it was a padparadscha sapphire that I did recently.”
Me: “Why is the padparadscha your favorite?”
Lily: “The person that I designed it for: the first thing that she said to me was ‘You don’t need to sell yourself or your brand. I’ve looked you up online, I know all about you, I want to use you if you can create the piece that I want done. I warn you, I’m really picky and difficult to please.’ It’s not every day that you get to set a 5ct padparadscha sapphire. It was fun, she is one of the only clients I’ve ever had that is particular about the beading on pave set stones. I’ve never worked with a client who was almost as particular as I am about the quality of work that goes out in a piece. If someone didn’t polish the seat of a stone before setting the stone, that would bother me. And that would bother her. I like clients who are realistic about their expectations and about their budgets.”
Your company is releasing a new line of jewelry in September, and they’re all your designs. It’s a surprise. Is it bridal or fashion?
Me: “So you’re releasing this mysterious new line of fashion jewelry designed exclusively by you, never before seen by anyone. Are you revealing it at your store?”
Lily: “We’ll be unveiling it at our new location. The collection includes jewelry of mixed materials: silver, copper, gold. Ranging anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to I think $10,000 is the most expensive piece.”
Me: “Who is your target market?”
Me: “Economically independent women?”
Lily: “Yes. Fashion-conscious women.”
Can we get a sneak peak of the new line?
Lily: “The first piece in the line has already been unveiled, that’s what won the Craftsmanship award last year. The spider, her name is Margaret, is a giant 37 carat opal set in an 18k bezel. Ashley had that stone for 3 years and had designed 7 different pieces around it, none of which inspired her. As soon as I was like ‘Yo, can I make a spider out of this?’ she said ‘Go for it!'”
What else can you tell us about the new line?
Lily: “I design a lot of art deco and art nouveau inspired things. I sat down originally thinking ‘Art deco is my style, therefore that’s what I’m going to design.’ Um…And they all sucked. All of the designs were awful. I definitely have artists block whenever I’m not inspired. Then I was just working on a customer piece one day and the thought hit me and I drew 7 or 8 designs that were all very…nature-inspired.”
What is the meaning behind the theme of the new collection?
Lily: “This isn’t a well thought out concept, I guess. But…Social rejection, and maybe feeling a little comradery with the ‘creatures’ [depicted in the jewelry art] where they have this stigma or reputation of being ‘scary’ or ‘harmful’ or ‘lethal’ when they’re improving our lives in a lot of ways. They’re very beneficial little fellas.”
Me: “Is this a personal connection that you have to them?”
Lily: “I think it would selfish of me to say that it’s a personal connection, solely. I think, probably, most people would have a certain level of connection to that concept: Feeling rejected. Being rejected. Having a stigma attached to you that’s unfair. So I would say that, on the larger scale, it’s just a theme that I’ve seen in humanity”
How will people be able to buy pieces from this collection?
Lily: “It will be on the Linden’s Jewelry Facebook shop, Instagram, and our website, under Lily Ellicott Designs.”
Tell me about the future of Lily Ellicott and your designs.
Lily: “Making my living selling my designs. I would like stores to carry what I create and what I design. I would like to someday see a random person, and be like ‘Oh! That’s a Lily Ellicott design.'”
Me: “Long term, you want to create.”
So now that you’ve read this interview, what do YOU think the theme is for this mysterious new line of jewelry being released in September?
It’s always inspiring for me to meet ambitious professionals in the jewelry industry. If you are interested in following Lily, her designs, and shopping her NEW line of jewelry that will be released Fall 2020, follow #lilyellicott on instagram and check out the Lily Ellicott Designs Jewelry Collection at https://www.lindensjewelry.com/.