Artist at Work: Lily B.
To say we’re fans of Philadelphia-based jewelry designer Lily Bieber-Ham’s work is a bit of an understatement. We just can’t get enough! Guided by a passion for natural materials, Lily believes that jewelry should be as effortless as it is beautiful. As her new collection arrives for summer, we sat down with this adventurous designer to learn more about her process and the unique journey that led to her jewelry line, Lily B. & Co.
terrain: What are some early influences that led you where you are today?
Lily: I grew up in an entrepreneurial household. My parents started a children's clothing company in their apartment kitchen. That was the world that I grew up in— surrounded by wonderfully creative people with lots of inspiration flying around. I was also under the watchful eye of my two very clever and creative grandparents, who were always teaching me to make things. The spirit was always to “make it from scratch,” whether it was food, art, clothing, or jewelry. This, in combination with a menagerie of pets and rescued animals around the house, made for a pretty interesting childhood.
terrain: You’ve traveled extensively—what are some of your most memorable adventures, and how have they inspired your work?
Lily: I feel incredibly lucky to have traveled so much. Every destination, and the journey involved, has inspired me in some way. I lived in Australia while doing bottlenose dolphin research, which was a very influential experience in my life. Being exposed to such overwhelming beauty on a daily basis was magical. While the places I visit inspire me, I’m equally inspired by the people I meet along the way. Scientists, artists, farmers, and more-- they're all so passionate about what they do. That’s one of the most valuable things that I’ve gotten out of my adventures.
terrain: How does your passion for nature carry over into jewelry making?
Lily: For me, the two go hand-in-hand, so it was a natural progression. My degree is in Environmental Science, with a concentration in Wildlife Conservation. After college, I had an amazing opportunity to work at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, my childhood dream. While working there, I made jewelry in my spare time, and one thing led to another. My science background is so much a part of me that it influences all aspects of my business, from which stones I pick, to the methods that I use to organize. I come from a long line of collectors and creators and love making jewelry, so getting to use beautiful, natural materials is the icing on the cake.
terrain: How would you describe your design aesthetic?
Lily: Whimsical simplicity. I create each piece to highlight the natural beauty of the stones (and the person wearing them). I focus on color combinations and clean lines to compliment the gems. Wearability and comfort are important to me. I want people to forget that they are wearing jewelry, not be weighed down by heavy pieces.
terrain: What do you love most about working with precious minerals and stones?
Lily: The thrill of the treasure hunt is one of my favorite aspects of working with gems. I'm always amazed by the unusual stones that I find. Talking to miners and learning about the stones’ geologic makeup and their history is one of my favorite parts. It all adds to the intrigue!
terrain: What’s your favorite stone to work with?
Lily: It’s always changing! I am constantly re-inspired by new stones. Lately though, I have especially been loving chrysoprase. There are so many color variations, from mossy green to aqua, and it has a special glow. I'm most attracted to unique colors and iridescence; anything with lots of fire and sparkle catches my eye.
terrain: We love the layered, mix-and-match quality of your pieces. How do you like to style the necklaces, and what are some of your favorite pairings?
Lily: I tend to switch things up pretty often, but for the past few months I have worn my Chrysoprase Slice necklace almost every day. I then layer a few other necklaces with it. A favorite combination is the Chrysoprase Slice with a Herkimer Diamond Row and a Quartz Amulet or beaded strand to add a different length and texture. I wear my necklaces no matter what I’m doing, whether it’s mucking through the woods or going out to dinner. I create un-fussy jewelry that’s practical for both everyday wear and formal occasions. I’ll never get over the excitement of seeing people wearing my pieces!
Holding a stone was such a precious commodity when I was a child. I am reliving the magical feeling of the search for the perfect stone (you know the one to keep secretly in your pocket for safekeeping) with my children now. Viva la stone...and viva from scratch! Beautiful craftsmanship. Happy Nesting.