Let’s face it: Los Angeles is not a fashion capital. But with year-round perfect weather, who really cares? Still, that doesn’t negate the fact that a large portion of the population limits their clothing options to club- or beachwear, regardless of occasion. If you explore beyond the embellished T-shirts, velour track suits, and flip flops, you’ll find a community of independent designers that transcends the trends by creating real art for the city. Amongst this group are Lisa and Dan Soltis of LAS Jewelry. With her organic design aesthetic and his professional sculpting skills, this LA-based couple creates custom jewelry that fluently balances vintage adornment with modern craftsmanship.
I first met you at Bijou Phillip’s party for Vanessa Prager and Di Gaeta’s dual art installation at EM and Co. in Hollywood. Do you frequent the art party scene, or was this a special occasion? We love to hit up art openings anywhere, from the Culver City gallery district to Chinatown and Downtown LA’s art walk. Eveline of EM and Co. always throws a great party. We especially seek out any event that fuses fashion with art.
How did your foray into jewelry design begin? As a husband and wife team, Daniel being the sculptor and me being the painter and illustrator, we imagined the perfect collaboration and came up with a jewelry line. I could go crazy with drawing and designing on paper, and Dan will make it into a three-dimensional reality. It’s a great feeling to hold something you’ve created cast in metal.
What are some of the benefits and challenges of being an independent designer in LA? One of the biggest benefits is creating an identity for yourself as an artist — I guess that’s a challenge too. And it’s figuring out how to turn the challenges into things that are only building and benefitting our character. Some of the challenges are balancing the flow of our creative spirit through the design process to the final product, to time management, self-motivation, and business and marketing savvy. However, to have the freedom of being your own boss, taking a hold of the inspiration of this incredible city, is the best benefit of all.
With the current wave of accessory accentuation, this is really your moment. What sets LAS Jewelry apart from other emerging designers in your industry? We have a strength as a married team of artists that I think is rare. It is a blessing to have the minds of both a 2-D and 3-D artist — we believe that anything we can conceptualize, we can make. Although trends are important to the fashion world, it’s style that we seek; we view our pieces as small forms of wearable art — not just as disposable products that will float in and out from season to season. We create a broad spectrum of pieces that someone with a more demure and classic style or someone who is a bit bolder with personal expression can embrace.
If I didn’t know some of the charms and pendants were hand-sculpted by your husband, I’d swear they were antique treasures. What era are your designs influenced by? Although we are hunters and gatherers of all treasures ancient and antique, we definitely pull inspiration from natural and organic subjects, old biological and scientific illustrations, and our love of animals and anatomy. There isn’t a specific era that is a direct influence; however, we find there is beauty in age and make sure our creations reflect this aesthetic without a “brand new off the assembly line” feel.
Walk me through the collaborative process between you two in designing the sculpted pieces. It usually begins with the idea of a series of pieces, as we aim to convey a continuity through the line. We each begin by sketching out individual interpretations of what we are about to create, and we narrow the sketches to one specific image. At that point, Dan begins the transition of the design on paper to a wax model. Taking a block of carving wax, he sculpts the charm or pendant, and we put it into the production of molding and casting in various metals.
Many of your creations are one-of-a-kind. What inspires you to create new work? Much of our inspiration comes from living in LA — the architecture, the plant life, and how people in this city reinvent themselves through personal style. In addition to our sculpted metal charms and pendants, we’re inspired to develop pieces that would be sought after as original works of art. Just as if you were to buy a one-of-a-kind painting off a gallery wall, you could purchase a piece of our jewelry to wear and treasure enough to carry with you day to day. The idea of using repurposed and recycled materials has always been an absolute for us — and in addition to found vintage metal items, we began incorporating recycled leather and fabric. What techniques and materials are you interested in experimenting with in future designs? I’m experimenting with cutting up old book covers and doing miniature drawings and paintings on them, tiny enough to wear. We’re interested in working with resins, wood, and basically anything we can get our hands on to dismantle and give new life. Where can we find LAS Jewelry currently and which boutiques are on your stocklist wish list? LAS Jewelry is currently in EM and Co. on West 3rd Street, and will be in Ten Over Six on Beverly Boulevard for late summer/fall. Our stocklist wish list includes Confederacy, American Rag CIE, and Maxfield in LA, and Bess and Oak in New York.
Do you have any upcoming projects that we should know about? We are designing custom whistle charms for nonprofit organization Falling Whistles, which benefits and drives awareness to children suffering from civil war in the Congo. Check out the story online at www.fallingwhistles.com. In addition to this collaboration, we have a number of new creatures in the works and more leather goods materializing in the near future.