A gifted jewelry designer, as well as an award-winning designer of tableware, leather goods, home goods, gifts and even designed packaging for Origins, Lisa Jenks is an icon. She is also among a handful of women designers who came on the jewelry scene in the late ‘80s, when much of the industry was dominated by men. Recently she has refocused on what she loves the most, which is creating beautiful, flawlessly crafted silver jewelry.
“New York, my hometown, as well as various cultural traditions, art and architecture are my inspiration,” she says. Her work is deeply influenced by Art Deco arts, midcentury modern design, the Vienna workshop movement, and anything indigenous from Mexico to Polynesia.
Lisa says she “draws much of her inspiration from a broad cultural landscape—creating a multicultural, cross-referential collage that has become a hallmark of her work. There are connections to the towering angular forms of Deco skyscrapers, the modernist elements of the Bauhaus School as well as the rhythmic patterns of the indigenous arts from the South Pacific.”
Lisa has always designed in silver; she loves the way it looks and works. “I am fueled by it,” she says. “It matches my aesthetic instincts and always looks wonderful. By using the design language I’ve developed and weaving it into silver jewelry, I get to create something I’d love to own and wear.” She often oxidizes parts of her designs for dramatic effect, and the surfaces of her pieces are carefully polished to a flawless matte finish.
Her career has been deeply intertwined in the New York fashion world, which has given her the opportunity to experience and learn first-hand about clothing, accessories and jewelry produced for the ultimate customer. Her pieces not only fashion-forward and timeless but also are available at a price customers are willing to pay.
Lisa has been in the jewelry world for 30 years. She studied fashion at Parson’s School of Design before working for a women’s sportswear company. Eventually, she grew tired of someone else calling the shots. She wrote a business plan, and the sportswear company offered to loan her start-up money to launch a jewelry business. The launch was an immediate success—the jewelry considered “original, dramatic and tactile.”
When Lisa Jenks Designs was at its height, the company had 25 employees and a huge presence in the fashion jewelry world. They exhibited at ENK, the Accessories Show, and Accent on Design and sold to the most prestigious stores in the United States. They were also featured in fashion magazines on a regular basis.
Lisa has received numerous awards, including Designer of the Year (2006) from the Women’s Jewelry Association. She was also a finalist in the International DeBeers Diamond Jewelry Design competition, and the Silver Institute selected her as their “International Designer of Distinction.” She is also a member of the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America.
All of Lisa’s work is made in New York, either in her studio or by local subcontractors under her direct supervision. Recently, Lisa decided she didn’t want to run a huge business and took a couple years off to consider her options and goals. She came back to jewelry with a renewed sense of what she wanted to do. Her thoughts were to intentionally grow her business smaller and to rediscover and revitalize her passion for jewelry with the primary goal of creating talismans and charms.
When asked who she most admires, she responded immediately, “I greatly admire Ted Muehling. He is someone who just did what he wanted. He ignored fashion and did beautiful work.”