Lisa Linhardt: Design, Responsibility, and Loving Life
Lisa Linhardt. I have to tell the story of meeting her. It was Saturday October 15th, 2011. I remember because I had just completed my first day of a Practical Intuition Bootcamp with Laura Day. I was roaming the streets of the East Village, just leaving my new favorite thrift shops having purchased my favorite jacket a vintage sea green silk Ralph Lauren Blazer. Anyway, I am roaming down 1st Avenue and I am suddenly called in by this art work. There were these pieces, odd yet beautiful, somewhat abstract and very compelling pieces of art, that dubbed as Jewelry.
I walk in an am in complete Joy, and somewhat wonder…I wonder if she knew. It’s almost like I could feel the artist, and her process. I didn’t know her but wanted to. Simultaneously, there was this young, very grounded, seemingly wise and passionate, and in that moment somewhat quiet women behind the counter. I asked her questions and tried on rings…and the more I asked the more I saw she knew and I wondered if she was the artist. Yes! As I reveled in the beauty of this woman’s art and wondered who she was, what she was like…She, the artist her self, held the space for me to explore her work. So this is Lisa, she has a way about her that is magnetic and calm. I have a feeling she may not always be that quiet and in my experience with her she held a quiet , peaceful space in her East Village Art Gallery. We talked green, and sustainable, then raw chocolates. It was one of those quite random, yet serendipitous moments, that was a great cap to lovely NYC Saturday.
Come to find out she is a designer, a silversmith and goldsmith, a trained dancer, world traveller, former art director, and yes business woman. Her work has been worn by Alicia Keys and Gisele Bundchen, featured in Vogue and Bazaar, and of course has adorned the runways of Fashion Week NYC. Lisa has been coined the “green jeweler” by New York Magazine; who also named Linhardt Design a “Critics’ Pick” for the East Village. If you’re ever in NY, please visit the Linhardt Design Studio. She is actually there herself many weekends. And with that, I’ll leave you to the interview. Enjoy!
Lisa: The Artist
tCG: When did you know that you were an Artist? The Artist you are Today?
Lisa Linhardt: The Arts had always held an allure for me, but it wasn’t until elementary school, when I was actually “paid” by fellow classmates to do their art projects for them, that I felt I could make a future in the arts. I was asked to make cards, book report covers, you name it—and I thought to myself that there must be something to this. Back then, my classmates didn’t have money, but I always ate lunch with an extra treat: chocolate milk, dessert, or candy. Today, I am happy to make a living from my art and still have a deep affinity toward sugary things. I am convinced that doing all those book report covers back in the day is what gave me my sweet tooth!
tCG: You have a diverse background: dance, fine arts, graphic design. How do these come together to contribute to Linhardt Design?
LL: My fine arts background is very relevant to my current work—experimentation in different mediums has given me the ability to conceptualize, sketch, and translate thoughts into three-dimensional form. Through the fine arts, I learned that obtaining a certain set of skills allows you to express your vision more freely, without boundaries. It is important to experiment with and understand your material, a process very relevant to what I do on a daily basis. As for graphic design, I thought it was something I needed to learn as a creative person to put food on my table. I wasn’t completely happy being in front of a computer for hours since I wanted to work with my hands and interact with more people. However, looking back, I am happy to have learned those skills because they allowed me to create the logo, business cards, website and other branding materials used to market my work. As for dance…dance keeps me sane. It is my therapy, my constant stress-reliever. I would be lost without it in my life.
tCG: You’ve chosen a field that requires a level of mastery, to achieve what you have. You are the designer, and also as trained silversmith and goldsmith, your pieces are handmade. What advice would you give to someone who wants to achieve Mastery in what they’re passionate about? What does it take? Who is it important to have around you?
LL: Passion is key—it fuels the drive that gets you through days where everything goes right and pushes you through the days where you want to pull your hair out. Persistence to the point of relentlessness is also important because you are challenged every day (hopefully). I don’t think mastery comes easy. In fact, I don’t think anything worth anything comes easy. Malcolm Gladwell once said that it takes about 10 years or 10,000 hours of practice to attain true expertise. I’m not convinced that the learning process ends at that point. It’s important to have loved ones who continue to challenge, inspire and encourage you to keep things moving forward, above, and beyond. There is always room to take things further.
tCG: What inspires you? Do you have a creative muse?
LL: Since custom jewelry is my specialty, I am often inspired by my clients. With custom projects, I can design anything, but if the project doesn’t reflect the personality of the wearer, something isn’t quite right. When I’m creating a ready-to-wear piece, I am often inspired by seeing beauty in the unconventional. Right now, I am designing a piece inspired by the antennae of bugs; antennae are known to be grotesque, but I see a beautiful elegance in their lines. Inspiration is everywhere and attracts a certain mood and state of mind, so inspiration is ever-changing.
Lisa: The Business Woman
tCG: What is it like having your own boutique and jewelry line, from the business side? How do you manage it all?
LL: I am not sure that I successfully manage it all! It would be wonderful to do nothing but creative work, but supporting a business in its infancy means you have to wear multiple hats. When involved with every single facet and detail of the business from concept to execution, it is difficult to make everything a priority, as much as I would love to. It has been a difficult journey to understand that, and it kills me since I am a bit of a perfectionist. If I could do nothing but be artistic and creative every day I’d be golden, but that’s not the reality.
tCG: You have a custom engagement ring product, where you incorporate recycled metals and ethically-sourced stones. What is the concept behind this?
LL: I think it’s a stretch to say that any kind of mining, whether it be stones or metals, is “ethical”. There is, however, a responsible way of sourcing these materials. Regarding stones, I make sure to work directly with the source and sell third-party verified mine-to-market stones (diamonds, sapphires, and an array of other stones). These mining and cutting facilities often train local workers, teach transferrable skills, pay fair wages, and have fair working conditions so that the community can benefit from its own natural resource. I am attracted to programs that place the human rights of the workers at the forefront—that has not been the case for the most popular third-party verification we currently have for tracing conflict diamonds, the “Kimberly Process”.
tCG: You are known as the “green jeweler”. You’ve achieved great design, style, and success with sustainable practices. Is this really possible? What makes you so passionate about sustainability and fair-trade? Thanks for being a trail-blazer with this.
LL: The reality is that the jewelry industry needs a clean-up. I believe the garment industry has made more stride when it comes to sustainability, and though both industries have a long way to go, we must all do our part in changing the way we source our materials. Some say that it starts with the public demanding eco-friendly fashion and accessories, but I really think designers can all be trailblazers for industry change. If we all researched where our materials came from and asked questions instead of blindly writing out checks, the suppliers would have no choice other than to supply us with the right materials, or ensure that the programs created will benefit people and planet in a responsible manner. I am passionate about this because I originally wanted to make a living out of my favorite medium—metal. I found myself being thrown into an industry where buying certain gold contributed to areas where gold mining destroyed our waters with cyanide, and buying certain diamonds may have supported human rights violations in conflict areas. That just didn’t seem right to me. I am still navigating my way through it all.
Lisa: The Person
LL: First off, I’d like to thank you for that wonderful compliment. Secondly, I’d like to offer you a job as my PR person. I have a long way to go before I can consider myself “successful”. I want to kick myself sometimes because I am running my dream business, living in one of the best cities in the world, and have a wonderful circle of family and friends, but still feel like I have a long way to go. I am satisfied, but I always strive to be better.
tCG: What do you want the world to know about Lisa Linhardt?
LL: That I’m SINGLE. Well, I am! All the men I meet are coming in for engagement rings or jewelry for their girlfriends/boyfriends. You know it’s serious when you start buying jewelry for your partner, so I’m not about to go there, but if you have single friends…hook a sister up! Just sayin’.
tCG: What inspires you? In Life? In Business? In Art?
LL: The first things that come to mind are sculpture, architecture, and objects. The materials inspire me. Forms and shapes inspire me, whether or not they are naturally made. People and their stories inspire me. Music and its ability to override words inspires me…inspiration is everywhere! Picasso said, “Inspiration exists but has to find you working,” and it is very true! Keep it moving, people!
tCG: Favorite place to eat in NY?
LL: Tia Pol.
tCG: On a Date?
LL: Anywhere new.
tCG: With your Girlfriends?
LL: Northern Spy.
tCG: What country do you love most and why?
LL: Hmm, a difficult decision! Cuba for the music. Turkey for the food. Dominican Republic for the kitesurfing. Italy for the architecture. Kenya for the stories. To be continued…
tCG: What do you do to rejuvenate? Any favorite destinations or spas?
LL: No spas for me. I throw on four-inch heels and tear up the dance floor with some old-school salsa in some of the hottest hidden spots in NYC—there is nothing like it! As for destination spots, I love sneaking away to the Dominican Republic, to a tiny beach town for some kitesurfing, horseback riding, and fresh coconut-banana batidos. That’s what I call paradise.
Lisa: In Closing
tCG: What advice would you give tCG Readers?
LL: Be relentless. Adapt without losing your vision. Everything is a process. Leave room for change. Never give up.