Leeorah Betan-Hartman began making fashion accessories as a child, but didn’t find her true calling as a designer until slightly later in life. Based in New York, Leeorah sculpts and carves all her pieces entirely by hand; a hugely important part of her brand’s ethos.
She strives to design jewellery that connects with the wearer on a personal level, and wants her customers to have one-of-a-kind precious items that they can treasure for years to come. Her designs can be easily mixed and matched to create a narrative completely personal to the you. We chat with Leeorah about her journey from editing film trailers to becoming a jewellery designer.
How did you go from editing film trailers to a jewellery designer?
“In college, I earned a B.F.A. in film and pursued a fulfilling career in editing film trailers, but I missed working with my hands. I was always drawn to jewellery from a young age and I really wanted to learn the process of traditional jewellery making and started with metal-smithing classes, and then found wax carving and never looked back. It allows me to create not only more finely detailed pieces but also freer flowing and organic ones. I just love the freedom and creativity I have while working with wax.”
When did you first fall in love with jewellery?
“Even as a young child, I had a deep affinity for jewellery. I would sneak into my Mum’s jewellery box and try on all her pieces, gazing at all the different stones and colours. I also made my own jewellery as a child, first with beads and polymer clay and then evolving into more intricate bead and wire wrap pieces.”
"When I was young we lived on the east coast with lots of trees and forests behind our home and then we moved to California when I was 10 years old."
Where did you grow up and how has it influenced you as a designer?
“I grew up in the United States. When I was young we lived on the east coast with lots of trees and forests behind our home and then we moved to California when I was 10 years old. The sudden change in climate and surroundings was surreal. After a few years, we returned to the East and I’ve been living in NYC for the past 20 years. I still love the wide-open spaces of the forest and try to travel to places near the ocean whenever I can. All of these different aspects of nature play a huge role in my work now.”
What drove you to start your own line?
“I wanted to start a line that expressed a connection to our environment: the city, history and nature all included. I strive to make each piece so it tells a story of its own while striking a personal connection with the wearer. Wearing jewellery can be whimsical and at the same time express our inner values and feelings. It can be a true statement of ourselves and the hope is that people who wear Lulu & Shay pieces feel more connected to their environment and the world.”
"In an age of computer generated 3D pieces, I still sculpt, invent and carve all of my pieces by hand."
What are your core brand values?
“I’m being approached by more and more people who are looking for unique, one-of-a-kind pieces that reflect their values and personal taste. People are conscious of the environmental impact they make and want to make sure that their jewellery reflects that. My pieces reflect this core value not only through their appearance, but also through the way they are made. I use recycled and reclaimed metals, as well as ethically-sourced stones and recycled packaging materials. I know everyone I work with personally. It’s so important to me to collaborate with the most talented people in my field locally and on a grass roots level.”
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
“I love to look for inspiration in the environment around me. I have found so many ideas from objects found in nature, as well as from my surroundings - whether it is the city, ocean, or forest. It’s amazing to see the textures that can be found in plants, ocean life, sand, and all living things.”
How do you want someone to feel when they wear your designs?
“My hope is that every person who wears my jewellery feels a personal connection with the piece itself; and this connection becomes stronger over time, creating their own history and story with the piece.”
"Being trusted with creating a symbol of love and longevity, knowing someone saw potential in my work, makes this the moment I feel proud of what I create.”
What has been the highest point of your career so far?
“When I design a custom-made engagement or wedding ring. It’s humbling to be part of such a significant and special moment in a couple’s life and to capture their connection in the jewellery I create. Being trusted with creating a symbol of love and longevity, knowing someone saw potential in my work, makes this the moment I feel proud of what I create.”
What does the future hold for Lulu and Shay?
“I am so excited to continue to expand my business. I look forward to partnering with more retailers, working on expanding my online presence and client base, and continue to push my creative process while still sculpting, inventing and carving my pieces by hand. It is so important to me that I make all my jewellery with a dedication to ethical manufacturing. As I continue to grow, I am exploring more options of how I can insure that all aspects of my business follow that standard.”
Lulu and Shay is available to buy on Jewelstreet here.