Lisa Black is a jeweller near Byron Bay who designs bespoke pieces made from exotic jewels and precious stones.
Akin to great landscape designers, jewellers use a myriad of elements such as texture, scale, balance, simplicity and sequence to create a synergy between form and function. Knowledge of these elements, along with the core principles of design, helps these artisans transform even the simplest of raw materials into majestic works of art. For Lisa Black, both ultimately rely on proportion and composition to achieve a successful result. Continuing to work on occasion as a landscape architect, Lisa contends there are numerous parallels between this and her current vocation designing jewellery.
“The landscape, obviously, is scaled up from a concept drawing and the jewels are scaled down,” she explains from her studio in the Northern Rivers town of Tyagarah. “In both instances the functionality aspect is at play and must be considered. And in both instances one observes the development from paper to reality, which is very stimulating and satisfying as a designer.”
As a young girl, the native New Yorker spent much of her childhood in her grandmother’s restaurant, which was located in the city’s infamous Diamond District. Then located in Downtown Manhattan, the region has a rich history and boasts more than 4000 stores and exchanges selling exotic gemstones, fine jewellery and diamonds.
“In the Depression, people used to pay my grandmother with jewellery because they couldn’t afford to pay in her in any other way, so she had amassed an incredible collection of different pieces,” Lisa recalls. “As university students, my friend and I would take some of her semi-precious stones and make fabulous, contemporary pieces for the modern woman. I love that aspect of taking something old and bringing it to the fore again.”
The ever-changing textures and colour combinations found in the lush landscaping that surrounds her palatial home provides a constant source of design inspiration, she said. “I would also say the proximity to the ocean and the myriad of colours present in the sky are forever inspiring and impacting my creativity,” she explains. “I am currently partial to a wintery palette of the grey-green colour of some palm leaves mixed with a deep slate-like-blue typical to a stormy sky. This is translating into the pale turquoise and the slate greys you find in my Sapphire Malabar range.”
Lisa’s studio is a treasure trove of exotic jewels, precious stones, gemstones, and objects sourced from Marrakesh to Papua New Guinea. Describing her signature style as a fusion of “primitive and sublime”, Lisa’s sketches are brought to life by goldsmith Jan Hooft, a Dutchman revered for his traditional jewellery-making techniques. Some pieces have intricate, 22k gold with hand hammered and finely fashioned elements while others feature intricate bead patterns and unusual combinations such as indigenous seeds with Akoya pearls. “We work closely together on the construction and development process and he very much understands my aesthetic and particular design requirements,” Lisa explains. “Having a relationship with someone who can understand that space ‘between the lines’ so to speak is a rare and special thing.”
Another, albeit different, source of inspiration for Lisa is Steps for Schools, a charity that raises funds for the design and construction of learning spaces in the remote Indian desert region of western Gujarat. “I had long wanted to support women in communities less fortunate than ours and an architect friend, who had been working with the building of schools in Ahmedabad, had organised an adventure where we would raise funds for additional community pre-schools (they had already build 14 of the planned 66 schools) and then assist with the building of one currently under construction,” she says. “Our group effort raised some $50-60,000 and will enable the building of six-to-eight more schools.
“Working with women in communities in other countries brings a different flavour to one’s experience,” Lisa continues, and so the expression of one’s creativity and design aesthetic is influenced in a myriad of ways. I am forever humbled by the nuance and never-ending learning evident and available in these environments.”