ELEVEN SIX WOMEN | LILA RICE
Meet Lila Rice: Founder of namesake Jewelry line: Lila Rice. I had the pleasure of meeting Lila within the Kingston, NY small business community and became immediately smitten with her bold, strong, yet feminine jewelry pieces. So much so, I rarely leave the house without wearing Lila’s sterling silver pond ring and rae ear cuff as they’ve become my daily armor! In our last three ELEVEN SIX Look book’s, I had the honor of styling Lila’s exquisite pieces with our knitwear collections, nothing short of the perfect pairing. We visited Lila at her Kingston, NY home and studio and photographed her in her favorite ELEVEN SIX knitwear. Read on to learn more of Lila’s path of being self-taught metalsmith and designer and how her beautiful brand has evolved since 2001...
Lila wears the Sara Cardi in teal back to her own jean.
Can you share your background and how your career path led you forming Lila Rice Jewelry?
I actually started the brand in 2001 in the Bay Area under the name Round Designs Jewelry, and did a rebrand with my own name when I moved to NYC in 2009.
Starting a jewelry business was completely unexpected! I didn't study business or metal work, really-- I was always into making things growing up but ended up on an academic track, rather than heading to art school. Most of my friends were art school kids and I was always more of a book nerd. One summer I took a basic silversmithing class when I was home from college and it really struck a chord with me-- it was creative and hands-on, but also picky, problem-solving-oriented and a little bit dangerous. I loved learning about all the tiny tools! I set up a very basic studio back in Oakland, CA, when I returned from New Hampshire, and continued working in various living and dining rooms corners over the next couple of years, just for fun. Eventually people started asking about pieces I was wearing and I started making a little money, and then I was hooked. I started approaching all the cool stores in San Francisco (in-person, no appointment, just walking in with samples! In retrospect I'm impressed with my boldness) and that was how I first entered the retail world.
How would you describe your work and what inspires your work?
My work has evolved from being a bit edgy and raw-looking to a smoother, sensual, more organic aesthetic-- more sophisticated, I suppose. Like me! Haha. I like pieces that have some weight to them; I find comfort in wearing a piece that has a strong, steady presence. Like an anchor. And I love how a hefty piece of metal warms to body temperature, offering a bit of loving heat back to the wearer.
I've always been inspired by forms and shapes in the natural world but most often new shapes emerge as I am working, unless of course I am doing a custom project. I don't usually have a grand design plan other than some bits of ideas; it's more natural for me to let the materials and the mood inform the artistic process. My husband has been trying to get me to create mood boards for years but it's just not in me to be so purposeful about where I'm going. . . . which is funny now that I think about it, because in other areas of my life I am a pretty controlled, planning type.
How do you want women or how do you think women feel when they wear your jewelry pieces?
At ease and powerful.
Lila wears Vaida Handknit Sweater in pale grey with her own jeans
A fun moment where we both discussed we enjoy high kicks and can’t take being photographed too seriously... ;)
Your husband is a creative in many realms - do you channel creatively together in relation to your jewelry work? (side note just LOVE the poured concrete display pieces he makes)
Martin (Cartagena) is a creative wonder and a great craftsperson and has dabbled in a LOT of artistic pursuits (most notably he is an incredible photographer, known for his street photos); years ago we collaborated on a series of jewelry work wherein he did metal etching and I did the fabrication. Currently he makes all my displays and I like to call him my "producer". We definitely work well together creatively and I'm happy that the concrete forms that started as jewelry displays have spring-boarded him into a new artistic chapter; he's working on lamps, vessels, and art objects and it's so fun to see him inspired by a new medium.
You are a Mama to a little girl. How do you manage the juggle between keeping the creative and production process going and jumping back into parenting? (does she have an opinion about your product?)
Yes, the juggle is not easy! In the beginning I tried to do both at the same time but I quickly learned that it's impossible to work well and parent well if double-fisting. So I scaled back work somewhat for the first few years-- the pandemic kept us from having any childcare options, so she was home, where I work. When she started pre-k I was able to find my sea legs a little bit, and every year I find my work bandwidth grows just a little. I am super-duper efficient with my dedicated work hours, because the fact is that when Ramona is home it's a miracle if I can get any work done. She LOVES to be with me and help in the studio and, well, she just turned 5, so "helping" means we hang out and hammer things and make messes. I am trying to soak it up and am not beating myself up about splitting my time. She is the most important piece of work of all, of course.
She thinks what I do is pretty cool. She wants me to make her a unicorn necklace, which is on my to-do list.
Lila wears the Ali Sweater and Lea Skirt in Cobalt Blue.
You moved Upstate to the Hudson Valley from the city during the pandemic. How has this transformed you and your family's lives?
Yes, and it's been a time of expanding for all of us. I am SO happy that Ramona has more space to play both indoors and outside, and Martin and I both have a lot more room for our creative work, both physically and in terms of time. My anxiety level plummeted as soon as we left the city. I do miss some things, of course, but raising kids in the city is a lot harder than I thought it would be. After 3.5 years in the Hudson Valley it still feels new and exciting to me, so I take that as a good sign.
What are your favorite ways to unwind and switch off when you are not working?
Exercise, cooking, wine. Occasionally we binge-watch trashy reality tv after kid bedtime but that's only when we have the energy for it!
Lila wears the Uma Poncho and Leah Pants in Camel.
What is a series/movie/book you just read or watched that you loved?
Hilary Mantel's novel Giving Up the Ghost is something I read recently that has really stuck with me. It's a memoir-- I never read memoirs!-- and it is dark and unsettling but also very funny and beautifully written. Her intelligence is staggering.
Where are you dreaming of hopping on a plane to next?
Lila wears the Luella Cardi and Pia Tube Skirt in Ivory.
Do you have anything exciting in the pipeline you can share?
I have been making some handmade gold chains in custom lengths and sizes, which has been really fun and exciting. You can see them on my Instagram thread-not available online just yet! I am hoping to expand my handcrafted gold offerings this coming year.
What does the ELEVEN SIX brand mean to you, which are your favorite pieces and why?
Putting the knits on makes me feel instantly elegant and so cozy. No-brainer luxe. I especially love the monochromatic looks and the pieces that have a 70s feel, like the Leah ribbed pants and Ali turtleneck sweater and Lea pleated skirt. And I am a cardigan girl through-and-through, love throwing one the Sara Cardi on with jeans and hitting the studio.