Lois Hill, Traveling Joaillier - Exclusive Interview
Lois Hill is a jewelry designer who travels the world to unearth native and ancient methods of jewelry-making. From granulation (tiny silver dots) dating back to King Tut's Tomb to metal weaves spotted in museum artifacts, Hill's natural curiosity and love of travel has taken her all over the globe to learn, create and teach.
"I think of it as 'working to preserve lost arts,'" says Hill. Her fascination with ancient techniques began with Scandinavian filigree. Born to a Norwegian mother in Illinois, she grew up in a crafty house which strictly believed in principles like "That's not a walnut. That's a Christmas tree ornament or a magnet," Hill recalls with a smile.
Of course, chunky jewelry isn't all that Lois Hill does. She is perhaps best-known for her seemingly miraculous metal weaves; intricate work she began with a textile weaving class and a roll of copper wire from Ace Hardware. "I went through the class really quickly. I just wanted to see what you could do with metal," she says, showing me a finely woven bracelet with a weave she learned in Tibet.
Hill thinks of her collection as "globally inspired," and loves the travel as much as the jewelry. Her quest takes her to two new countries every year, many of them third-world, with a goal of learning three new weaving or jewelry-making techniques wherever she goes. "Jewelry is one of the only ways for women in some countries to express themselves. They find or make a piece and say 'This is me. I'm going to wear this every day.' And they do." Hill finds this inspiring. "I try to make pieces someone would wear every day."
So does everyone, but Hill makes them with tree sap and a hammer -- and the results are exquisite.
To further empower women and the underserved populations she encounters, Hill not only donates 8 percent of her annual proceeds to foundations like CARE, Doctors Without Borders and BreastCancer.org, but she also employs over 500 artisans, many of them women, around the world. She teaches them the techniques she discovers and/or creates, and they are able to make a better living by working for her.
Hill's travels through Africa, Asia and South America are sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes hilarious. Showing me a beautiful bracelet with a box-weave technique dating back to the second century, she laughs. "This weave is known as 'Idiot's Delight.' No, really!"
Lois Hill makes diverse and unique collections for women and men (and we all know how hard it is to find nice cufflinks that aren't boring or too busy -- she makes them) with the ancient techniques she has learned on her travels. To find a store near you, visit LoisHill.com. To browse some of her current sophisticated, tribal and fanciful pieces, from $98, click through the gallery above!