Designs on Mother Nature
By Jennifer McKee | Photos courtesy of Lily Smith
A lifelong passion for making jewelry and working with her hands led UGA grad Lily Smith down the path of small business ownership in 2018. Smith is the owner and jeweler behind Lily Smith Studio, and creates vibrantly colored earrings, necklaces, rings and trinket dishes that are inspired by the beauty of nature.
“When I was about 10, I started out making beaded earrings with a friend who taught me,” says Smith. “I set up a card table in the driveway of my parents’ beach house in Delaware, and people would stop and buy earrings from me. One day, a cop shut me down because I didn’t have a permit. We put up a sign that I was shut down by the cops; some neighbors still came by and bought from me.”
In college, Smith enrolled in craft and material studies to learn more about the history behind crafting and refined her skills in fiber art, glass blowing and binding.
“It was always about adornment and functional art,” says Smith. “First and foremost, I love working with my hands.”
She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Master of Fine Arts from UGA.
Smith began experimenting with new ways to adorn the body, focusing on the female form.
“Growing up, we’re exposed to art two dimensionally, such as visiting an art museum. College introduced me to the three-dimensional, functional art movement,” she says.
Her untraditional works included large sculptural pieces, woven pieces and broaches that would pop up against the body the way mushrooms would pop out of the earth. She found herself coming back to the same theme time and time again: nature.
While in grad school at UGA, Smith planted a small veggie garden in her front yard. She fell in love with the process of planting seeds and nurturing food-bearing plants. Smith now lives in Atlanta, but still uses her garden as an inspiration in her designs. Her newest line is a series of flower cups in fall and winter colors, a more abstract line in which pieces have been cut free-form out of copper; together, they look like a field of wildflowers.
Smith’s jewelry is made using the enameling process, in which powdered glass is fused to copper at 1450 degrees; the process allows for vibrant and colorful jewelry that’s also lightweight and comfortable. Smith also uses a graphite process, as seen in her classic Doodle and Sunflower lines (that latter of which benefits those displaced or affected by the war in the Ukraine).
Both processes are taught in classes Smith leads at Atlanta’s Garage Door Studio. Participants create a pair of earrings and a necklace in the two-hour, intimate sessions.
In Athens, Smith’s pieces can be found at Totally Tailored; she also frequents the Athens Farmers Market. Find her online at lilysmithstudio.com