This is the second time I have had the pleasure of working with Lili, from Lili Klein Jewelry – you may remember my photoshoot with her for her look book earlier this year. Since that time, we’ve kept in touch and have always spoken about doing an interview series as part of the blog. She’s the original person that suggested I do these and the catalyst for me starting to talk to designers I work with about their creative process. It’s only fitting then that I would turn the microphone over to her to discuss her amazing accomplishments in the last year since launching her line and to learn more about her creative process and next steps. Take a look at our conversation below and click on the pictures to be directed to her site to purchase any pieces you like. Her jewelry is all handmade in LA with real gemstones, so it’s the good stuff. xoAK: Where are you from?LK: Irvine, CALili standing with her jewelry belowAK: Where did your learn to make jewelry?LK: I learned to make jewelry all over. I started when I was in grad school and needed a creative outlet because the program was pretty dry. I would watch YouTube videos on beading and wirework, metal stamping, pretty much everything you could do from your home.  Once I moved back to L.A., I started taking more and more classes on jewelry making and metal smithing, it was then that I stumbled upon the technique I use now, Lost Wax Casting. But really, I learned all over southern California.Lili working on a wax moldAK: When did you start your line?LK: Lili Klein Jewelry officially launched in February 2015, but I had been developing the line for a good part of 2014.Lili working on a feather moldAK: have you had any other lines or worked on designing anything else before?LK: No, this was kind of my first…I did sell a little jewelry on Etsy, but mostly just to make money to pay for it as a hobby, just for fun.  After grad school, I was working for a large fashion company in their operations management doing budget, production, the dry stuff.  I didn’t do anything creative with them. This was my first foray into designing and building a line myself.Lili heating the wax to shape itAK: what was the catalyst in your life that made you want to start Lili Klein Jewelry?LK: I think I had a lot of them. I was constantly making and designing jewelry in my downtime, I wouldn’t go to events because I just wanted to stay home and make jewelry. I was in this job, a good job, the kind you want to have, and I wasn’t happy. I was doing all the things I was supposed to do in my professional life and yet, I was really unsatisfied. So at some point, it became more than a daydream and was becoming something I felt I needed to do; so much so, that it got to the point where everyday I would think, is today the day I make the jump; and then I did.The unfinished feather up closeAK: where do you make your jewelry and what technique do you use to make it?LK: It’s made in stages and travels all over L.A. The first part of every piece is created in my home by hand. Here, I heat up wax and drip it on sheet wax, slowly building it up to create the general shape of my design. From there, I sculpt and carve each piece until it’s complete. I then have everything cast in precious metal downtown and all the stones are handset. It’s all done locally in Los Angeles and made by hand.   Tools for shaping the waxAK: what inspires your designs?LK: I’m inspired by everything and it’s always evolving! When I first started practicing this method, I was trying to hone my artistic ability and was really into creating fun little icons of L.A., little bohemian 60’s designs, hearts, different shapes – really trying to see what I could and couldn’t do. Those are some of my original designs, and as my ability and understanding grew, my collection evolved. My newer pieces have a bit of a different look to them, and I’ve become really inspired by using different stones, playing with geometric shapes, altering the technique a bit. I love the idea of organic symmetry, where it’s not so exact but it has a real form to it. I also include a lot of my favorite things, like elephants, which are good luck with their trunks up, and flowers. As the line expands you can see how the aesthetic has changed and the little stories being told. I’m constantly creating new pieces, and really, one inspiration leads to the next. In many ways, I think the freedom the technique provides is a huge source of inspiration for me.More tools for shaping the waxAK: Have you had any mentors or people in your life that helped guide you through this process?LK: I wish I had more. Honestly! There are a lot of jewelry designers out there. You go to Brooklyn and there’s one on every block, in many ways we’re a dime a dozen. Unfortunately, I don’t know many personally. I got into the craft on my own and learned in bits and pieces. I am starting to meet other designers though, which is a lot of fun. I started to reach out to people that I admire and have been successful to get advice and hear their stories, so I’m hopeful I’ll have more mentors in the future. I think it’s important to learn from others.Modeling some rings and moonstone necklaceAK: what advice would you give to a young designer starting out?LK: Be critical of yourself.  Sometimes, when you’re really proud of something, you don’t see the flaws and can glaze over the more important parts of your business. When I finally made my first real collection; I was going to a lot of stores and I wasn’t getting the feedback I thought I should. Every piece was my baby and I loved them so much, that I wasn’t hearing the suggestions people were giving. I can look back now and see that there were pieces in the collection that weren’t working. There were a lot that I really loved, but then there were others that I added for the sake of having them – and I don’t think they were true to my own style and aesthetic, and those were the ones that didn’t work as well. So I’ve learned to be more critical of myself and really only add pieces that are essential to the line.Dainty circle earringsAK: what so far, has been your favorite moment with your jewelry?  Was it a person wearing it that really impacted you or maybe it was getting into a certain store?LK: I think getting into my first few stores. My collection is now in Moondance Jewelry on Montana, which I couldn’t be more thrilled about. They have great designers and are a staple in Santa Monica. The women who work there are amazing and have a great eye – so it’s been great having my work in there. It was a store I had shopped at before and was a fan of, so seeing my own jewelry in there was a big achievement for me on a personal level.Layering some gold on goldAK: what was your initial goal when you first created your line, and now, has how that changed?LK: To be honest, I’m not sure what it was! Which isn’t good and I do not recommend people starting a business without one. I guess I expected things to happen on this massive level and that’s not really the way it works. Success doesn’t happen overnight and that can be hard to accept in the beginning. I think my goals have changed. It’s really about these little wins, and each little win gets me to another point in my business’ progression that I can be proud of; there are so many makers, and It’s hard to get your stuff in front of people. The way I make jewelry has a higher production cost, so I can’t constantly gift bloggers and stylists pieces, or send them to a bunch of PR agencies. I’ve had to build things more from the ground up, which looking back has been a more successful long-term plan. I think my expectations and goals have changed. I have adjusted my thinking on what a win really is for me, and where my business is right now.The middle and pointer finger are modeling two of her newer ringsAK: what’s your ultimate goal for the growth of your line?LK: The number one thing for me is that I love to make and design jewelry, so it would be a really sad day if I got removed from that process.  I just want to have a nice sustainable business and grow organically. I have so many ideas, and would love to one day create a bridal line and men’s collection. I’m pretty obsessed with my dog, so you may see a few dog tags pop up in the next year. But top on the list would be bracelets. I really want to add some to the collection – it’s on the list!Stacks of gold ringsLili rearranging my stacks