When Lisa Lazarus is not out playing with her dogs or roasting golden beets, she’s in her studio creating extraordinary works of art. She’s someone who followed her dreams and made them come true. Here, Lisa shares her loves, her passions, things that make her laugh, and the things that make this silversmith tick.

1. Your shop’s called Ruby Bliss – that’s an intriguing name that must have a fascinating story behind it. What’s the scoop?

You’re right; the name Rubybliss does have a funny story… though it has nothing to do with jewelry! Back in the late 80′s, early 90′s when I was studying architecture at Rhode Island School of Design, one of my friends decided he was going to become a filmmaker. He set up a whole studio in his attic where a group of us would go over and make these hilariously bad films. Of course we needed “screen names”, and that’s when Ruby Bliss was born. I really just liked the sound of the words and thought it was a perfect name for a starlet. She actually became a character in some of the films; Ruby was a southern woman with a deep drawl and her mama’s name was Pearline! Then when I started making jewelry, it just seemed like a perfect fit. Ruby for the gemstones and bliss for all the joy and contentment that I get from making art/jewelry… and hopefully that you all get from wearing it!

2. What influenced you to begin creating jewelry? And how long have you been an artist?

I have always been an artist. I think being an artist is really about who you are inside, in your heart and soul, and not a profession or job. By the time I was 8 yrs old, my mom had already signed me up for very advanced painting lessons, which I loved, and I was also taking cooking classes where we made everything from meringues and soufflés to chicken and meat dishes – all kinds of complicated stuff. We were even featured in ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ and ‘The Boston Globe’ for doing such advanced cooking at a young age! The point being, if it was creative and I could get in there and express myself somehow, then I was all over it. I wanted nothing to do with ballet or soccer or things like that, but candle making or needle point? Yes, please! Nothing has really changed in the 36 years since then. I studied fine art as an undergrad and went to Paris for a semester to study printmaking and ceramics. Then I went to grad school and tried to do something I thought I could make a living at. Big mistake! Never go against your heart. I quickly realized that if I am not directly involved in the process of making art every day, my life becomes very empty. Making art, or being an artist, is just who I am. Right now I happen to be expressing myself through the medium of jewelry, but it is only one of many media I work in. What I do like so much about jewelry is that each piece is like a miniature sculpture. I can focus on every little detail and I know that those things will be noticed. I also like the fact that women and some men really LOVE to wear jewelry. It is wonderful to make something that you know will be so appreciated and treasured by your audience!

3. A lot of silver jewelry is mass produced; what makes your work unique?

Great question. I would say that by and large, the majority of all jewelry we come across has been mass-made, meaning millions of the same pieces made by machine. Even much of what we see that is called handmade or artisanal is really just mass produced components that have been put together by a crafts person. Don’t get me wrong, I am not knocking anyone who does that! It is great fun to go to your local bead shop and find cool beads and all the supplies and put them together yourself… but it is not the same thing as making jewelry from scratch. I make all of the silver pieces that I use right in my studio. Occasionally I will use a machine made clasp for certain designs, but mostly I make all of my own clasps, pendants, connectors, etc. Larger chains I also make myself, but fine chains are always machine made. The cost would be prohibitive if it was handmade- none of us would ever be able to wear a necklace! I still source my gemstone beads from suppliers, but would really love to take a gemology course and also learn to cut my own stones. That would put my work at a very different price point though, and I’m not ready to make that jump!

4. What drew you to these materials?

Gosh, I’m not sure I’ve ever really thought about it! They’re just sooo beautiful… don’t they draw you in too? :) I mean, for starters, the cost of gold is just too high for me at this point. I don’t like to feel nervous that I’m going to screw up while I’m creating something, because OF COURSE I’m going to screw up! That’s just how the creative process works. So if I’m constantly worried about the price of the gold that I’m wasting it is going to impede my natural creativity. By the way, as of June 7, 2010, silver costs $17.38 an ounce; gold costs $1,249.00 an ounce… that’s a BIG difference! I have always loved silver though. I love the look of it; the fact that it can be very elegant or super casual. I like the different tarnishes it can have; how easy it is to work with. And gemstones and beautiful beads are just irresistible! Often I like to make very plain pieces just from silver, but the gemstones are always calling my name. Their colors, cuts, everything. When I see beautiful stones, my mouth starts to water-really! I want to make things with them, but also lick them and eat them… sometimes I just want to jump in a big pile of them and roll around!!

7. It sounds like you have a lot of fun in your studio! What qualities should consumers look for when purchasing silver jewelry?

Well, I think it all depends what you are looking for. Obviously if you are looking for good quality, then you want to make sure that the silver is either sterling or fine silver. Most silver is sterling and should be stamped somewhere on the back, either “sterling silver” or “.925″ which means that it is 92.5% silver. Fine silver, which I use, is .999%, or 99.9% pure, but you are not likely to see that around as much. It would be at a jewelry store or through an artist directly and they will be able to tell you what the pieces are made from. Anything that is not marked or has not been vouched for by a jeweler is NOT silver… you are just getting some kind of base metal. That is fine, and I absolutely believe that there is a place for cheap, fun jewelry that you can wear once or twice and then get rid of as long as it’s cheap! Just make sure you’re not paying silver prices for base metals.

5. I can imagine you have many sources of inspiration – care to share?

I find inspiration for my work everywhere, but definitely a lot in nature and in food. I really like organic shapes and color combinations. Often times I see something that makes me want to paint, but then I don’t want to make such a literal translation. Jewelry is perfect because I can take the beauty that I have seen and transform it. A painting of a sunset might be very mundane, but a necklace of a sunset… wow! Just the other day I was washing some golden beets before roasting them and the colors of the deep bright orange and yellow and a little bit of spring green just awed me. I wanted to capture that beauty somehow, but I didn’t feel moved by the idea of painting or photographing beets. I can assure you… those colors will be showing up together in my jewelry palette very soon!

6. What are your favorite pieces to create?

By far my favorite pieces to create are custom orders that mean something to someone else. Of course it is always fun as an artist to be able to have free reign… just to make whatever you feel like… but, I hate to say it, sometimes that can be a little bit boring, or empty. When you have to take into account someone else’s desires and needs, it makes the work much more challenging, and for me, much more fun. I recently helped a young guy surprise his wife with a 5th anniversary gift it was a necklace and earring set. I was sooo into it, I felt almost as nervous as he did by the time he presented it. Luckily it was such a huge success; his wife says he’ll “never be able to top that gift”! I don’t know… maybe he and I will try to come up with something next year! Another one that stands out was a birthday gift a man ordered for his wife. Her dad had recently passed away and he wanted to somehow represent her and her dad in the necklace. They both loved topaz, so I used couplets of smoky topaz and London blue topaz to represent her and her father. It is very special and meaningful to work on a project that you know will mean so much to someone, forever probably.

8. What’s next, creative wise?

I’m pretty happy with the direction my jewelry is going right now, so I don’t want to lose any momentum here. But I am always itching to get my fingers in something else, too. I have about 100 project ideas at a time. Right now there are baby quilts that I want to make. I probably have enough fabric to put a blanket on every baby in the U.S.A. There is a series of very colorful porcelain bowls I want to continue, and I have a collection of pen and ink drawings of women that I’ve been doing for a long time and I would like to make them into prints. That’s just for starters…

9. Where can our readers find your work?

Rubybliss On Etsy

Rubybliss On Facebook

10. Before we let you go, give us three “Good to Know” facts about you.

a. I’d sell my soul, my right arm, and anything else of possible value for a good cup of coffee. I’ve been known to drive miles and miles out of the way to get my daily “fix”.

b. I’ve had dogs in my life since the day I was born. To me, my dogs are family members… love me, love my dogs. I don’t dress them in little outfits though!

c. I am possibly the least competitive person on the planet. As a kid I used to like to go to swim team practice, just as long as I never had to participate in a swim meet! I still don’t like watching sports because even if “my team” wins, I always feel terrible for the team that loses.

11. Anything else you’d like to share?

I’d just like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to share some of my thoughts with your readers. Anyone who wants to buy some Rubybliss jewelry and mentions that they learned about me here on Live Well For Less will get a 15% discount!

Thanks so much Lisa! I really had a wonderful time getting to know you and Rubybliss these past few weeks. Your work is exceptional and I know you will continue to have much success.

Don’t forget to take advantage of Lisa’s 15% off deal! :)

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