When her painter mother gifted her a pair of jewelry-making pliers at eight years old, Lila Rice Marshall became an elementary schooler with a real skill for fixing best-friend necklaces and making trinkets for her pals. Zip ahead a few years, and Lila forgot all about her knack for crafting and, in 1996, headed west from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to UC Berkeley to study sociocultural anthropology. “I did an interdisciplinary study that focused on ornamentation—the things that we wear and the meanings we assign them,” she says.
Spoiler alert: That coursework helped lead her back to jewelry. “When I graduated college, I couldn’t find a job. I was waiting tables and thinking about grad school when I started doing a little bit of metalsmithing, as a therapeutic outlet,” she explains. In 2001, her dabbling became a line, Round Designs Jewelry, a collection that focused on, well, circles. “I think it’s a very universal thing to be attracted to certain shapes,” Lila explains, but in 2010 she had enough of all those orbs.
Now, in Bushwick, Brooklyn, she embraces angles, making fierce cuffs, geometric hoop earrings, and arrow-accented necklaces her namesake line by hand—just like she did in her recess-crafting days. “I like having a personal connection with every piece, but I also think part of it is that I’m a control freak,” she says. “Honestly, it’s just me being weird by myself in my studio, playing with the materials. I never have a plan of what’s going to happen.” —alisha prakash