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Check Out Leslie Herbert’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Leslie Herbert.

Leslie, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I have always wanted to be a designer since I was a little girl. My mother had a large roll of butcher paper that she would take out of the closet and place it on a table for me when I was about five or six. I could easily spend hours drawing. As I grew older, I would take out a tablet of paper and make sketches of things that I thought were interesting and beautiful. I have designed clothing and jewelry for as long as I can remember. Over time, jewelry became more intriguing to me.

I always appreciated the craftsmanship, as well as the design and engineering elements incorporated into the creation of a piece of fine jewelry. The gemstones, the metal and how they work together to become wearable art. It’s extraordinary! If you look at jewelry from the turn of the century, the settings are quite beautiful, imaginative and delicate, which is hard to find these days. The quality of those pieces is far and above what one typically sees in the marketplace today, and that is a shame.

I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Art from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. While there, I learned the fundamentals of drawing, painting, and sculpture, which I use in my work today, in jewelry design. I started my jewelry business many, many years after I graduated from college. I always admired beautiful jewelry and enjoyed designing and fabricating pieces for personal use, but never thought of doing this as a profession. It wasn’t until my children grew up and moved away that I decided to form my company. My mother was the one who suggested the idea of this. She was always a believer in how important the arts were to society and was an enthusiastic, natural entrepreneur. She said to me, “Go do it. Take a chance. What’s the downside to doing this? I think it will be fun!” And so I did. And here I am. And it has been a journey, to say the least!

We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Learning things the hard way is sometimes the best way, I suppose, even though it was a painful process. I did not have someone to hold my hand and walk me through how to start this business. I had no one to mentor me or to show me the ropes, so to speak. I had to find my way through the dark; I had to ask a lot of questions and learn things on my own.

I had to find suppliers of gemstones, where to buy gold, who could do the work I needed to get samples made. There are a lot of providers who take advantage of people who are new to the business. I had to try a series of vendors to work with as I was creating my first collection. Some of them were very competent, but many were not. A lot of time and money is wasted when working with a firm that doesn’t perform. Also, when viewing gemstones and diamonds for purchase, I needed the training to be able to discern the quality of a particular stone. I enrolled in classes at the Gemological Institute of America in Carlsbad, Ca, which gave me the education which allowed me to do this successfully. They were a tremendous resource and still are.

As time went by, I met wonderful people in the industry who were willing to point me in the right direction. They gave me good advice and encouraged me on my path. I now have a terrific group of suppliers whom I rely on for products and services. They are the cornerstone to my business, to which I owe my success.

Seed money is also a challenge. Fine jewelry is very expensive material to experiment with. I gathered a large box of personal jewelry- things I didn’t like or didn’t wear. I sold an engagement ring, an expensive watch, and jewelry which had been given to me that didn’t have any sentimental value. I am a big believer in the energy change that happens when a person discards jewelry which has a negative emotion attached to it. These jewelry items became seed money for my new business and are an excellent example of turning a negative into a positive.

There were a considerable amount of blood, sweat, and tears generated during the beginning stages of starting my business. And it seems to be the same for many entrepreneurs. We all have our challenges of taking a vision and the struggles to make our dreams become a reality. By doing this, it was certainly an arduous task but well worth the effort. I’m proud of how far I have come and how much I have learned along the way. And I have the satisfaction of knowing that I did it all on my own.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
The first line I created was The Haviland Collection. It is a biker/rocker chic, edgy collection, which I think walks the fine line between rebellion and refinement. I immediately gravitate to the more defiant design aesthetic in general, I would say. There are religious, architectural, historical elements to it this collection that I think are interesting and unique. I designed this with the intent for those who want jewelry that is an assemblage of male and female, hard and soft edges. Black leather oxidized sterling silver interspersed with beautiful gemstones and pearls is something which I had envisioned people to wear from weekend to work.

My work is influenced greatly by traveling to different countries, experiencing different cultures and seeing art and architecture native to those lands. Having the opportunity to see beyond our boundaries enriches my life and work, as art always reflects the ethos of an individual culture or society. I share my life with a man who is an international airline pilot, who has opened a new world to me as I accompany him on his work trips. These opportunities, for which I am very grateful, have an enormous impact in my work.

As my career has evolved, I have become very involved in creating custom-designed pieces for my clients. I have made custom, one-of-a-kind wedding rings, anniversary bands, cuffs, etc. I absolutely LOVE doing this. I work with an individual who has a vision of what they want- sometimes they have no idea whatsoever what they want- and I help them make the vision come to fruition. This segment of my job is undoubtedly the most satisfying work that I do. I am part of my client’s most special days… weddings, anniversaries, birthday celebrations, children’s births and the like. This involvement is my greatest joy. This line of work- custom design- has evolved organically over time is what I am known for.

Years ago, I had a client who asked me to create something from the jewelry her mother had left her. The jewelry my client inherited was very high quality, very valuable, but not something she would wear. We sat at the kitchen counter, and I sketched out several options utilizing all the old jewelry and she immediately commissioned me to do the work. I disassembled the pieces by removing the diamonds and repurposed the gold and made a cuff and two necklaces for my client, which she now loves and wears all the time. These pieces are very dear to her, as they serve as a beautiful memory of her mother and are worn with love and affection. When I presented the finished jewelry to her, she started to cry and thanked me for turning these pieces into a cherished remembrance of her mother… and I cried too! This makes me beyond happy and I feel so fortunate to play a small role in my client’s happiness.

Can you share something surprising about yourself?
Something people might not know about me is that I am a U.S.P.T.A. Certified Tennis Professional. (United States Professional Tennis Association). My summer jobs during high school and college were teaching tennis. I became certified in 1998 and taught at various country clubs and on private courts for many years. I still maintain a current certification even though I do not teach as an occupation any longer. I recently earned my I.P.T.P.A. Certification for Pickleball, just for the fun of it! (International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association) Sports and fitness have always been very important in my life and taught me that discipline, hard work and dedication were necessary components for achievement.

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