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The Student News Site of Barrington High School

The RoundUp

The Student News Site of Barrington High School

The RoundUp

The Student News Site of Barrington High School

The RoundUp

LAB: Lindsay Lewis (The Extended Version)

Lindsay Lewis, a BHS alum, owns her own jewelry studio in Chicago. Lewis has been making jewelry since her first metalworking class in high school. Photo courtesy of Lindsay Lewis, lindsay-lewis.com

Barrington High School alum Lindsay Lewis didn’t think jewelry could make money. Not in high school, anyway.
It wasn’t until Linda Dionesotes, the English department secretary at the time, bought a piece Lewis had made in one of the high school’s jewelry-making classes.
“It helped push me in the direction of, ‘oh, I could do this for a living,’” Lewis said. “The people in Barrington just did small little things to support a high school art kid. It gives you a little glimmer of, ‘okay, I could maybe do this in the future.’”
Lewis took her first metalworking class in 2004 at the high school.
“I just fell in love with working with metal. I loved how slow the process was, how detail-oriented it was,” she said. “You can kind of forget about everything else that is going on in life or, you know, the world and just focus in on one tiny little thing. It’s almost meditative.”
Upon graduating college, Lewis worked “side gigs,” mainly working as a waitress, to help pay bills, including student loans. She worked for a jeweler during that time, as well. Her own jewelry-making took off about two years after graduation, somewhere between 2015 and 2016. Now, Lewis runs a Chicago-based jewelry-making company where she designs, produces and sells her pieces. Quitting a job that provided regular pay was daunting, initially.

The people in Barrington just did small little things to support a high school art kid. It gives you a little glimmer of, “okay, I could maybe do this in the future.”

— Lindsay Lewis

“There’s the whole starving artist idea. It can be real because, for a while, it is a bit of a struggle,” Lewis said. “But, you have to take a little risk to have the reward and I took the risk of not having a regular paycheck. It was scary for some months. But, I’m so glad I did because I was able to put everything that I had into my art.”
During high school, Lewis would often get inspiration for her metalwork from art class field trips to Chicago. She admired the Art Nouveau style and the metalwork of architect Louis Sullivan. She would translate his designs almost directly into her work.
Lewis’s jewelry-making process still begins with inspiration. Now, the idea will either “pop into [her] head” or she’ll actively hunt for inspiration, in libraries, books, online and in museums.
However, not every idea will make it into an actual piece of jewelry. Lewis tends to create many sketches of different iterations of the piece. After, she makes physical, 3D models of the sketches to determine how to produce it and how to make it affordable for customers.
“It’s more than just like a cool idea,” Lewis said. “You have to think about how you can actually sell it and make it into something that someone wants to wear.”
Lewis works with non-ferrous metals, or metals that don’t contain iron, such as silver, gold, brass and bronze. In high school, Lewis mostly worked with copper, brass and some nickel.
“I started out of being obsessed with working with silver, though,” Lewis said. “Each metal has its own feeling and silver is so soft to work with. It’s kind of buttery. That used to be my number one, favorite metal.”
When first starting out, she mirrored what her previous jeweler employer was doing. She observed how her previous employer ran her business — how she was successful, where she sold her pieces. Soon, she met other jewelers in the industry.
“I learned a lot from them. It’s a lot of networking and a lot of talking to other people to figure out how you’re going to structure your business,” Lewis said. “Everyone in Chicago is so supportive, especially in the arts community. Everybody’s just so helpful and open with sharing information.”
Lewis worked out of shared studios for a few years. A year and a half ago, Lewis moved into a larger storefront in West Town.
“I was kind of like, ‘what the heck am I gonna do with all this space?’” Lewis said.
In answer to her question, she’s arranged the front as a show room, where jewelry is on display. She also has a meeting area, where she takes clients, in addition to a seating area. The back acts as the metalsmithing studio, comprised of blowtorches, polishes, hammers, anvils and other metalsmithing tools.
“That gets a little loud back there — and dusty. But, it definitely feels like my second home,” Lewis said.
Though Lewis doesn’t wear much jewelry herself (she looks at it all day long, after all), she feels jewelry is a method of self expression.
“I feel like jewelry kind of transforms your look and your mood. That’s one of the coolest parts about jewelry. You can put it on and just feel a certain way,” Lewis said. “A lot of people say, ‘oh, being an artist is so hard,’ but if you really love it, it doesn’t really feel like work.”

The Q&A with Lindsay Lewis

Photo courtesy of Lindsay Lewis, lindsay-lewis.com

Q: When did you graduate from BHS?
A: 2008

Q: Where did you go for post-secondary education, if anywhere?
A: I did two years at Harper College to get my Gen Eds in. Then, I ended up going to art school — the School of Art Institute of Chicago. I spent three years there.

Q: What/who was your favorite class/teacher in high school?
A: My favorite class was jewelry metalsmithing (obviously) with John Anderson.

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  • Lewis’ metallurgy works throughout her high school career. Photos courtesy of Lindsay Lewis, lindsay-lewis.com

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Q: What was your favorite song in high school?
A: Any song off Taking Back Sunday’s album “Tell All Your Friends.”

Q: What is your favorite memory from high school?
A: Me and my friends would spend our lunches and free hours in the jewelry room hanging out, making things and talking about what we were making. It was like our own makeshift art club.

Q: What was your cringiest high school moment?
A: Too many to name and definitely too embarrassing to put in a newspaper.

Q: What advice would you give to current high school students?
A: Find something that you love to do! It’s all about the effort you put in and if you do what you love, you’ll never have to “work” a day in your life.

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About the Contributor
Neha Doppalapudi
Neha Doppalapudi, Editor-in-Chief
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