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In The Studio With Lisa Oswald

by Lisa Oswald

In 1983, on a kitchen table in Brooklyn, New York, my dream was brought to life and Sorrelli began. If you can believe it, it all started from a simple desire to spice up my post-college wardrobe. Having nothing fancy to wear to parties, I began designing bold pieces I could wear to elevate a simple black dress. My friends loved my designs and began requesting custom pieces for themselves. 

With a leap of faith and the $400 I had left from my student loans, I decided to launch my business. But first I needed a name. As a nod to my heritage and my family’s support I decided to name the company Sorrelli, an adaptation of the word “sisters” in Italian, and the rest is history! Today, I’m proud to say that what began as my dream is now a family affair. Sorrelli has evolved and we’re now in our second generation. My daughter Lily has stepped into the role of CEO while I continue to design all of our pieces alongside my daughter, Ivy. My son Collin manages all things operational at the company. 

My studio space is now in the basement of our headquarters in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, a quaint, rural town of roughly 5,000 people. The first thing I do when I sit down to create is look for inspiration. I’m inspired from an array of places, but my biggest inspiration comes from nature. I love the colors and forms found all over our farm property here in rural Pennsylvania. Over the years, I’ve become an avid gardener and some of my most creative design moments have been sparked by my time alone outside. It honestly amazes me that, after all of these years, that I can still find new things to inspire my creativity. Nature is truly amazing, from the bright red hue of an heirloom radish variety to the turquoise hues of my Ameraucana chicken eggs.

Next, I let the materials lead me. If I come into my studio with an idea of a design, I’ll find the materials that best suit the idea and manipulate them until I feel satisfied with the look. This year I went into my archives and found some vintage parts, like fine chains that resemble thread. I intricately soldered them together with other materials to create metal pieces inspired by lace, eyelet and crochet. I love that I have such an amazing library of materials to work with! We’ve had almost 40 years of building our material library, so it’s a real treasure trove of inspiration today. My go to materials are long lasting nonferrous metals, glass, crystal and semi precious stones. A new favorite of mine has been knotted pearls. Pearls have an easy elevated day look that’s refined without too much effort. Another perk is they feel good to the touch! My favorite thing to do is pair a bold statement necklace with a simple white tee shirt, for the ultimate casual glam.

With nearly 40 years of creating jewelry by hand, my biggest lesson has been in patience. While I love all of our finished pieces, making jewelry is not always glamorous or easy. Thankfully designing is my passion and I honestly love what I do. I always strive to design pieces that are true to me and my style. I always try to create designs that make me and every woman who wears them feel special and interesting. Whether it’s at her wedding, dinner with friends, another long work meeting or especially in the supermarket with a screaming toddler!

Here’s to another year of dreaming up and hand-crafting all of the sparkle for our loyal customers and friends. I look forward to many more years of design and creativity with the support of the next Sorrelli generation.