It was the 2011 holiday season in New York City when Marisa Lombardo walked into Rockefeller Center planning on an afternoon of ice skating. When she saw the Anthropologie store window display on her skates, she noticed mannequins adorned with her jewelry line, The Artemisian.
The 1999 Tyler alumna has always had a passion for jewelry, but after her first two years of college as a jewelry major, she decided that a fine arts medium would benefit her more. She moved from where she was studying abroad in Scotland to Temple’s Rome Campus.
“I took a printmaking class and it felt freeing to me,” Lombardo said. “Printmaking was really attractive because I was still working with metal. I went into printmaking at that time and at that age because I felt like I needed the freedom of a fine art.”
While in Rome, Lombardo said she was greatly influenced by the wife of one of her professors, who went on to inspire Lombardo’s later-established line, The Artemisian.
“I noticed that everyone that had been in America that had come to Rome couldn’t find the same materials they were using,” Lombardo said. “I remember [my professor’s] wife told us to narrow our scope and create from that place, as opposed to saying I need this, I need that. It was really important in my development as an artist, and for this collection.”
Her relocation to Rome and the influence of her professor’s wife returned her interests to jewelry. Lombardo said the pieces she uses in her work often come from items she finds on her travels, whether the antiques were originally made to wear or not. She then reworks the pieces, laying them out on paper and fitting them together like a puzzle until they look right.
“I take all the parts I think I want to use – so chains, stones, charms, et cetera – and I treat [each piece] very much like a large body of work,” Lombardo said. “[The piece] can then be reproduced based on genre.”
The first piece in each season’s collection is always crafted by Lombardo and used as a guide for her employees, who make the rest of the collection. However, she stresses the fine art aspect of her business and said she insists that uniqueness be maintained within each piece.
She said it is also important to her that the line find a balance between reaching a large audience while remaining a high-quality brand that is not sold in every store across the country.
“My pieces have stories,” Lombardo said. “You can buy nice things at places like Target and Gap, and they’re pretty, but mine have stories.”
Though The Artemisian line is spreading worldwide, gaining popularity in Europe and Asia, Lombardo said one of the greatest achievements of the line was being accepted into the PremiÈRe trade show. As a result, Lombardo traveled to Paris in 2011. She also said the relationship she had built with Anthropologie was instrumental in her landing a place in the show.
“My mentor said that [PremiÈRe] was the only trade show I should do,” Lombardo said. “It’s the most avant garde trade show in the world and I got in – once you’re in, you’re in. I put all my pieces together and I had no idea what to expect.”
One of the most important aspects of Lombardo’s time in Paris was to combine the worlds of art and fashion, a trend she said is already developing.
“I live in the world of fashion now,” Lombardo said. “I’m trying to bridge the gap but it’s not even really existent anymore. The worlds have converged.”
She said she does not want The Artemisian brand to become too commercial, but it’s difficult to find a happy medium between making her jewelry affordable and maintaining that fine-art feel.
“I would like to see the brand continue to grow and I can see getting into finer jewelry – diamonds and gold,” Lombardo said. “But I can also see a kind of diffusion line, where it can be worn by more people.”
Lombardo is not pushed to create jewelry that is trendy or popular during a specific season. She said that right now she is happy creating pieces that speak to people and carry on the traditions and meaning behind the antiques within them.
“I’ll ride this train as long as it will go, because I love creating,” Lombardo said. “The fact that the pieces are worn and they have this history brought to new people, so the match case that was used by a man in the 1800s is now being worn by a girl in New York City who’s telling the story. Nothing ends and matter always stays around, so this process of adding to the historical context is really fantastic.”
Alexa Bricker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.