I Love Texas: Dreaming of Creating Jewelry

Beginning with wax, Leah Gormly designs accessories to wear with jeans, dresses, or evening gowns.
Gary D. Ford

She got a torch for Christmas, and when her husband, Eric, considers buying her anniversary and birthday gifts, he shops for tools at Garland Welding Supply Company or at Sears. A girl has to work hard to make fine jewelry. Leah Gormly, however, doesn't wear a tool belt. "I still have a little bit of gentility," says this tall and elegant artist, chuckling over a cup of coffee as she relaxes in their north Dallas home.

Eric smiles. "She's a cross between Tool Time and Sex and the City," he says, to which she gives him a playful nudge.

Leah, a Michigan native and new Dallas resident, created LMG&Co. Jewelry Design. The "Co.," meaning Eric and two cats, is headquartered in their garage and home office. There she makes fine rings, earrings, necklaces, and bracelets (in metals and precious and semiprecious stones) that women can wear with both jeans and evening wear.

In their garage, which isn't air-conditioned, she solders and sweats in the Texas weather. In the house, she arranges three worktables with a jeweler's miniature tools--a small ball-peen hammer, pliers, a mallet, bits, a hand vise, and wax.

Creating in Her Sleep
Leah works first in wax to make the design. "So much of it is play," she says. "You can sit down and try something out and see if it works. If it doesn't, it's just wax and your time." Then she takes the wax master to a local foundry to cast the design. From there, the master goes to a caster in New England. When she completes a fall or spring line, she wraps her works in black cloth and hits the road to wholesale markets where retail representatives around the country buy her designs.

Her creativity never stops, even in the middle of the night. "I dream in textures and shapes," she says, picking up a necklace. "I dreamed this piece. I woke up Saturday morning and sat down, and in about an hour it was done in wax."

Her works look like nature captured in an instant, as if with the click of a camera. A breeze turns a delicate metal leaf pendant. Earrings resemble elongated drops of water, captured just at that moment before the teardrops fall.

She also works in 14- and 18-karat gold, black diamonds, pearls, and sterling silver. The colors of her semiprecious stones resemble a painter's palette--amazonite nearly as bright as turquoise, gray labradorite, lemon citrine, yellow-green peridot, green garnet, and others.

Dressy But Casual
By creating jewelry, Leah adds another brushstroke to an artistic life she has already led as a photographer, vocalist, and pianist. She was working for a television station and attending graduate school at Arizona State when she met Eric, a native Texan. They married and moved to Dallas.

While Eric began commuting to teach broadcast news at an area university, Leah filled her time with an art metals/jewelry class at Brookhaven College, located in Farmers Branch. She soon completed her first work--a copper necklace in a delicate Greek key design.

Although she praises the instruction, Leah didn't sign up for more classes. "I learned a lot of the basics," she says. "I learned more of how to work with metal, but I wanted to develop the jewelry my own way. I think art school can change some artists or force you to think or work in a certain way. I'm trying to do this a little more outside the box."

Her creations don't fit into the confines of a single fashion statement. "I'm a dressy-casual kind of gal," she says. "I want to be versatile. I want things to wear when I run errands or go for a cocktail after work."

Continuing To Create
Her designs, elegant and casual at the same time, find an eager market in Texas, where we bend fashion rules to fit our ways. Leah likes that attitude, and she loves Dallas. "It's got space, a metropolitan feel, and a Southern appeal to me," she says. "My friends back in Michigan and Arizona say, ‘I never thought that you would have a little bit of a drawl.' When I talk on the phone to my sister in Nashville, things really start slowing down."

Meanwhile, jewelry fills both her days and her dreams at night. She won't run out of ideas soon. "I don't rack my brain to figure out what I am going to do. I just do," she says.

Watch for the Future
Leah continues to introduce more colors with semiprecious stones, such as red fluorite, chalcedonies, smoky quartz, aqua quartz, carnelian, and pearls. She'll soon add a men's collection featuring cuff links, necklaces, bracelets, and rings. For more information visit her Web site, www.lmgandco.com. There you can purchase her pieces directly or locate stores that carry her work.