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Carol Lipworth Designs - How It All Began: Part 1

Posted on September 24 2015

I haven't always made jewelry, but I have always loved it.  I started acquiring my collection of wearable art in college and whenever I had the opportunity, would purchase more. Through the years as I traveled around the world, my souvenir of choice was always a piece of jewelry made by a local artist. Jewelry was a way of expressing myself and my style as well as being a beautiful memory of places visited. It is an art form that has always delighted and captivated me.  I think I always knew that one day I would give jewelry making a shot.

I started making jewelry in the summer of 2004 because I needed something creative to do while I was living in Costa Rica. My husband, Steve, and I owned a hotel with another couple and had been running it together until they decided to return to California. When they left, we closed the business and transformed the hotel into our home. We went from working 17 hours every day, to not working at all.  Now our mornings were spent at the beach with the dogs with the rest of the day reserved for lounging around, swimming, reading and taking care of the property. Not a bad existence for awhile, but ultimately, I needed to do something more, something creative. 

I bought some acrylic paints and tried my hand at painting.  That was fun, but didn't really excite me.  I hauled out my sewing machine and gave that a whirl - making myself a bathing suit that looked passable if you didn't look too closely.  The machine went back into storage.  I hadn't found IT yet.

On a visit to San Francisco, my sister-in-law suggested we take a beading class at a local shop. We spent the morning learning basic techniques and I loved every minute; selecting the beads, stringing them, adding the clasp, working with the wire. I was in heaven. I didn’t realize it then, but I was hooked.

My friend, Carol, in her bead shop - Benicia Bead

Fortunately for me, my good friend, Carol, had recently opened a bead shop and I was able to buy my first strands of beads from her and start creating. She also had connections with suppliers and took me to a local wholesaler to buy some stones. When we stepped inside, I swear I heard angels singing! Picture Dorothy when she first lays eyes on the sparkling city of Oz. There, laid out before me, was row upon row of shiny, colorful stones in every size and shape imaginable. Agates and Opals and Turquoise, Oh My! I had never seen anything like it and I hardly knew where to begin. Hours later, exhausted and exhilarated, I walked out clutching a plastic bag filled with magic. This visit to the wholesaler sealed the deal. My head was spinning with ideas.  I couldn't wait to get started - I was all in!

The view from my "studio" at the Lookout

I took my stones and tools back to Costa Rica and began my new adventure in jewelry making. Every day I sat in what was our former open-air restaurant with a view out over the Pacific and created.  When Steve flew back to California for a week or two, I would work from sun up 'til sun down, completely in the zone.  I would have worked long into the night, but lights are bug magnets; flying, crawling, dive-bombing bug magnets!  I was sitting in the middle of the jungle so working after dark was impossible.

From the beginning, my designs were all about mixing colors and textures, which is evident in these first two pieces below.  My surroundings played a role in my design choices; the plants and even the animals in Costa Rica are teeming with bold, vibrant colors.  For me, it would have been impossible not to bring that influence into my jewelry.  And while my skills have improved and my style evolved, color remains paramount in my designs.

Two pieces I created in Costa Rica modeled by Malenci.

So there it is - the answer to "how did you get started making jewelry?"  I could have carried on like that forever, sitting outside making jewelry with the Pacific spread out in front of me.  But things change, as they always do, and my time of making jewelry in paradise was coming to an end. 

To be continued...




  • Lisa Reep: October 24, 2015

    Hi Carol – As you know, I have an extensive collection of your beautiful pieces and wear them often (always sparking admiring comments). I loved seeing the pictures of two of your earliest pieces, as I have variations on both and still really treasure them!

  • Carol: October 13, 2015

    Thanks, Patti. I hope you continue to read and enjoy my posts. If there is ever anything you want to know, just ask.

  • Patti : October 06, 2015

    Love your story, I have wondered how you got into such a unique career. You are a very colorful writer as well!!

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