Julie Lamb: Be Ewe
From her early days of crafting jewelry out of unconventional materials to becoming the mastermind behind Julie Lamb Fine Jewelry, Julie’s story is one of creative evolution and unwavering passion. Join us as we explore the pivotal moments that ignited her love for design, her commitment to celebrating individuality, and her deep-rooted connection to the heart of New York City.
You mentioned that you had your sights set on a career in this industry early on. Were there any pivotal moments that led to that realization? Tell us about your journey becoming a designer. When did you know you wanted to design, and where did you train?
I made jewelry out of all kinds of beads and clay, nail polish, keys, rhinestones, anything I could get my hands on really since I was a little kid. I guess the pivotal point for me was during high school. I was an Illustration major at Art & Design in East Midtown and after class, my best friend and I would roam the districts of the city picking up beads and parts to make jewelry with. I’d wear all this big crazy glued-up stuff to school, I was enjoying the process of creating these 3D works better than my 2D work, plus there was the bonus of something to wear. I was around 16 and I decided I would only look at colleges with a metals program so I could be a jewelry designer when I graduated. I ended up in Syracuse University’s metalsmithing program.
What is your personal and professional mantra? You also create collections that promote individuality and are “different by design.” What inspired you to create such designs, and what about your designs sets them apart from the rest, in your own words?
I’m not sure I have a personal mantra; I need to work on that! I do think my design style represents my personality and the tagline I use is ‘Different by Design’. I needed something broad to house the niche concepts I design into. Each collection has a different POV and inspiration. It can start with a stone as it did with Metropolis and most of Bespoke. Be Ewe is logo driven, while CITY & Built for Love celebrate NYC. The wording and design work are configured together in my process. Each line celebrates an important message that I want to share; putting the collections together creates a strong multi-faceted personality. Designing for so many years under different labels, Nine West Jewelry, Honora Pearls, Avon- each brand has parameters around price point, materials, etc. It is easy to exhaust all the ways to design into one look after a few years. I wanted to give myself a big enough playground, I didn’t ever want to feel pigeonholed in my own brand. What sets my work apart is that don’t chase trends as I did for years in corporate. The concepts I design into are my own, they are filters I use to navigate in the world. I tie messages of individuality and encouragement into my storylines, it connects me through my work to the people who wear it.
How has New York City influenced your pieces, and who you are as a person? Tell us about the development of your City collection.
NYC has thoroughly influenced who I am as a person by presenting diversity, opportunity, open-mindedness and freedom. I grew up in Brooklyn in the far reaches of Canarsie, a provincial neighborhood much closer to JFK than Manhattan; the last stop on the L train, then take a bus! The neighborhood was tight-knit, mainly Jewish and Italian at the time. I didn’t fit in. I got into fights. I was always the class artist, so when I discovered my best friend’s brother was going to a place called the High School of Art & Design in midtown, I made it my mission to get in there and change my surroundings. At age 14 I knew I had made the right move; the city was a whole new world to explore and I made friends from every borough. The development of my CITY collection came later when I was designing jewelry for Avon. A 2007 cover of NYT magazine featured a gilded manhole, and I worked with our CAD designer to build it into pendant size. I had it cast and set but I didn’t make the necklace until I started my brand years later. Next came the Love Tokens and I built out the story further using the manhole cover texture. All of these styles are odes to the city, industrial details taken from the streets and elevated in precious metals. They speak to where we’re made, what we’re made of, movement, as in transit, and the journey to get where we are going. I find comfort in the vastness of the city, and all that it holds and serves. How it celebrates community, and how you can always start again here. You might say I have BCE (Big City Energy)!
What have been your biggest takeaways from your travels that have made it into the ethos of your business?
The back of the manhole cover says ‘Made in NY by New Yorkers’. At the time we created it, I was traveling twice a year to China for Avon’s production. I worked well with our overseas vendors; however, I was already in awe of the district across the street from my cubicle. I had been running errands and working summers in and around 47th Street since my sophomore year of college. I started casting here while I was still a student upstate much to my professors’ chagrin! I knew that if I were ever to put my name on a product it had to be made right here. I loved ducking in and out of the buildings and discovering new people to work with, all the talent and skill packed tightly into these few blocks, just west of where I went to High School. I wanted to be a part of the fabric. There is pride in local manufacturing, and also in knowing the folks whose hands touch your work. If I wasn’t going to do all the bench work myself I wanted to be as close to it as possible.
In addition, traveling all those years for corporate with my supply chain counterparts, I learned so much about large-scale manufacturing, teamwork and partnerships. I still love to walk a factory floor, I’m always curious about incorporating new technologies or machines. By the time I launched JLNY I felt uniquely qualified to run my own production, and when I had questions I called upon my old colleagues and they did their best to connect me to what I needed. Invaluable.
Could you describe your passion for the bespoke process?
Regarding the Bespoke process I like to say ‘Everything is possible’. One-of-a-kind pieces start one of three ways- from a stone (their reset or one of mine), from a style I’ve created before, or from an idea my client has that we flesh out. Often my client’s ideas inspire me, especially when working on an existing design. I get to explore a new version, color way or stone pairing, I get to remake a piece I love, having had the product development behind me, and lessons learned, I know this iteration will be the latest/greatest best version of itself. I accept the challenges of meshing my clients’ ideas with local manufacturing. I enjoy the story or occasion behind their impetus to create, and I’m thrilled to be a part of their celebration. Additionally, the opportunity to make pieces like this is a gift to me, one that I am most grateful for. To be trusted by a patron to create something truly unique in my aesthetic is a responsibility I take very personally. I want to make the best piece I can for both of us. It’s an honor to do work at this level.
We love your Be Ewe Collection. Tell us about how that came about, as one of your signature collections.
Be Ewe was the first collection I launched in 2015. It centers around my lovable little Lamb logo. I had been developing it for a few years and had been signing my artwork with a lamb ever since I can remember. I wanted to merchandise a logo line just like the luxury brands do, my recognizable symbol being the focus on metal with diamonds. I added messages of encouragement like Rock Your Flock, Stand Out, Be Herd and I Love Ewe and made The Black Sheep (in black diamonds!) our hero. I remember how nervous I was to launch it on Instagram. I’m Julie Lamb and I make lamb jewelry?! Much to my surprise my account immediately attracted knitters and sheep farmers from all over the country… the power of hashtags! Although I was showing Be Ewe in jewelry trade shows at the beginning, the audience for Be Ewe was outside of there. At a Metal & Smith event, Hummingbird Jewelers stopped by my table, I was familiar with their designer-focused retail destination up in Rhinebeck. I pitched a trunk show during NY Sheep & Wool weekend and they agreed. Knitters and all sorts of fiber enthusiasts flood the town for this event. All weekend I was visited by groups of women in colorful sweaters looking for ‘that sheep necklace’. I had found my flock! These new customers are makers, and as passionate about sheep and yarn as I am about all things precious. They were very forthcoming with feedback, on product, as well as where I should be showing up for them. I took notes and I listened. I started vending at Vogue Knitting Magazine’s shows and I’d also do pop-ups at high-end yarn shops during big events. I made a separate Instagram account @BeEwebyJulieLamb to cater to this audience. I’m so happy to have fallen into this niche early on. It’s so hard to know your audience when launching a brand and I’m just really lucky to have clicked with all these lovely knitters!
What was the first jewel you ever created, and how much has your style changed from that piece, if it has at all?
So many jewels ago… let’s see. Early on in elementary school, I started making my beads out of clay. The clay should have been kiln-dried but I just let it air dry and painted them with Testors enamel and sometimes added rhinestones. I used my handmade bead sets to make necklaces. The first three necklaces were strung on plastic cords with plastic beads and clasp, they were kind of 80’s color studies. I made geometric shapes in primary colors, a graphic pattern. A soft pastel one with teardrop shapes and a floral design and then a bright piece- a big turquoise studded star was the center, and hot pink and black elements finished the look. I made tons of jewelry as a kid and throughout high school. I’ve made jewelry out of everything, including but not limited to keys, nuts and bolts, nail polish & polymer. I would say my style has changed completely – except that I did make those original necklaces with distinct fashion themes, I was already merchandising! I knew a metals program would unlock further possibilities, working with tools and learning to solder and polish, learning to make ‘real jewelry’. My next big leap in my design journey was working for Avon, we had CAD designers on staff. I fell in love with the endless possibilities the software offered and its machined precision. This is the direction I’ve kept going with. So, I guess I’m at the complete opposite end of where I started!
We love the power behind your Metropolis Collection. For those who may not be familiar, can you share the story behind the symbolism and what it means to you?
I was at a stone show and came across these beautiful shield-cut gems in rhodolite and amethyst. I was with my friend Wendi Mayerson, G.G. At the same time, I exclaimed ‘Superwoman!’ and Wendi said ‘Diamond!’ Right away I realized how powerful both of those symbols were and that’s what attracted me. It was also a fun way to infuse color into my metal-heavy line. I played off the Superman comic series naming the collection Metropolis, I love that it’s a fictional NYC. The tagline for Metropolis is ‘Acknowledge Your Superpowers’. Customers for this line are seeking a little bit of extra strength in this protective shield. Metropolis is often gifted as a get-well gift, purchased by fitness and health-conscious women, to congratulate an achievement like graduation, or a new job. It’s an empowering symbol.
Amongst all you have created, do you have a favorite piece? If so, which and why?
If I had to pick, I’d have to say it’s the mixed diamond station chain we jokingly refer to as ‘The Necklace That Won’t Come Off’ or TNTWCO for Lambassadors in the know. Its official name is ‘Birthday Wishes’. It’s a substantial 18K link interspersed with diamonds of different colors and shapes. It’s about balance not symmetry. When it was first finished I immediately put it on my neck. I met a couple of designer friends for drinks later that week and they both noticed it right away and started yelling at me- why isn’t that in your website?! Your Instagram?! I hadn’t photographed it, because it wouldn’t come off I joked. To quote the brilliant Kathleen Cutler- You can’t sell a secret!!! However, a lesson I learned at Avon was you have to wear it to sell it, wear at least 3 pieces at all times, this rule worked and I proved them wrong! Since I never take it off and it’s in every neckmess selfie of mine, it gets a lot of attention- and I’ve made a handful of them over the years. So there! Plus, it’s a great day at the office when my favorite Israeli diamond dealer comes up and lets me sift through all of his inventory- I love putting these together!
How do you want someone to feel when they are wearing Julie Lamb Fine Jewelry?
Fierce! Confident, and unique. When you are ‘Different by Design’ you are sure to get noticed, be ready for that attention! Confidence comes from self-expression- when you wear a piece that represents a part of you, you wear it proudly and your ‘vibe will attract your tribe.’
What is the legacy you hope to leave behind with your brand?
I want to leave behind work I am proud of. I want it to be obvious that I designed what I wanted without restriction. I want my concepts to be considered. Be Ewe, heroing the Black Sheep and our individuality; Metropolis, Acknowledge Your Superpowers; CITY & Built For Love my love letters to NYC. I want to give back to NYC by donating blood regularly, my organs upon expiration, and volunteering. I want to be remembered as a personality that spoke up and spoke out to the communities I’m involved in. It should be evident that I lived to find and create beauty in the city my heart beats for.
If you could style anyone, past or present, in Julie Lamb, who would it be and why?
Ok double answer- I’m going to say Gwen Stefani as my present-day muse. Even though she tried to usurp my brand with her L.A.M.B. line! She is always authentic to herself and unique with her look, a designer herself. I love her juxtaposition of street style and glam. Any of my Elements Hoops would work- I’d love to blow up one of my Lamb logo pieces and pavè the pants off it for her! For the past, I would choose Bettie Page. I used to do her lookalike contest (1999 winner at CBGB! When I had bangs!) I think some of my Teardrop Glamour Cuff with some Bi-Set Bespoke rings would complement her bold, individualistic rule-breaking style. Mostly shot in lingerie, bondage or bathing suits my jewelry would complement her boldly feminine curves without overpowering. Plus, she led a pretty tough life and I think she deserves to wear something genuine and valuable that stands the test of time like her iconic imagery.
Julie Lamb’s jewelry isn’t just about adornment; it’s a testament to the power of self-expression and embracing one’s unique identity. Her designs, whether in the Metropolis Collection or the empowering Be Ewe line, reflect a commitment to making each person feel fierce, confident, and one-of-a-kind. With a legacy built on artistic integrity, community involvement, and creating enduring beauty in the heart of the city that inspires her, Julie Lamb is a designer whose work will continue to shine brightly in the world of fine jewelry. To learn more about Julie Lamb and all of the collections available, visit https://julielambny.com. Julie Lamb is also available on Instagram @julielambny, on Facebook @julielambny, and on Pinterest @julielambny.