As a Coloradan, Western jewelry is typically considered a staple fashion accessory to have in your closet, however, locating these authentic jewelry pieces can be challenging. Jen Lesea-Ames is the founder of Jen Lesea Designs, where she handcrafts and designs Western-nature-inspired jewelry that is one of a kind. Each piece undergoes a slow, sustainable process that Lesea-Ames has mastered through her background growing up and schooling that has molded her love for crafting jewelry.
Lesea-Ames’ goal for each collection is to provide women who own cowboy boots, high-heels as well as hiking boots with the perfect Modern Western accessories. The collections are inspired specifically by the Rocky Mountains, the Western sun and even some of Colorado’s architecture. Particular materials and elements are incorporated to represent the different textures of Western culture.
Lesea-Ames’s inspiration for Jen Lesea Designs came from spending the majority of her childhood exploring and collecting the different elements of nature such as rocks, gemstones and seashells. As an adult, she received a diagnosis of hip dysplasia, which left her no choice but to leave her career as a personal trainer – pushing her to follow her inner creativity.
“How I got back into jewelry was in 2009, this was actually five years prior to when I got diagnosed. I had a friend that had mentioned to me about the Denver Gem Show, I was interested in just seeing the rocks and the minerals and crystals because it was something that I was interested in as a kid,” she recalled. On an impulse, Lesea-Ames purchased semi-precious stone beads for the next time she was feeling creative. After a rough week at work, she felt the urge to do something different and unrelated to work. “I taught myself basic stringing of jewelry, so I spent the weekend making some beaded jewelry. As the result of that, I had a few personal training clients that really liked them, I just was sharing with them, ‘Oh, here is my new hobby to relieve stress,’ and they really liked them and wanted to buy them. I thought oh well maybe this could be a ‘side hustle,’ and that’s really how Jen Lesea Designs started, was with the beaded jewelry.”
After creating beaded jewelry for a few years, Lesea-Ames wanted more of a challenge and the opportunity to create other styles of jewelry for her customers. From 2012 to 2016 she studied metalsmithing at the Denver School of Metal Arts. “That really opened up a whole new world in terms of metalsmithing, thinking about the applications, possibilities and there is just so much more that I could do with designs and making jewelry.”
Lesea-Ames is an Applied Jewelry Professional and has established a 20-step process to create one-of-a-kind Western pieces at her Boulder studio. Each treasure that she creates involves the rich textures of Colorado and are made with recycled, refined and ethically sourced metals and gems.
Living in Boulder for 25 years, Lesea-Ames implements natural surroundings from her Colorado lifestyle in several of her collections. She explains that “The Radiance Collection has the strongest Western theme, I mean all of my pieces have a Western inspiration living in Colorado and the West, the stones that I use as well. I like to call it Modern Western. Definitely the Radiance and the one-of-a-kind Gemstone Collection, those definitely have the strongest Western Influences.”
The idea of traditional Western jewelry is something that Lesea-Ames keeps in mind while designing each collection, however, she refers to her designs as Modern-Western. “My perception of Modern Western jewelry is that the design is more minimalist, and may have different embellishments such as a unique metal texture. The jewelry may also be smaller in size than what is typically seen in traditional Western jewelry. These elements of Modern Western jewelry, I believe, seem to fit our current culture of versatility and the “less is more” mentality.”
Lesea-Ames is always sketching out designs and looking for materials to include other elements of Colorado nature to in her designs. She stated, “I come out with a new collection once a year, so I’m hoping my new collection for 2021 is going to be coming out in June. I add new pieces to the collections, depending on which collection it is.” Collections and individual pieces can be located at several retailers throughout Colorado. One of the newest and most exciting retailers that is showcasing Jen Lesea Designs custom Western jewelry is the Denver Art Museum Shop.
As Coloradans our connection to the outdoors and the West is a rare experience that we get the opportunity to thrive in, as well as be proud of. In each of the Jen Lesea Designs collections, elements of Colorado culture are integrated and each piece of jewelry has its own story. Being able to appreciate modern characteristics of Colorado, as well as keeping its history in mind through jewelry is truly a unique fashion statement.
Retailers can be found on Jen Lesea Designs Website, where you can also shop each collection.
All Photos Courtesy of Jen Lesea Designs.