Leigh Hillenbrand was born in Cleveland Ohio in 1991 as the oldest of three daughters. She attended school at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) studying in the Jewelry & Metalcraft and Illustration majors, graduating with a BFA in both subjects respectively in 2014. She works in metal, colored pencil, acrylic, ink, and others with a fondness for caricature and natural forms. Her primary inspiration is drawn from painters like Monet, Van Gogh, and Raphael and jewelry from Medieval Europe and ancient civilizations of all types. She likes to primarily focus on designing and making jewelry that is functional and wearable for all situations and lifestyles. Her work concept is “maximum variety with minimum quantity” and her personal philosophy is “to never stop learning and evolving because no medium or form ever stops changing”.
Artist Statement (Jewelry)
Everything I do starts as a drawing, a few lines of vague shapes that metamorphose from strong sketched lines, to shaded image, to color. I believe my ability to illustrate the details of my ideas is my biggest strength. To see all of the details; the rivets, seams, bends, edges and textures; and to represent them with a full illustration of my idea supports the transition between concept and reality. In a way even my final piece is an illustration, a three dimensional image of what existed as an idea in my mind, but it all must start on paper. In truth metal cannot truly be used to sketch because it never comes back to the before when it fails to work out an idea.
Being an amalgamation of both the illustration and metalcraft worlds is a fine line to walk. Linearly speaking, I know that I am using one to create the other but when that fades out they begin to, at times, blend together. One is to the other what the other is to the one. Before I make a piece I have a few items I must consider that need to be worked out on the page. I want to know if it will be flexible and if it is, how so? What parts will be variable? Also, How will the shapes interact? The colors? What is the weight of the piece? How is it practical?
That last question is, to me, the most important. I have no particular love for huge or ungainly concept pieces that one can barely wear for two seconds without inconvenience. To me jewelry is something meant to be enjoyed, loved, and handled as an extension of the person wearing it. It must adjust to the unique formula of the wearer and be able to change with them, to fit any moment or mood. I think this perspective comes out of observance of my own nature, which is somewhat mercurial. I love being able to switch up the visual weight, color, texture, size and shapes of what I wear. Come to think of it, this is probably why I have such a ridiculous collection of jewelry. I believe that jewelry should be created in a way that people can have that personal exploration without causing their jewelry box to burst at the seams.