Collectistas look at life through rose-colored, groovy glasses. As we start to contemplate the holidays (a little), it’s time to get your groovy on and gift on many levels with shagreen cuffs and bendys from sisters Jill Becker and Jenny (Becker) Benscher of Lema J.
First, let’s all get on the same page and concede that shagreen and stingray are the same material. French craftsman Jean-Claude Galluchat first developed a process for refining and tanning stingray skin in the 1700s. Louis XV’s very fashionable mistress, Madame de Pompadour, then popularized the material by apparently acquiring a new shagreen piece weekly. Now, all sophisticated women can acquire modern shagreen cuffs from Lema J.
Sisters Jill and Jenny launched Lema J in November 2013. Jenny was always a jewelry designer, and Jill was previously engrossed in raising three children and volunteering at their schools and local charitable organizations. Sadly, in 2012, Jill lost her 21-year-old daughter, Cara, to a shockingly fast battle with leukemia. Nine months later, Jenny made her a beautiful shagreen cuff in Cara’s favorite shade of orange. Jenny told her sister, “[The cuff] would hug my wrist as if she were hugging me and that the embellished protective eye was watching over me.” Jenny continued making the shagreen cuffs in all colors and sizes. As Jenny and Jill continuously received compliments from friends, they realized they had stumbled upon something wonderful. These two sisters, brought closer by tragedy, became inspired to launch their business, Lema J, which stands for: Love Empowerment Motion Adventure Jenny/Jill.
They want to create something fulfilling, inspiring, lasting, and purposeful. Lema J should be a positive force in the world that helps and inspires others in the same way Jenny and Jill were inspired to take control of their own lives. These cuffs have personally brought Jill empowerment through a time of unthinkable pain. Through Lema J, Jill and Jenny have preserved Cara’s memory and contributed to her legacy, with portions of all proceeds going to the Karma for Cara foundation. Karma for Cara has a trifold mission: to help leukemia patients, award unsung heroes, and inspire kids to volunteer and help others. You can acquire Lema J shagreen and lambskin cuffs at lemajdesign.com, trunk shows, and fine art and craft shows throughout the country. Next stops for the sisters are New York, Aspen, and the Hamptons.
I sat down with sister Jenny to learn where she draws her inspiration and to further understand her approach to jewelry design. Read all about it in our download.
WHAT IS YOUR PROCESS?
I need to mentally get to a calm place in order to open creative channels. On a daily basis I have a leisurely morning coffee with word games; that is my clear-the-mind routine. Also, breathing, moving—be it yoga, exercise, or a good walk with background music—are also fab to get free. Reading and looking through images—art books and magazines—and exchanging thoughts with other imaginative minds fuel my creativity. What’s really important for me is to take a step back to let ideas form, stew, and settle, then simply start creating. The “doing” fuels flow, which in turn inspires more ideas. This is the fun stuff.
WHAT DO YOU COLLECT?
My kids’ artwork through the years, fabric, inspiring quotes, images and textures that speak to me, and anything that tickles my creative fancy.
WHAT IS YOUR THEME SONG?
“Closer to Fine,” by the Indigo Girls, and “Beautiful,” by Carole King.
WHO IS THE PERSON WHO INSPIRES YOU MOST?
Nature! Plus, Matisse—the freedom and joy shine through in his use of color, pattern, and form. Kids’ artwork—it’s raw and honest. Donna Karan—I have always loved her elegant lines and the way she uses fabric. And my sisters Jill and Sherri, who define perseverance; they both are unique and wonderful in their own special ways.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PHILANTHROPIC CAUSE?
Karma for Cara, the foundation created by my niece, Cara, after she was diagnosed with leukemia. Its mission: to tangibly help leukemia patients, recognize and award unsung heroes, and to engage youth in service and charitable causes. Cara had a special gift in the way she interacted with children.