Sister act a hit on local party circuit
Last updated 6/12/2008 at Noon
FALLBROOK — Talk about the life of a party; her name is LilyGirl and these days she has grabbed the spotlight at gatherings from Fallbrook to Encinitas and La Jolla.
While sipping wine, sampling hors d’oeuvres and visiting with friends, women are also shopping for LilyGirl jewelry that designing sisters Denise Haynes-Port of Fallbrook and Lori Roark of Cardiff call “wearable art.”
The sisters market their custom line entirely through home parties and are finding success in the competitive niche. Known for their signature sculpted wire and beaded pieces, Fallbrook High School alumni Haynes-Port and Roark have seen sales triple since starting LilyGirl (named after Roark’s dog) in 2004.
It was Roark, 40, who came up with the initial idea for LilyGirl’s signature look – wire jewelry hammered and sculpted into curling, loopy shapes – and it isn’t the first time she has found success as a wire sculptor.
After putting a marketing degree to work in the software tech-support industry, Roark and a friend began making ‘lantern’ candle holders that hung by curly, beaded wire. In the late 1990’s, these pieces were carried in 2,000 gift stores across the US.
A former preschool teacher and dabbler in the home party marketing arena, Haynes-Port, 52, also found some local success making crystal angel ornaments enhanced with beads and wirework. Her interest in this venture was waning about the time that Roark’s lantern business began suffering from copycat knock-offs. It was then that LilyGirl evolved.
“My customers who loved the wire lanterns kept saying, ‘You should make jewelry,’” Roark explained. “We decided to start a jewelry business together using Denise’s home studio.”
The women, who call themselves “wire-ists,” hammer fine-gauge sterling silver and 14K-gold-filled wire into a flattened textury surface that’s ultra light-reflective. Then, various hand tools are used to curl, bend, twist and wrap the wire into floral-, heart- and abstract-shaped pendants and earrings or form peace signs and looping letters that spell words like “love.”
Chunky chains, dyed silk ribbon or faux-suede are used to suspend the pendants and stone, shell and wood beads often complete the looks.
“We collaborate a lot,” Haynes-Port added. “One of us will work on something and it doesn’t look right, so we’ll set it on a table. Then the other one will pick it up and finish it and then it’s great!”
In addition, Haynes-Port said, the decade-plus age difference between the two helps them design jewelry to suit a range of women. “Lori is younger and a little more hip – she lives on the coast – and I’m older and small-town. We dress differently and have different styles and it’s reflected in the variety of jewelry we design.”
Many are one-of-a-kind or produced in limited quantities because, Haynes-Port said, “we don’t like making the same thing over and over.”
LilyGirl is different from most home sale parties in that they offer “boutique-style” shopping rather than providing a catalog for ordering. Customers take home jewelry directly from the party and can design their own by choosing from an array of “interchangeable” pendants, stones and necklaces.
Party hostesses, such as Anna Hopkins, receive many benefits.
“I loved it,” said Hopkins, who recently hosted 10 friends for a LilyGirl party in her Fallbrook home. “Everyone really enjoyed it and all bought something. The jewelry is very ‘now’ and boutique-style – a lot nicer than department stores.”
Haynes-Port said the best part of the business for her is the chance to work with her sister. “We’re having the time of our lives doing what we love,” she said.
The LilyGirl studio in Fallbrook is open by appointment. Lori Roark can be reached at (760) 492-2880 and [email protected]