On the Cuff


You may remember textile designer and artist Liza Hathaway Matthews from our March issue (and cover!). Then, we chatted with Matthews about the different forms in which she’d like to see her art — and now, one of those dreams is coming to fruition. While she had previously collaborated with a range of designers to incorporate her bright and graceful style into textiles, wallpaper and even pillows, her most recent collaboration is a wearable kind of art.

Matthews’ paintings will now appear on cuffs from Lema J. Design, a Baltimore-based jewelry company that began selling hand-crafted cuff bracelets in 2013. The sister-owned venture began after Jill Becker lost her daughter, Cara, to leukemia in 2012. Her sister, Jenny Benscher, made a cuff as a gift for her sister after Cara’s death. The idea to sell bracelets similar to the one Benscher had made took off, and the pair decided that the profits from every bracelet would be donated to the Karma for Cara Foundation, which Cara and her family started during the course of her treatment. The foundation’s mission is to engage youth, “award unsung heroes, and tangibly help patients with leukemia.”

Matthews said that she had heard of Baltimore-based Lema J. Design and had been touched by their story.

“I met Jenny about a year ago at a function, and around Christmastime we had the idea to collaborate. Since I do abstract florals, we thought it would be perfect for the spring,” she explains. “It was fun because I had free reign to do whatever I wanted. The cuffs are all different — each one is completely unique.”

Instead of having her paintings photographed and transformed into a material, as they are to make pillows or wallpaper, Matthews paints directly on the material made for the cuff using an assortment of paints including acrylics and oils.

“Lema J. uses all sorts of leathers…python skin, stingray. They will send me a huge swatch of leather and I just get to paint all over it,” Matthews says.

“About three hours goes into each cuff,” she adds. “Once the leather is cut to size, it has to be sealed, lined, and attached to the brass base. The bracelets come in either silver or gold leather, and each one has an implanted emblem on the back.”

Her works are labeled “Chinoiserie Chic” and are currently available in 44 different designs, but a new line is underway.

“We have a new collection that will be coming in the fall with metallic on stingray and we will be using colors like sapphire, emerald, [and] crimson,”she says.

Not only does the collaboration exemplify the talents of two creative Baltimore designers, it honors the life of Cara in an impactful way.

“Every time I create [a cuff], I leave it up to Lema J. what the final product looks like,” Matthews says. “It’s so great because when people come up, they understand where the proceeds are going. So not only are they getting something beautiful for themselves, but they can feel good about what they are supporting.”

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