‘Bohemian-yet-modern’ jewelry makers showcase work at Aspen Art Festival

Caramie Schnell
Special to The Aspen Times
This bracelet from Elle Jay Jewelry combines a piece of driftwood with peach moonstone beads and vintage pure silver-over-silk thread.
Courtesy photo |

If you go ...

What: Elle Jay Jewelry, one of 130 artists at Aspen Arts Festival

Where: Downtown Aspen

When: Saturday, July 25 and Sunday, July 26

Cost: Free

EDWARDS — Though states away from the nearest coast, Jennifer Buchanan and Lisa Bernal have found a way to translate their mutual love of the ocean into another passion: jewelry making. The women have been making jewelry together for their company, Elle Jay Jewelry, since late 2012.

Their stunning bracelets, necklaces and earrings incorporate natural elements: driftwood, as well as sea glass, raw diamonds and semi-precious stones and leather straps.

“Our bohemian-yet-modern aesthetic has become very popular with nature-loving Colorado gals,” Bernal said. “And what is the only thing missing in the Colorado nature scene? The ocean, of course.”

Both women hold childhood memories of the sea close to their hearts: Bernal visited the Atlantic in Maryland as a child and Buchanan spent time exploring the Texas gulf coastline.

Their thought was “why not wear a little bit of ‘beach vacation’ on your wrist?”

“While our gorgeous mountains feed our souls, our hearts still long for the ocean,” Buchanan admits.

Elle Jay Jewelry is one of 130 vendors at the 13th annual Aspen Arts Festival, the fine-arts festival in downtown Aspen on Saturday and Sunday. The free festival runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days.

“We’re super excited about this one,” Buchanan said. “Lisa went last year and was amazed by all of the artists and we’re really excited to take part.”


In the beginning, the women had a personal beachcomber who would send them her finds and they ordered driftwood pieces from shores as far off as England and Greece. But that’s since changed. Last fall, Buchanan took a big trip to the northern California and Oregon coast.

“I found this incredible beach and found some really beautiful pieces of driftwood and that’s what we’ve been using for the past year or so,” Buchanan said. “That trip stocked us up for years — it was epic.”

Good thing since the driftwood wrap bracelets and long necklaces are bestsellers.

One bracelet combines a long oval piece of wood with peach moonstone beads and vintage pure silver over silk thread while a long driftwood necklace takes inspiration from the stars: the constellation Cassiopeia is marked out in raw blue diamonds, connected by golden wire.

“Women really love the raw diamonds,” Buchanan said. “That’s a new material we’ve been using.”

The two artists do everything by hand, from wrapping their own wire to drilling holes through the driftwood. A single piece of jewelry can take up to several hours to design, depending on its size and intricacy. But rather than view it as a chore, the two artists thrive on the time they spend creating.

The clasps for the bracelets and necklaces are made by a Boulder metalsmith and they’ve recently started using cotton cord that’s made in the USA for their vegan customers.

“Tons of people would say ‘we love your stuff but we don’t wear leather,’” Buchanan said. “So we decided to create a line that was vegan friendly.”

Each piece is completely unique, which clients appreciate.

“The overarching thing is they love the one-of-kind nature of the pieces,” Buchanan said. “They love that there’s going to be nothing else like it.”

This summer, the women are busy traveling around Colorado showcasing their designs at fine-arts festivals. Recently, they took part in the Boulder Creek Festival in Boulder and Art of the Rockies in Edwards. For more information, visit

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