Metals, semiprecious stones, and pearls imbue the unique signature pieces of jewelry that Iliana Leyba creates to highlight her Venezuelan cultural heritage. Leyba, a certified goldsmith and silversmith, moved to the area in July 2016 and opened her studio in Bluffton.
Leyba’s style exudes a touch of elegance mixed with Bohemia Modern. “America is a wonderful melting pot, similar to my home country,” she said, referring to the cultural and artistic influences of the indigenous and African population, and the Spanish colonists.
Notable sculptor and multi-media artist Marisol Escobar, French-born to Venezuelan parents, is an inspiration to her, as Leyba is drawn to the idea of expanding into sculpting in steel and bronze.
Leyba recently toured the Public Art Exhibit at Coastal Discovery Museum and was fascinated with the diversity within the works on display.
Leyba started making her own jewelry in college because she could not find jewelry that she liked. Her friends and their friends loved her creations so much they constantly were commissioning her to create pieces. That’s how her jewelry line was launched.
Locals often recognize Leyba from her time hosting the Spanish talk show “Nuestra Communidad” for WHHI-TV and often stop to say hello. She has learned through conversation that the Venezuelans who are most familiar to Americans are Miguel Cabrera, who plays for the Detroit Tigers. “And for the history buffs, Simon Bolivar,” she said with a smile.
Leyba promotes sustainability and has expanded her creations to include handbags, multi-media paintings and decorative pieces using recycled and repurposed materials including beads, wood, tin, natural fibers, wire, cultivated pearls and shells with designs that echo the Lowcountry – nature, marine life, moss-laden trees and water.
Her brightly colored large-scale murals and artwork grace the walls of area restaurants and businesses. When not in her studio, Leyba enjoys spending time with her family, volunteering at church, and looking for repurposed materials to use in her art.
She also enjoys meeting other artists. “As a new member of the Art League of Hilton Head, I have the opportunity to meet other artists and make some new friendships,” Leyba said. “Everyone has been so encouraging to me.”
Leyba’s goal is to recreate the business she had in Venezuela, where she was able to hire artists to work in her atelier and was a well-respected proprietor within the community.
Her clients consider her creations to be works of art for what she calls “sophisticated and life-embracing women.”
Iliana Leyba’s lines are available on ilianaleyba.com and at Al & Harry Home Fashions in Old Town Bluffton.
Carrie Hirsch of Hilton Head Island is a freelance writer.