For native Texan and current Austinite, Leigh Elena Navarro, pursuing the art of crafting jewelry has been more than just a career goal; it has been a lifetime in the making. Originally from El Paso, Leigh began learning the processes for fusing enamel and glass together at the young age of five from her mother, Susan, a talented enamelist herself. Throughout her childhood, Leigh would excitedly accompany her mother on trips to art fairs where she was greatly inspired by Susan’s large enamel wall hangings. It was this appreciation of and talent for hand-crafted art combined with a natural entrepreneurial flair that convinced Leigh’s mother to allow her to start making and selling jewelry with her - all while Leigh was still in elementary school.
Each individual enamel piece, which range in form from pendants to bracelets to rings that have removable and interchangeable magnetic crowns, all go through multiple firings, rendering their coloration as unique as their potential wearers. Guided by intuition, Leigh applies vibrant powders and glass fragments to a copper base that will then be put in a kiln nearing 1600 degrees. The process, Leigh says, can be “very organic and always fun.” For an even more personal touch and as homage to the influence her family has had on her work, Leigh places a stamp that started with her Grandfather’s vintage collection on the back of each enamel piece.
Just as impressive as her enamel work, Leigh’s line of leather and exotic skin buckle bracelets come in a wide array of the finest Italian leathers as well as exotic skins such as stingray, anaconda, python, lizard, carp and crocodile from around the world. The hardware in the Leighelena line is a proprietary design as well, adding a sense of chic modernity and an architectural aesthetic to the naturalism of the skins.
As Leigh’s passion and experience for hand-crafting jewelry grew, so did her business, with Leighelena products now being sold out of more than 600 retailers across the United States, and abroad. Leighelena has two Austin-based storefronts: one in East Austin and the flagship location on the famed South Congress strip.