Just a few short years ago, if you had told this spry Texas grandmother that she would start her own business, have held fifteen shows in three states where people would see and buy her work, she might not have believed you. “I’d have said you were out of your mind,” says Lynda Jameson Henglein, founder of Silver Linens Jewelry. “I really never imagined I’d be lucky enough to be doing what I’m doing today.”
What was never in doubt, however, was that she would be finding ways to use her creativity in new and interesting ways. “I’ve always had an artistic urge and I’ve always been driven to ask Why not?” says Henglein.
“It hasn’t been easy for my husband, Bill,” she says jokingly.
Lynda’s creations are exquisite pieces of jewelry, that echo a now-neglected form of artistry from the past. Her pieces feature elegant historic monograms and cyphers, in sterling silver (some with solid 24K gold detailing) that highlight the beauty of bygone eras. Several of her pendants display the monogram of European Royals including Marie Therese of Austria (1638-1683), the wife of Louis XIV of France; King Christian VII of Denmark, (1749--1808); and Maria Feodorovna of Russia, (1847-1928).
“For thirty years I had the blessing and the burden of being a military wife," she relates, "and it was during one of our assignments to Europe that I began to fall in love with and collect antique linens adorned with beautiful venerable monograms. Royalty and the wealthy used to have everything monogrammed: handkerchiefs, towels, bed linens, stationary, jewelry, and even books. Each monogram was a miniature work of art,” says Henglein.
It wasn’t until many years later, when taking a jewelry class at the Dallas Arboretum, that she had the idea to bring those antique monograms into the present as wearable works of art through the medium of sterling sliver. It is worth noting, that on December 3rd the Arboretum will host a show of her work. "I will have come full circle." she says. Lynda was also chosen to participate in the juried Artscape show at the Dallas Arboretum in April of 2017.
Serendipity, Lynda admits, played a part. “It turned out that my experience as a potter was a tremendous asset. I was fortunate enough to have studied with award-winning ceramic artist Barb Francis of Waco. Then, when relocating to Greenville, Texas from Waco, much to Bill's surprise, I found a house with a ceramic studio--the rest is history."
“Once I developed the processes for making monograms and cyphers using sterling silver, I couldn’t stop. I made them for nearly a year before I decided to turn it into a business. A dear friend of mine in Louisiana insisted that she was going to host a show for my work and wouldn’t take no for an answer. After that, things really started taking off and Silver Linens Jewelry was born.”
Lynda's works are elegant, yet surprisingly substantial pieces of sterling silver that give new life to the intricately intertwined initials of yesteryear. “I feel like I’m paying homage to the unsung artists of the past who created the monograms. I’m hoping that what I do will help people to appreciate the artistry that was part of our ancestors’ lives and to make it part of their lives.”
Although she agrees that the internet has made researching monograms and their origins easier, Henglein has found that the digital record is still far from complete. Seeking out rare and hard-to-find books on two continents to broaden her knowledge of the subject, she reserves special praise for the New York Public Library. “The staff there—especially the librarian in the rare book room—really lightened my load during my last research trip. I have learned so much about monograms and cyphers, and I look forward to learning everything I can.”
“Cyphers," she explains are similar to monograms, but follow different rules of composition. Today we are familiar with the logos corporations used to identify themselves. Monograms and cyphers were like logos for royalty and nobility.”
Her earliest creations were pendants and medallions, but today Silver Linens Jewelry also features earrings, cufflinks, and belt buckles. “All of my pieces are one-of-a-kind,” she explains. Her hope is for people to have a unique piece that will become an heirloom for their family.”
“Some of the most interesting and fulfilling work I get to do comes from commissions. It’s just great when people like what I do and have interesting and unique requests that challenge me. My first belt buckle was a custom order; it was an enormous challenge—and one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. I’ve created charms for custom bracelets with interlocking antique monograms to commemorate weddings and anniversaries. I was even commissioned to create matching sterling silver dog tags for three very lucky little dachshunds.”
Lynda says that she has found inspiration in a number of sources, but it was a quotation from author Charles Dickens that she believes sums up her feelings for her creations: “The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this; that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed, but a thing created is loved before it exists.”
By: William West