Step into the wood- frame storage shed turned studio just behind Julie and Lucas Priolo’s Fort Worth craftsman bungalow, and find yourself in a jewel box of creativity.
Priolo, a Texas Ballet Theater principal dancer, and wife Julie, a former TBT prima ballerina who retired after the birth of their second child, have transformed the backyard cottage into a cre- ative haven for Lucas’ second passion — designing and crafting jewelry for his father’s longtime California company, Priolo & Co.
“It’s my place where I can get away from everything and just work,” Lucas says.
Working means hammering, torching and buffing metals into delicate pieces for both local and national clients. The native Cali- fornian crafted his first piece of jewelry, a winged-heart pin, for his mother, at age 8.
“I’ve watched my grandfather, my dad … it’s in my blood,” he says, referencing his childhood spent at the family’s longtime Bay-area jewelry store, Sofia Mill Valley.
At age 17, he expressed his passion for the craft to his father, Carl, before leaving home to pursue his ballet career. “My dad got so excited and bought me a lot of equipment.”
Priolo used the tools to create rings and “funkier stuff,” while continuing to dance. He says he “got serious” in 2003, when he faced his biggest challenge — crafting a diamond-and-plati- num engagement ring for Julie, then his Houston Ballet col- league. He sketched the design, molded the ring in wax and sent the ring to his father’s shop for stone-setting.
Then came the storybook proposal moments before the curtain went up on a 2004 pro- duction of Cinderella. “They announced to the audience that we’d just gotten engaged,” Julie says. “We had the show of our life that night. When he brought out the ring for the bows and put it on my hand, the audience went wild.”
Now, he’s the go-to guy for his friends and clients, crafting silver and gold (100 percent recycled, another family value) and conflict-free dia- monds and gemstones into bracelets, earrings and other accessories. Sketches, hand- drawn and carefully marked with gemstone and size, are e-mailed to customers, who approve or adjust the designs. He then cuts, hammers, torches, pickles, buffs and smooths. “I do everything from wax work to fabricating and working in the metal itself.”
One bracelet, for instance, takes about four hours to create and costs around $400. Bracelets are a Priolo specialty — the company’s signature Sofia bracelet is named for Lucas’ sister, also a dancer.
“One thing is so physical and the other just sitting … but there’s a lot of discipline in both,” Lucas says. Al- though daily nine-hour barre sessions leave little energy for conjuring inspiration, that’s exactly where he finds it. “Ballet is such an old art form, and so is jewelry. In- spiration comes from within, after a great day’s work or rehearsal. It bubbles out into a really cool piece. Ballet lends itself to jewelry. I’m even inspired by the cos- tumes I’m wearing.”
Julie, who now handles public relations for the com- pany, notices the correla- tions, too. “I can see the in- spiration in his jewelry based on what he’s dancing to at the time. It’s awesome to make that connection.”
Lucas simply loves “get- ting lost in the wax world.” “I enjoy the freedom of creating whatever I want to create,” he says. See his family’s work and purchase pieces online at www.prioloandco.com.
By JESSICA ELLIOTT
Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org