Luisa Mack spends each day alongside boats and small stores in the Port of Ilwaco.
Mack runs her own studio-gallery, Luisa Mack Jewelry & Art, in the port. She is constantly molding plain sheets of metal into elegant, one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces.
Mack mainly works with sterling silver jewelry — creating necklaces, rings and earrings by hand.
“I get sheets of silver and wire, and form it and saw it and file it to whatever I like for my design,” Mack said.
Before moving to the Pacific Northwest in 2015, Mack grew up in a small town in southern Germany, where she decided to pursue jewelry design.
“After high school, I was wanting to do something creative, but also hands-on,” she said.
Mack trained at the University Pforzheim, Germany — located in Pforzheim, Germany, a town that is home to over 200 years of jewelry making history and scores of jewelry supply stores.
“It was really a great experience to learn there. There are all of the different companies that were related to jewelry making which was really special and convenient to have,” Mack said.
After completing nine semesters at the university, including a year-long internship to learn goldsmith techniques, Mack graduated with a bachelor’s degree in jewelry design. She relocated to the Pacific Northwest after marrying her husband, Hannes Mack.
Mack opened her studio-gallery in October 2018. Having her gallery double as her studio gives an added feeling of personality to her collections.
“I think when people go into her gallery and see her tools and workspace when people experience that and see the owner and she makes her pieces, it works well,” Hannes Mack said.
A wave of inspiration
A few years ago, Mack crafted a collection titled “Living by the Sea,” which was composed of pieces with flowing, wave-like patterns mimicking ocean waves. Each piece was inspired by her life living so close to the ocean.
“It’s kind of funny now, ever since I made that series of work, the waviness in my pieces is something that is so part of my design language now that I don’t even really think about it,” Mack said.
Many of Mack’s pieces also incorporate a unique ingredient: gold dust mined from the beaches at Cape Disappointment.
Though the process of collecting the gold takes time and patience — and often hours of sifting through dirt and finding nothing — the payoff of finding enough gold to melt and work with yields stunning results. By fusing gold to silver pieces, Mack creates wearable pieces of coastal-inspired art that include physical pieces of the coast.
“The fused gold makes a really cool texture. When someone comes to Ilwaco and they’re able to take local gold home, that was designed and handmade by Luisa, it’s a great idea,” Hannes Mack said.
Gold mining in Cape Disappointment can be extremely hit and miss, sometimes requiring the couple to stay on the beach late into the evening, but her husband finds the process worth it when they’re able to find enough gold dust to work into one of Mack’s pieces.
Another aspect of watching Mack’s work that her husband enjoys is seeing her sketching, which helps her brainstorm and think through pieces before she begins crafting them.
“I love her drawings. She does sketches where she designs pieces on paper before it goes onto metal and I’m always so proud of that,” he said. “When you see how she just makes this stuff up and gets it on paper, I think it is really cool.”
Though many of her pieces are one-of-a-kind, Mack enjoys making custom pieces and re-making styles that are popular, which is especially true of her earrings.
Her favorite piece of jewelry to make is silver rings, which are often made as custom pieces, to ensure they fit customers perfectly.