The Perky, Vibrant Leatherworks of LiRA

by Courtney Cerniglia

One of my favorite parts of writing this monthly article is when I get to visit the featured artists in their studios. There’s something special about being welcomed into the space where the artist creates. You get to see their materials, the works in progress, a special seat they choose to work from, and feel the vibe of the space. The art encompasses you, giving you a deeper understanding of the artist and the work they create. 

As I walked into the studio of Liza Allinger, I was greeted by zillions of wine bottles. Well, not because she is a renowned wine collector, but rather because she’s an artist in residence in the studio above Tandem Wine and Beer. As I climbed the stairs and zipped past the hangout spot in the balcony, I swung around the corner to find Liza amidst patches of leather in the brightest colors, and of course, a half-sipped glass of sauvignon. 

Liza had just returned from living in San Francisco where she worked for Molly M Designs, a boutique studio of architect and designer Molly M. While there, Liza put her fine art degree to work and assisted with production of the leather goods line. While working alongside Molly, she learned more about the leathers she worked with and started to design her own line of accessories, LiRA. 

When you look at designs by Liza, you can expect a structured, bright, and well-tailored design. For much of this she gives credit to her mentor, Molly, who encouraged her to approach design from the architectural standpoint. Seeing her work up close, you’d appreciate the level of craftsmanship with the piecework apparent in most. Intricate and colorful, it was surprising to me to find out most of her designs are created from just a few simple geometric shapes. 

“I can get so much out of one shape. I can extend it, crop it, rotate it. If I start with a few shapes and colors that stand out to me and begin layering them to create a pattern, pretty soon I have a beautiful layout for my next piece,” she said, while manipulating the cutout swatches in front of me, designing a layout before my eyes!

Currently Liza works with leather remnants, which allow her to have a wide array of colors and finishes to use in her designs. It’s also an eco-friendly way to procure her supplies. She enjoys the challenge of finding creative ways to use all the material in her stock, which makes her a near zero-waste studio. 

She had a large sketchpad on her desk with a drawing of the next pattern she wanted to paint. Painting on the leather is something she’s playing with, so her sketch helped her bring the new medium into focus. Painted leather, she told me, is popular right now thanks to people decking out their Nikes with custom painted features. Who knew? 

Liza’s work includes handbags, pillows, table runners, wall hangings, and a variety of other custom pieces upon request. She’s working above Tandem Wine and Beer on Edison Avenue in Appleton, so swing by and check out her pieces on display. Follow her @lizaallinger.