Welcome to Deep in the Heart of Dallas! Our latest series, focused on sharing the stories of the Dallas Black community, follows local creatives through the city to learn about favorite spots, must-taste foodie finds and how the city inspires their work. Today, we're featuring Lisa Willis.
Born and raised in St. Paul, Minn., Lisa is a Midwest girl at heart but her love for Dallas runs deep! Her passion for creating led her to start Small Talk, a handmade jewelry company producing ultra lightweight pieces made entirely out of clay. Each piece features unique patterns and color mixes, allowing customers to enjoy functional, wearable art. Let's take a deep dive into Lisa's story!
Tell us about your journey to Dallas and how you got in to making jewelry?
When I was about 13 we moved to Grand Prairie, and it was amazing. I loved the Southern hospitality in that community and made so many friends. After a move to Arizona, we ended up back in Texas once again.
As an adult, I lived in Dubai for four years working as a flight attendant. During my time off, I'd find myself back in Dallas to see my family every other month and it gave me a new appreciation for my home. I came back to Dallas full time in 2019 and I think I love it even more than I ever have.
I got really serious about making jewelry when I came back to Dallas. I was doing it as a hobby before I left for Dubai, so I was used to going craft shows and markets. My mom loves buying handmade things, so she was always taking us to these kinds of environments. I got back into jewelry because it was a creative outlet. I started posting on Instagram and building a community and it's just taken off.
What makes Dallas home?
For me, it would have to be the people. When I was away in Dubai, every time I would come back to Dallas there'd be a warmness in the air. And you really appreciate that when you go other places. You really appreciate the Southern hospitality, walking around and you can smile at someone and they'll smile back. That's something that's actually not very common around the world.
Describe your perfect day in Dallas.
My partner and I live in Downtown Dallas, right next to AT&T Discovery District. So we'll wake up, go down to Rise & Thyme and get a coffee - we might even have breakfast there because they have an amazing breakfast taco. Then we might sit outside and watch the screen, or take off on a long walk. There are several parks in a five-mile radius of the AT&T Discovery District. The Sixth Floor Museum is a short walk away – that's always a great option for a museum outing!
Where's your favorite place to eat in Dallas?
Definitely Grimaldi's Pizza. I think it's a chain, but it's a chain without being a chain and the Uptown location is very accessible.
Ka Thai in the Knox/Henderson neighborhood is another favorite.They have amazing, delicious Thai food. We cook a lot at home obviously because of COVID, but we do take out about once or twice a week and it's usually from Grimaldi's or Ka Thai.
Where can we find you on a weekend afternoon?
Somewhere Downtown or at my apartment. If we're not walking around, I'll be home, at my desk happily working.
Tell us about a neighborhood you love.
The Bishop Arts District is an area I've spent a lot of time in. There's a record store there – Spinster Records – and they are really special to me because they were one of the first places that carried my jewelry in their store.
What's your go-to place to take out-of-towners?
What is your favorite Dallas memory?
In 2019, I did an event called Vegans After Dark. There was food and drinks, a DJ and so many creatives there. I was obviously there with my jewelry, and there were others presenting their artwork and other creations. The event was so incredible. There were so many small business owners and supporters of small business owners all coming together. And so many of people that participated in that event – like Vegan Vibrationz and Bam's Vegan – are doing amazing things now.
What are you looking forward to in 2021?
I'm looking forward to things opening back up. I won't say going back to normal because I don't necessarily wish for that. We've all survived something really, really crazy. So, now that we are in more control of the trajectory of the year, I'm just excited to make it a good one.
To learn more about Lisa, her jewelry business, and what she's up to in Dallas, follow her on Instagram: @makesmalltalk