At the edge of seventeen, Lisa Carrier had youthful dreams. She turned those into a global design brand.
Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, Lisa Carrier had an adolescence typical of the late 1970s and early ‘80s. She worshipped Stevie Nicks, liked heavy metal, leaned toward black leather and dreamt of living in Hollywood. While most of us eventually abandon our youthful dreams as we slog into adulthood, Carrier held on to hers. Those dreams fueled her global firm, Lisa Carrier Designs, a celebrity favorite that specializes in high-end candles, exotic giftware and home accessories.
It all started in 1982, when Carrier penned a note to Herbert Worthington III, a rock and roll photographer who specialized in all things Fleetwood Mac. “I wanted to get some Stevie Nicks photos for my room,” recalls Carrier, who was going to art school at the time, intending to become a children’s book illustrator. “I sent him a card with a drawing I did of Stevie as a fairy.” Two days later, Worthington and Nicks were on the phone with Carrier, and a few days later, Carrier and her portfolio were in Los Angeles, getting hired to illustrate a Stevie Nicks book of poetry.
“My boyfriend and I drove out to LA and rented a room from a magician,” recalls Carrier of the start of her magical mystery tour. “The poetry book got shelved, so I got a job at Fredrick’s of Hollywood.” For 13 years, she did windows and store displays for the iconic purveyor of lingerie. Eventually Fredrick’s celebrity clientele began hiring Carrier to do faux finishing, murals and interior design at their private residences.
After she completed work on one such celeb’s home—namely, Cher—Carrier picked up on the singer/actor/legend’s love of candles and decided to make a candle as a thank you gift. “I went to the flea market and got some antique lace and other things to make a really elaborate, gothic candle,” Carrier recalls. “Cher thanked me, ordered 25 more and said, ’honey, you’ve got to start a candle business.’”
She did just that, launching Lisa Carrier Designs in 1998, and getting a huge boost when the candles were named as a must-have celebrity accessory during a segment on Good Morning America. Carrier started selling the candles worldwide and through pop-up shops.
Some ten years later, she added silver-leaf and gold-leaf skulls to her collection. “I’ve always been obsessed with skulls,” says Carrier. “My uncle just researched our family history, and found that we are descended from some famous pirates, so that probably explains it.” Her anatomically correct, resin-cast human skulls have a rock and roll sensibility, often studded with crystals or sporting mineral mohawks, which appeal to buyers like rocker Tommy Lee and others. She also does animal skulls and antlers, gilding them for an ethereal effect.
“I love gothic things,” says Carrier of her influences, “fringed shawls, crystal balls, quarter moons, imagery of black ravens and the edginess of rock and roll.” Those influences led her to recent additions to her line, the Notre Dame fragrance and scented candles.
”I took my mother on a trip to Paris a few years ago and, of course, I visited cemeteries and cathedrals” she recalls. “Because I was raised Catholic, we went to mass at Notre Dame. I fell in love with the scent of the incense they burned in the cathedral.” Carrier convinced a priest to show her the basement workshop where they mixed up the incense since the 1400s and managed to buy a chunk. “I sent the incense to my fragrance guy (in Grasse, France), and he totally reproduced the scent for candles and a unisex fragrance. It’s our number-one seller.”
Even while concocting new products for her line, Carrier still does interior design and spends off hours combing antiques stores and estate sales for one-of-a-kind objects that fuel her creativity. “Who knew that this would be my life?” she asks rhetorically. “I love it.”
And what of her youthful dream to live in Hollywood? “My home and studio are in a canyon just below the Hollywood sign,” she says. “I wake up every morning, grateful.”
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