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Minimalist bag designer at her 29 Palms studio

Lili Tanner has done a few different things in life – art critic, advertiser, gallerist, writer – in Switzerland and in Venice, California. She’s lived in Twentynine Palms for almost 14 years where she now makes leather bags and jewelry under the Lili T. California label. Gone are the days of writerly procrastination, she says. She’s busy and she’s loving it.

The house sits against the mountains bordering the Joshua Tree National Park, solitary, its own oasis. A palm tree that has seen better days, blooming oleander bushes, an impressive cactus garden. And open vistas for miles and miles. It’s a place that would lend itself to contemplation, meditation and all that, but that’s not what’s going on here today. Some days Lili works with two assistants, China and David, and that’s one of those days. China is sorting the leather hides by color, David starts cutting. They’re both very precise workers, Lili says, I’m lucky to have them whenever I need them. Most days she works by herself though. But today she has an order to fill – for Japan. Lili laughs. “If I had to single out one country that loves my clutch bags the most it would be Japan”, she says. “It’s about the simplicity of it, I assume. I take it as a batch of honor.” And it’s true – her cuts are simple as are the names: The Clutch, The Big Shopper, The Sleeve. Another bestseller: The Makeup Bag, a simple makeup pouch that closes with the two magnets. No more zipper fumbling (and breaking), ladies. They’re supple everyday bags in a wide and ever evolving color range. Lili works mostly with remnant lambskin and cow hides she finds in the fashion district downtown Los Angeles. This way most Lili T. bags are unique pieces.

Her jewelry line certainly is characterized by simplicity as well but here another quality comes in the mix – playfulness. And a distinct sense of color. Her necklaces might combine cherry quartz, pearl and jade or black onyx, turquoise and red garnet. She mostly works in gold and silver. “Making jewelry, combining stones and colors feels like playing to me, not like work”, she says. Good thing the Lili T. “playground” attracts more and more customers. Lili T. California sells globally online and locally in Joshua Tree at bkb ceramics. What’s next? “I want to find the right store in Palm Springs to carry my line”, Lili says, I feel people are more and more interested in buying local artists and artisans. People from Los Angeles come out to the High Desert and they don’t want to see the same things they see in L.A. Palm Springs is still local – considering the vastness of the Mojave desert”.