All in the Family

All in the Family

Cherry LeBrun

Cherry LeBrun opened De Novo 25 years ago. “I feel extremely fortunate to be able to make a living doing something I love,” she says.

Andrea Marx

Long before opening De Novo in 1990, Cherry LeBrun had a penchant for entrepreneurship. “I grew up in a family of small business owners,” she explains.“I always wanted to have my own.” At her mother’s bookstores, LeBrun learned at an early age how to craft eye catching displays and the value of exceptional customer service; at her grandparents’ waffle shop, she absorbed lessons in making patrons feel welcome.

After graduating from college with a degree in fine arts, LeBrun worked at galleries while searching for her fit – a spark that would catalyze the founding of her own business. She discovered her niche while managing a jewelry gallery in Palo Alto. “I found contemporary jewelry tremendously exciting,” says LeBrun, “It was a fresh new art form.” When that gallery closed, she seized her moment.

De Novo is now an established destination for contemporary jewelry that balances the drama of precious materials with respect for traditional craftsmanship. We checked in with LeBrun as she prepared to celebrate a landmark: De Novo’s 25th anniversary.

You opened De Novo before Palo Alto emerged as the nerve center of Silicon Valley. What was the gallery scene like in those early days?
There was more of an art scene in Palo Alto in 1990 than there is now. As Palo Alto has developed as a very strong business community, the costs of doing business have escalated, and it has become a challenging place for art galleries to survive in.

And yet De Novo remains. How did you establish it as a jewelry destination?
By representing some of the top contemporary jewelry artists in the field. If people know about them, they seek them out. Having a good website has also increased our visibility and brought many people to visit the gallery.

Many of the artists you represent focus on traditional materials, such as precious metals and gemstones. What influenced that decision?
I am very drawn to many types of jewelry but do have a great appreciation for artists who have outstanding skills in working with metals and gemstones. To be good at using a variety of metalsmithing techniques takes a lot of training and skill. When someone has that skill, combined with artistic talent, the jewelry they create can be very impressive.

Who are some of your favorite artists right now?
It’s hard to choose favorites, since I have a great appreciation for each of the artists whom I represent. I love the work of Peter Schmid from Atelier Zobel, because his pieces are artistically bold statements – I love to wear them. Barbara Heinrich’s work has a graceful, elegant beauty and always feels fresh. Sydney Lynch has an amazing eye and creates stunning color combinations with gemstones. Susan Chin’s work is playful and has a wonderful three-dimensional quality. And Enric Majoral’s jewelry has a lot of movement and a beautiful play of shadow and light.

You have an upcoming trunkshow with Atelier Zobel, which is also an anniversary party. It seems fitting to celebrate withan artist you’ve represented for some 15 years.
In this field it’s not that unusual to have long-term relationships with artists. If you have an artist who works well with the gallery and the artist keeps evolving, there is definitely the opportunity for a long-term relationship. I have a lot of people I’ve worked with since we opened. It’s one of my favorite things about the business – having relationships with my staff members and my jewelry artists. We work really hard at just keeping DeNovo vital and alive and exciting on a daily basis. That’s really the goal – and part of the fulfillment.