11.28.16 | KATE PALISAY
The elegant sculptural design of a Laura Lombardi piece is instantly recognizable dangling from the earlobes or hung around the neck of many a Passerby. Assertive, bold, yet refreshingly simple, the designer's eponymous line has attracted the attention of an ever-growing number of fans, including us.
We visited Laura at her studio in Brooklyn and got a special look into her creative process. With a background in sculpture, mixed media, illustration, and other Fine Arts, jewelry-making was a natural transition for the designer, who founded her line in 2010. Her pieces are undeniably informed by her experiences growing up between New York and a small town outside of Florence in Tuscany, Italy. In her recontextualization of imagery and objects from both environments, she builds a bridge between the two aesthetics. The result is a captivating jewelry line full of unique statement pieces.
How would you describe the woman who wears your jewelry?
Laura: I think the woman who wears my jewelry is someone who appreciates classic elements of style but is also looking to express herself through what she chooses to wear. The pieces themselves are designed to become a part of your identity and your life. They’re something that you can wear and carry with you as vehicle for expression.
I know that you use recycled and found materials in your process, so what role do those play, and where do you find those materials?
When I started my line, I was working exclusively with vintage and repurposed materials. Some of those materials were created with the intention of being jewelry, some of them were hardware. At that point we were hand fabricating every single piece with multiples of these deadstock components. Now they’re more of kind of like a touchstone and a starting point for my designs. Some of the pieces themselves are made with recycled materials and metals, and others have been made with those pieces in mind, with elements of them patterned through.
What kind of techniques do you use in making your jewelry?
A lot of it initially is just collaging pieces together, so working with a piece and deconstructing it and then melding it with other elements in my studio. It can start as an illustration, or as a little 3D collage on my desk, and then from there I’ll make the initial mold to be cast and reproduced, or depending on the piece, fabricate using the recycled materials. Everything starts here, in the studio, and then it’s cast or fabricated here in New York City.
Where do you find the inspiration that goes into your collections? Is there anywhere you go in particular to feel inspired?
I’m so happy to live in a place like New York, because it’s just so visually stimulating and always moving and evolving. So I derive a lot of inspiration from being here and taking note of my surroundings, juxtaposed with memories of the New York that used to be here, and also my upbringing in Italy. Just sourcing small bits of imagery from all these experiences and channeling them into my work is really what I do to get inspired. Those experiences along with my interest in art is really enmeshed into the fabric of what I do.
Do you ever find yourself hitting a creative rut? And what do you do to help realign yourself and get out of that rut?
Totally. I think creative ruts are super easy to come by, especially when you’re overworked. It’s easy to forget what creates all that work and being busy is the creative process. You can have these ideas and concepts but you need to devote time to exploring and nurturing them. It’s really easy to get caught up in running the business, and can end up neglecting your creative side. So I find that when I’m particularly overwhelmed, it’s really good for me to do something that takes me out of my context and my mental space. Even if that means just getting out of North Brooklyn, going for a walk in a different neighborhood. anything that gets me out of my routine can help shift perspective and break that rut .
When you first decided to make your own jewelry line, how did you get your business off the ground and running?
A lot of dedication and time. Initially, I was just making this without any intention of ever selling it; it was more for me. Eventually, I realized I had amassed a pretty large collection of little pieces, and I figured “Why not?” When I put it online, I think there was this gap in retail there. People were looking to use the internet not just individually as spaces for e-commerce and connecting with other people, but also wanting to connect with who they were buying from. So in putting my work out there, but also myself and my personality, it by default evolved into a brand which came in at a time that felt right for it to grow. It progressed pretty organically from there.
What has been the most challenging aspect for you in starting and running your own business?
Just finding time to do everything. Finding the time and energy to make things run, but also to nurture the person who finds creative fulfillment in doing it.
What has been the best or the most rewarding part?
Seeing how people have responded to the work that I’m creating. You’re always in your space creating things, but not really understanding how they’ll impact people’s lives or what kind of relationship people will form with an idea you had or the physical expression of that idea. Knowing that these pieces go into people’s lives and become these sentimental objects that they carry with them is really rewarding. Also, community - seeing how many amazing women wear my jewelry and how they’re all connected through their desire for self expression, what inspires them and what drives them.
Is there anything that you wish you had known when you started out that you know now?
Literally everything! I went into this not knowing a single thing about sales, manufacturing, brand development, anything at all really. I showed up at my first appointment with a buyer without knowing what a line sheet was or what my costs would be. I spent years just teaching myself every single thing along the way. If anything, I’m kind of grateful for that because it’s taught me to to be proactive. I don’t really think that there’s anything you can’t do without the right amount of dedication to looking for answers.
Do you have any upcoming plans that are particularly exciting for your line?
Finally finding time to design a new collection. Also, I’m going to Japan in May, which I’m really excited about. I have a lot of stockists there and I’m just really excited to go explore that culture and develop a connection to it, and see how this experience gets put back into my work.
How do you hope to see your collection grow and expand in the future?
I hope for it to get stronger and just continue to evolve, but at the same time want for it to stay focused on its core message. Beyond the line, there are a lot of other things that I hope to be able to explore, if not through my work in jewelry, then through eventually reintroducing my art practice and seeing how those two things kind of coalesce. I think I’d like to go back to fine arts at some point, whether it be painting and drawing, or small sculpture. I keep a drawer with materials on hand just in case I find the time. Even if it's just creating something for myself that’s not made with the intention of being sold or worn.