Asking Lauren of Neal Jewelry a few questions about herself & her work has been a long time coming. I met Lauren in Minneapolis and have kept in touch, sharing work, ever since. I love her statement jewelry pieces. She was kind enough to lend me earrings from her last collection for my second lookbook & I wear her pieces all of the time. They make me feel like a real lady! Read her answers below to learn a little bit more about her & clink on the link to her site below if you haven't visited already:
Where are you from & what do you do everyday?
I am from Saginaw, Michigan but have been living in Minneapolis since 2000. I am the owner/designer of NEAL Jewelry and the only constant in my day-to-day life is coffee. Other than that, every day is totally different for me but it ranges from designing, production work, packing & shipping orders, website and social media content, marketing, outreach, event planning/attending and basically doing anything under the sun that it takes to run a business.
How do you feel about the creative community in Minnesota?
Since I started making jewelry in 2008, the Minneapolis creative community has grown exponentially. Every year there are more designers, artists and makers and it's exciting to see how the markets are responding to that. I have always felt really supported by the community. I think that Minneapolis is a great place to be right now because the city is growing but it isn't too saturated or over-priced yet. Shhhhhhhhhhhhh.
How long have you been designing jewelry?
I started designing jewelry in 2008 when I was enrolled in a jewelry repair & manufacturing program. There was no design element to the curriculum, so I just constantly experimented. I made a new piece almost every day and wore the jewelry around to see how it looked + felt and also to see how people would react to it.
Who is your ideal customer? Do you have one?
My ideal customer is a woman who is stylish but could care less about trends. She prefers design over fad, quality over quantity and is a collector of thoughtful things that bring joy to her daily life.
What do you look to for inspiration?
I look to nature, art, film and music mostly. I really love flipping through old fashion magazines and books too.
What music, movies, books are you interested in lately?
I LOVE Halloween and horror movies and since it's October 28th right now, I'm blasting through some classics; Halloween, Monkey Shines, The Shining and Suspiria are faves of mine. I have some new ones lined up as well; looking forward to watching The Invitation. And as you know Lily, I love a true crime story; both podcast and video. I recently watched the Amanda Knox and Jon Benet Ramsey documentaries and the In The Dark Podcast is a new favorite.
I have been reading Keith Richards "LIFE" for what feels like a million years (almost done!) but I love to read the classics, short stories, books by my favorite comedians and musicians and dark fiction novels. I read almost every night so it's gotta be a page turner or I'll fall asleep right away. To be honest, I've been listening to Lemonade since it came out. I never really liked Beyonce until this album, so I'm really doing it up. The new Solange is so good too!!! I'm usually just listening to the old standby's though; lots of Motown, Sade, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, 90s grunge and classic rock.
Where do you shop?
I really only shop a few times a year, seasonally. IDUN in Saint Paul is a local favorite & I love supporting independent designers like Lily Harris! I do some of my shopping online and when I travel. I recently visited and went crazy at Frances May in Portland and Prism in Seattle. But mostly to be honest, I buy a lot of used clothing at thrift/vintage stores, at consignment shops around town and on Instagram. I try and avoid buying fast fashion and/or anything that I wouldn't keep in my closet for years.
If you could own a piece of artwork, no matter the price tag, what would you pick?
Tough one! But if Pierre Cardin's Bubble House in Palais Bulles is considered art, I'll take that.
What are your feelings about social media? How has it helped/effected your business?
Love/Hate. I love that I have been able to connect with so many designers, photographers, makers, shops and customers over the years via Instagram. It has really helped to grow my business for sure. I've even made good friends! It seems to be the number one way I have been reaching my audience.
But on a personal level I sort of hate it. I find it incredibly overwhelming at times. Instagram in particular went from a simple sharing platform to full fledged advertisements. I am fully aware of the opportunity and implications of this but it's hard to find a balance between remaining genuine and also competing for that space to share your work.
If you didn't do what you do everyday, what else would you want to do?
Running some other business probably. I love working for myself. I have a passion for styling, decorating and organizing. So maybe something in that realm.
How do you find balance between designing & your personal life? (big question, I know...)
I set boundaries. It took a few years but I try and stick to working Monday - Friday, unless I'm doing an event or shooting a lookbook. I have worked in both the non-profit and corporate world and remember blowing off many hours during the work day. Don't judge; I know most of you out there do it to! I keep that in mind always. I don't believe that people need to work an 8 hour day/ 40 hours a week to be successful. When I go to work, I GO TO WORK. I have a plan for the day and I rarely waste time. I'm attempting to perfect the 5 hour work day ;) There is also a definite pattern to my busy/slow times. The summers are usually chill and now through xmas will be super busy. My friends and family are used to the drill so it's become easier.
Thanks Lauren for answering my short questions. I always love to hear designers' thoughts on topics like social media & work life balance. If you haven't already checked out Neal Jewelry, please go to her site here because you are missing out. I wear her JuJu Studs pictured below weekly & I cannot wait for her Spring/Summer 2017 collection to come out, which you can see a preview of on her homepage. Thanks for reading!