Didn’t get enough of Larissa Loden from the “Sneak” peek you read in the latest redshoes news? I understand! Read on for the full interview with this fabulous designer. (Not yet a subscriber to redshoes news, my monthly email? Sign up here!)
Larissa’s jewelry makes the perfect Mother’s Day or graduation gift, and it also perfectly accents many wedding gowns!
Hey Larissa! Tell us about you.
I grew up in Upstate New York in a small town called Schoharie. It’s a feels-like-there-are-more-cows-than-people kind of town. I moved to the Twin Cities in 2002 and later graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelors degree in Arts and, later, a Masters in Education. I started making jewelry when I moved to Minnesota. I thought, “Where does a Minnesotan get a job?’ and the Mall of America came to mind. A bead store there was hiring, and [it was] perfect, since a year prior, my high school art teacher had introduced me to jewelry making, and I thought it was the neatest thing.
I also teach 4th-8th grade Art in Minneapolis. I love teaching art, and even have an after-school jewelry club to help inspire future designers. I also love to cook, garden, draw, paint, bike, play with my two pugs, and travel. I have a huge travel bug and try to do art shows around the country just to help me [fulfill] that travel bug.
What drew you to designing?
I love making things and sometimes actually refer to myself as a maker. I find the process of making is something very gratifying. Jewelry just seemed like a great medium for me, as it’s art you wear.
How did it all start?
It honestly just kind of happened after my stint at the bead store at the MOA. I grew up in a family business in New York, so entrepreneurial skills were just in my blood. I was just like, “I have all these supplies now, people seem to really like my stuff, so, heck, lets just start doing shows and selling things.”
I’ve always been very concerned about the environment, and the jewelry industry in general is not very green. I also grew up surrounded by antiques. I went to flea markets every weekend with my dad, and from that grew a love for old stuff. So when I found out that there was amazing dead stock supplies scattered throughout the country in warehouses, I was hooked. I also love the fact that all my pieces come with a story of where and when they were made.
Where do source your materials?
I get my supplies all over but a main focus is the New England area. I find that antiques out there are the best, and I assume it’s because that’s where our country began. I also started last year going abroad. In the summer of 2011, I looked for supplies in Paris flea markets.
Why do you do what you do?
The better question is, why not do what I do? Making jewelry and meeting the people who wear it is the most amazing experience.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
Be true to yourself. There’s nothing worse than a designer who is not him or herself. Also, if you have never worked retail or taken a business class, please do. Being an artist/designer is as much about being creative as it is about being your own PR agent, bookkeeper, shipping and receiving agent, etc.
Who do you admire and why?
Emily Winfield Martin of The Black Apple. She to me is a full-time crafter’s dream. She has made this empire for herself, and I got to meet her two years ago while doing a Renegade Craft Fair in San Francisco. She was very down to earth and nice. I really admire modesty in people who make it big.
What’s in your crystal ball in the next 5-10 years?
I hope to be a more national brand, and doing this full-time, maybe even with a little team [behind] me.
What’s the best part of being an artist?
[Being out and about] and seeing people you don’t know wearing your pieces. Nothing beats that.
Find Larissa Loden Jewelry online, or locally at i like you, Cliché, the General Store of Minnetonka, and digs studio. Nationally, find it at Space in Houston, Texas, and Nomad Body Piercing in San Francisco, plus many more.
The hours are: 5-10 p.m. Friday (Artist’s Reception); 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. I have mixed-media shadowboxes (including new pieces), Minnesota Icons, and matted prints available. There will also be lots of live music.
I’d love to see you!
Ever wondered what goes into making one of my State Icons? Here’s a sneak peek at some of the work that has to be done to make one little framed illustration.
My dad is a self-taught woodworker and a lover of tools. He has turned the garage into a place where he makes beautiful furniture, as well as the frames for my State Icons series.
Sheets of plywood are cut down to frame size and then cut twice more to include the bevel and the place where the glass sits. They are then sanded and angle-cut into pieces, so there are two shorter sides and two longer sides, in order to make the rectangular frames.
My dad made this glueing jig so four frames can be glued evenly at once.
Once glued and dried, the back sides of the frames get a quick shot of black spray paint.
Glass is cut individually from panes we get from friends, neighbors, and anyone who wants us to take it off their hands. In two years, we haven’t had to buy glass. I love being able to recycle things to make art.
My mom hand paints each individual frame with a coat of black paint. Once dry, they get another coat. Backs are cut to size and then paired with frames and glass. The frames are now ready for me to insert my illustrations, which I have already printed and trimmed to size. I also add my signature to each Icon illustration.
Inserting the illustrations sounds like an easy task, and many times it is (oh how I love those times). But most often it’s a lot of back and forth, as I’m not satisfied until every speck of lint/dust/black flecks from paint or whatever else might try to squeak it’s way between the illustration and the glass. But once all is clear, the illustration goes in and I secure the back with glazer’s points and then attach a sawtooth hanger. Finally, a redshoes26 design label is placed on the back side, and the State Icon is complete!
I’d love to know what you think about this process. What goes into what you do? I love behind-the-scenes peeks—spill yours in the comments section!
I’ve always been “artsy.” When I was a kid, my drawings—along with those of my twin sister—completely covered my parents’ refrigerator. When we were really little, my grandpa sent us home with an enormous roll of newsprint-like paper that we couldn’t even lift on our own. I think we went through all of it before we turned five. We did the whole coloring-book thing, like most kids, but mostly we went to town with markers and the newsprint, and any other blank paper we could find in the house (like the lovely computer paper seen below). Markers ran dry well before inspiration did.
My sister and I cranked out so much art, and were we were pretty good for such little tykes. My dad’s coworker even bought several pieces from us when we were around 8-9 years old. We had lemonade-type stands at the end of our driveway in suburbia, where we’d sell our drawings. (Ha! My first art shows.)
My love for drawing continued I guess until I got interested in sports, and therefore became way too busy (or at least not interested enough to make time for it). In addition to taking a full load of classes in college, I also played softball and had a part-time job. I graduated with a degree in mass communications (with a photojournalism emphasis) and worked as a writer/editor for several years at a local regional magazine. After being at the magazine for about 2.5 years, it hit me—hard—one day that I needed a creative outlet again.
In about a week I was applying for art school, and three weeks after that my butt was in a seat in a classroom at The Art Institutes International Minnesota.
In my first drawing class, we were asked to draw a still life of an object of our choice. I stared at my blank sheet of paper for 30 minutes before my teacher goaded me into beginning. I was terrified. I didn’t know if I still had “it.” I was afraid to put the pencil to the paper.
But once I started…. You know the story.
Fast forward seven years, and I’m a full-time graphic designer. I worked for companies for 5.5 years, and now I’m on my own. I don’t draw by hand much anymore; mostly via design software. But I’ve gotten more into hand lettering lately, and I love that.
But no matter how I choose to draw these days, I’ve never been happier in my field, felt more fulfilled with my work, or been more creative.
That’s why I have been, and always will be, an artist.
In February I participated in the spring wedding fair produced by the Independent Wedding Association, In(dy)spire (here’s a cool recap video of the fair, created by 651media). Near the end of the event, a woman stopped at my table and, after looking through my wedding invitation portfolio and the valentines I was selling at the show, introduced herself as the editor of Lavender magazine. She asked if I’d consider creating some same-sex invitations to possibly appear in a photo shoot for their upcoming issue. Of course I said yes!
Said wedding invitations appeared last month in Lavender‘s Wedding Issue. Click ahead to page 70, or take a peek at a real copy (page 60 in the actual magazine) if you can still find one on newsstands. I’m honored to be in the publication, and also proud to be there alongside so many of my fellow IWA members!
It’s that time of year again! That’s right, it’s the Spring Saint Paul Art Crawl. I’m showing at the AZ Gallery in the Northern Warehouse Building in the Lowertown area of St. Paul. The AZ celebrates the Crawl all month long, not just during the regular Crawl dates of April 27-29.
The event kicks off this Friday, April 6, from 5-8 p.m. with the Opening Reception. Come see my mixed-media shadowboxes, including two new pieces. I hope to see you there!
Saint Paul Art Crawl
AZ Gallery, Northern Warehouse Building
308 Prince St., Suite #130
St. Paul, Minnesota 55101