Jewelry and dinnerware designer Lorena Barrezueta is good with her hands—no, make that amazing. She can turn ordinary porcelain into beautiful, modern, clever and quirky objects of desire. Listen Lady, her line of porcelain mold necklaces (lorenabarrezueta.com), are like miniature medallions emblazoned with gold decals that feature tiny illustrations of a hand doing sign language. Fashionistas from Style.com to Daily Candy simply drool for her subtly humorous porcelain bangles with gold and silver decals of Casio watches, Rolexes, and punk rock studs. Meanwhile, Gourmet Collection, her brightly colored porcelain bowls, plates and serving dishes, are made from porcelain poured right into molds of those everyday tin takeout containers you get when you order food. The result: gorgeous receptacles for everyday food.
Latina.com tracked down the 29-year-old, half-Ecuadorian, half-Puerto Rican designer at her Williamsburg office/studio in Brooklyn, New York, where she was busy pouring porcelain into molds, glazing and firing, all for the cause of making a broad dish. Fortunately, she was able to free her gifted hands and attend to the important business of explaining her philosophy and back story.
What inspired you to start designing your line?
Well, I graduated from Parsons School of Design in 2003 and majored in industrial design and product design. Though I was trained in all sorts of stuff, like furniture and lighting, I couldn't get a job when I graduated and I was so bummed out. But when I was in school, my friend and I started to work on projects just for fun, like making porcelain dinnerware. The porcelain was the first thing I could produce myself and bring to market, and stores actually picked it up. It cured my blues to work with my hands, and the fact that it was well-received had me going even more.
What's the concept behind your jewelry line?
My father was a jeweler when I was growing up, so jewelry has always been around in my life. And I sold friendship bracelets when I was a school kid. I was making money, too! With my porcelain pendants, I finally found a way to incorporate jewelry into my repertoire. I wanted to play with graphics. Make stuff that I would want to wear: an edgier look, a hip-hop look, a punk rock look. The graphics were purposely made to suit different kinds of women and anybody that digs interesting handmade pieces.
What do you have coming up that you are excited about?
The jewelry line launched in August, and that is the big project right now. Tabletop stuff--no shops just yet. By October, I’ll have it in a boutique called Show in L.A., which is around North Vermont and Hillhurst in Los Feliz.
How does your Latin heritage or culture play into what you do?
I think it helps with keeping a level of humility but knowing you can bring something to the table. I've got the edginess but also something very sweet, which has worked to my benefit. My family is my foundation. Without warmth from them, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. We have breakdowns, and yet we’re still there for each other. I also attribute to my heritage the colorful part of my work--I use vivid colors like celadon, turquoise, teal, butter, lemon, chartreuse.
What are some materials that you use?
With the jewelry, the porcelain makes the pendant component. The necklaces are sterling silver. I also do goldplated necklaces. But everything is available in 14K or platinum, as well. The bracelets are made out of porcelain and glaze, with a 24k or platinum decal artwork.
What has been the greatest victory for your company?
Existing! Existing! Existing! As a one woman show, I’ve accomplished a lot in the past five or six years: website, production, shipping, everything is me. And also the fact that I’ve been able to maintain my business stateside and not have any production overseas. I’m trying to keep producing socially and environmentally responsible.
What are some style tips you can offer our readers about wearing jewelry?
Invest in some timeless pieces. Also, dress accordingly. You don’t have to wear every piece of jewelry you ever had. It’s fun to wear the cheapy choppy stuff, too, but it shouldn’t be your M.O.