Last Monday, Betsey Johnson presented her Spring 2012 collection in a beautiful explosion of neon pink, sparkles and amazing five-inch lightning-bolt earrings made by an artist from my hometown, Lara of Fabrication Unlimited LLC. I am so excited that a local person has a connection to one of the biggest fashion events of the year, and even more excited that Lara took some time out of her very busy schedule to answer some of my questions about her work and the opportunity to provide jewelry for one of my favorite designers.
I’ve been interested in fabrication of all sorts since a young age, and art has always been a big part of my life. I have made jewelry for myself over the years using different methods and from different materials, from common items I had around (O-Ring necklace, bracelet & matching earring) and just to try out / play with equipment I have (aluminum rings made on my mill).
The serious jewelry making began when I purchased a laser cutter, though the original intent of the cutter was to make variations of cityscapes I started making using scrap material I found. The sheer magnitude of opportunities the laser presented was just a natural transition into other areas. Jason had purchased some acrylic jewelry for me a couple months before getting the laser and as a side thought suggested trying to make a pair of earrings to see how they sold. The response was surprising, so I started making more. Since I enjoy making functional items where I can, jewelry seemed like a natural opportunity.
It really varies from day to day, with the most time spent during weekends when I have the whole day available, but on average I would estimate it at probably 3 hours a day.
It’s not easy, and gets frustrating at time for the limitations it imposes. My job requires long hours – typically around 60 hours a week, which really limits the time I have to work on new designs, special projects, general variety of work, and at times often tends to stifle creativity (not to mention feeling exhausted once I get home many days). Since I have always made it a point to do everything possible to ship any order the next day, this mean I often have very late nights, and am not always able to get special designs for friends done as quickly as I would like. It also limits my ability to go to art fairs and promote / growth unfortunately.
I enjoy making anything and everything. I did a lot of painting, drawing, mixed-media work, and writing while in school; but I also was on the SAE Baja team which is where I picked up metal working. Today I have a small shop that allows me to really make just about anything. Besides the things I make with acrylic on the laser cutter (jewelry, cityscapes, and other functional house-hold / office items), for fun, I also make custom Halloween masks each year, I still draw and paint occasionally, I make custom cards for my friends and family for holidays, I have a vinyl cutter, so also do custom stickers and signs, and I do a lot of metal working (I love welding) – from general art pieces to functional items (the latest project is a table for my CNC plasma cutter).
Sunday of Labor Day weekend we received an order for a pair of the Large Lightning bolts from Jenifer, who ended up being one of Betsey’s assistants. Jen wanted a pair of the earrings ASAP as a sample of them to share with Betsey. She also emailed us and asked that we call her to discuss her order. Once we talked with Jen, she explained that these were going to be a sample of our work to decide if they would be what Betsey wanted for an upcoming show and would want 15 more pairs if they liked them. With the holiday, the soonest we could get the sample pair to them would have been Wednesday. They initially intended to place an order for the 15 additional pairs once the sample was received and expected next day shipping so that they would be received Thursday. We had to explain that while we do make these ourselves we do not typically keep 15 pairs of any item on hand and a one day turn around would be very hard to pull off since we both have full time jobs outside of Fabrication Unlimited.
To ensure that the 16 pairs would arrive in time for the show, Betsey decided to just order the 15 additional pairs before even seeing the sample pair. Jen told us Sunday to go ahead and make them and ship them all overnight on Tuesday so that they would arrive Wednesday.
Wednesday afternoon, we received a phone call from Jen to let us know that Betsey loved the earrings and that they would be used in the show on Monday evening which we could watch live online.
We were initially told they were for an upcoming show, but didn’t realize how big of a show it really was going to be until doing a little research into Fashion Week.
It was absolutely amazing… complete awe! At the same, I really felt we got so very, very lucky, and would like to try to use this opportunity to work on promoting Fabrication Unlimited more. I know how much work that takes, but know that we got an amazing opportunity that I do not want to let go to waste!
The reaction has actually been pretty small. We have sold a few more pairs of the Lightning Bolts than usual, but have not noticed any large increase in volume. The lightning bolts had been our most popular item even before the show, selling at least a few pair each week, so the additional order or two that may have been a result of the show didn’t really show up as a shift in order volume.
Tell me about special orders – can customers contact you with ideas?
Absolutely! In fact, I think that probably a good 1/4 of our Etsy orders are custom requests. Not to mention requests from friends and family. I am always open to other’s ideas, and its fun to see what other people like! My goal for Fabrication Unlimited is really to expand to all facets of fabrication, where I can continue to create things from my own mind, while making anything and everything anyone else might want!
Thank you so much, Lara, for agreeing to be featured on my blog!
Photos via Getty Images, nymag.com and Fabrication Unlimited LLC.