Sigfús Designs: Interview with Jewelry Designer Lauren Valenzuela
Sigfús Designs is a jewelry company that was founded in 2018 by Lauren Valenzuela, an Arizona-based designer who has established herself by creating handmade whimsical earrings that make statements whilst still being lightweight enough to wear comfortably.
Sigfús Designs first collection has been described as a little bit desert, a little bit retro, and a whole lot of rock and roll. Crafted from polymer clay sourced from Arizona, each piece is durable, colored with spices and alcohol ink, and occasionally include resin, wood, lucite, wire, and other elements.
Lauren Valenzuela in 2018, was inspired to name her company from her Icelandic roots, thereby paying homage to her lineage. Having had a restauranteur background before moving into jewelry design, Lauren occasionally incorporates food items such as turmeric, black pepper, and dried herbs into her designs. Her community-oriented business also offers mentoring and online classes.
Lauren recently discussed her experiences at the helm of Sigfús Designs via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in jewelry making and how did you decide on polymer clay as your primary medium?
Lauren Valenzuela (LV): I’ve always had a huge collection of jewelry and have been especially drawn to it. I found a YouTube video that talked about polymer clay and making jewelry from it. With my background in always playing with art and making things, the idea of making something I could wear was exciting to me! Much of what I was seeing in the polymer clay world was a lot of patterns and bright colors so I wanted to make something that felt a little more my style and was influenced by my Arizona desert surroundings. Polymer Clay is a really interesting medium because it can look like its ceramic, but it’s more durable and half the cost. The possibilities in this medium are endless!
MM: Why did you decide to focus on earrings, in particular?
LV: I think earrings are just an everyday staple for me, so I like to make what I personally love to wear.
MM: Your website has a placement for hairpieces and necklaces, so how many of those are coming in the near future?
LV: I’ve made a limited number of necklaces and hairpieces in the past and though they are fun to make, I’ve found that statement earrings are my bread and butter! I think if it’s not something I often wear; it doesn’t feel as natural for me to make it. I wear earrings EVERY day so it just feels right to focus on them! For so long, when I’ve met someone around town they’ve said “oh you’re the earring lady”! I guess there could be worse things to be called!
MM: What other types of pieces might you expand to?
LV: I’ve made some wall hangings and incense burners in the past, and I really enjoy making them, it’s just a matter of finding the time to do so.
MM: How did you establish your company and has it been tough to stay afloat during the pandemic?
LV: I established in January of 2018 and started with an Etsy account. I grew it a little at a time and eventually launched my own website. I’m proud to say that we are a debt free business that has just worked really hard to get where we’re at! The pandemic has been challenging in many ways but for us since 90% of our business in e-commerce, the pandemic did not hit us as bad as many others. We had our biggest month to date during the beginning of everyone staying home! Now things are a little up and down, but we’re gearing up for a really big holiday season. I’m guessing this will be one of the biggest ever since so many are shopping online.
MM: How does your background as a restauranteur influence your creative zeal?
LV: I’ve worked for some of the most creative and passionate chefs and restaurant owners that I consider such a privilege to know. In my former job I worked for Chef Kevin Fink and Tavel Bristol of the Austin Emmer and Rye Concept. These were some of the most influential leaders in my life. These two bosses in particular taught me how to push the bounds with creativity, and to work harder than anyone else. I learned so much about doing the right thing, even if it’s the hard thing, when no one is there to do it for you, and I truly give a lot of my business leading from the things they taught me. They taught me about grit, perseverance, passion, and of course gave me a crazy love for food. I think another perk of working in restaurants is the customer service aspect. I believe every single person should have a customer service job at some point in their life to teach them how to get along with a variety of people, and hopefully how to give great hospitality. I’m grateful that I learned this from my over 15 years in the restaurant industry.
MM: Do you have a personal favorite piece?
LV: Oooh that changes each week! I am drawn to any bold color that adds a pop to an outfit, but I think I am most proud of my Orbis Earrings. I think the reason I’m so proud is because many months went into making them. They are cut with a laser printer, and we first had to learn the software, then all the troubleshooting to actually create a design. Truth be told, I wanted to give up because it was so challenging (I am not a tech person in any way), but we persisted and made something I’m really proud of.
MM: Do you design all the pieces yourself or do you also work with other designers?
LV: I design all the pieces with help from my wonderful team. My best friend Breanna helps me and does a lot of the laser designing, and my sister Lea also works with me helping with production and all our in-studio photography. In the future I hope to grow our team and bring on more designers!
MM: You host mentoring and virtual classes, so how did you get into that and what do you teach attendees?
LV: I realize that I really like to teach. I think there are so many things we don’t know when we first start our businesses, and I want to create a space where I can encourage and assist other people starting out! For my first year of business, I felt very alone and didn’t know who I could ask questions to. I want to create a community that supports one another and makes it easier for new businesses to start. I believe there is more than enough in the world to go around.
MM: How do you hope Sigfús Designs evolves over the next five years?
LV: Scaling Up! I am currently in the market to buy a building and hope to create jobs for the community! I also hope to do more community focused art that’s accessible to all!