#269 From the Streets of Soho to Scaling Online with Lorraine West

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What do Beyonce, Erykah Badu, and Zendaya have in common? They all love Lorraine West’s Jewelry.

And you’re gonna love her, too!

Lorraine and I met at NYC Jewelry Week’s Here We Are event, and I knew right then that she would be an awesome guest for the podcast.

She’s been in the industry for 20 years, and she’s always had an affinity for creating and dawning unique jewelry. While studying illustration and the Fashion Institute of Technology, she taught herself how to work with leather and metal.

What started as a hobby led her to sell her jewelry on the streets of SOHO. Over time, her business blew up and Lorraine West Jewelry was born.

What I love about Lorraine is that she’s not afraid to be real. We talk about… 

  • The importance of building systems as you grow.
  • What happens when your business blows up unexpectedly.
  • How to pivot when things don’t go as expected.
  • And more…

This interview is a must-listen for any aspiring or established jewelers looking to scale.

#269 From the Streets of Soho to Scaling Online with Lorraine West show notes

“Just imagine like I posted campaign images from NYC jewelry called the Billboard and then you get the attention of a new stylist that didn't know who you were and then they pull something and up in editorial or another artist that you wanted to work with, or maybe a potential collaboration, you know, with a fellow jeweler or a fellow fashion designer.”

Welcome to Thrive by Design, the podcast for ambitious independent jewelry brands, looking to profit from their products, get ready to make more and sell more doing what you love, without spending every single waking minute doing it. Hey, and if you're a creative fashion or product-based business, I want to welcome you to the show. I'll be dropping big tips on launching, growing, and scaling your business. Spend more of your precious time using your creativity to make you ready. All right, let's do this.

Tracy: Welcome to the Thrive by Design podcast episode 269. Hey there, it's Tracy Matthews, Chief Visionary Officer of Flourish and Thrive Academy, and the host of the Thrive by Design podcast. Today. I have a question for you what Beyonce, Erykah Badu, and Zendaya have in common. Well, they all love Lorraine West Jewelry and I'm excited because today I have Lorraine on the show and we're going to be talking about her journey in the jewelry industry over the past 20 years. I first met Lorraine at New York City jewelry week, and I was so excited because I was asked to show up at this event. My friend Jennifer Gandia sent me a message saying like, Hey, we're gonna be here today hanging out.

Do you want to come meet some emerging designers and I was super excited. So my boyfriend Jason and I had just started dating at the time and he had flown to New York to see me that weekend. It was also his birthday. So he was a super trooper. I was like, do you mind if we go to this jewelry event? He's like, Sure, no problem. And we head on over and Lorraine walks up to me and gives me a big hug. Like almost as soon as I walked in, she's like, it's you. And she's been listening to the podcast for a long time. And it also has been taking some of our programs or I've taken our multiply your profits program, which we had since retired. And it was fun because one of my favorite things in the world is, you don't realize sometimes that people recognize my voice because I do this podcast all the time.

So on a couple of occasions, in particular here in New York City more than anyplace else. I've been places and I just start talking and people like look at me, they're like, it's you. Oh, my gosh, I know you because my voice apparently is distinctive. I know that but whatever. Anyway, so I got to know Lorraine. She is an amazing artist. I just love her designs. In fact, I have a bunch of pictures of me trying on some of her jewelry because she has a really beautiful work. And so it only made sense when I actually told her at that time that I wanted to interview her for the podcast and life got away from me and I finally got around to interviewing her about nine months later.

So you're gonna love this episode. And the reason why I know so many of you are going to love this episode is because if you've been in the jewelry industry for a while you're just starting out, you're going to see what it really takes. Lorraine has been in the industry for 20 years. She started out as a student at FIT. She self taught herself how to work with metals and wires and create jewelry, eventually started selling it or giving it away at first and then selling it to family and friends. And then the rest is history. Now she's doing a lot of custom work, and her business has blown up over the past couple of months. So we're going to talk a little bit more about her journey. And before I do before I dive in to Lorraine's bio, a few months ago, after George Floyd's murder, we made a commitment over here at Flourish and Thrive, to just take some time to step back and listen and hear about what was going on in industry. And one of the things that you know, I've really worked very hard to create over the last eight years is an inclusive community where we all come together and lift and raise each other up.

In fact, Lorraine and I talked a little bit more about our mantra In this episode, community and collaboration over competition. And the reason why this mantra is so important to me is that I truly believe that as a community, we can do so much more and have such a greater impact than we can as individuals. And I know when I was an emerging designer in the industry of working in a silo without any mentors or people to ask questions to or peers to who would really like give me the real information. It was hard and there was a lot of trial and error and so part of the reason that Flourish and Thrive Academy even came about was because I wanted to break down the walls of the tight lipped jewelry industry. And as this business evolves, as the jewelry industry evolves, so do the issues that impact the industry. And so, I decided a few months ago that we will be developing a mentorship and scholarship program for BIPOC emerging designers who are coming on the scene or have been in business for a while who are looking for extra mentorship in their business. And so I've been getting a lot of direct messages on Instagram, and Facebook asking when the scholarship is happening. 

So I have details now, finally, so if you want to get on the waitlist, first and foremost, head on over to https://www.flourishthriveacademy.com/bipocmentor/  to get on the waitlist. We'll also have a link in the show notes. And I'm going to give you a little timeline so you can mark it on your calendar and take some notes. We're going to be opening up applications in December of 2020. We will be closing those applications most likely at the end of December 2020 or the first week in January. So yes, we are doing this during the holiday season. So you're gonna have to keep your eye on it, because you might be busy and then we're going to be reviewing those applications in January. And doing interviews in January and then making our final decision in February of 2021. The program is a hybrid scholarship/mentorship program. 

So we will be picking six bipoc members of the jewelry community, who are either emerging artists who are in the startup phase or designers and makers who are in that growth phase or trying to get their business to that next level, and established designers who are trying to scale so if you're interested in learning more, we have all the details we'll be giving away two scholarships, including mentorship to our Laying the Foundation program, to scholarships to our Momentum Accelerate program and then one scholarship to our Momentum Elevate program. If you're interested in taking your business to the next level and you'd love some mentorship and guidance. And you want help support and community along the way. We are here for you. So head on over to https://www.flourishthriveacademy.com/bipocmentor/  and you get on the waitlist today so that you get informed when we open up that scholarship very soon.

All right, so I am here to talk a little bit more and brag on my girl, Lorraine West. Lorraine is just like a bright light, you know, she sent over her headshot. For this podcast interview. It's like one of the best jewelry shots I've ever seen in my entire life. She's like a warrior with her with her tools in her hands and her beautiful jewelry on so it's super fun. And the thing that I love about Lorraine, which you're gonna really get in this episode is that she is just like so real. And so raw, she's going to talk from everything from building systems in your business to what happens when your business explodes unexpectedly, how to pivot, and make things work when your production is down, and so much more. You're gonna love this interview. Before we dive into the interview. Let me do a little bit of an introduction about Lorraine. 

Lorraine West has had an affinity for creating and dawning a unique jewel Her mother's love for ornate pieces was the inspiration for low rain to delve into jewelry design. While studying illustration at FIT – the Fashion Institute of Technology, after teaching herself how to manipulate various metals into beautiful original jewelry pieces, and with the increasing demand from family and friends to create custom designs, Lorraine West jewelry was conceived, made from precious metals including gold, sterling silver, brass and copper and inspired by symbology and geometric shapes. Lorraine West creates strikingly elegant pieces that allow clients to connect to their own beauty and power. Lorraine West jewelry is proudly handmade in New York City with love. All right, let's dive into this episode with Lorraine.

Tracy: I am super excited to have a very special guest on the show today, Lorraine West. Lorraine, thanks so much for being here. 

Lorraine: Thank you for having me.

Tracy: I'm excited to have you here because we met for the first time in person And I should say out here we are in New York jewelry week last November. And it was one of my favorite experiences. Like, Oh my god, someone recognized who it was because you walked up to me. You just said It's you and you gave me a big hug. And I was like, oh my gosh. I love them. And so immediately, like I was so excited to meet you because you've taken one of our programs and everything. And I am really excited to talk to you today. So thank you for being here.

Lorraine: Oh, it's my pleasure. 

Tracy: Well, you're doing some really amazing things in your business. But before we dive into what's happened to Lorraine West jewelry this year. Let's talk a little bit more about your journey into the jewelry industry.

Lorraine: Sure. So originally, I moved to New York City right after summer vacation after high school graduation, to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology. For four years I studied illustration So I have a BFA in Fine Arts with a focus on illustration. And during my junior year, I felt compelled to try something three dimensional outside of school. And one day walked past Ohashi in the city in Midtown and just had this impulse to buy some pliers, wires, and beads and I just started manipulating wire wrapping loose Stones and you know, working with seed beads and different things really had no direction. It was more so I want to just do this for fun and see where it goes. I just felt excited about the process and learning knowing that I didn't know anything right about jewelry making. I did have this ambition to continue learning and started giving pieces to friends and before you know that I had a small little box of wire wrap rings, cowrie shells, different loose and tumble stones, different things like that. And at the time I had locks in my hair. So I would make lock rings for my friends. And so I was working at a part-time job and one of the customers there had locks and I said, You know, I want to show you some of my work. And I showed her, this little velvet box, and she was my first customer actually and bought one of the little rings. And that's when the bug hit me. The entrepreneurial bug. I was about 19 years old.

Tracy: That's so cool. I love that because like I think a lot of people get started that way. I started that way I started selling to I mean, it started giving stuff away after taking a jewelry-making class, and started selling to friends and family. Even though I was a trained metalsmith after taking a class in college, my first jewelry collection was beaded jewelry just because it was easy to do in an apartment in a small space. Right. Yeah. And I started giving stuff away. Then selling it then wearing things and people will buy it off my neck or whatever. So I love that you started that way. So let's talk about the jewelry design now it's so different. So how did the evolution of you becoming more of a metalsmith and handmade artist and also kind of evolving into fine jewelry because you're doing custom fine jewelry now. Right?

Lorraine: Correct. So I started initially with jewelry making I believe it was 97. And by 98, my last semester in college, I did take an elective. So I took a wax carving class and FIT and we made an initial pendant. Like we had to, you know, do a sketch and create an abstract initial pendant with either your two initials or three initials. So I chose LMW. And that was exciting because I had the illustrating background. I love fonts and things like that. And we had to make a ring was a gemstone So I made those two pieces. And I must admit that I felt like I was actually terrible at it because it just was so overwhelming like to do these two projects, like not having any sense of this, you know, field of work, like how does how do you do this even when you're getting shown, it just seemed like over my head, you know. So it really wasn't until I did take the class I finished a class I got a great I still have those two pieces, they're still beautiful pieces. But I want to challenge myself further and really understand how this works. You know, because you can take a class and still not really get it, you know. So, by 99 I purchased the flex shaft and a bench a small bench and got more tools, a few tools, and started you know, plugging away and practicing different things like you know, piercing metal and sighing and different things like that and you know, my early years I did do some metal thing and soldering, but it really like heavy soldering came into play really close to the end of the 2000s say,

Tracy: Have you always had a direct to consumer business or did you sell to stores or like how are you getting your jewelry out there?

Lorraine: Well, it's such an array of different ways that I've sold my work over the years. You know, the first 10 years, I sold on the streets of Soho and set up a little table and sell. I had been in stores even you know, my early years Patricia Fields is one of the first stores I was in and at that time I was working with leather because I was working with you know, the wire, the beads, the feathers, some, you know, prefab items, and then got into the metalsmithing a little bit more started doing Sterling with some gemstones. I had a commission to do gold in between that time. The early 2000s but most of the, from 2000 to 2007, you know, was still a lot of like beaded work with coal connection metalwork, you know, so I had learned how to make something coal connection, give it that feel like it was you know, soldered or something like that. 

So I had sold at stores. Patricia fields is one of my first stores I was in at the time I was selling leather cuffs and then got into many others, you know, small shops in the city, selling you know, my beadwork and some of my coal connection metalwork. Then I would say towards the end of the 2000s I had an opportunity to sell at the Brooklyn flea. And that's really where I learned how to look at the customer's response to the work that I had and see what was the missing link. So at the time, I was selling a lot of big pieces like big earrings and different things like people liked it. But then sometimes I'd have the customers that were more minimalist. So they still wanted to get work for me. 

But I took it as an opportunity to try some minimalist work that still had an impact, even those smaller scale. So I mixed it up. So that experience at the Brooklyn flea selling there on and off from 2009 to 2014. I had a friend who sold vintage there and she allowed me to have a table at the flea. So by the end of 2014 is when I started getting deeper into my metal work. And the collection started to become more cohesive. And I was getting busier with the custom. So I stopped doing the Brooklyn flea and just focused on direct to consumer on the website.

Tracy: I love it. What website platform do you use?

Lorraine: Well, I started with Etsy Hmm, I believe it was like from 2011 to 2014. And then by 2015, I created a Squarespace website that I've had since and it's been working out great. 

Tracy: Cool, I love it. So this year has been an interesting year and like many people who have their jewelry outsource in production, especially here in New York City in the diamond district, things basically got cut out. So I want to hear a little bit more about how you navigated that experience when the diamond district kind of closed and you had to figure out how to pivot to get your jewelry produced?

Lorraine: Oh, yeah, it was pretty nerve wracking because whether you are a designer that gets everything made in the jewelry district or overseas, or you utilize certain suppliers or manufacturing companies, everybody needs to district if you live in New York and you deal with metal, or gemstones, you need the district, right? So for me, I need the district for my casting company to get the supplies I need for the bench to get gold, Sterling brass, finding findings, the raw sheet metal, the raw wire to manipulate, I need all those things. And even though we can get some of these things online, I had never done that. I always go to the city to get what I need, you know. 

So it's just a creature of habit, I suppose. And I knew that some of the custom items I had even though I do do a lot of the work on the custom items as well, I may need to access a gem center or I may need access to, you know, a CAD company to help see my design through, you know, and I said to myself, how am I Going to recoup the money that was already on the table. You know, because I had about maybe 15 Custom orders or I was working on. So how am I going to do this? This is the fine jewelry.

Because when I started doing fine, the custom fine jewelry in 2001. I had friends that were getting engaged. And they asked, oh, can you help me out? So I said, I can make it. So that's pretty much how I got into that, you know, but over the years, like, every year, I would do like, two rings, and then the next year, three rings, and then next year, five rings, then now we're getting to like, you know, few rings or more a month. So it's very different. You know, and as you know, it's a process, even if you don't touch anything yourself. It is a process because you have to manage that process.

It's your design. So if you're getting it produced from someone, they only do the job. They do. You have to make sure that your designs executed to you the desire, you know, that you had in mind. So, I basically had to focus on the online store. And I had my online shop, I did get orders every month, but it wasn't something that I really promoted. You know, so I feel like if I had a piece of press, put it up on my IG, or, you know, I sometimes get media attention. People go to the site, I get a few more extra sales, but for the most part, it was like, honestly, I was only making probably, I believe, maybe five to 10 sales a month unless something was happening on the online shop. 

So that was just like a side. You know, supplement to me, my custom was where the majority of my revenue comes from. So that's what we focus on. You know, even how I would post on my ID you know, really focusing on the storytelling behind the pieces. The company pulled inspiration. So I said, Okay, well, I'll leave the store the online shop up and see what happens. I can produce these pieces because I have the equipment at home to do it. So I just said, let's see what happens. And let's see everything shut down by mid March. I did have a few orders that I was, you know, finishing up. So by April, sales started to increase because there was an encouragement of shopping small, you know, supporting small business so people can stay afloat during COVID. So, I think between April and May maybe I got between 50 and 75 orders and that's a lot, right, because I wasn't used to that. I wasn't used to that.

Tracy: Right. So this is your ready to work collection. Now and you're just producing it all in your apartment?

Lorraine: Yes.. 

Tracy: And you're in Brooklyn.

Lorraine: Yeah, I have my bench

Tracy: In New York City apartment, which I think is comical because we both live in New York City, like, the small spaces to like try to work fit of a bench and stuff like that.

Lorraine: Yeah, well, it's I take over the living room. So this is my studio, but you know, yeah, they do. I've had experiences to do before, you know, in the early 2000s, I shared a studio with a fashion designer for a couple of years and then I had a pop-up studio with a florist. And a few years back, that was really awesome, but it was just for a short time. So for someone to maintain a studio in New York City solo, it's, it's not easy. So I said, You know what, I'll just work here until that time comes because the goal for that is to have a studio and hire the best jewelers. You know, I would, I would ultimately love to be able to control every aspect of it, oversee every aspect of it, of production with my own eyes.

So yeah, so like I was saying, I just trusted the universe would take care of me and the universe did. So I had to now learn a new system how to produce these orders. So I created a system that didn't have before. So sometimes you need the growth in order to create how you're going to follow through with this new job, or this new gig or this new collection, you know, how are you going to bring it forth? You know, and so that was one of the greatest gifts to learn how to organize, you know, even with spreadsheets, you know, I couldn't stand spreadsheets, like I don't even want to look at them, you know, but now it's like, actually, you know, import my sales from Squarespace. 

And, you know, divvy them up in spreadsheets. So I have a tracker Completed order tracker. So it has the days and it has all the items that are on the order form. So I'm able to see, okay, how many Am I making a week? And if I'm not making X amount a week, why am I not because now I'm still getting pulled in other ways. The custom has started again, I'm taking it slow, you know, getting back into the groove of it. But then I also have to fulfill polls, you know, editorial polls, so I can maintain press, I can maintain visibility. So there's all these different areas that I'm dealing with, that I never had to deal with all at the same time before. So that's what makes this so unique this time.

Tracy: That's pretty cool. So let's talk a little bit about that system. Well, you said that you're at one point you were getting like 400 orders a month.

Lorraine: Well, no, I think

Tracy: that was over the period of time.

Lorraine: Yes, I got probably like if you add up all the orders, like online orders, custom orders, is close to 400.

Tracy: like a small window? That's amazing

Lorraine: Yeah, no, it is. I mean, within like, so really from June 2 is when it happened. And then of course, like the whole, you know, social justice uprising, the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor really did bring up a lot of awareness, and like media outlets and just everywhere, so they were people that are from wherever place it came from. They were starting to support more bipoc artists or or, or black artisans. And it was just a flood of new people, you know, all at once. You know, I mean, it took me a month to get to like the first week of June. You know, that's how many orders I had. 

Tracy: Month to get through the first week of June on orders?

Lorraine: Yeah. And then it just took time. It took a week to just kind of process it because I was very affected by all the things. Yes, that was happening. And then I was still in COVID, you know, things are still shut down, the district will still shut down. So now I had to figure out how to order online like so I had to investigate the places that I wanted to order from online that I felt, you know, comfortable with. And then you have to wait another week or two to get the supplies. So I really didn't get to start all these orders until like the end of June, early July, you know, so I got to really see how long it really takes to do these things. So the system that I came up with was, instead of fulfilling the order, by each order, you know, created a system where I would fulfill the orders by product, so I could be in the zone. So if I had like 100, open heart rings, I'm focusing on those to get those done. So that might mean that someone from July, June is going to get those you know, from different dates. They're going to get it but that's The only way that I'd be able to do it faster, you know, in a sense, so 

Tracy: That's a smart production system.

Lorraine: Yeah. And then communicating with the customers. Okay. So, I mean, these customers don't know where they are, you know, I did let them know, I had to communicate like three different groups, you know, like Groupon, two, three and break it up by dates, and communicate to them in a group. I've never done that before. I'm always used to communicating one on one with all my customers, you know. So it's just, it's a whole new day, and it does open my eyes to you know, where the business can go, you know, but also, what is the plan and that's something that you always talk about, and in your visionary, you know, communication, right. It's like, you know, where do you want to be, and you can make that choice, you know, where you want to be, and you don't have to be so reactionary. So I'm learning like, even in the midst of all this great new success at the moment. Where do I want to be? So that's something that I'm still figuring it out you know,

Tracy: In the pre-interview we were talking about production management and systems and like how you get because I was sharing with you, you were asking about getting jewelry made since I've been in Arizona a lot and I shared with you that Yeah, I got these medallions back there from an old collection and the jeweler because they don't know even though I told them to tumble it and don't put a wheel to it, they ended up like cleaning the whole finish off and it's like now we have to have a recast and all these things. And it's you know, setting up I think when you can set up a production system and you can like trust the process and that things are actually like moving in order. 

It's awesome but like you know, you're always going to have these hiccups and so it's I think number one like the first thing that I want to just like really pull out again, from what you said is like creating a process for creating the same piece of jewelry over and over again and just shipping those instead of trying to switch gears all the time because I talked about this a lot about the switching gears which is what like kind of messes people up It makes them feel overwhelmed and unproductive. And this is the cure for it. It's like one lane, get all those things done, you will definitely operate faster and like you'll improve your production system. Which is cool, because the next phase for you if you decide to continue, let's move at this volume might be, you know, they were mentioning like getting some sort of production manager or outsource production manager or something like that,

Lorraine: Right? No, absolutely. Absolutely. So it's a tricky thing. I mean, right now, I still do have a certain amount of control over it. But as things scale, you have to let go, you know, so I think that's the next step for me, is letting go of the stronghold that I have, to turn the business into my creative one. You know, it's like, trust myself that I'll choose the right people to execute these steps that I have to step away from now because I really need to focus on being the creative. You know, like you said, the Chief Visual officer Officer of my brand. And I'm still kind of pushed and pulled in all these different areas that it could take away from the creative and take away from that extra thing I want to put out into the world, you know, so I feel like being in the jewelry business is more than just the physical act of producing a piece. It's also very emotional because it is art, you know. 

I mean, at least the kind of work that we're doing, and a lot of the work that your audience is doing is that superduper mass produced, you know, it still takes like a keen eye to look it over and make sure that it's the right thing before it goes out to the customer. So you have to have a team of people that think like you and, you know, kind of be like, clone a view, in a sense, you know,

Tracy: Train people to look for what you're learning, and what you see, right? And that's training over time. And I just want to tell you, you know, it's like you're gonna hire probably over the course of your career, like a variety of different people, some will be awesome, some might not. But I think to really make sure that you're hiring the right people is to just like, have those systems that you're talking about in place so that you can train someone your way of doing something so that they know.,

Lorraine: Exactly. And that's what's happening now. It's like I'm building these systems that didn't have before. Because if you're doing something by yourself, everything by yourself, you can do it your way, right? Even the way you make your food or whatever it is that you do in your life. And once you have other people come into it, you can't expect them to understand how you do it. Yeah, if you don't have it on paper, you know what I mean? So now it's like I'm putting all these things to paper now. So it's very different, you know, and it's only going to help me grow more as an artist as a business person as a person because the person that you are is always going to interfere with the business hours. 

So you have to get your person. The first person which is you before anything else in order and really see like, what are the blockages that I have going on in my mind? And that's manifesting in my business. So I was very honest with you. And I told you that I have a stronghold over my work because it's, I've been doing it for so long. And I've kind of nurtured it pretty much on my own. Of course, with the help of customers that support me and the people that have said, Hey, we want to, you know, talk about your work and we want to put your work in a magazine, sure, but the day to day every day to decide to get up every day and do it again is up to me. That's up to you, Tracy, you know, and everyone else so I'm ready. I'm just ready to grow in a whole new way. And this is kind of like the birth of this new level.

Tracy: You said something really profound right there because I literally have the chills on my skin right now because, in my opinion, like the secret to success is really getting your head in the right place because you can And the most talented designer in the world. And never. I'm saying when I'm saying you just like, anyway, but never really gain traction, you could also be like, okay with the talent and but be like a huge household brand. And the difference between those two kinds of people is that one believes that they can do it and they've done the work on themselves to continue to move forward or removed, like the, you know, a lot of words that have been coming up recently in our current environment have been this term, like confirmation bias, because we all have confirmation bias about how we've like our experiences, how we've grown up what we've been taught, and our experiences in business. 

And so all those things kind of shape our belief system about like what we think we're capable of. And so I love that you brought that up. It's like, you're like the blockages in my mind were the things that were kind of like keeping me in this certain way. So I did change that and I think that that's a really Important thing that I want our listeners to really like, take away from this because that mindset or your ability to have a belief about yourself or your business or whatever it might be is the one thing that can that can be your biggest asset down the road. Because the more that you believe in yourself and do the work and remove those blockages, or what did you call them, the blockages in your mind wrote down the more successful you're going to be and you know, like the thing that I loved so much about you when I met you, and I'm saying when I met you in person, because you you took one of our programs, I think Multiply Your Profits.

I just loved I loved your warm personality, how you just like came up and you were so inviting. I also i'm going to share a little secret Jason doesn't know this, but you walked up you're like all and you looked at me like like kind of like out of the side of your mouth and you're like, Who's that guy and you weren't really telling anyone because working for me and only like two And then we started dating and it was pretty funny because I was like, it was his birthday weekend. I think it was actually his birthday, or the day before his birthday, but we're celebrating his birthday. And I dragged him to this jewelry event and he was like such a trooper, he like shows up and like taking pictures and filming you sneaking and all this stuff. And it was kind of funny. So I don't know if I ever told him that. Because you were like, Who is that?

Lorraine: Yeah, I felt a strong energy between the both of you. So I was really excited. Because it's so funny. Like, to be quite frank, I didn't think we would ever meet each other. You know, because, you know, I've been in this field for a long time. And I've gotten a little bit of recognition here and there, but I wasn't really in different circles. Like we weren't in the same circle, you know, so I took your course and thought, like, I love what this woman does, you know, so and I know a little bit about your history based on what you've shared, you know. And so, to meet you in person, and then I see this guy with you, and he's just like beaming with light and you're beaming with light and joy. And, you know, I work with a lot of couples, so it's like, oh, I could feel the energy, you know. But um, I felt like even though we didn't know each other Personally, I felt connected to you. So maybe that's why I felt comfortable to say, Hey, is that you know, I wouldn't ask anybody that but I loved it. It was. 

Tracy: I also gave me some confirmation because I was just like that because I liked him so much. I was just like, oh, get open. So much has changed since then. I've been with them, which is like kind of crazy, but amazing.

Lorraine: Well, that's a great change about that.

Tracy: Awesome. So we've been talking about Here We Are, why don't you share with our listeners what here we are is because it's an event that happens out in New York City or New York jewelry week. And you're also doing a collaboration with them. So why don't we talk a little bit?

Lorraine: So here we are as an initiative that NYC jewelry week started and is basically there to inform the jewelry community of kind of sores and consumers that there are many more types of jewelers out there you know BIPOC women, you know people from overseas people from different parts of the country that maybe they wouldn't be seen or heard if they don't have. They're not in a certain network. But there is a large part of that is to highlight as designers of color. And last year 2019 and NYC jewelry week they had a pop-up event, and I guess there was about had to be at least 20 or more of us. It was really beautiful because there was they were BIPOC women, some folks from overseas like it was just such a great array of people and art, you know, it was jewelry art, you know, wearable, sellable jewelry, art, you know, there were some really cool art they're like, I have pictures of me like wearing like these jewelry glasses and rings and is

Tracy: There was some really cool art they're like, I have pictures of me like wearing like these jewelry glasses and rings.

Lorraine: Yeah, some really great stuff, and every single one of those designers are doing so amazing. And even more amazing since then, because I feel like being in those kinds of environments where you feel supported, For one, it opens you up to a new audience and to you feel more confident, you know, to go back out in the world and say, hey, look what I'm doing, you know, so I've been in that space in terms of like, sharing my work since day one. But I didn't have a community of people to share it with, you know, so now I have a community of people you know, here we have all these other amazing artists that I've met from all over the world. Do NYC jewelry week and then also to Instagram so just imagine like I posted the campaign images from NYC jewelry, we got the Billboard and then you get the attention of a new stylist that didn't know who you were and then they pull something and you end up in editorial or another artists that you wanted to work with or maybe a potential collaboration, you know, with a fellow jeweler or Fellow fashion designer or something like that, you know. So the attention has definitely helped in that way. 

And so I think it was December of 2019. I had a conversation with JB of NYC Jewelry Week. And I told her I said, You know, I had this idea to do a mid career retrospective of my work in October 2018. And Originally, it was a book idea. And I kept telling all my friends, all these different people, but I didn't really understand like, how am I going to do this? You know? So after I did, well, no, not after but during the interview I had with Corey of Essence, right, that you attended them. I don't know what came over me. I said, I'm going to do a retrospective next year, because I hit my 20 years, you know, and I've pretty much birthed it into existence. So the following month, I ran into JB, and I said, You know what, I think I want to do that retrospective. Because they do programming, right? And she's like, well, let's do it together. 

So here we are. So we're going to do a digital retrospective, kind of as a scrapbook style, where it'll be a combination of, you know, editorials and magazine type layout and art book. And kind of like a hodgepodge. There'll be some digital interaction, interactive, you know, type things. So we're still putting it together. But um, because we can't be in person. The exhibit can't be in person, it's going to be digital. So this is kind of a new thing, you know, for everybody, but it's going to be an exciting challenge to at least put together. I think there'll be at least like 30 to 50 pages. So which is not that easy, because I have so much work to share. So I really have to like highlight the pieces that are very meaningful. Maybe led to other collections, through that the work I've done with some of the artists, you know, things like that. And also my artwork as well, I have a little bit of my artwork in there and just trying to tell the story of my journey to the best of my ability within the constraints of being online.

Tracy: You have to hit me up when I mean I know in New York story week is that you'll have to hit me up when that goes live so that we can promote it. And I also want to just like be able to share it

Lorraine: Oh, absolutely

Tracy: I want to just ask, like, touch on that. Well, you kind of brought it up. I was gonna actually ask you this question. You mentioned something in that interview about New York jewelry Week last time about not feeling like there's a community, how has that changed since then?.

Lorraine: Well, it's changed, you know, 100% for the better. I do. I do feel part of the community now. You know, I feel a part of your community being on this podcast and feel a part of NYC jewelry week, I feel a part of just so many different communities, you know, there's just more eyes on the work. And also just connecting with peers, you know, jeweler peers, and I do feel that even though we're all here to sell our own work, we can still support each other, we can still lift each other. And you never know, we could end up doing something together, you know, or we may be promoted at the same time, you know, and that's something like, Here We Are, that's what it is. It's like all these different artists are being promoted. And each person is being highlighted, but it's, you know, under an umbrella, you know, and I feel it can only build your morale and build your self-confidence and I feel like more things to build your self-confidence is only going to help you in your business. 

So camaraderie is very helpful. You know, socialization is very helpful. in general. This is why you like some of the biggest corporations, they have these social gatherings and they have galas and to celebrate each other. You need to build the morale to keep going You know, so I'm surprised that I, you know, been able to come this far without having a jeweler community prior. But I did have a community of people, which were other types of artists. So I give thanks for them. So now I have the jewelry community and I have all my other artists, you know, friends community. 

Tracy: That's so great.  Community is so powerful, like one of our mantras over here is community and collaboration over competition, because I really do believe that a rising tide lifts all boats. And together, we can all do so much better, you know, in this industry, because it's, you know, it's tough when you're like working in it. I mean, I felt that way for many years, working in a vacuum in the beginning, you know, part of the reason why I started Flourish and Thrive was because out of a specific conversation that I had with a good friend of mine who was also a jewelry designer. 

I asked her like where'd you get your hang tags, she didn't have any special hang tags. They weren't like, they were just you could tell that they were just something that she bought And stamped or something like that. And she wouldn't tell me and I was like, why is that like a trade secret? Like, I didn't really understand it, you know what I mean? Like you're not sharing with me your proprietary process or anything like that, right? And I'm like, this is dumb, like, you know, not like, if someone's like, I'm not going to, like rip them off, or their designs, like my work was very different than that. So it wasn't like a competition thing. It's just really more about,

Lorraine: But again, that person feels insecure now. And perhaps that person doesn't have a community, that person must not have had a community because if you have a community that's positive, then that's just activity that you do. You know, so I have some of my jeweler, jeweler friends. We have like a thread on the DM on Igy. Like, hey, do you know of any good gold players? Oh, yeah, go here. Try them all. Do you know this? We just exchange information whenever it comes up. But nobody's asking, Hey, tell me how you make that. You know, I mean, no, I would never ask somebody that. That's there. That's their intellectual property. Yeah, when it comes to like a supplier or you know something, then share it, you know. And secondly, I'm going to say, when you do share, and you bring more customers to certain suppliers, then they're going to always remember that and they're gonna look out for you even more so it's a win-win.

Tracy: Exactly, super-duper smart. Now, um, I want to just like you to toot your own horn a little bit and tell us a little bit more about getting your work on because, I mean, that's kind of a big deal.

Lorraine: It’s a big deal. Well, lately I've had celebrities on my work through the course of my career, but within the last few months, had Queen Bey – Beyonce,

Tracy: You're gonna share some of those pictures. If you have it.

Lorraine: Yes that we can repost them and stuff. Um, she's worn a pair of our abstract palette earrings in black is king film thanks to Serena her stylists who found me on Instagram and said, Hey, we'd love to pull some pieces for a project I'm working on that was a year ago, I didn't even know I was going to be a film. She didn't tell me what it was for. And then two weeks before the trailer came out, she said, Hey, don't lend those earrings to any, any stylist yet until the 19th. And the trailer came out and didn't see anything. So I was like, oh, I wonder if these are gonna be in the film. And then the 31st came and try to stay up late to watch it on 31st but instead, I waited the next day and saw a clip actually on Instagram of her wearing the earrings while she performed one of her songs in the film with his beautiful pink dress and I was just like, so happy.

Tracy: Yeah. Oh my gosh, that is amazing. Yeah. congratulations.

Lorraine: Thank you so much.

Tracy: You have one of your pieces? I feel like you tried on some cuffs on me?

Lorraine: Yes, that's that's something Yeah, that's actually a sample, there's only been three of those main. So Erica has a pair and that sample, I'm finally going to start selling that because that originally is a collection piece even though I haven't put it out yet it goes with a certain collection. But Erica has dozens of my pieces. And we've done a lot of work together in terms of like executing, like certain visions she had. And then she's worn some of my collection pieces or things I just came up with, especially for her. So I think that's actually going to be one of the most challenging things to edit for this retrospective is which pieces will highlight of hers that we've done together. Um, that everyone has a special story. And I'm excited to share that. 

You know, in the early mid 2000s, I did work withRaphael Saadiq, and they were the first males that ordered sterling silver and gold for me so they kind of like, you know, I feel like that was the the seeds of the future, you know, so I was like Mahershala Ali, he's worn something of mine, Amanda Seals, Alicia Keys, Zendaya? She recently just wore the same earrings of abstract palette earrings and instyle magazine. And that is extra special because the feature stories it's a cover story. And it's about the whole Black Lives Matter movement. So it's like to her eyes and just her experience as an actress of color and artists of color and all of the designers were designers of color. So it was really special to be a part of that and very intentional. 

And that is extra special because the feature stories it's a cover story. And it's about the whole Black Lives Matter movement. So it's like to her eyes and just her experience as an actress of color and artists of color and all of the designers were designers of color. So it was really special to be a part of that and very intentional. So luxury law is the stylist for her and I feel like that It's extra special when a stylist can be intentional, when they can see an artist's work and say, we're going to make this work we're going to build around this particular piece. And I feel like a lot of my work really, that's what it is. So that's, that's how I want it to be treated. 

You know, not just another piece that they put on a table during the shoot and they sell whatever works, you know, and you can't control that either. But that's I appreciate the intention, you know, of wanting to tell a bold story and everyone getting represented well, you know, the makeup artists, the hair, apparel, jewelry, you know, a lot of times jewelry doesn't get mentioned. So it's a big deal when we get mentioned and we deserve to be mentioned because we're that extra special. cherry on top, you know,

Tracy: It makes the outfit right. So, Lorraine, this has been amazing to be able to catch up and chat with you. Where can everyone find you? 

Lorraine: Bring it on, bring it on. They can find me on my website http://lorrainewestjewelry.com, and also they can find me on Instagram. My social media of choice at the moment is @lorrainewestjewelry

Tracy: Awesome. Thank you so much.

Lorraine: Thank you. 

Tracy: Thank you so much for listening to the show today. This is Tracy Matthews, signing off. If you're interested in learning about our mentorship program, you can head on over to flourishthriveacademy.com/269  and get more information on the show notes are right there. And let's do this. I'm excited. Go give Lorraine some love to go find her on social media. She's amazing. And she's just like really the warmest, kindest person, like one of the warmest people I've ever met in my entire life. Thanks so much for listening to the show today. This is Tracy Matthews, signing off. Until next time. 

Click here to download the show notes

Build As You Grow

Lorraine says one of the greatest gifts for her business was learning how to organize.

Spreadsheets and systems aren’t as exciting as designing and making jewelry, but they’re just as important to your success.

Like most jewelers, Lorraine got used to doing everything by herself, which meant she could do things her way. But as her business grew, she learned to create systems, trust herself, and trust the process.

She says it’s only helped her grow as an artist and business owner.

Community Is A Must

The jewelry industry is an ever-growing network of diverse creators from all over the world.

Lorraine loves being involved with programs like Here We Are, a strategic initiative launched by NYC Jewelry Week that supports the diverse spectrum of creators within the jewelry community.

It embodies the essence of the community over competition.

Even though artists come to these events to sell their work, they can still support one another, network, and often even collaborate on projects.

You Get To Choose

Lorraine said it best when talking about growing a brand…

“Where do you want to be? You can make that choice – where you want to be – and you don’t have to be so reactionary.”

You are at the forefront of your business, which means taking care of yourself is a top priority. You have to address your mental, emotional, and spiritual blocks, and be honest about how they manifest in your business.

This philosophy has led Lorraine to the success she’s found today, and I have a feeling this is only the beginning.

xo, Tracy


Follow Lorraine on Instagram!

Lorraine West Jewelry

Here We Are Initiative



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