Jackson Academy graduate Laura James continues to make a name for herself in the jewelry business.
The Charlotte, N.C., resident, who graduated from Ole Miss with a degree in fashion merchandising, uses recycled materials to craft earrings, necklaces and bracelets.
The daughter of Jackson residents Joe and Gwen Schmelzer sells her jewelry in more than 40 stores in seven states. Much of it is Mississippi-inspired.
We caught up with James to see how business has been in the last few years.
Q: Has business grown?
A: I am fortunate that Laura James Jewelry has grown so much in the past couple of years that I was able to open my flagship boutique in September of 2009, the Laura James Jewelry Studio Boutique.
... Being a fan of artist Mildred Wolfe for so long, I make a point to visit her studio whenever I am in Jackson.
I have always loved how she has her studio set up within the boutique space so that customers can watch the hand-painting of the birds and animals in her collection. I took a similar approach with my own store and have an open studio within the boutique space where customers can watch the creating process as it happens as well as customize pieces themselves. I really enjoy the interaction, sharing the history behind my jewelry and how the pieces come into form. My favorite part is hearing the stories behind the family treasures my customers bring in to have me re-work.
Q: I know some of your jewelry has been featured in magazines and on television shows. Can you tell me a little bit about those?
A: In 2007, Lucky magazine first featured my jewelry in their December Gift Guide, and from there the sky opened. Before I knew it, Gossip Girl was calling to feature it on their television series, as well as several Hollywood film studios for their major motion pictures. When my jewelry was chosen to be featured on the Today show alongside jewelry by Marc Jacobs, that was one of the major highlights in my career. It has all been very rewarding, especially seeing my creations worn by celebs like Jessica Alba and Rumer Willis.
Laura James Jewelry has been featured in the magazines Real Simple, People Stylewatch, Us Weekly & Sotheby's Artful Living.
Q: How would you describe your jewelry to those who aren't familiar with it? What is your style? What inspires you to create new pieces?
A: My personal style leans more contemporary, yet I am most drawn to pieces with a history - so modern vintage is often used to describe my designs. My jewelry is created nearly entirely using vintage components, which are much more intricate and sturdy than the components mass created today. From chain to stones, I am always looking for the unusual or something that tells a story to add into my designs. Since I use primarily older materials, many of my pieces are one of a kind, which is something my customers appreciate. Juxtaposition is a theme within my jewelry, and I am often mixing sparkly with organic. I love to play with the different textures, and I believe they come off in a way that people feel comfortable wearing them from day to night. I am inspired primarily by my outside surroundings. Travel is a one-way ticket to inspiration for me. From the beach to the mountains to other countries - this is where I find my inspiration. When I am not travelling, I am looking all around me outdoors for textures and materials to spark a new direction. Interior design and architecture are other major sources of inspiration for me.
Q: What are your aspirations for the future, business wise?
A: The future hopefully holds continued growth for Laura James Jewelry.
An area I have yet to approach is having a team of artisans assist with my jewelry making, so that I can expand my jewelry to even more places. For now, my boutique, online store (www.LauraJamesJewelry.com) and wholesale accounts are my focus. However, the potential to have more Laura James Jewelry boutiques in other states is always in the back of my head.
Photos Courtesy of Laura James Jewelry