Get to Know Our Artists: Q&A with Lauren Newton
Join us in welcoming Lauren Newton to NEWTWIST! From pieces that pay homage to Lauren’s days as a zoologist to chunky chains that elevate any outfit, Lauren’s collection keeps us guessing with equal parts statement-making and whimsy. Handcrafted in Brooklyn, NY, Lauren’s work is inspired by the beauty of the natural world and the creatures that inhabit it, as well as pop culture and things she loved from her childhood. Read on to meet Lauren and learn more about her story and her work.
Tell us a little more about your path from zoology to now and what drew you to jewelry design.
I’ve always been a creative person, painting and sculpting and building things as a kid. But I was also fiercely interested in biology and science and for a long time wanted to be a veterinarian. I followed that path of schooling until I got to undergrad where I realized that caring for sick animals wasn’t really what I wanted and I much more enjoyed education and teaching people about the creatures I was so passionate about. I’ve done animal care and informal education at three NYC zoos, a nature center, and a children’s museum. My work became much more administrative at the nature center and when my position was eliminated I leapt head first into jewelry. I had been taking classes and tinkering with tools at home the whole time I was working.
How does your scientific background in zoology influence your work?
My largest collection uses a lot of natural textures. It was fun exploring how other living things protect themselves from the elements with their skin and shells, and it just worked so perfectly that it would be something a human would wear on their skin to express themselves.
What was the first piece of jewelry you ever made?
I made a silver and brass ring at my first metal-smithing class at 92nd st Y in 2005. I’ve never felt so powerful, that I could bend and manipulate something as strong as metal to my will; I’ve been hooked ever since.
What inspires your creative process?
Literally everything! Things I loved from my childhood, nature, pop culture. That’s why it is excruciatingly difficult for my brain to design in collections. I usually just have an idea for a piece that I think would work and I just make it. I often end up wearing it for a while to get feedback to see if I should put it into production.
Describe your personal style and your jewelry style.
My personal style is minimalist casual. I think that I could definitely be one of those Steve Jobs or Dr. Dre types that has a uniform. I definitely get decision fatigue when it comes to clothes. Outside of jewelry I’m not really into fashion for myself; I’m pretty simple, and comfort trumps a lot of things now that I have a toddler to run after. As far as jewelry, I love a classic hoop paired with studs and sentimental layered charms and necklaces work really well with a lot of things. Also if my outfit is pretty plain I don’t have to worry about a statement cuff or ring being over the top.
Home away from home?
I’m obsessed with Catskills in upstate NY, or really just out in nature in general. I love fishing and being outdoors. My friends and family will tell you that I completely become a nerdy child when I look at wildlife or natural phenomena. I will bore them with species names and trivial facts. I want my son to have that same wonder.
How do you like to start your day?
Snuggles in bed with my 19 month old; the best part of the day.
Accessory you can’t leave your home without?
Favorite food, drink, or treat?
Anything that comes out of the ocean! And my husband and I are crazy about pretty much anything that comes out of the country of Japan. The food, the people, the culture. We went in 2017 and are essentially counting the days until we can go back. One of my dearest jeweler friends is Japanese and trained in jewelry there. Her meticulousness and attention to detail really blows my mind; I’ve learned so much from her.
What do you love most about being a jewelry artist?
Two things specifically: I love being creative and seeing/allowing an idea in my head to come to life. It’s like magic, a dream turned physical object. And secondly, I love making things for people. I really enjoy the custom work that I do, but I love it when people really appreciate the love and brain cells that go into the work that I create. It makes me feel seen.
As a zoologist turned jewelry designer, do you have any advice for someone thinking about making a big change in their life?
Hmm. Take it slow. I had a lot of support that allowed me to switch careers. I also interned with designers before I was ever paid in the industry. But the most valuable thing I did was take every class I could get my hands on and I tinkered at home A LOT which really helped me get faster at certain techniques and figure out what my best practices were.
photos by Laura Barton & Shoshanah Haber; artist photo courtesy of Lauren Newton