Erika Young started Lazuli Handcrafted early in 2014, defining her work as “boho-minimalist stone & crystal jewelry made by a geologist with a creative soul”. Some of Erika’s best selling pieces are her raw crystal stacking rings and her turquoise half-moon necklaces, representative of her career as a Geologist. Her jewelry is mystical and nymph like, filled with raw gem stones and crystals. Erika respects the earth and utilizes the gifts from the ground, giving them life in a way that is almost anthropomorphic.
What most intrigued me about Erika was not her jewelry (although I do love it and wouldn’t mind a few pieces for myself), but her journey. That being said, our interview took more of a scientific turn than I was prepared for, this girl is kind of a genius. Also, when I met Erika she was wearing a shirt that read, “The Future is Female”. Double also, Erika has awesome dimples, ask her to smile – and with over twenty retailers across the world, she has multiple reasons to flash those pearlies.
Q: I have to ask, did you grow up in Newport?
A: “I grew up in Warwick and went to Toll Gate.”
Q: How did you end up here (all the way over the bridge)?
A: “I went to school in Delaware and majored in Geology. I knew I would always come back to Rhode Island but I didn’t want to be one of those people who never left. But I though that if I left to go to school that would be good enough…my boyfriend and I wanted to move back and we thought we would go to Providence. We ended up moving in to his Mom’s apartment in Newport. I just love living here. I didn’t even grow up coming to Newport much, I would just go to Jamestown or Narragansett. I wouldn’t make it over the bridge much unless it was special occasion but I feel like an Islander now.”
For the record, although Erika is a summer baby, she loves the winter here (even though it can be dismal).
Q: Is it your major that inspired you to create?
A: “Totally. I’ve always been creative and in the 90’s you always made keychains and necklaces and that was my jam. It was how I passed the time. My Nana was creative and crafty. I have so many amazing memories of her sitting at the kitchen table gluing and crocheting. She has taught me that creativity helps you to get in this state and lose sense of time. She always taught me how important it is to share these things [what you make] with people. She’s sentimental and would make blankets and give them as gifts, I think that is I how I ended up making jewelry and sharing it with the world…”
We took a pause to reminisce about the crafts of the 90’s (it was a long pause).
“…I wasn’t an athletic kid, my calling was just making stuff, I like to experiment.”
Q: What’s up with your process? It’s unique.
A: “I taught myself eletroforming which is the process I used to make my stuff. So, basically a layer of copper grows one copper particle at a time and takes 8-12 hours, growing over each piece. I take a wire ring blank and use a glue to put a stone on top and I paint it with conductive paint which has metal particles. Wherever the paint goes is where the copper grows, the longer you leave it in the thicker the deposit is…”
I nod my head and pretend like I am understanding what Erika is talking about.
“…it is art and science and there is a lot of guessing involved too. Having a science background and being curious and creative allowed me to teach myself electroforming over the Internet. There are a lot of people doing it now so there are forums but when I started doing it there weren’t any.”
Q: Are you really specific about what stones you use or where they come from?
A: “I get my stones from rock shops and gem shows. I want to go Tucson to the big gem show, eBay is also a great resource. I want to make it a goal of mine to be more conscious [about the sourcing of stones] … I think once I start to order wholesale I’ll feel better, it is hard to know what you’re getting before seeing it. So, it is good to have my background because there are some things that people try and pass off as minerals that actually aren’t. To really identify something you have to take it out of where it came from.”
Q: What is your favorite gemstone?
A: “Turquoise the best is in North America, and it is so bright but is also kind of a neutral. The half moon necklace [made of turquoise] is my signature piece. I wear mine all the time, and I am not actually a big jewelry wearer. When I wear it, it feels super honest. I make things because I think other people will like it. I treat turquoise with a lot of respect and have to be very intentional with it. Some of the best turquoise, I think, should be used in fine jewelry, like you wouldn’t wire wrap a fine cut diamond. I feel like turquoise deserves to be revered…”
Erika has a Lapidary named Tom, located in Oklahoma, whom she met on eBay. They became connected because she was purchasing her turquoise from him, he now also cuts and polishes her specs, making them the best of virtual friends. Now I kind of want to interview Tom, what is a Lapidary, anyway?
Some of Erika’s necklaces have two polished sides, and some have a rough back but a shiny front.
“I thought that people would wear the rough earthy side being close to their body. I am not super into metaphysical stuff but I do feel tied to the earth. Learning about geologic time and all the stuff that the earth can do, and make, is something to be inspired by. It is something bigger than me and is something inspiring…I do not take offense if people wear it the ‘other’ way”
Erika does have a “real” job that’s also extremely cool and informative.
Q: What is your other job?
A: “I work for an underwater research company, we use sonar and work on boats to see how deep the water is in a certain area. We did a big job in New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy to help with debris efforts. We didn’t actually collect the debris but we collected and processed data which was given to people who actually excavate.”
Erika and I covered a lot of ground and did a healthy amount of excavating during our hour together. Mostly, I want people to know how informed and connected she is. Lazuli Handcrafted comes from her heart, not just her hands, and that is what truly matters. Her work isn’t for the paycheck, or for the glory. The process of creating is where she finds her zen, and I think we can all agree that her jewelry nothing short of cosmic.