Alicia Goodwin is the mastermind behind one of our favorite brands in the shop: Lingua Nigra. We caught up with her to learn about how she got started as a designer 18 years ago. A lot has changed for Alicia since then, but the one thing that remains the same is that her pieces are pure magic.
How did you get started making jewelry?
I've been making jewelry since I was a child, but revisited it once I finished my degree in Fashion from the Fashion Institute of Technology. I was really curious about their metals program so I enrolled and got another degree, but in Jewelry Design with a concentration in studio work. The rest is history!
Did you always know you wanted to be a designer?
I've always been creative and I really thought I would be a fashion designer, making and sketching up clothes for any and everyone. I quickly realized that even though I love clothing, fabric and the art of making a garment, when you're starting out a lot of people don't respect how much work goes into making a single piece of clothing. I definitely got disenchanted and was also always a lover of jewelry, so it was a natural progression to metals.
How long have you been in the trade?
I've been in the trade since I graduated in 2003, so 18 years. I've had my brand, Lingua Nigra for around 15 or so years. It's hard to say, back then I didn't have a website, but I was making pieces of jewelry for people I would meet on the subway or at my retail job at the time.
What does your business look like now, versus when you started?
My business is a lot of the same, but very different! Then I was just on one platform, literally cutting and pasting wholesale linesheets at Kinko's and bringing my knuckle buster credit card imprinter with me to outdoor shows. Now I'm in my home studio a lot more, making things for way more people and it's my full time job. No more working for other jewelers (it was a learning phase!) and I have a very small team of folks helping me out. It's really cool to have my work in stores all over the world and know that people are wearing my work, that has not changed.
What’s the most challenging part about being a jewelry designer?
Trying to do everything! I'm really bad about this and need to get better at delegating small tasks I abhor doing (thus it takes me forever to complete)
What’s your favorite part about being a jewelry designer?
I love jewelry so much! My favorite part is transferring my many, many sketches to a functional, attractive piece of work that is also wearable. There is so much trial and error, but nothing ever feels like a waste, honestly. I always have things I've made years ago that I come back to.
Who is another jewelry designer that you admire/do you have a mentor in the jewelry industry?
Oh, there are so many talented people. My ultimate favorite jeweler and who just went beyond the jewelry world is the talented Harry Bertoia. Besides jewelry, he created these beautiful sculptural walls made of bronze. I would visit one regularly when I lived in New York. It was my little secret shrine to myself (in a store!). I also ask all my jewelry questions to my former teacher who is now a friend, Karen Bachman, who still teaches at F.I.T. (please take a class from her while you can!!), she's about as close of a mentor as I have.
Do you have a favorite piece that you have made?
Oh, I have so many pieces! I love these large breastplates I made over a decade ago. I made several and might revisit that again, as they were just so fun, but maybe this go round make them as wall hangings instead.
Do you have a favorite metal or stone that you prefer to work with?
I started with brass and it's a favorite because I don't really cry when something goes wrong. Of course I love gold, because it's like butter, but it's also very expensive! I'm not a big stone person, but I do cut stones (see, I do too much!) and malachite is one of my favorite precious stones.
Do trends in the industry affect the way you design a new collection?
Thankfully with having my own line I don't have to really follow many trends, my jewelry is really weird to some people and I'm fine with that. It's not for everyone and I love that those that feel connected to it respect it the way I do.
What’s your favorite piece of jewelry from your own personal collection?
Ooooh, I'm not sure! I have so many! I guess my bangles are still a favorite, as I do wear them every day. I also wear almost all of my hoops, which I have so many versions of. The Small Poetic Hoops are still a fave.