Know Your Local Jewelry Maker: Lana Lepper
Lana Lepper’s Vancouver-based brand of hand-crafted jewelry, LanaBetty, has just launched its latest collection, Mantra.
Tell me what you do?
I make geometric contemporary jewelry using a combination of traditional goldsmithing and 3D design, using 3D printing, 3D modelling, and traditional lost wax casting to create my design. I want my pieces to tell a story that people can hold close to their hearts, that can give them reassurance.
If you’d seen some of the jewelry I made back in 2011 and 2012, when I first came onto the scene, it was very cutesy, which was indicative of the times. Everybody loved the “put a bird on it” meme and everything had a mustache on it. Pineapples were cool. But I've always wanted to grow the brand with the customers and the clientele as we also grew older.
So when the pandemic hit, I was like, you know what? It's time. I wanted to show people what I'm capable of. I wanted to be more thoughtful and to tell a bigger story as an artist.
How did the pandemic affect the business?
Everything stopped. It was the great pivot for LanaBetty and I reworked the website. I invested deeply in Facebook and Instagram ads. I learned how to make reels and I doubled down on everything I knew. I've always been going from market to market, craft show to craft show, selling in person, which was great. It's fun when people can see the product. You can talk about it and they can try things on. It was an easy sell at that point. But I had to pivot to actually photographing my products, putting up product listings, learning SEO, building a website that was user-friendly. I really leaned into that graphic design aspect that I love.
But 2020 wasn't actually awful, it was just more of a “can we break even?” Since then, I’ve moved my studio from a 200-square-foot space in Gastown to a 650-square-foot space on Broadway. I have three employees—they're all part-time, but you know what? Three employees! That's great. I’m working with models and photographers, and building my brand out bigger than before. I'm selling my jewelry in California, New York, Toronto, Calgary. It's good. I'm growing.
The pandemic shifted your focus to more online sales. Did it shift your designs?
One hundred per cent. One of the biggest issues with the pandemic and the subsequent shift in supply chain was the cost of 3D printing. I was sort of already on the line in terms of what I thought was a reasonable cost to have something 3D printed, cast, polished, hand-created, made into jewelry and then sold to customers. Then when the pandemic shifted the supply chain, I was going to have to be charging $400 or $500 for a unicorn necklace, up from $200. That was too much for me. My art isn't that elevated.
So I shifted the way I make my jewelry. With the pandemic, I finally had space and time to do some prototyping. When you’re always going from market to market, you don't always have time to prototype, then get it back, hate it, then try something different. The pandemic gave me a little bit of space and breathing room to explore my art. It was really therapeutic in a time of high anxiety.
Where are all your products made?
Here, in my studio. I don't currently possess all the tools to do the casting, which is common. So I work with one of the big casting houses here in Vancouver. I give them my prototype, they make a mold, they use the mold to make wax casts. They take the wax and make a large mold out of that. And then they pour molten metal into that and give me back hunks of metal that I then make look beautiful.
And from those hunks of metal, you're whittling them down into what people are wearing?
That's right. I add all the finesse, add it to the chain and add the patinas, then photograph it. I make it into jewelry.
How long does that process take?
Longer than I'd like.
Why do you like doing this? Why is it a thing for you, in a world already full of jewelry?
There's such a strong sense of satisfaction that I get personally from working with my hands, and when I make a piece of jewelry that I think is both artistically beautiful and technically beautiful. I get immense satisfaction from the love and excitement that customers get when they try something on. And if you're seeing it in person, you can watch their body actually relax when they try on a ring and it's perfect, it's the one for them if. That moment is worth everything.
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