Laura, founder of Natural Brand Store, shares her heart and an insider peek into the story of her beautiful handcrafted jewelry business, made out of nuts!
natural brand store
How did you get into jewelry?
When I was 17 years old, I really wanted to start a business. One of my ideas was to open a store in a small mall in my town. I wanted to import fancy jewelry from china but that was too expensive, so my dad showed me, wholesalers of the same type of jewelry that I was looking for in, Bogota. That’s how my journey with jewelry started. I opened the store and had 3 employees. After 2 years, an opportunity to study and finish my career in New York opened and I sold my business to help with all the costs.
I’ve been in New York for the last 6 years and I have participated in a couple of fair-trade markets. However, my product totally changed. I wanted to stick with jewelry, so I was able to find an awesome Colombian whole seller of tagua nut jewelry. I felt in love with the product so badly that I use it every day. Due to the pandemic and the ban of fair-trade markets I decided to open an Etsy store. I won't lie to you, it takes a lot of work, but it is totally worth it. I love that more people are getting to know what Tagua nut is and contribute to sustainable slow fashion.
How would you describe your jewelry and style?
Eco-friendly, sustainable, artistic, unique, avant-garde, and fun.
Your pieces are gorgeous! What inspired you to create jewelry out of nuts?
What inspired me is that the tradition of taking natural resources and make them jewelry is part of an ancient culture and that's why each piece it's authentic, nature-inspired and It has spiritual value. Also, Tagua nut is called Vegetal Ivory for a reason. The nuts can be transformed into pieces that are identical in color and texture to the real Ivory meaning we are providing a sustainable product to those who like Ivory. In my case, I like elephants better, so I prefer to stick with this awesome product.
We work and handle several materials that are sustainably sourced from South America without harming the environment to make our jewelry pieces. When harvesting seeds from the rainforests and lowlands, some are gathered from the rainforest floor while others require a skilled farmer to climb high into the tropical canopy to harvest ripe pods. In both cases, trees are not harmed and the commercialization of these seeds helps to ensure the survival of the world’s rainforest by providing an alternative income for its inhabitants in place of logging or selling their lands to destructive industries. Through a manual, low energy process, seeds are transformed into beads, which have sculptural natural irregularities, both in color and form. Each piece is truly one of a kind.
Where do you source your nuts?
Our favorite natural resource is TAGUA NUT. They grow from the South American Ivory Palm, Phytelephas equatorial, or literally, “plant elephant,” and is commonly referred to as “vegetable ivory.” The medium-sized palm, reaching up to 60 feet tall, grows quickly and easily in shady, humid places hidden below larger trees. Tagua grows from regenerative pods, which emerge from the palms’ trunks. The pods are removed from the palm and the seeds are left to dry in the sun.
The drying process for tagua, Acai, and Pambil is weather dependent. In the dry season, the process lasts a few days to a week. During the rainy season, it can take months for the seeds to dry to the point at which they can be used by the artisans to create jewelry.
Can you tell us about your process for creating your pieces?
Combination of colors, textures, and forms. It's like playing with those jewelry sets that are available for girls in the toy stores but in my case, I use tagua nuts as my beads and leather as cords. It is a fun process.
Where do you draw inspiration from to create your pieces?
When I go to Colombia and see the beautiful landscapes that my country has is a big part of the inspiration. From mountain to beaches the spectrum of colors and textures are as well part of my creative process.
October looks different this year. How has the pandemic impacted your business?
The big impact that I suffered is that there are no fair-trade markets. However, if life gives you lemons I will make the best lemonade ever. So, I opened my Etsy store in July, and It had been an awesome ride. The big challenge is to educate the customer on what my product is and the additional value that it has more than how beautiful it is.
Do you have any advice for someone looking to set up their own creative business / Etsy store?
Be mindful that it will be a roller-coaster and you must LOVE your business and Extra Love your product to keep up with all the work.
Be sure to check out all the charming products offered at @naturalbrandstore !!