spotlight: lauren eckstein schonekas

On the last day of Nola Fashion Week, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Lauren Eckstein Schonekas, founder of Construct Jewelry. Her bright personality and unassuming nature came to the forefront during our encounter. And her creativity and passion for jewelry-making is inescapable. She just seemed genuinely happy and grateful to be there. Her face lit up as people viewed/took interest in her work.

So I sent Lauren a few questions after our meeting and her answers are really interesting and engaging. Check them out below…

1. When did the concept for Construct first strike you?

I’ve always been drawn to the craftsmanship and style of vintage jewelry.  When Katrina hit, I moved to Houston where my family evacuated to assist my father’s company in accounting. After a full day of work, there was nothing to do (I recently graduated from college, so I was not used to sitting around at night), so I began taking apart my personal jewelry and reworking it. It was therapeutic during those early days after the storm, and then became a fun addiction. I loved using my creativity to transform something that was otherwise forgotten, broken, or considered “old.” Looking back, I think that was a central force for me, especially during a time when I was also witnessing my city go through such huge transformations.

2. How would you describe Construct’s aesthetic?

I aim to create pieces that are both elegant and edgy while maintaining the timelessness of the vintage pieces included.

3. What was one of the biggest challenges for you when translating the inspiration for Construct into a legitimate jewelry line/business?

One of the charms of my designs is also a challenge and that is that I cannot reproduce or duplicate designs because each piece is one of a kind. Although many people, including myself, appreciate this aspect of Construct Jewelry, it is frustrating when someone falls in love with a piece that has sold, and I can’t remake it for them.

4. As your business continues to grow, how do you keep up with its growing demands?

I have finally hired my first assistance (my sister!), which is a huge step for the company because I have basically been a one-woman-show for the past several years. After going full time in the Spring of 2012 and getting pregnant in the fall of this year, I realized I need help and fast! Fortunately for me, my sister became available, so I am looking forward to working with her.

5. What advice would you give to other creatives that are trying to find a potentially lucrative outlet for their work?

Know that if you have a passion you should follow it because it is a gift that can’t be opened without patience, courage, and motivation. Also, don’t always expect success and remember to always have fun because if you are not enjoying what you are doing, others won’t either!

6. What’s your most treasured piece of jewelry?

Since my passion for jewelry design grew out of the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, I promised myself that I would never become attached to any particular creation since I was watching the rest of my hometown adjust to losing all of their possessions. There is one piece, however, that I have allowed myself to break that rule with. It’s a necklace I made with a vintage pendant my dad gave me.  It’s an Estrucean gilt pendant with heart designs, and he gave it to me the same year he was diagnosed with cancer. Fortunately he is still in good health, and up until now, my keeping that necklace has been my little secret!

7. What’s the most rewarding part of the creative process for you?

I absolutely love commissions—either using a customer’s family heirloom or one they select from my collection. It is so rewarding to complete a consultation, develop a concept for a design, and then see their reaction when the piece is complete. I have done many weddings where the bride is able to co-design her jewelry or bridal party gifts, and it is so fun to see how excited and proud they are with the finished product. I guess it’s the social worker in me, but it is certainly my favorite part or the creative process.

8. What’s your pipe-dream/out-of-this-world fantasy for Construct? (It won’t sound silly, trust me)

I have so many!!! I would love to learn how to solder. I would still of course use vintage jewelry, but it would give me so much more freedom with manipulating materials!!! I would also love, love love to have access to the old workshops of my greatest idol in the costume jewelry business, Miriam Haskell. I have found some dealers that sell parts that the company used, so I can imagine what it would be like to see the entire workspace and the amazing vintage pieces that were included in the collection. I don’t know if these warehouses are still intact especially since the company isn’t producing for Neiman Marcus, but I don’t need to know because it’s part of dreaming!!

Learn more about Construct Jewelry by visiting its website.

Quote of the day: 

“Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.” –Salvador Dali