By Alejandra Carrillo
Former East Los Angeles College student, Laura Stokes-Estrada, is a vintage jewelry designer and creator of Charcoal Designs.
Stokes-Estrada attended ELAC about two semesters ago, and hopes to come back next semester.
She took a few courses in business, which helped her strengthen her business.
She has been designing jewelry and artwork for about eight years.
Before Stokes-Estrada involved herself in the jewelry industry, she worked at a bank. She says everyday she would go to work with no desire to be there.
Stokes-Estrada said there was no excitement or a sense of fulfillment working at a bank.
Although she was always interested in art, she never thought she could make anything of it because she lacked experience in drawing and painting.
“I always thought being an artist was about drawing or painting. I later learned that it can be much more,” Stokes-Estrada said.
She started designing iPod cases and jewelry pieces for herself and then realized that other people liked them as well.
“Receiving compliments from other people and having them admire what I created with my hands is a rewarding feeling,” she said.
Stokes-Estrada’s inspiration of what her designs will look like is based upon music, films and anything vintage.
Charcoal Designs targets people with tastes that range from punk rock to Goth.
Stokes-Estrada explains how she intentionally avoids viewing other designers’ jewelry so she won’t be subconsciously influenced by their work.
“Although sometimes customers tell me that my work resembles other designers’ jewelry, I try not to get inspired by them,” she said.
In order for her company to grow, she goes to car and trade shows along with vendor spots where she sets up a booth and displays her many creations.
“This is a way for people to see what I do and for people aspiring to break into this business,” Stokes-Estrada said.
Stokes-Estrada said that she is thankful for having her husband by her side to give her suggestions on how to make her jewelry look even better.
Her husband also helps her with her sculptures and paintings.
Of all the different designs and work she has done over the years, Stokes-Estrada said that her favorite artworks are vintage frames.
She said that she enjoys making intricate art pieces.
“It’s like a piece of paper where I can create anything, whatever I want I can do. It is like a blank canvas,” Stokes-Estrada said.
Stokes-Estrada believes that not only has this industry brought more fulfillment to her life but has also taught her how to learn new things about one’s passion.
She encourages people to do what they love to do and to explore their passion. She says that there is something out there for everyone.
“Don’t do something for the money, do what you really like to do… if it’s your passion you’ll get better,” Strokes-Estrada said.
Her overall success can be seen in many clothing stores such as Sourpuss, Too Fast and Enz’s in New York City.