Alicia, the designer and maker behind Lingua Nigra posted a bold gold necklace with vibrant beetle wings on Instagram and it came up in my feed. I needed to know more. Turns out, Alicia is a cool chick with an incredible sense of style. Although we haven't met in person yet, she has an energy that radiates throughout the interview below and all of her designs. Her jewelry is balances rough and refined as well as new and old perfectly. The pieces are textured, but plated in bright 22ky gold. They have a old world feel, but are also very modern. Keep reading to learn more about Alicia!
I’ve been creating jewelry since I was a child! I started with making these beaded earrings and selling them in the 6th grade, but took a sort of hiatus a few years after that until I was in college at FIT studying Fashion Design. After I graduated from the program, I moved over to the Jewelry Design program. I just knew that the fashion world was not where I would want to end up professionally, although I had absolutely no game plan for where I would end up with jewelry! There really is a such thing as destiny.
The program I was in was hard and tedious. It was 4 semesters packed into 2. I was the worst student, mainly because I had two jobs, so I was tired all the time. I wasn’t able to be creative, I was just barely able to understand the process and complete (most of) the assignments. The only time I was able to do any work was in the middle of the night at the school studio. You can’t do that anymore. What good times me and my friends had!!
Anyway, after I graduated, I worked for some really talented designers, including Philip Crangi (pre-CFDA days) to name a few. That time in my life was really about just learning and soaking things up.
It was around 2003-2004 when I was able to finally create my style for my own jewelry. I would use my boss’ bench after hours and I started to cold connect coins from my travels. I would also reticulate brass (my favorite thing to do when I was in school!) and make really simple shapes from the sheet I reticulated. It was all about a process for me.
I usually make some really rough sketches. I’ll always have something in mind, and it’s always just for me. I love body jewelry and stretched ears, so I’ll draw up some different ways to make ear weights, or I’ll draw a wall hanging I want to make into a necklace. From there I’ll sketch a little more. If it’s a cutout (like my Mane of Gold earring) or something similar, I’ll scan the drawing and clean it up in Illustrator. I’m all about an “organic” process, so even if things are symmetrical in my design, they rarely are when I execute them onto metal.
I’ll almost always have some kind of texture to my pieces, so I’ll either etch the piece or already have reticulated the metal. Sometimes I’ll have a large piece of reticulated metal and I’ll just cut out shapes and layer and make a section that I’ll want to cast over and over again.
I don’t use a ton of stones in my work, I wear a ton of color, so I don’t really need it in my jewelry. That being said, when I do go for color, I try to find unusual things to work with. For instance, I have corn beads that look like turquoise (because they are dyed). I also use jewel beetle wings in my work because…nature.
I also love malachite and lapis. I use those colors all of the time when I do want to add a bit of color to something, but I with the exception of the jewel beetles (and my amazing collection of other beetles for jewelry), I don’t start my process with a stone.
Nature. I know a lot of people say that, but it’s so true!!
I love nature and I love a beautiful forest or park, lots of green everywhere. I love that things can look so similar, but every single thing is unique in it’s own way. I usually only work with one shape in a necklace or earring, but I’ll repeat them over and over again. It’s like how a tree has leaves. The leaves all look the same, but each one is uniquely different.
The process of etching and reticulation is “controlled” but also very random – you don’t know what you might get after everything.