Alaina from Cold Gold is a force in the maker world, and creates products that stand out within a saturated market. Her take on polymer clay is unique and I was so drawn to her studs that mimic natural stone. I was excited to include them in the collection and hear more about her process! Alaina answered some questions about her business:
When did you start your business? What inspired you to start?
After graduating from college with a degree in printmaking and a minor in art history, I was working retail and making ends meet. My mother sent me a box of leather scraps in the mail - she often sent me materials, articles she found interesting, or other small treasures. This box of scraps came at the perfect time, because without a lot of disposable income and Christmas on the horizon, I needed to make some gifts. I whipped up a few small wallets and gave them as gifts to my friends. It was a complete shock that not long after Christmas, people were reaching out to say they loved the wallet I made for Courtney and to ask how much I charged for one. “What? Charge for them!” I spent the whole next year making things for friends around town, and turning my fun hobby into a solid side hustle.
Now, almost 10 years later, I’ve grown my business from a solid side hustle to a full time business with three part time employees. I sell to my items wholesale to boutiques all over the globe, have worked with companies like Free People and Etsy, and even teach classes on starting a small handmade business. I love working for myself and getting to make pretty things for a living.
You have such a unique take on a major trend right now, can you explain how your use of polymer clay is so different from everything else we’re seeing?
Polymer clay is really magical. I think calling it “clay” makes people slot it into a certain place in their brain, but it’s so versatile. For instance, mixing your own colors, adding transparency, painting it, marbling it are all things you can do to transform it. Right now, I am loving mimicking different materials, like gemstone. I’ve heard customers say, “Oh! I thought it was real rose quartz!” and then get so excited that I marbled it to look like that. I tell people that marbling for gemstone textures makes me feel like a princess surrounded by jewels.
Was it hard to learn to work with polymer clay? To perfect your signature marbleization?
I think so many people are into working with polymer clay right now, because there is a very low barrier to entry. The clay itself is inexpensive, you can form it and bake it at home, and there are a ton of videos to help you get better. Not to mention, it feels like playing with grown up play dough. For me, the challenge is in making it my own. I worked for a long time to come up with exact recipes, percentages, and techniques to perfect my marbling process. It’s fun to see what each batch comes out like, because each stud is totally unique. I always find my own personal favorite pieces, and have to fight against myself from keeping those!
What’s your favorite part of the making process? Your least favorite?
Making things is a blast. It’s why people like me get into this business. I love a day of planning for new products and doing research. I look forward to days where I get my hands dirty with new processes, materials, and techniques. I also love love love days where I get into the zone with a good tv show and crank out some work. Least fave? Doing my taxes. And while that doesn’t count as making, it’s definitely a part of owning a small business, so I think that counts.
What inspires you when you’re designing?
I use clean lines and straightforward geometry to recall a “classic” design aesthetic, and draw upon a variety of disparate influences to create each design. Whether it’s the exactness of mid century modern furniture, my personal nostalgia for 90s Claire’s earring sets, 60s “space-age” imagery, or the sleek, purposeful design of a pocketknife— I try to distill all of these inspirations into small, beautifully functional accents for everyday wear.
What’s next for your brand?
More leather goods! We just got an industrial sewing machine, and I've been spending every extra minute outside of running Cold Gold to prototype new products. You can expect to see one-of-a-kind bags, wallets, and other fun pretties through our signature structured yet fun and colorful lens.