It’s that time of year…dark, cold…some of us are even in the middle of suffering through our Lenten sacrifices. But last week, I was lucky enough to visit a little jewelry studio in Woodbridge, Virginia where it is Mardi Gras every day! No amount of snow and ice could dampen the spirit of LaNorma Huggins-Hope, the designer and owner behind Signatures by LaNorma. Her jewelry line is all about one-of-a-kind pieces that are vibrant, exotic, and colorful.
Like so many professional artists and crafters, LaNorma has been creative her entire life, due in no small part to her grandmother, Maxine. Maxine was a professional seamstress, and was dubbed the “queen of all crafts” by family members. LaNorma still has vivid memories of the extravagant gowns and costumes Maxine made for Mardi Gras queens and pageant girls. While helping her grandmother with these over-the-top outfits, LaNorma’s love for bling was born.
Maxine is the inspiration behind LaNorma’s entire business, and the memories of those gorgeous and flashy gowns still influence her today. “The colors and festive atmosphere of Mardi Gras makes me happy,” she says, and LaNorma likes to make things that make her happy! She uses bright colors and bold styles in her jewelry designs to not only evoke the carnival ambiance, but to remind her of family fun. In LaNorma’s family, Mardi Gras isn’t just a party, it’s also a family reunion!
LaNorma’s jewelry is bright and colorful, and emphasizes sparkle and shine. Even if you’re not planning on going to party, you’ll definitely be ready for one wearing one of her creations. Her favorite materials to use are crystals of all colors and shapes, precious metals, and colored semi-precious stones, especially amethyst. LaNorma has found her crochet wire items are the most popular with her customers, which she finds particularly satisfying, since it is a technique that her grandmother favored as well.
In addition to her flagship Mardi Gras collection, LaNorma creates five other jewelry collections, each with their own central theme, including a bridal collection and one for gentlemen. LaNorma likes to create around a theme, like a certain color combination, or a certain material. But she doesn’t really like to follow trends, or plan too much for future collections. New materials and techniques are always catching her eye, and she is always up for experimentation. She has a work-in-progress centered around a shell found during a family beach vacation. She’s also experimenting with incorporating painted silk into her jewelry designs.
In addition to the mystery and magic of Mardi Gras, LaNorma is also inspired by vintage fashion, especially from the 1920s. She loves the fact that women in that era were always dressed up, and were always ready for a party. LaNorma specializes in making statement jewelry for special occasions, and is happy to do custom orders. A customer of hers required something special for the most recent Inaugural Ball, and commissioned a necklace from LaNorma made from a vintage art deco belt buckle.
Although LaNorma has been crafting her whole life and has tried many mediums and techniques, she always comes back to jewelry. The sparkle of crystal and the shine of pretty stones is irresistible to her – she just likes to make things that make her feel good! “It also feels good to give back,” she says. LaNorma makes a point to work with local charities and participate in fundraisers, especially those that aim to help women and girls.
You can find LaNorma’s jewelry on her web site, at local juried craft shows, and at a handful of boutiques in the Washington, DC area.