Embellishing creations to sell

Three words: small plastic babies. Marketed for baby showers, these mini decorations immediately catch the attention of senior Meleia Lontok. Their final destination? Subjects for a new line of handcrafted earrings she has in mind. 

Lontok opened an Instagram store on Feb. 12, 2020 under the handle @leiaslovely for her jewelry. There, she posts the earring designs she has available, and interested customers contact her via direct messaging. Her idea development for the project began in October 2019, and she spent the five months between the conception of her idea and the opening of her store sketching out designs and planning her earring names. 

“At first, I just really liked jewelry and I had the inspiration to start making my own. My friends encouraged me to start making them too because they really like my style,” Lontok said. “I just started out and I have smaller pieces out right now.”

Her most popular piece currently is a hoop earring with a dangling heart, named after her friend Kaylie. Before naming her pieces after people, Lontok used to name them solely based on appearance. Now, Lontok dedicates different designs to her friends and has planned several new releases named after the people around her. 

“That makes me really happy because [Kaylie is] an original design. I made it how it would suit her, and she really liked it so I kept it that way. My favorite thing is definitely people’s reactions because people are really enthusiastic and they compliment [me about] how they really like my earrings, ” Lontok said. 

Lontok recalls visiting jewelry shows with her mother as a child. There, she was first exposed to the variety and creativity found in jewelry. Her mother and grandmother’s jewelry collections inspire her in creating earrings. While her interest in creating pieces is a recent development, Lontok’s roots in jewelry were established a long time ago.

“A lot of people in my family have an interest in jewelry. My earrings are really different from theirs because theirs are very traditional and very cultural, and mine are very popular culture, and they’re more appealing to young people. My mom wouldn’t wear them, but she encourages me because mine are different,” Lontok said. 

Her earring creation involves visiting a craft store for basic earring components, such as hoops, hooks and studs, and either finding or creating the artistic element on each piece. More complex designs take Lontok around 30 minutes, while the simpler ones take 10 to 15. For her Instagram posts, Lontok asks her friends to model her earrings. 

“I keep rearranging [the earrings] until I like it. I’m still figuring out how to organize [my store]. I hope to expand more,” Lontok said. “I wanted to make [the earrings] creative and relate to myself.”

By Nicole Chiang, Staff writer
Photo courtesy of Meleia Lontok