Ever wanted to wear a little piece of Oakland near your heart? Linda Latouche can help with that. Her jewelry — from map pendants to cuff links — celebrates Town pride with a vintage twist. She specializes in affordable, kitschy-in-a-good-way pieces that liven up any outfit. Her map jewelry has been such a hit that she even made a special line of spinner pendants just for our downtown store. We talked with her about the inspiration for her designs, and how it all started with a pair of earrings for prom.
Tell us a little bit about how you got here. Where are you from, and how did you end up making jewelry in Oakland?
I moved to Oakland from my hometown of Union City during my college years. I loved Oakland’s diversity, spirit and energy. Since then, life interests exported me to two different cities/states for a period of four years, but somehow I discovered that I’m most comfortable in Oakland.
I first discovered my “need to bead” in high school during my preparation for my senior year prom. I could not find the perfect earrings to accessorize my custom made dress, so using remnants of my dress, I made my first pair of earrings. Four years passed before I sat down again to create jewelry. With the encouragement of co-workers I opened my first website offering my one of a kind gemstone designs.
Your Oakland map designs have been a huge hit at the store. How did you get the idea for them?
The Oakland map decoupage jewelry was inspired by my desire to create a reasonably-priced line of jewelry for vending at my local farmer’s market. There was a growing trend of locals wanting to represent our city of Oakland. After seeing this expressed in apparel and bumper stickers, I knew that my participation would have to be through a kitschy accessory.
When you’re making a piece of jewelry, do you have an image of the sort of person you think would wear it?
Yes, when I am first designing a piece of jewelry, I do imagine many different tastes and styles. I design for those tastes, individual design aesthetics and wearabilty.
What’s it like to see someone wearing your stuff on the street? Are you tempted to give them a shout-out?
I get excited when I see someone wearing my designs. It’s a reminder that the work I am doing has some purpose. I have been known to give a shout-out — people have always been kind.
What’s next for you — do you have any new materials or themes you want to work with in the future?
A big creative interest of mine is to merge the worlds of “kitschy geekery” and “fashionably glam,” and then add a twist of vintage. I can say that there shall be more repurposing in the direction of a fashionable aesthetic.
How does helping local charities impact your work?
Helping is cyclical. I believe I receive help when I’m in need because I help when others are.