This week’s studentrepreneur features UWI Alumni- Janine Lutchman. She is a lover of language, anime and jewellery-making. She graduated in 2014 with a BA in Latin American Studies with minors in Spanish Language and Brazilian Studies and currently works at the Confucius Institute at the St. Augustine campus.
Her desire to be a business woman was ignited as early as age 14, when she sold cake to classmates. However, it wasn’t until 2016 that she launched her first official business- Otaku Gaiden selling popular Japanese merchandise and handcrafted jewellery. In this interview, she shares some of her experiences.
What has been one of your most memorable moments on campus/during your studies?
I have quite a few great memories from my time at UWI, but I must say that one of my best (and most embarrassing) moments was participating in a Chinese Karaoke contest. I shocked myself. I’ll leave it right there, the pictures and video of the performance circulating online speak volumes.
What does “being creative” mean to you?
Being creative to me means having the freedom to make something truly original that you can call your own.
How has your field of study impacted your business?
Being a foreign language student, you learn to become appreciative of different cultures. You begin to develop a different outlook on life and an interest in what other communities have to offer. My interest in other cultures led me to establish an Anime-based business (Otaku Gaiden) with my husband. I have an interest in Native American culture as well, which is why I decided to also include handcrafted seed bead earrings to our product line. I have to keep it global! LOL
What’s your personal mantra?
The words of John Cena, “Never give up!” ☺
At what age did you discover your fondness for Jewelry making and design?
I became interested in jewellery making when I was around 20, but I only start making jewellery when I was 24…I was definitely a late bloomer in this craft.
Can you describe the time when you first realized that creating was something you absolutely had to do?
After playing Assassin’s Creed 3 back in 2012 where the main protagonist was Native American, I began to develop an interest in Native American culture. When I began researching their culture, I came across their intricate jewellery making techniques. I always wanted to try out making these pieces, but due to my academic workload and lack of funds at that time, I was never able to set aside time or money to work on acquiring this skill. It was not until 2016 when I first start making jewellery. By then, I had a stable job and could finance such an expensive craft. Being able to actually make jewellery really became important to me. I always wanted to be associated with something more than just “book-sense”. I wanted to learn something practical, something that I can create. Crafting jewellery has finally made me achieve this.
What’s been your proudest moment as a business woman?
My proudest moment was my first sale. It was Native American inspired piece in navy blue, yellow and white.
Which materials do you love working with?
I prefer working with Czech seed beads because you can really create anything imaginable with this type of bead. I also have a fascination with Chinese knotting now, so I am working with a lot of Chinese knotting cord. My co-workers from China have been teaching me how to make Chinese knots. I hope to use these techniques to expand my jewellery making skills.
What’s been your most intricate or favourite piece?
My favourite piece is a pair of flamingo seed bead earrings that I made earlier this year. Because of the way some seed beads are cut, some beads are at times uneven. So it took me a really long time to make sure that the flamingo image on both sides of the earring were uniform and matched perfectly. One of my best friends bought this piece as soon as she laid eyes on it.
What are some of your most significant aspirations?
I hope that I can expand my business and add more products to our catalogue. What I am currently working on is Japanese anime-themed seed bead earrings and bracelets, so I hope to have those pieces launched soon.
With regard to my personal goals, I would like to teach someday, maybe a foreign language (Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese or Spanish), the history and culture of Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) countries or if I become an expert in this field, jewellery making.
Do you have any unusual rituals when creating?
I have a simple ritual. I like to listen to music while making earrings. It puts me in a very relaxed mood, which is the perfect mood for letting those creative juices flow.
If you enjoyed Janine’s interview look out for others featured on UWI Clubs. She will debut at the Things TT market on May 20th at the UWI JFK Auditorium (this Saturday) and all of her pieces will be for sale.