In Downtown Norfolk is Selden Market, a place comprised of inspired shops and emerging small businesses. It is a place we have visited before, but we are always amazed with how each of its tenants manage to make use of their space and create something entirely of their own.
That certainly rang true as we glided into the storefront home of Lorak Jewelry. We first exchanged hellos with owner and designer, Anna Lorich Akers, before being distracted by the stunning pieces sparkling in the display behind her.
There is something so eye-catching about Lorak’s designs because they are not pieces you see everywhere else. Maybe it is how she works with materials like brass, vermeil silver with a heavy gold plate, silver, and gold alloys, or the way in which she sets the stones.
It is hard to say, so we asked Anna herself, who puts it this way: “Lorak is inspired and informed handmade jewelry offering several different collections to suit every budget.”
How It All Began
A Pennsylvania girl at heart, Anna completed her undergraduate studies in Cleveland and her graduate degree at the Rhode Island School of Design. Shortly after graduation, Anna moved to Manhattan where she worked for a goldsmith, combining her education and background in fine art jewelry with the craft and skill of a bench jeweler.
After surrendering to her mother’s ongoing suggestion to join an online dating community, Anna unexpectedly met the man that would later become her husband.
Anna was not a stranger to Norfolk, having spent a summer here with her best friend from Cleveland whose family lived in the area. So ironically, when that was where her new beau turned out to be from, it made a move down here in 2008 feel familiar.
“I had always wanted the experience of working in New York. I would not trade the time I had working in Soho and on Madison Avenue, although it made leaving the city much more of a transition than I had anticipated. New York and Norfolk are just completely different markets in terms of business and what the consumer is looking for,” Anna shares.
Knowing that is partially what inspired the “several different collections to suit every budget” part of the Lorak mission.
“I used to focus on creating designs with 18k gold, but I was thinking about the craft, not the cost of running a business. I had to evolve and do less of that based on the feedback I was receiving from clients. We still use and source the highest quality materials, but in a way that allows us to better suit our client’s taste and successfully move the inventory.”
Lorak does still have some 18k gold pieces, including a beautiful pair of teal earrings we were all swooning over.
The Studio Space
Lorak’s studio space in Selden Market is a mixed shop – it is part showroom, part workspace, and part office. It functions and encompasses all aspects of Anna’s business and is where she spends much of her time.
With a high skylight window over her workspace, the space feels large, yet also intimate and inviting.
“That extra little bit of natural light coming in is really critical for me to have while working with such small raw materials,” Anna shares.
Aside from the shop obviously carrying items from her own collections, Anna embraces the work of other designers across the country.
You’ll find the work of Molly M Designs (San Francisco, CA), Hechizo (Richmond, VA), Natalie Frigo (Charlottesville, VA), Brooklyn Candle Studio (New York), and by Rosie Jane (Los Angeles), among others (depending on when you visit the shop), selling items from jewelry to perfume to candles to small accessory bags.
“I like to choose makers whose designs are funky and unique, while complementing, not competing against the Lorak brand. They all have a similar sensibility but are still very distinct,” Anna expresses.
The rest of the shop décor includes items Anna has collected or handmade overtime and wood tables finished by her and her husband.
Proudest Moment & Biggest Obstacle
When asked what challenges she faces, Anna listed a few. Whether it is living out the juggling act of being a new mom and entrepreneur, wearing all the different hats of her business, or simply dedicating the time and energy she puts into each collection to maintain its quality and uniqueness.
“It really does take a village to raise a child…and run a business, so I am lucky to have such great help. It feels good to know I can afford to have two team members working for me,” Anna tells us.
Selden Market has also allowed Lorak to gain additional exposure and foot traffic, without the large risk of investing in a physical space with a higher rent and longer-term lease.
Lorak will have been a part of Selden for two years this October.
Anna continues, “Despite the natural challenges involved, I am proud to make a living off of my ideas and hard work. That’s very fulfilling.”
The Lorak Style & Design Process
One thing Anna does not see as an obstacle is coming up with new ideas or knowing the next direction she wants to go in with her brand.
“It is funny, you know, I have been working on some of these collections for over a decade now. It can take longer than you would think to bring them together and really differentiate your style and voice. But it has been freeing to take the time to just focus less on theory, narrative, and fine art [as was the direction throughout most of her education] and more so on my craft – things like design and wear-ability.”
Anna’s work is inspired by Ancient Greco Roman artifacts and the clean lines found in Scandinavian design. Although her recent gold-dipped brass collection has more of a South American/Aztec feel to it.
“I look at the history of jewelry a lot. Most of it can be sourced as far back as Mayan culture. Most of it is based on geometric shapes, so I try to emulate that,” Anna adds.
Lorak’s materials are ethically sourced and obtained from all over, although her favorite diamond dealer right now is Canadian.
“I also try to intently listen to what my clients want. I hear how they want heirloom quality that feels personal and can be passed down from generation to generation,” Anna explains. “I get a lot of custom requests to reuse, rework, and reset family jewelry, which feels really special.”
Making rings is a big part of those requests, which happens to be one of Anna’s favorites to design.
“I am big into hand carving rings which is done with a special wax, where you actually carve the piece in wax and then it gets molded and cast. There are faster ways of doing it, but this process feels much more organic. Plus, it is challenging! And I love that,” Anna exclaims.
Lorak has some fun new ideas coming out, including a series that is twinkling in her eye and harkens back to some of her older fine art days, as it is narrative driven and relies heavily on imagery.
Anna is also attending the JA and MJSA trade shows in New York City for the first time this year. She hopes to attend the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show for the second time in the future.
“It can be hard to find the time to attend all the events I would like to, but I look forward to them for the tools and technical side of things. I geek out on all of it,” Anna laughs.
We also love how Anna seems to stay so true to her own direction, despite the number of fleeting trends within the jewelry industry.
“Art school really taught me how to think. I try to come upon ideas honestly and earnestly. I am not interested in making disposable fashion or something that is already out in the world,” Anna explains.
Advice for Aspiring Business Owners
When asked what advice she would give to other small business owners, Anna shares: “If you are coming into something, you have to really love it. It cannot just be an idea you think you can make money on. You have to be passionate about the craft so you can get behind it for a long time.”
Anna continues, “It might take a decade until it really works because it is hard. There is a lot of competition out there. But the time it takes to build it is worth it.”
How to Experience All That Lorak Has to Offer
Anna shares a lot of the process behind her work, what she is excited about, and more personal reflections on Instagram.
You can also shop online with shipping, or pick-up in-store through the Lorak website.
Lorak is inside of Selden Market at 2018 East Main Street Suite 8 Norfolk, VA. Their showroom hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 10AM to 5PM and 11AM to 5PM on Sundays.
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