Whimsical Designs: Lauren Valenzuela’s earrings are inspired by the desert

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Lauren Valenzuela is in her happy place. Tucked in her Tucson studio, the jewelry designer makes fun and whimsical pieces that are as uplifting as they are lightweight to wear.

The earring-focused collection is a little bit desert, a little bit retro and a whole lot of rock ‘n’ roll. More importantly, Sigfús Designs is an all-inclusive brand, meaning every ethnicity, size and shape can truly rock these trendy pieces.

“My background is in restaurants and marketing,” says the effervescent Valenzuela, as her husband, Hector, packages earrings for shipment nearby. “I managed or did whatever they needed me to do. They knew I was creative, so they gave me jobs where I could be creative.”

Two and a half years ago, she founded Sigfús Designs after making jewelry for friends and family. Sigfús is an Icelandic family name.

“It was my great-grandfather and my dad’s middle name,” she says. “It came to me one day. I wanted it to be different so it wouldn’t be confused with anybody else. If you look up ‘Sigfús,’ you’ll see an Icelandic dude or you’re going to see my website and that’s it.”

She makes each piece of clay into a unique accessory and even mixes her own colors using spices such as turmeric and alcohol ink. Some earrings also incorporate resin, wood, Lucite, wire and other elements.

“I play with shapes a lot,” says Valenzuela, whose left arm is adorned with a saguaro tattoo. “I like geometric stuff. Sometimes the designs are accidental, or I’m just playing with clay and cutting things out and then rearranging them and making asymmetrical styles.

“I’m definitely inspired by the desert. I’m not really a neon girl. I like muted, desert tones, but I still like a pop of color.”

She admits it took her awhile to fully appreciate Arizona.

“When you’re from Tucson or Phoenix, we just think, ‘Oh, it’s the desert. It’s hot.’ We’re not really appreciating the beauty. I’m proud of this place. I love it. Yeah, it’s hot, but there’s so much beauty. There’s so much life and there’s so much to be grateful for here. I feel like I have a strong bond with the desert.”

Valenzuela grew up in an artistic family. Her mother was a silversmith who painted, and her father supported her efforts.

“I grew up seeing art and being around it a lot,” she says. “I’m really inspired by anybody who can pretty much do something and just take a risk. The definition of being an entrepreneur isn’t just owning a business. It’s about taking calculated risks, a financial risk and it’s freaking scary.

“Hector is a tattoo artist, and he only quit his firefighting job a year ago. We’re both in a new place. His studio is across the hall. He owns his business. I own my business. We have no idea what we’re doing, and we’re constantly just figuring it out as we go. There are so many young people doing amazing things and making cool art. Why not me?”

She learned her craft by Googling and watching YouTube. She just put her heart and mind to it and found success. Valenzuela’s pieces are available in 100 stores worldwide. In Tucson, they’re available at Batea Boutique, Vida Moulin, BodyQuest Pilates, Creative Kind, El Be Goods and the Tucson Museum of Art. Valenzuela’s earrings are available at Local Nomad and Urbana in Phoenix, Omni Scottsdale Resort and Spa in Scottsdale, and Neue Bride in Downtown Mesa.

“It’s so fun to connect with people all over the world through this little thing,” she says with a wide smile.