Laura Stokes Estrada of Charcoal Designs – Taco About It Tuesday

I’ve known Laura Stokes Estrada of Charcoal Designs since I was a member of the Naughty Secretary Club.  Laura was an early pioneer of resin jewelry and casting.  Her designs have always had a retro influence and a nod to a few of my favorite things like tiki and Halloween.  I am super excited that Laura is here to Taco About it Tuesday.

Laura Stokes Estrada of Charcoal Designs

Website: Charcoal Designs

Social Channels:

1) What is the best advice you could give someone about the business of being creative and the creativity behind running business?

Do what you love. We all have a calling, something we were meant to do. I knew I found my calling in resin casting and jewelry design when I ran into problems and I seeked help instead of giving up. I don’t make much money, there’s zero fame involved in what I do, but I love designing, I love creating, and it’s such an ego boost when someone buys something that you made with your own hands.  I don’t know if I’m necessarily succesful in what I do but I do always feel like I’m onto something good! I get super stoked and jazzed about new product ideas and my mind just sticks on it until I execute my idea. If you think about your work constantly and it gets you psyched (not stressed), then you are onto something good too!

2) Do you have a favorite place to go for business advice? Mentor group, book, website?

I’m definitely a visual learner so I usually hit up Instagram, Pinterest or YouTube for help.  They say to ask the locals where to eat and it’s the same when you have questions about your craft. The best people to ask are those who are doing what you do. I’ve found so many solutions to problems by just asking questions. Like why my resin wasn’t curing right. Why I had bubbles in my plaster. Why my molds were staying/sticking.  My resin guy Al at A&R products was a great help until they closed about a year ago. He turned me on to clays and resin products that they didn’t even sell at their shop.  Also, people in your field are often eager to help and are the most knowledgeable.

Resin tiki wall plaques by Charcoal Designs

3) Besides Creative Queso what are your favorite podcasts?

Unfortunately I don’t get much free time with two small boys running around (one is 3 years, the baby is 6 months). The only podcasts I’ve listened to were from our friends studio in Downtown L.A. @skidrowstudios

4) How do you prevent creative burn out?

Growing up I use to think that if someone couldn’t paint or draw that they couldn’t be creative or considered an artist. That was before their were so many visual creative outlets to turn to. If anything I get overestimated. My mind is constantly thinking of new ideas and my phone is full of screenshots (inspiration) fit for an cellular version of the show hoarders.

Black cat necklace

5) What is something your business could not live without?

My husband. I’m a scatter brain and he helps me hone my ideas or figure out a way to execute them. They say that the best solution to a problem is the most obvious and he keeps that inperspective for me.

6) What are some of your favorite Instagram feeds?

7) Tell us a piece of surprising trivia about yourself or your business.

I named my business Charcoal Designs because of my beloved black cat Charcoal (Coal) for short. I felt like I was starting my business off right with some good juju naming it after someone I loved and I guess it worked because I’ve been doing my thing since 2004. At the time I was making hand embroidered iPod cozies (with punk song lyrics etc stitched on front). At the time Charcoal sounded like a fun quirky name for a business but once I transitioned completely into resin casting I’m sure the name Charcoal can be a little confusing. Our products are made with resin, love (and sometimes plaster) but never charcoal. 🙂

8) Do you use a paper planner full of stickers and washi tape or are you a Google calendar kinda guy or gal?

I love technology but I’m obsessed with writing things down, visual reminders help me more. So actually I use a little of both.

Laura Stokes from Charcoal Designs

9) When you are working do you listen/watch podcasts, music, audio books, Netflix or do you like dead silence like a total weirdo?

My favorite work music is the Clockwork Orange soundtrack. It’s familiar and keeps me energized. My dad is a retired audio engineer and I grew up listening primarily to punk but because of him I have an appreciation for most types of music but oddly enough when I work I’m more likely to listen to Rod Stewart, Hank Williams or E.L.O. instead of punk.

10) If I came to see you where would we go for queso?

If we could go back in time El Patio in Whittier Ca.  For a great cultural experience we’d go to Tamayos in East L.A. (authentic portraits by Mexican artist RufinoTamayo line the walls).  Juan Great Fiesta’s (if you’re a local you still call it Uncle Robby’s) for greasy but good $1 tacos on Taco Tuesday and the free chips & salsa bar.  But most likely we’d hit up the all-you-can-eat menu at Casa Jimemez in Whittier Ca. Everything is fresh and delicious and they have great big Michaeladas to wash everything down!

Charcoal Designs Laura Stokes Estrada

Excuse me while I go peruse those retro mermaid wall plaques!  Thanks so much Laura for stopping by!

If you enjoyed this interview be sure to check out…