Cutting edge

E T C H Studio finds a formula for design success with sleek laser-cut jewelry

What started with a handmade birthday gift from one creative spirit to another has blossomed into a thriving online business.

It was less than a year ago when LSU architecture student Zoe Ganch unwrapped the “super-edgy” earrings and necklace that her friend and classmate Mallory Estopinal had made for her. The pair wondered if there might be a market for the chic designs, and their discovery of what Ganch calls an “underground Instagram shop community” cinched the idea in their minds. “We thought it would be a perfect marriage of new designs and a new marketing outlet,” Ganch says.

Thus the idea behind E T C H Studio was born, with a vision of offering innovative laser-cut jewelry and hair accessories. The business neatly complements the large-scale design work the two were already pursuing. “We get to zoom in on the details and customization while still having a general design aesthetic in our entire collection,” says Estopinal.

She and Ganch first became proficient with a laser cutter at the LSU College of Art + Design’s design shop. After opting to study away for a year at Virginia Tech, they were excited to find that they had unlimited access to a laser cutter on that campus. They began drafting designs collaboratively, then using AutoCAD software to ready the pieces for the cutter. The sharp-angled shapes are cut from hardwoods including maple, walnut and lacewood, then hand-painted and assembled like wearable versions of ancient Chinese tangram puzzles.

Using the tagline “geometrically obsessed,” the designing duo launched their Instagram shop in January with limited expectations.

“At first we had no clue of how the business would succeed, but we had an incredible response from the Instagram and local community right away,” says Ganch.

Through shared posts and viral hashtags, the company’s follower base has grown to more than 2,000, and E T C H Studio jewelry is now being worn around the world from Australia to Germany. Success has also come closer to home; in April, the pair placed second and received an audience award at the LSU Student Incubator’s Venture Challenge. The accolades came with $4,500 in cash prizes, which the pair will use to purchase their own laser cutter. “We will be able to create more designs and produce more products to eventually put into local Baton Rouge retail,” says Ganch.

Even as they prepare for their fifth year in the architecture program, Ganch and Estopinal have big plans for their jewelry business, including launching a full-fledged website and a new collection, as well as placing some designs in local boutiques in time for football season.

“It’s really cool seeing an idea turn into a physical object that then becomes a very popular design that everyone wants to order,” says Ganch. “It’s a time-consuming venture, but it’s so much fun!”

For more information, see E T C H Studio’s Instagram page at @etch_studio.