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Buried Diamond's Martha Porter Is Lisa Frank Incarnate

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Welcome to Open Studio, a Racked feature where we explore the workspaces and showrooms of some of the city's most talented, up-and-coming designers.

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Like most '80s babies, Buried Diamond's Martha Porter has a soft spot for all things Lisa Frank. And while there are definitely some similarities between their aesthetics (filter Frank's Technicolor kittens through a witchy lens and you get Buried Diamond's three-eyed cat charms), it's the Trapper Keeper queen's business sense that really impressed the jewelry designer. "Lisa Frank was an airbrush artist, and Andrea Grossman of Mrs. Grossman's Stickers was a graphic designer, and they both kind of fell accidentally into this business that targeted kids," she told us. "Lisa Frank was making all these super awesome designs and turning them into school supplies. But she owned her production facilities, and ran her own business and I've always been inspired by her."

It's easy to see why: Porter's entrepreneurial leanings also run deep. The RISD grad started selling jewelry through her Etsy shop while working as a textile designer for Kate Spade Saturday. Before long, her cheerfully manic clay charms (Emojis! Pot leaves! Pineapples!) began selling out faster than should make them, and just two months ago, she left her day job to focus on Buried Diamond full-time.

We stopped by her Williamsburg studio to talk about Tumblr addiction, growing your business online, and the power of a Lena Dunham endorsement.

"Basically, I make a product for a month. I'll post a few work-in-progress shots, and then I give a date and time and say 'this is when everything I’ve been showing you is going up for sale.' Usually everything sells out in like two hours.”

"I’m surprised by the range of people who buy Buried Diamond, who wear it. Sometimes it’s an older woman who loves chunky jewelry and dresses sort of minimally otherwise. Other times it's a teenager.”

"These hand earrings were on Buzzfeed. Do you know that cartoon Doug? They said these looked like something that Judy would wear, that girl with the beret. What a compliment!"

"I definitely think that my customer likes the fact that the pieces are handmade and I think she likes the sort of wonkiness of them—they’re not symmetrical.”

"A lot of the charms start as illustrations—sort of doodly-drawing. I guess I’m the kind of person who, if I'm going to sit down and do a drawing, like a purse, I’ll draw 18 of them. I kind of like to make little inventories like that, and then those things translate easily to the charms.”

"If I’m forming all the blank clay pieces, I usually spend a couple of days just doing that. And then I’ll cycle through painting them, and a lot of them require several layers. So you have to have all these stages. That’s the most time-consuming part. Then they get varnished—that has to dry over night. Then there’s the resin, which has to cure."

"People stop me on the street, on the subway, people try to touch my jewelry a lot. I’ve unfortunately gotten used to it, but people always want to talk to you when you’re wearing a lot of big jewelry. I’m surprised by how often I’ll give a business card to someone on the subway and they’ll write me a message that evening.”

"A lot of the stuff I made in the beginning was, like, neon shoelaces and quartz crystals and semiprecious stones. It doesn’t look like the jewelry I make now, but I think the same person would wear it.”

"A lot of the stuff I made in the beginning was, like, neon shoelaces and quartz crystals and semiprecious stones. It doesn’t look like the jewelry I make now, but I think the same person would wear it.”

"Some of the people that I met when I first started using Tumblr are people I still communicate with today. I send a few of those girls Halloween jewelry every year. You meet people who are really like-minded that you wouldn’t have met otherwise, and I think that they really do become a type of friend, even though you’ve never met them in person."

"Lena Dunham bought one of my magic eye necklaces, which have always been my most popular pieces. And she Instagrammed it a few times, and that was awesome. She’s so sweet. That was definitely a big moment.”

"I’m kind of casually working all the time. Like, I wake up in the morning and I do a little bit of work, and then I’ll leave the house and go for a long walk and then I’ll come back. And if it’s something really mindless, sometimes I’ll listen to a podcast or books on tape. But I can get really absorbed in what I’m doing and nothing else exists.”

"Stationery-type things start at $6. And then the average single charm is $24. Sometimes I do full necklaces and those are around $300, but it depends on how many charms are on them. And then a single charm on a necklace is around $30."

"I think that the Instagram community really likes to learn how things are made, and to see that sort of story. So after I got Instagram that was really when things started to take off, probably in the past two, two and a half years. The orders just kept coming and coming."