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VOL. 130 | NO. 178 | Monday, September 14, 2015


Question the Answer Brings Carlson’s Jewelry to Life

LANCE WIEDOWER | Special to The Daily News

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Marketing experts are likely to say a business’ name tells a business’ story in a tidy little package of a few words.

But some names require thought to fully understand the mission.

Question the Answer is the artistic expression of jewelry maker Lauren Carlson. The name could be called a life philosophy of questioning answers that already have been presented.

“It came from this idea of inanimate desire behind frivolous purchases and understanding why you need things and what void that fills in relation to fashion,” Carlson said. “Trying to dig deeper and find your own truths and resolve those desires.”

Lauren Carlson uses an oxy acetylene torch to solder a bracelet in her studio. 

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Question the Answer – the name – is based on a philosophy of digging deeper to discover life’s mysteries. Question the Answer – the business – is how Carlson puts those thoughts into artistic form.

Question the Answer is a one-of-a-kind jewelry line that Carlson handcrafts in her Midtown studio. Products include necklaces, pendants and rings.

The business started as a hobby when Carlson graduated from the University of Memphis five years ago.

“I used to say I started the business in 2011. That’s when I thought of the name and logo and the other things I still use today,” she said. “I just wasn’t committed every day to going to the studio and continuing to work until a year ago.”

That renewed focus came a couple of years ago when Carlson began taking metal classes and honed in on what would become her aesthetic.

“I was surrounded by people who were making their work and selling it,” she said. “Being around this maker community in Memphis that has grown in the past two years has brought me to realize it can happen. You have to keep working.”

Earlier this year, Carlson spent time in Austin, Texas, to better understand how to set stones. And what started as painting and woodwork is now a jewelry design business that is primarily in metals.

“I’ve always incorporated this love of fashion into things that I make,” said Carlson, who has a bachelor’s degree in studio art with a focus on painting. “I’ve always been painting the flow of fabrics or toward the end I was painting this beautiful dress but instead of it on a normal person’s body it would be on a skeleton form. It was supposed to represent materialism and how you’re filling this void that you really don’t need. It’s one life. Materialism and consumerism all fed into it.”

Carlson’s work began with that life-size skeleton that later would be downsized into a wooden pendant.

Question the Answer’s designs can be found in local stores including Downtown’s Stock & Belle, Menage Fine Stationary & Gifts in East Memphis and Broad Avenue’s City & State, as well as online at questiontheanswer.com. Carlson said her jewelry also is sold in stores in Cincinnati and Austin.

“The inspiration is derived from architecture, nature and travel,” Carlson said. “I find those shapes through those sources of inspiration and create jewelry that isn’t so loud it takes over the person who is wearing it. I like the idea of not being so patterned or adorned that it takes away from the person wearing it.”

Carlson is in the middle of an Indiegogo campaign (http://igg.me/at/questiontheanswer.com) that will enable her to acquire equipment necessary to establish a metalsmith studio so she can evolve her original design, the sugar skull, by casting it in metal. Most of the campaign’s support has been local, although that doesn’t represent her full client base. She recently completed an order from London, for example.

“It’s pretty broad right now,” Carlson said about her customer base. “I do think that because I offer two collections – one that’s an underground piece that only certain people know about – and the other customer, even if they don’t know about me they would possibly want to purchase my work because it’s minimal and it can be paired with different types of styles. It’s more approachable as everyday wear.”

Carlson’s long-term goals for Question the Answer might seem modest compared to larger businesses. Carlson said she is focused on making art, filling online orders and maybe adding an employee in the future.

“For now my goals are simple … I want to be able to pay my bills through my small business,” she said. “That sounds silly but that’s what it means to me. I want to wake up and work here every day. … I can see having a small retail space connected to a studio space but I’m not focused on that right now. In the next five years it would be great to be involved in a retail space that maybe has several artists represented.”

As for being a Memphis small-business owner at this point in the city’s history, Carlson couldn’t be more excited.

“This city has something to prove and I’m excited to be in this period of people that have the same kind of energy that really want something positive to happen,” she said. “It’s on the tip of our tongue and we have to just push a little harder. … We have this energy about us that we’re going to follow through and get our hands dirty to get things done. It’s powerful to be around that kind of feeling.”

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