Students in the public relations campaigns class are getting hands-on experience in the PR industry by creating their own firms and working with clients this semester. Senior Lani Vaill said that this is an experience “we would never be able to learn from a book.”
Vaill is working with a jewelry company based out of Oakland. Founder Laura Bruland makes jewelry out of recycled books and according to Vaill, Bruland is the ideal client. “She is so responsive and open to what we want to do with the campaign,” Vaill said. “Having Laura as a client has been invaluable experience to our PR team, as all of us want to enter the PR industry after graduation. It has given us a glimpse into what working with an actual client is like.”
Bruland started making jewelry just before graduating from University of California, Santa Cruz. She turned to her creative roots instead of going to graduate school as she originally planned. She said, “My goal was to start on a path that would lead me to being my own boss, and doing whatever I wanted.” Bruland is doing pretty well since she quit her day job at a café to focus more on her jewelry-making career. She started creating jewelry a couple of years ago, making flower brooches out of upcycled wool scraps from her grandmother.
Bruland joined TechShop, an organization that drives local innovation by allowing members to create, learn, and use tools in their studios. TechShop allowed her to experiment using a laser cutter and play around with materials that took her jewelry practices into a new direction. Bruland said that after learning the basics she came up with an idea to use book covers because she didn’t want to use materials that would release toxic chemicals when burned. She also liked the idea of using materials that could be repurposed or recycled. Two years ago Bruland got the help of Kickstarter to raise money for her own laser cutter. “Now that I have my own machine I can make so much more product,” she said.
Bruland’s jewelry is exclusively made from the covers of hardcover books. The pieces are all handmade one book at a time by Bruland and her partner, Julien Shields. Using the laser cutter, Bruland says that she can turn a single book into about 12-35 pieces of jewelry depending on its size in a few hours. She also likes to play around and experiment keeping a sketchbook to keep track of ideas. She is currently working on custom wall pieces and wedding items including ring-bearer books, cake toppers, and other fun decor.
Katy Lim, the managing director at Change Communications, is teaching the course under USF’s Communication Department. The class is divided into three student PR firms, where students are required to come up with a four-month campaign that includes creating pitches to media outlets, bloggers, and potential retail locations for two non-profits and a local designer.
Bruland is very impressed by all the work that the USF PR class has done in helping her business this semester. “So far, they’ve boosted my Facebook and instagram followers quite a bit and I can’t wait to see what else they throw my way,” Bruland said.
Vaill, of the USF PR team, said, “Our main goal is to increase [the jewelry’s] exposure to the public and we also plan on pitching to local popular retailers about featuring the products in their stores (Books, Inc. and Russian Hill Bookstore to name a few).”
Since working with USF students, Bruland is now making a prototype of necklaces for USF’s social sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, with their Greek letters and 2014 graduation tassels in USF colors that are made from books which add a statement to cap and gowns. Most pieces from cost between $16 and $50 and can be purchased online, at museum stores, and at many retail locations across the country. Bruland even sells her pieces at Urban Air Markets and festivals that celebrate the crafts of local designers. Bruland’s customized, one-of -a-kind necklaces and products are something Vaill and her team are proud to promote. The collaboration between the USF PR class and local designers demonstrates the strength in community that the San Francisco Bay Area fosters.