Over Bubbled Water: Erin Scott, Lola’s Lugs
After a small technical glitch on my side, Erin Scott, the friendly face behind Lola’s Lugs, appears on my screen, sitting cross-legged on her bed with a nice mug of hot tea – no sugar, just milk. It’s around lunchtime on Valentine’s Day when we call but she assures me it’s all good, no special plans – she’s actually just back from dropping off some flowers to her gran.
Despite us sharing the same hometown, and lots of mutual friends, we’ve never actually met and I was keen to learn more about what inspires her designs and the story of Lola’s Lugs, the small yet mighty, woman-owned business, designing and creating earrings from polymer clay.
It all started with a short TikTok video of someone making polymer clay earrings. Originally Erin decided to give it a go, just as something fun to do for her friends and family, and from there her little hobby turned into a small business, which has grown massively over the lockdown and has sellout drops each month, with customers from the Hebrides to London and even further afield!
She is humbly surprised at the success of her business – it wasn’t intentional in the slightest, she just wanted to have something to do over lockdown. Once she got into it though, and started following more artists and learning new skills, it really took off. “I just thought I’d put some effort in and see where it goes, and then it just grew from there, it’s mad now!” her eyes widen as she tries to fathom the popularity and growth of what she’s created.
Most of the inspiration for her earrings comes from nature or photography, “a lot of it is colours – whether I see a sunset and think ‘that’s a really nice orange with that pink – I could do that with the earrings’ or maybe I just see a photo on my instagram feed”. She admits it can also just be trial and error – but they always turn out beautiful. She’s always been an arty person and likely gets that flare from her mum. Regarding the unusual shapes, she explains, “I quite like funky shapes but I know not everyone likes funky, in-your-face earrings, so I try and do a mix of both”. Her designs incorporate all different styles, from studs to statements – going above and beyond for themed-drops, such as her popular ghost-shaped dangles for Halloween, or the intricate Christmas wreaths from December.
The quirky name ‘Lola’s Lugs’ comes from Erin’s baby – a golden labrador named Lola, who has a very special and heartwarming story. Erin laughs as she tells me that her mum went along with a friend to visit puppies and spotted Lola, the runt of the litter, and returned home announcing to the family, ‘I think I’ve bought a dog’. Lola quickly became a beloved member of the family but recently gave them quite a scare…
The gorgeous pup sometimes makes a guest appearance on the page’s Instagram stories, where she can be seen happily spinning round with excitement. At first, Erin and her younger brother thought the spinning was something they had trained her to do for treats, but after a recent check up, they discovered an even more unusual reason – Erin’s family had taken her to the vets after a bad reaction to some medicine and they were told that she was completely blind in one eye, and going blind in the other. They were shocked that they hadn’t noticed this before, but upon reflection it started to make sense. ‘She spins to one side – the side that she can see, and she can’t catch a ball for the life of her’, laughs Erin thinking about her adorable, yet clumsy labrador. However, because Lola was only 2 years old, they were worried the blindness could be caused by a brain tumour, so they ran some more tests.
Much to Erin’s relief, the tests showed that Lola was (for the most part) completely fine… but as it turned out, she was actually missing part of her brain: the thalamus – a key component, responsible for many things, such as parts of the visual system and some motor activity, hence the blindness and ‘spinnies’. This case is the first of its kind, and vets would like to use Lola in a unique study. “If it was going to be any dog, it would be Lola!”
But dear Lola is the perfect brand ambassador for Lola’s Lugs: she’s friendly and fun and brightens up everyone’s day. Discussing the values of her business, Erin says ‘I want my personality to come across – I want to be a friendly brand and a caring brand’ and this is definitely something her customers agree on! “I am obsessed with these [cloud earrings]!! Erin is the kindest and nicest person I’ve ever met!”, praises one happy customer in her Etsy Reviews, “Erin is super lovely!” sings another and this kindness is echoed throughout her reviews, all of which are five-star!
On top of being friendly and caring, another important value to Erin is sustainability. “I’m a big eco-person… that doesn’t make sense”, she hesitates, but it makes perfect sense! She really cares about the environment and is very conscious of her impact. She acknowledges that the polymer clay is primarily a plastic but she buys the best quality and uses fully recyclable packaging, even down to the recyclable sticky tape and stickers!
Erin talks about other hobbies – she’s always switching between them and trying out new things, but the polymer clay earrings is something she’s really invested in, and she assures me she will continue to stick at it even after she graduates this August – yes, all this and she’s still a student!
Her decision to become a teacher was oddly inspired by an unlikely hero – our local high school maths teacher. “Oh I would hate to be her, a high school maths teacher?!” However, after seeing Miss High-School-Maths-Teacher walk by, a little seed was planted and Erin started considering teaching. Maybe not secondary, she thought, but primary school teaching was definitely something she could do – her mum and granny had been saying it for years too. She remembers that teenage resentment towards adults telling you what to do – “I’ll figure it on my own!” she would quip, and so she did.
Like a lot of young people, Erin wasn’t sure what to study, where to go, what she wanted to do. Instead of going to uni straight away, she took a year out to work – her first job was ironically a graduate job, thanks to good contacts. “It was an alright job but I didn’t enjoy it because it’s not what I wanted to do”. Even though the job wasn’t for her, in many respects it was the best thing that happened to her, because it made her realise what she didn’t want to do – which can often be a more important realisation.
She took night classes and went to college before applying to the University of Glasgow to study primary teaching, and it certainly wasn’t the easiest four years. “From the minute I stepped into those halls, my mental health just went -” Her hand waves down like a crashing airplane and she blows a raspberry for auditory effect. We share our stories about university and how tough it was to find motivation when you’re really struggling mentally.
Eventually though, Erin started to see the light at the end of the tunnel and powered through. She loved her course, and loves being a teacher – “I’m so excited to be a teacher in August – can’t believe it’s this year!” She’s beaming with pride and has a huge grin across her face as she anticipates her graduation, just one more essay to go! When I ask her what motivated her in the end, she takes a breath and says: ‘It was a ‘do it for yourself’ thing. It’s funny too because, you know when you’re in 6th year, you can get a job, go to college or go to uni? Well I’ve done all 3 of them! And I’ve not done all that to waste it”.
Any goals for the year? “I’m really bad for setting goals and then never actually achieving them – I’m extrinsically motivated – so you need to push me to do it”. Just as we’re discussing going at your own pace and doing things in your own time, Erin pauses and seems to panic a little. At first I thought she was going to excuse herself, “Sorry, I just…” she trails off and stares pointedly at something, “…sorry, I’ve just realised the cat is under these bed sheets!” She lifts the covers and coos softly to the cat – there’s not much of a response but Erin shrugs and pats the covers back down “ach, she’ll be fine!”. Going back to her goals, she talks about increasing her followers on Instagram and then winces and adds, “I feel I wouldn’t say that as a goal because it’s just a number and it doesn’t matter… but at the same time it does matter because that’s your audience”.
As the majority of Erin’s business comes through her Instagram, she talks about the pressure of keeping up with social media. “I need to be consistently posting, making the right hashtags, keeping up to date posts, have a Story every 24 hours…” the list of daunting marketing tasks continued, “but to be fair”, Erin smiles, “I post all the bloody time anyway!”
Although she is mostly unphased by the pressures of social media, she understands how it can affect others and her followers know they can rely on her if they need to talk. Her inbox is always open and she openly invites anyone having a tough time to just drop her a message and chat to her. She’s quite proud of the circle she’s built – “I hate being like this but I’ve made a little ‘community of internet friends’”, she says the last part in a mimicking voice, “but I totally have and it’s so, so nice!”.
Once the lockdown is over, she looks forward to meeting up with said community of friends. A lot of her new friends have also taken advantage of the lockdown(s) to be more creative and grow their respective businesses – it’s quite nice to see how they all support each other on Instagram. “We’ve said once [the pandemic is] all over, we’ll meet up and go for lunch. It’s baffling to me that I’ve met all these people through making little earrings”.
Of course, the lockdown has also brought difficulties and taken a toll on Erin too. What’s the most challenging thing? “Being alone. All the time”. Her boyfriend works almost 60 miles away and leaves early each morning. “It’s literally from the minute I wake up, I’m just by myself with the cat… and with the cat, you never know what mood she’s in.” Although she’s still light-hearted, it’s sad to see the usually upbeat, spirited Erin crushed by this loneliness and it’s something she openly talks about in her stories. She’s not afraid to show her vulnerable side and admit when she’s having a bad day, which a lot of her followers respect and empathise with.
Although it’s been a tough year, Erin has a lot to celebrate and look back on, but she can’t yet pick out a singular, crowning moment. “I’m really proud of it all. I never ever thought I’d be doing this – not in a million years!”
On the night of her last drop, Etsy crashed her website as almost 500 people bustled around her site at the same time. She laughs, “I think a lot of people buy my earrings because there’s such a big stress about them – they go up at 7 o’clock at night and folk are like ‘haaaa, I need to buy the earrings!”. It’s a huge adrenaline rush, releasing the highly anticipated drop – for Erin and her customers – and if there’s any technical glitches, she’ll know! Her phone gets flooded with messages if the earrings aren’t there by 7pm on the dot, the Lola’s Lugs tribe is very dedicated!
Erin drops her new designs on the last Friday of every month and there’s a lot to be included in her February Drop – she can’t give away too many secrets but she hints, “I’m feeling very neutral”. Earrings from the terrazzo slab with browns and beiges, which she’s nicknamed her ‘in the skud’ terrazzo and the jade howlite slab (both pictured) will be featured, along with loads of other new ideas and some all-time classics.
“I better get busy!” she laughs as we say our goodbyes and end the call.