Lottie Hop owner Brenna Judkins couldn't always embrace her weirdness. She says growing up in Akron, Ohio, she developed artistic inclinations at a very young age and wanted to be a cartoonist until she was a teenager. It was also around this time that she also began constructing cheeky earrings and accessories made from found materials.
"When I was growing up, we didn't have a lot of money for beads, tools and wire," Judkins says. "I would scavenge from stuff I already had or use stuff I found like Barbie parts."
Needless to say, her homemade accessories didn't exactly impress her classmates.
"I was that weird kid and I was teased mercilessly," Judkins says. "I was probably the only person who wore any of my jewelry until the last five years."Judkins lets out a sarcastically nefarious laugh when asked how she feels now that her once "weird" jewelry is now embraced as cute and indie. The Lottie Hop line includes lovably whimsical earrings, pins and plushes that incorporate everything from doll parts to miniature cereal boxes. Her products are particularly popular at alternative press and anime conventions, especially among those with a predilection for pastels or Harajuku-inspired fashion.
Still, the Lottie Hop slogan of "We are Weird. We are Wonderful. We are Loved." wasn't fully embraced by Judkins until recently when she decided to come out of the closet. She says she grew up in a staunchly hetero-normative and even homophobic household, and felt for a long time that her sexuality wasn't something safe to explore.
"I came home from a convention one night and realized that I cater to a lot of young people who might be marginalized or who don't really feel like they have a place in the world. A lot of them are LGBTQ," says Judkins, adding that being around members of the gay community, both at Lottie Hop functions and in her social life, helped her finally come to terms with her own sexuality.
"I want wherever I set up shop to be like a beacon for people to feel accepted," Judkins says. "To know that whatever they want to wear, they can wear. That whatever they want to do, they can do, and however they want to live, they can live. That's how I feel about myself now, too."