If you didn’t catch last week’s feature on Seattle Siren Designs, check it out here. Similar to my Little Green Dress series [ which you can peek at here, here, or here ], I’ve started a new series spotlighting eco-friendly jewelry designers that I stumbled across on Instagram. Because this is my favorite part of having a blog – getting to connect with incredibly skilled and beautiful people who are part of making eco-friendly the rad and practical thing that it is.
Jewelry is like confetti or sprinkles on a donut. That little extra something that adds a little fun, sparkle or spunk. It’s art for your body really. And there are some seriously talented artists creating beautiful pieces that are eco-friendly; whether they are using reclaimed materials, recycling, upcycling or sourcing new materials that don’t come with a hefty environmental impact. So I told a few of them how incredibly rad I think they are, and asked them to be in my spotlight. This week we’re checking out Baolyfe, their process, and all the little pretties in their shop. Don’t miss the special offer they’re giving us too [ scroll down to the bottom for a time-limited discount code to their online shop at https://www.baolyfe.com/ ].
What made you start an eco-friendly jewelry business?
I guess you could say I sort of fell into it. I began creating bags first. It was 2010 and I was completing my thesis at OCADU in Sculpture and Installation; It was the first time that it had come into my awareness that things in the fashion world were not as they seemed. I learned about the negative affect it was having on the environment and on people. I wanted to find another way to adorn myself and provide another option for others too, that fashion feel good again.
I ended up in Italy, studying leather bag making at Scuola de Cuoio. It was there that I became great friends with one of my classmates, who happened to be from Nairobi, Kenya. She very graciously invited me to stay with her in Nairobi, and to meet the skilled artisans there and see what they were doing.
When I first arrived, I was struck by how much of our clothing and unwanted stuff, had been dumped in Kenya, from leather jackets, to sheets, to clothing, to pots and pans. I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of it and that it had all come from the West. At the same time, I saw many people making things and repairing old things, from items that would have been considered trash at home. This really inspired me to consider repurposing items into jewelry and accessories.
I went to Kenya with the idea that I would be making bags. I did that, but along the way I began to meet artisans who worked with cow bone and horn, making beads, and bangles, or artisans creating with up-cycled brass. There is an amazing lodging house in Nairobi, where a bunch of West Africans have imported crafts, fabrics and sculptures from their respective countries. I was mesmerized by the recycled glass beads that they were selling. It was the first time I had encountered these types of materials and the artisans certainly showed me that up-cycling is the way of the future.
What or who inspires you?
Ruth Abade, of Blackfly Designs, in Nairobi, Kenya, has been a massive influence on me. She really opened up my world in terms of what is possible in handmade, up-cycled fashion, and she’s introduced me to many amazing artisans. She began her own clothing company, with one tailor, and now, makes her own batik fabric, and has expanded into bags. She currently has plans for her own brass studio. She now has nearly 15 employees and has provided stable and consistent income for them.
Ruth introduced me to Grace, the Maasai tribeswoman, who makes all of the Maasai cuffs. I had just made my first order from her, and as she was delivering it, she said to me that she had worked very hard to make everything well, so that I could do well, and in turn, she could do well. The fact that she embodied that everything makes a difference, and that everything is interconnected, brought me to tears. She showed me that this is the new attitude we should have in all things we do.
What do you hope to inspire in others?
I am very aware that many of us, including myself, feel that there are so many things that need to change in this world, towards a more positive, and beneficial direction, for the people and the planet. I would like to inspire a sense of hope that one person can make a difference, and it could be something as simple as smiling at someone during the day, to deciding to purchase ethical, upcycled, or sustainable items, or to riding a bike instead of driving.
Do you have a green living motto or philosophy?
I have been inspired by Kenya’s recent ban on plastic bags. They were used for everything, from buying groceries, to buying fries for lunch, and now that has been outlawed entirely. Over the past few months I have made it my mission to eliminate the use of plastic and to cut down the amount of waste I produce. I am certainly not perfect, but its definitely worth the effort. I suppose it would be “No plastic and less waste!”.
Are there any other green-heroes that you think we should know about?
Brother Vellies is an amazing brand. It was started by a Canadian woman named Aurora James. She designs shoes, and has them made by African artisans from South Africa, Kenya, Morocco and Ethiopia. Her designs are extremely unique and her eye for sustainable detail is very exciting. She recently teamed up with Ethical Fashion to ensure that the tanneries she was sourcing leather from, knew how to properly treat the waste water left over from the tanning process, and even dyes the shearling for her bags with plants. Its incredible.
In terms of green heroes, I am honestly so inspired by and in awe of North American Indigenous people. They really know what they are doing in terms of the environment and have their priorities straight. They care about humanity and the planet, and have such a vision, that many of us can learn from.
Do you have any favorite pieces from your shop?
I love the cube cow horn or cow bone chokers. I’ve always had a strange obsession with cubes and to wear them as a choker, is just so sculptural.
The Jua Collar in Kati Kati is one of my favourites. Jua means sun in Swahili and kati kati means in between. The shape of the collar was something I drew, and then Freddy, one of the brass artisans I work with, cast it from recycled brass pieces, and hammered the dimples into it. All of the spikes are handcrafted by Jared, from cow bone (a byproduct of the meat industry). I had seen him dye bone before, but wanted to get a grey tone, and only dye half of the spike. Jared is fun to work with because he loves creating new styles, so when I asked him to make the dyed spikes he became so jazzed and told me he had never seen an effect like that in the market and set out to figure out how to do it. The entire necklace was inspired by Cleopatra and ancient Egyptian jewelry.
I love everything that Grace makes. She’s the Maasai tribeswoman and she handcrafts all the Maasai cuffs. The Maasai patterns are so modern and the colours they use are very striking. The process of making them are incredibly labour intensive. She hand cuts old plastic buckets to form the spacers between the beaded columns. She pokes holes by hand, through the spacers, to feed the wire through, that holds the beads. She is also very particular about the glass beads that she uses, since many of the cheaper beads are glass, but are painted and, as a result, with wear, the colour comes off. However, she sources beads that have been cast with the pigment in the glass, for longevity and quality. All of the patterns are traditional Maasai patterns and colours that are directly from the Maasai tribe and their culture.
What is your favorite part of your day / creative routine?
I love that I can be creative everyday and use my hands to make things. I love being immersed in making, that sense of extreme focus, to the point where you lose track of time and hours have gone by.
I also enjoy the process of creating a new idea, when you get a vision in your head, and then going through the process of making it come to life with your hands. That conversation between head and hands is always interesting.
Also the interactions with the artisans really fuels me. So many Kenyans have such warm hearts and great senses of humour, you never know what to expect and every day is different. They have taught me so much about how to live a good life. And at the end of the day, when we can combine our handy-work and create one beautiful product together, it gives me hope for the future and what we can all accomplish together.
When or how did you realize you could do this?
I think, like many other creatives, I am still trying to convince myself everyday that I can do this. I’ve always loved making things and figuring out how things work or how they are made. Friends and family always encouraged me to be creative and hoped that I would do this full time. I was serving and bartending for a long time but realized that there was this void that could never be filled without creativity. I felt like I was living without oxygen, so I took the leap and dived in head first.
I think seeing some brands like Brother Vellies come up and do so well, made me feel like it was time, and that it is possible. There is a big shift happening. I think we are still in the early stages, but people are catching on and its very exciting to see. The future can be bright!
Hi. I’m back. I haven’t been posting in a while because I’ve been feeling a little unsure of what to do with this beautiful blog o’mine and a little uncertain of what’s next. When I think about what I’ve loved doing the most, it’s spotlighting other eco-friendly creatives like I did in my Little Green Dress series. [ Did you miss it? You can click these links to catch up on a spotlight on Perch Traveling Boutique, Kimmi Designs, or Ruby Pearl ].
So, if you’re into awesome stuff, here’s some more – but this time it’s shiny. Jewelry is like confetti or sprinkles on a donut. That little extra something that adds a little fun, sparkle or spunk. It’s art for your body really. And there are some seriously talented artists creating beautiful pieces that are eco-friendly; whether they are using reclaimed materials, recycling, upcycling or sourcing new materials that don’t come with a hefty environmental impact. So I told a few of them how incredibly rad I think they are, and asked them to be in my spotlight.
First up? Anji from Seattle Siren Designs by Anji and Co:
Who is Anji and Co?
When I first started selling jewelry, my twin daughters used to helped with some of the easier tasks….they were the “Co”. Now it’s just me, and I wanted a name that reflected my love of the Puget Sound and Pacific NW…so “Seattle Siren Designs” was born.
Why did you start an eco-friendly jewelry business?
I’ve always enjoyed different forms of art. I started making jewelry about four years ago to satisfy my creative side. I soon discovered that I needed more and fell in love with the idea of turning someone’s scraps into something unique, beautiful and wearable. Decorative tins became the obvious answer for me. They already have beautiful colors and fun graphics. Designing the pieces, cutting, sanding, hammering, cleaning and assembling is hard work, but seeing the final project come to life is incredible.
Who inspires you?
I’m inspired by the work of other green artists. Most famously, Marina DeBris who uses trash washed up on the beach in her sculptures to bring awareness to ocean and beach pollution encouraging her audience to question single use items and consider ways to reduce waste. Less famously, other artists that upcycle items in their work, most of whom I have ‘met’ through Instagram.
What do you hope to inspire in others?
Eco-friendly creativity! You don’t have to go out and buy a bunch of expensive art supplies to make art. Sometimes I’ll find metal trash on the ground while I’m out taking a walk. I’ll pick it up and try to decide how I can use it in my pieces. I’d love to know that I’m somehow inspiring others to do the same.
Do you have a green living motto or philosophy?
“Keep it out of the landfill”. If I have something that I no longer need, I post it as a ‘give’ in our local Buy Nothing group [ if you didn’t know this existed before, you know now – and it’s awesome ]. If I need or want something I will ask the group for it. We put most of our household waste into recycling, yard waste or compost and both are picked up by the City of Seattle [ I love this! Way to go Seattle! ]. I also donate to and shop at second hand stores.
Do you have a favorite eco-brand to share?
Seattle is a recycling town. I’ve always enjoyed treasure hunting at salvage stores. My favorite here in town is Second Use Building Supplies. Not only do they salvage items from buildings that are being demolished or remodeled, they host a Reclaimed and Handmade Market once a year specifically geared to makers who used reclaimed materials. I just participated in my first one last week.
Tell us a bit more about your pieces
99% of my jewelry pieces are one of a kind. Sometimes the materials are given to me by a thoughtful friend, or I pick them up in my adventures. I fall in love with the images and envision what kind of design will show them off best. I’ve known for a while that I could make jewelry. I have taken a few jewelry-making classes over the years. When I decided that I wanted to upcycle metals into jewelry pieces, I turned to the good old web and researched cutting options. I’m still perfecting my technique each time I design and make something new. I also try to use recycled packaging as much as I can when I ship them out.
What is your favorite part of your day?
I love sitting down at my work bench, with a cup of coffee, and looking at the images on the tins I have – imagining how they should turn out and designing new pieces.
At a certain point in my life I stopped needing to be right and I started wanting to be better. I’m not sure what that’s all about but I think it’s a stage we all hit. Like your teens is full of angst and learning how to handle your body, your 20s are all about figuring out who you are, and your 30s are about not giving a shit. For whatever reason, I started wanting to be a better human, a more critical thinker, a more ethical individual, a kinder, more empathetic person. Working in a leadership role in social services I have lots of opportunities to learn how to grow. I also recently picked up The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey. I’m not done the book [ it’s a thick, thought-provoking doozie ] but so far my mind is getting blown every time I turn the page. I think I’m going to write a few posts over the next while on this theme Because. Really. The lessons in this book are UBER translatable – they can be applied to your life at home, at work, or [ drumroll …] the environment.
Today I’m into the Product / Production Capacity balance lesson. I know – that sounds hella technical and boring. BUT IT’S NOT! trust me – because the lesson is taught through a fable [ a story about something that teaches you about something else entirely – so deep! ]
‘This fable is the story of a poor farmer who finds his pet goose sitting on a glittering golden egg. At first, he thinks it must be a trick. But he has second thoughts and takes the egg to be appraised instead.
The egg is pure gold! The farmer can’t believe his good fortune. He becomes even more excited the next day when he finds a second golden egg. Day after day, he awakens to rush to the nest and find another golden egg. He becomes fabulously wealthy; it all seems too good to be true.
But with his increasing wealth comes greed and impatience. Unable to wait day after day for the golden eggs, the farmer decides he will kill the goose and get them all at once. But when he opens the goose, he finds it empty. There are no golden eggs – and now there is no way to get any more.
Within this fable is a natural law, a principle – the basic definition of effectiveness. Most people believe that the more you produce, the more you do, the more effective you are.
But as the story shows –
If you adopt a pattern of life that focuses only on golden eggs and neglects the goose you will soon be without the asset that produced the golden eggs. On the other hand, if you only take care of the goose with no aim toward the golden eggs, you soon won’t have the wherewithal to feed yourself or the goose.’
Now – consider this through an eco-lens.
Humans have learned to take what we need and are nourished and prosperous as a result. This is the basis of consumption. In a sustainable system the consumer leaves byproduct that is consumed by the producer and continues to replenish (the producing capacity is taken care of by the product). In a capitalist system the singular focus on production and consumption without nurturing the eco-system that made it all possible to begin with throws all balance off kilter. We have been only focusing on the golden eggs for decades, and our goose is struggling.
In the spirit of celebrating the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I believe there are 7 easy things everyone can do to nurture our goose of a planet a bit. My 7 for this week will be:
- Riding my bike everywhere that I can – I’m going to get some fresh air and work on my buns of steel
- Eating vegetarian [ meals not people ] as often as possible [ it’s always possible ]
- Going plastic free – this one may be tough. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but that shit is EVERYWHERE
- Turning the air conditioning down – sweating is for winners
- Not buying anything other than groceries. I have all I need.
- Making natural toothpaste. I think it’s going to be gross but any taste can be acquired. Stay tuned.
- Unplugging appliances that aren’t in use
I can do it – want to try some of your own?
Let me know about it, maybe I’ll pick up your habits too
If you’re anything like me you maybe grew up thinking the house is not clean until it smells like chemicals. And that nothing can get it clean like chemicals can. Bacteria are all bad and they all have to go, and nothing kills bacteria like lysol. When I decided to consciously live greener this is one of the first [ easiest ] changes I made.
The easiest way : Barely change anything
Remember when you bought your Mr Clean at the store? It is becoming more and more common that you can also buy eco-friendly alternatives at your grocer. A couple of my favorites [ because they work well and smell so so good ] –
See that tiny cap on the Method Laundry Detergent? You only have to use half of that to wash a load. Sure it’s a little more pricey than Tide, but you’re going to save the money when you get twice as many loads done.
Once you got the products down, you need to ditch the disposals and embrace ‘UNpaper towel’ [ which just means washable cloth – like the olden days ]. The easiest way to do this one is to
a. Find rags
b. Use them
If you’re stuck on a. Find rags – Zero Waste Memoirs has a great post on their blog about where to start. I love that they make it easy by recommending you start with your own linen closet, moving on to your friend’s linen closet, then your clothing closet …
Basically, if you have a closet [ or reasonable access to someone else’s ], there is no reason you can’t accomplish this step.
If you’re up for some effort : Check out small businesses selling local, organic, eco-friendly and handmade products
I did a little groundwork for you on Etsy this morning [ and you’re welcome – Etsy shopping it like a trap; there are SO MANY amazing vendors to be found! ]
So again, you’ll need the products :
And you’ll need a way to use them :
If you are up for all the effort : Make your own
I’ve been working my way up to this step and I feel like I’m ready [ cue image of me doing a Rocky-style jab-dance move in the kitchen ]. I’ve already tried making un-paper towels and was so pleasantly surprised at how easy it was. I used thrifted [ CLEAN ] facecloths as my base and chose a cotton fabric from my scrap stash in a print that I love.
I’ve not yet tried making my own cleaning products but I hope to soon. I’ve found some recipes on Pinterest [ they’re EVERYWHERE ] with differing difficulty levels like this one that I’m going to try to start off with :
Have you tried it? Any tips?
I stumbled on David Suzuki’s book The Legacy in a thrift shop a few weeks ago. I wasn’t sure whether I’d like it; knowing that Suzuki is a scientist, I was terrified it would be full of scientific mumbo-jumbo that I couldn’t understand or relate to. But instead it is poetically written full of wisdom, a strong dose of reality for anyone needing to be converted, and hope.
Combining biography and his life’s learnings, Suzuki tells us a story story that reinforces how all humans belong to complex [ but simple ] eco systems that we require for survival, that we risk through modern economic practice, and that we hold responsibility for nurturing.
I’m not a fan [ at all ] of trying to urge action by scaring the shit out of people. And Suzuki does do a bit of that. But I forgave him because I liked it – and I like him …
He tells us a story about bacteria, dividing every minute in a test tube (the bacteria represent us, and their test tube is the planet :
“At time zero, there is one cell: at one minute, there are two; … and so on. At sixty minutes, the test tube is full of bacteria and there is no food left. At fifty-seven minutes, it’s only 3 per cent full. If at that moment, one of the bacteria points out they have a population problem, others would jeer, ‘What have you been smoking? Ninety-seven percent of the test tube is empty, and we’ve been around for fifty-five minutes!’ Yet they would be five minutes from filling it.
Let’s say that at fifty-nine minutes, the bacteria belatedly realize they have only a minute left and pour money into scientific research. But the test tube is all they have. They can no more increase the amount of food and space than we could increase the amount of air, water, soil or biodiversity on Earth.
The attempt to maintain endless growth is a delusional fantasy. We are already past the fifty-ninth minute. It takes 1.3 years to replace what humans exploit in a year. In other words, rather than living on biological interest, we are drawing down on natural capital. I make no apology for what I say.”
The Legacy isn’t all about doom and gloom – it shifts to hope at about the half way point. Reminding us of our humanness. Encouraging cooperation with nature and with each other, our ability to learn and re-imagine how we live. Our potential for sustainable life is only limited by our ability to believe we can do it. Just like the fish, birds and bears, we evolved and are capable of adaptation. Suzuki [ who I wish I was on a first name basis with by now, but calling him David just doesn’t seem right ] reminds us that ‘Our great evolutionary advantage was the ability to line our sights and look ahead, to imagine the world as it could be and then make the best choices to move toward that vision’. It’s just a matter of ensuring that the vision we are working our way toward is a responsible, ethical and sustainable one.
The writing flows beautifully and it was an easy read; both educational and inspiring.
If you’re still unsure – would you like to read my copy? Because I believe in passing a good thing on. Leave a comment if you’d like a chance and I’ll choose someone to mail my copy to – happy reading!