Empowering Women Through Jewelry

Women. Empowerment. Sustainability.

These are some of the themes that are being enforced by socially-minded jewelry business 31 Bits. Through cooperative efforts with women in Northern Uganda, 31 Bits unfolds a marketing plan that helps them to better take charge of their lives and future.

Based on a video from their official website, 31 Bits believes that “business is a powerful force behind bringing change in women’s lives”.

“We realized we had a market and they had a skill. Together, we made a business.”

On its core purpose, 31 Bits is said to “empower the most vulnerable women so that in the future they can sustain themselves.” 31 Bits has also provided many of these women from Uganda with new opportunities: “When a woman enters our program, she enters a community where she can earn an income, be educated and dream for her future.”

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the organization has also recently teamed up with The Breast Cancer Society. You can check out their special edition collection here.

You can watch the full video from 31 Bits here:


Give Handmade

Although there are still two more months to Christmas, I think it’s never too early to start planning! Christmasgift is a wonderful time of joy and celebration with family and friends. But thinking of what to get for everyone you have on your list, and going through the actual process can be a big headache for some of us.

What do they like? Is there anything that they are in need of? Would this be appropriate as a gift? Would they already have something like this? These are some of the questions that i’m sure most of us have in our minds while we’re buying our gifts. Often, we may also feel as if we’ve actually run out of all possible gift ideas, which may result in a desperate search attempt for popular suggestions on Google.

Preparing a gift for someone should be a meaningful gesture of what that person means to you, and not a frustrating task that we simply want to accomplish as soon as possible.

Handmade items make great gifts, especially since there is always something for everyone! By buying something that is handmade, you don’t have to worry about whether the gift recipient already owns the exact same thing since each item is unique.

Amanda Akers gives us a list of great reasons why we should all get handmade gifts this year:

1. You support local artisans, and therefore their local economy and community.  Supporting local business has a huge list of benefits all to itself, far too many to list here, but it’s a good thing, trust me.

2. You get high-quality items that are built to last, not all the stuff that has the “How cheap can I produce this?” mentality.  It’ll probably fall apart in a year or two, but handmade items have longevity.  Artisans have pride in their work, and want it to last.  Even the materials are hand-picked by an individual, and what big manufacturing company can say that?

3. Your gifts are the best on the block.  Cool, trendy, unique, and usually one-of-a kind, you can find some really awesome handmade stuff that’ll make everyone ask “Where can I get one?”

4. Customization!  Since each and every item is made by hand, and you are usually talking directly to the person making it, you can tweak the color or size of something you are interested in, or even get a fully commissioned custom order done.  This avoids you having the excuse of “it was all the store had left.”  Want a cool case for your new gadget, but maybe you have some weird size the store doesn’t offer?  Get is custom made to your exact dimensions!  Doggie sweaters from the store never quite fit your beloved pooch?  Customization to the rescue!  The possibilities are endless really.

5. You’re helping the environment.  It’s always a nice feeling to ‘go green’ isn’t it?  Handmade items aren’t made in a waste-producing factory and shipped halfway around the world using fuel and energy.  Buying handmade (especially really locally) can greatly reduce your carbon footprint on the world.

6. You gain a unique connection with an artisan.  You can be in direct contact with the person who made the item with their own hands.  For some reason this is just really cool.  I mean, think about how awesome it’d be to meet your favorite clothing designer, artist, author, or chef.  It’s kinda like that feeling, but on a much smaller and more intimate scale.

7. Let’s not forget the warm fuzzy feeling of knowing you helped support someone very directly.  For example, when you purchase something from my shop, you just helped put food on the table for another meal (and I thank you deeply for that).  You don’t have to pay the shop’s cashier and the various levels of management and the supplier and the designer and the manufacturer, because just one person is all those things!

Read the rest of Amanda’s guest post at Handmadeology.

Why Wear Handmade?

As embarrassing as it is, I’m sure many of us have experienced that moment of awkwardness from having been spotted wearing the exact same thing as someone else. That’s a problem with buying mass produced items – many others out there also own what you have in your closet. On the other hand, if you were to buy something that is handmade, the chances of such an incident occurring would probably be close to none.

Handmade items are one-of-a-kind. Even if an artist decides to make a repetition of a particular design, they are each still unique in their own way. Every technique, effort, thought and care that is put into each piece is what makes handmade items incredibly special. Photo from Madame Noir

Apart from this awesome fact, wearing something that is unique can also make you perceive yourself in a similar way.

Most of the time, what you choose to wear is a reflection of your personality and how you want others to perceive you. Studies have shown that what you wear can affect the way you think and feel about yourself, as well as the way you interact with others.

Scientists call this unclothed cognition. According to an article from The New York Times, this term refers to “the effects of clothing on cognitive processes”. Dr. Galinsky, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, further explains, “clothes invade the body and brain, putting the wearer into a different psychological state”.

Interesting, isn’t it? So, if what we wear can impact the ways in which we think and behave, does this mean that wearing something that is handmade can potentially make us feel extra special (perhaps even confident) about ourselves?

What are your thoughts on this?

Toxic Jewellery

Have you ever wondered why some jewellery at your local retail stores are being sold at very cheap and affordable prices (besides the fact that they are mass produced, of course!)? Often, such jewellery are made from chemicals and cheap materials that make production fast and easy.

According to HealthyStuff.org, their studies have shown that many types of cheap and mass produced jewellery tend to contain harmful chemicals such as lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury and bromine and chlorine (PVC). Exposure to these toxins can contribute to allergies and long-term health impacts such as birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity and cancer. Young children, especially, are placed at a higher risk. When they put such items into their mouths, they are increasing their chances of ingesting the toxins.

Buying cheap jewellery may help you to save some money but the toxins and their health impacts are irreversible.

Quick tip: To avoid buying jewellery that are made from lead or nickel (they can cause poisoning and allergic reactions respectively), look out for terms such as ‘lead-free’, ‘nickel-free’ and ‘hypoallergenic’ on their labels.

To learn more about the findings from HealthyStuff.org, you can watch their report here:

Interview: Stelliyah

Here is an exclusive interview with Singapore-based jewelry artist, Stella Lim, as she shares with us the joys and challenges of working in the industry.

Why did you decide to become a jewelry artist? 

IMG_0323I didn’t decide to be a jewelry artist. It kind of just happened over time when I found myself obsessed with making jewelry, buying nothing but jewelry supplies and of course thought of nothing but jewelry. The more I made, the more people saw my work, and it was because of the encouragements from friends and family to sell my work made it possible. At first it was just for fun, but as I started receiving more positive comments and started selling more pieces, I spent more time on my jewelry business and eventually made a career out of it.

What are some of the challenges that you often face as a jewelry artist?
Sometimes being creative might be a challenge. Because I make one-of-a-kind pieces, I am constantly thinking of new designs and that can be very difficult. Inspirations do not come very often, resulting in a slow process in production. It can become stressful when I am unable to make a single piece in days, and stress certainly does not make anything go better.
How long do you usually take to complete each project?
It really varies. Some projects take as little time as thirty minutes, while the longest project I took was about a month to complete.
Brass Necklaces by Stelliyah

Brass Necklaces by Stelliyah

Was there a project that took a particularly long time to complete?
The project that took the longest was actually a silver Cross pendant using ancient techniques I learnt in New York. It was a granulation technique where tiny balls were placed carefully on the piece and then it was fused portion by portion to prevent overheating. It was not exactly difficult, but because of the importance of the details, the process was tedious and a lot of care had to be put into it.
In your opinion, how do you think mass-produced jewelry differ from those that are handmade?
Ruby Drop Beaded Necklaces by Stelliyah

Ruby Drop Beaded Necklaces by Stelliyah

I think handmade jewelry is unique. It takes time and most of the time what you get aside from them being beautiful are quality, hard work, and passion. As for mass-produced jewelry, the designs are definitely more common, and in my opinion, though they can be more affordable, quality control may be a problem when dealing with so many pieces at once.