Designing beautifully elegant jewelry isn’t simple. Designing beautifully elegant jewelry out of recycled material adds even more complication to the process.
Emily, our jewelry designer, designs beautifully elegant jewelry out of recycled material and then teaches a group of 28 Ugandan women how to make all of our designs ready for our American retail market.
Emily Goodrich, spends a majority of her year living in San Diego fulfilling various roles at the Ember Arts office. However, her greatest contribution to our company is her tremendous ability to design paper bead jewelry.
For the next four months, Emily, will be living in Uganda teaching all of our Ugandan partners how to make our 2013 collection, a collection we believe to be our best yet.
To learn more about Emily and to understand how she continually pushes the limits of what is possible with paper jewelry, we asked her a few questions. Her answers, about the work she does, are fascinating and reveal a side of Ember Arts most people never get to see. Here is what she shared. Enjoy.
As a jewelry designer what exactly do you do for Ember Arts?
My job entails forecasting jewelry and color trends in the U.S., and using what I know about our own market and the available materials in Uganda to find a middle ground. I do a bit of resource research as well, I just finished a day of scouring the markets to see what sort of new materials we might be able to incorporate into our jewelry. I also spend time in Uganda teaching things like color theory. For an idea of what that looks like, check out the sway earring, which is a piece I’m very proud of the bead makers for mastering, as light tints and a dark shades of a central color were once new concepts for them. We are continually working to build a color vocabulary that makes sense across cultures.
What will you be focusing your attention on while you are in Uganda?
We’ve already had a touch-up training session to remember the new designs for Fall/Holiday 2012, and to learn about making a great multicolor piece. In the next weeks, I’m going to be working with a smaller group of women to experiment with new bead shapes and new materials, and potentially some entirely new products. Then, I’ll be narrowing down a group of designs to start the training for 2013. I’ll also be looking for new kinds of materials that we can incorporate into the jewelry. In the past we’ve used ‘cavera,’ which is the local word for plastic bags. There are lots of interesting materials in the market, but they’re often available only once. Part of the work is to determine which items will be available consistently.
How many times have you been to Uganda?
This is my fourth trip to Uganda.
What is it like to work with a group of 28 Ugandan women, some of which you can not communicate with because of the language barrier?
It’s a little challenging at times, sometimes I have to work with a translator, and I’ve definitely had to get used to being laughed at. These women love to joke, and it doesn’t always translate! But they are also starting to feel more and more like old friends. I’ve learned about 30 words in the Acholi language, and they get a huge kick out of it. They are also quick learners, mostly they teach themselves by looking at the samples, which makes things a lot easier for me. And I’ve learned a lot from them as well, like how to get a fair price for fabric at the market. You should see the glaring look of disgust that our smiling Gladies can pull off, which usually drops the price by at least 10,000 shillings!
How long have you been designing/making paper jewelry?
I’ve been designing paper jewelry for about the same length of time as I’ve been working for Ember, roughly four years. But I’ve always had an interested in creative things, and had been making jewelry and working with recycled materials for at least a few years before the opportunity with Ember came along.
What are your top three favorite things about Uganda?
1. The people. It’s hard to get used to being in a place that’s so different from home, but most Ugandans are very accommodating and helpful; particularly the women we work with, but even strangers on the matatu (taxi bus) who help with negotiating fares and directions. I also really enjoy getting to know other expats who are living here in Uganda and working in similar fields. We have some great conversations, and also share the experience of navigating a foreign culture.
2. The rainstorms. Rain is my favorite weather, so I’m never sure how I ended up in Southern California. To me, there’s nothing better than sitting on the porch with a cup of tea during a downpour, listening to the thunder and raindrops.
3. The produce. First of all, besides being delicious, you could make an entire bowl of guacamole from just one avocado. I had to stop eating bananas in the U.S. because now I know what they’re supposed to taste like, and there’s really no comparison.
What is it about Ember Arts you care about most?
What’s really important to me is that the women we work with have a good, safe job with fair wages that lets them look toward better futures, and allows them a sense of dignity in the international community. They are business women and entrepreneurs, and they hold their heads high. You can see it in them. In terms of my own role, I love having the opportunity to use my own art and design background to help them create a product that sells itself, and doesn’t rely on making the customer feel guilty to make a sale.
Emily is a dreamer herself. She also, has a jewelry line of her own. Her passion for the work she does in Uganda is fueled by her dream of using her interest in art and design as a catalyst to see as much of the world as possible, by helping others creatively use their resources to support themselves and to pursue their own dreams.
Many of you have seen photos and videos of our jewelry-making partners. Emily is another important family member that makes the jewelry you wear and support exceptionally beautiful.
Keep your eye out for new designs closer to the holidays. Emily and our Ugandan partners are working hard on something special.
Ember Arts is for dreamers.