Wednesday night I had the opportunity to attend an event hosted by the very talented and famous Seattle Lifestyle Blogger, Cass Lavalle of Coco+Kelly. It was the launch of her new venture, Emerald Studio, a project she aims to encompass interior design, supper clubs, party planning, and I’m sure, educating others on how to live a fabulous life. In the last few years I have had the privilege of becoming friends with some incredible women from Seattle – all by chance, and all because of art, and as I think back upon the trail that lead me to these girls who are in my life, I am reminded of the saying that whatever we project, we tend to attract.
I moved to Africa when I was just ten years old. My father had taken a position with the American International School of Lagos, Nigeria, so we packed up our things, bought a ton of non-perishable items, and headed off to West Africa. Little did I know at that age, what an incredible impact West Africa would have on my life. Firstly the experience of adapting to a new way of life, being introduced to new cultures, and embracing differences proved to be some of the most valuable gifts my parents could have ever given me. As I grew, and as my experiences expanded, my very narrow view of the world vanished and the veil was lifted. What I realized at a young age was that borders don’t create the differences we think they do. Language and looks may be different, religion maybe, but as humans, we all react to laughter, we all appreciate a kind gesture, we feel pain, and we love our families and the time we spend with friends. We also love to create.
Unless you’ve traveled to West Africa or you’re an art aficionado, you may not be privy to some of the incredible pieces created by the artists from this region. Many of the below mentioned artists have been showcased in some of the most prestigious galleries in the world and their works can carry price tags in the six figures. On a recent trip back to Nigeria I had the pleasure of staying with some very dear friends who over the years have amassed quite a collection of art from that area of the world. In fact, my friend’s passion for West African art has now landed him an official position with Bonhams Auction House based in London as the representative for that region. On that same trip I had the pleasure of meeting two incredible young women from Italy who landed in Lagos with a vision for fashion, and who have taken the town like a storm. They represent the generation of people who believe success in business goes hand in hand with the empowerment of others. With the launch of their fashion label, Kinabuti, they are mixing runway fashion and grassroots education for local Nigerians who want the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty and be a part of the skilled workforce. There’s nothing better, in my opinion. With a funky vibe and a wicked since of social media on their side, they are attracting bankers, investors, local celebrities, as well as foreign officials and foreign media. I invite you to visit their website at www.kinabuti.com and check out the what the buzz is all about.
I mention these people because they represent the fusion of humanity. It was with this fusion in mind when I first designed my Ibeji ring., I was living in Mexico, an American who spent most of her life in and out of West Africa and Europe, and I was working with a local silversmith, trying to create a few small pieces to begin my “new venture”. My heart and my inspiration kept bringing me back to my African experience, and as I thumbed through countless books on African art, I knew that if I didn’t create something that came from my soul, filled with such love and light, I would never be happy with the end results. With the encouragement of a dear friend who was also a designer, we created about ten pieces, all with an African influence, and I never looked back.
As I’ve developed my line, I’ve changed direction for a few collections within, but my love of Africa still shows how connected to that region I am. I hope my customers feel that connection to other cultures when they wear my pieces and understand how bonded we really are as humans through art, design, fashion, music, and literature. I leave you with one of my favorite pictures of me as a young girl trading jewelry with a young Masai girl. Maybe it was already written in the stars that this would be my journey.
For a peek at some incredible West African artist visit www.octobergallery.co.uk/artists/anatsui/ and www.mutualart.com/Artist/Ben–Enwonwu/
If you’ve followed football for awhile and if you’re from Seattle, you probably know how incredible it’s been to be a part of the cheering squad here in the Northwest. For decades, Seattle fans waited with bated breath for the one team that would change their lives forever, would bring great pride to the city, and act as a uniting force for the Washingtonians. Being a fan has become more of a movement and to me it’s become a reminder that when communities come together for a positive idea, incredible things can happen.
When we began our own journey of jewelry design and creation, the be.line was only going to be created for bracelets and necklaces, but putting the message out there on t-shirts seemed like just as good an idea. What we choose to be is really entirely up to us and when we wear it, we become it, and that is really our message. We can choose happiness, we can choose joy, we can choose who we are.. And so with the launch of our new and improved website, with so many new products and lines, it seems fitting to begin by introducig our be: twelve.
To be twelve is to be connected, to push through adversity, to stand tall and strong, to come from behind, and to work together to achieve the biggest dreams imaginable. I feel like this path to where we are now has been met with ups and downs, but has involved so many amazing people along the way. I am constantly reminded that I am surrounded by people who have joined together to help me, teach me, support me, and come as a loving group with a common goal. Hopefully this is the beginning of great things.Wear our be: twelve t-shirt and be a part of a group who understands what together really means.
Starting something new can be a daunting task. Risk taking has that word “risk” in it that can turn us all off because most people fear the unknown. However, the interesting thing about starting something new is that with each step forward, doors begin to open up, new knowledge is acquired, and if you are open to it, new relationships are formed. I start my first blog with this title because, well, writing a blog is new to me…(even though it’s 2014.. I should get with the program), building a website is new to me, and quite frankly designing jewelry was new to me at one point too. After six years of practice and study, I still don’t feel like I’ve even scratched the surface of all I need to know, but it’s a path that is evolving and I will share this experience with you. As a mother of two young children, a wife, a daughter, a sister, and a friend, my life can get kind of crazy – throw in starting a new business and it can get borderline chaotic. That being said, unless we tackle each day with the idea of being fearless, we may never reach our true potential. We may never realize just what we’re capable of.
This month is breast cancer awareness month, and if you know of anyone who has fought this disease, I’m sure you know that these women are fearless. Please make sure you get your screening and stay on top of your health. This month also marks the launch of the Empowerment Project: a docu-series about women across America who were asked, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”. The film has opened up an amazing dialogue amongst men, women and kids, and shines a light on what roles women have in shaping our world. And finally, after some painful imagery and terrible choices made by some very visible sports figures, Seattle’s Russell Wilson has become the spokesperson for “Pass the Peace”, an aim at preventing and bringing more awareness to domestic violence.
I know the above doesn’t really have anything to do with jewelry, or fashion, or business, but it does have everything to do with women’s issues and since women are my customers, (and I’m a women,) talking about being fearless is a good place to start. I hope you continue to check back occasionally to see what’s new and what has sparked my need to share. We have a beautifully updated website, brand new products and we’ve added a fabulous t-shirt line with jewelry to match very soon. We are extremely excited and hope you are too! And with that, I leave with a quote by author Jack Canfield, ” Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” Let’s get to the other side and be the best we can be.