Entering the workshop was really surreal. This was our first visit to the small jewellery workshop we've been working with for nearly 5 years. Although never being in the jewellery workshop, it felt strangely familiar. Add jetlag, some 40 degree August heat and now we're really trippin.'
Jackie (or his Chinese name Chen Wei Men) owns and manages the workshop of 7 jewellery makers plus 2 office staff in a jewellery district in Guangzhou. His sister, Chen Hong Yin, is the workshop leader and she's been making jewellery for 20 years. Jackie describes her as a skilful master, which we agreed when we saw her slender hands in motion polishing and trimming one of our moon sister pendants.
What became really apparent when we entered the room was the fact this was family-run operation. Not only is Chen Hong a fundamental part of the team, but he also employs his brother, his sister in law, his cousin and the best friend he's had since college. Just like many Chinese families, many of them live together as well. When driving from his workshop to Dim Sum for lunch, Jackie, who speaks good English and was once an interpreter for an Italian shoe company, shared that we were his largest client and it was then Jon and I looked at each other in the back seat acknowledging that our work with him was significant and perhaps even more meaningful than we had realised from our digital position back home. Jackie and I have been working together on my designs for nearly 5 years and we have a good groove. I send him drawings and descriptions and we message back and forth as we all do with friends these days. We've put in the hours; pushed through frustrations and many failed designs later, we're now at a place that really really works. What has been the most exciting part to us is that our business has brought stability to this group of silversmith siblings which has also had a knock-on effect to his parents and the niece who he lives with.
We spent the next day socialising with Jackie. We went shopping to a local market, met my cousin (who was working in a local law firm for 2 months,) got bubble tea for the first time, went for a traditional evening meal and when we said goodbye, Jon gave Jackie an envelope with money and said, "Here Jackie, bring your staff out for a meal- our treat." Later that week, Jackie sent us this photo and a video with everyone thanking us in English. We were moved by how grateful they were.
As a brand owner from the West, I often think about the impact we are having on the world. In terms of carbon footprint, it's not ideal my designs are made overseas (even though we are able to receive a very high volume in a very small shipment), but I do absolutely love the human side of this business and seeing the positive impact it has on peoples lives. It's not perfect, but we are trying to remain transparent and a make improvements in the right direction by responding to our customers' voices and at the same time, bring quality, handmade jewellery at affordable prices. I have so many new designs coming your way this Winter! It's gonna mean even more to me now that I've met the makers. So looking forward to sharing them with you in the next month.
Love as always, Rebekah x