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Jewelry

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How My Handmade Jewelry Business has been affected by the Rona

Alicia Goodwin has been creating jewelry since childhood. In 2003, she started her handmade jewelry business, Lingua Nigra. Her pieces range from hand reticulated brass and etched sterling silver, to blossom-like jewelry.

Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus,  business has slowed dramatically. We caught up Alicia to find out how she’s dealing with this new reality.

Handmade Jewelry Business
Alicia Goodwin, Founder of Lingua Nigra

What were your initial thoughts when you learned about the outbreak?

Like most self employed people, I knew that it would impact me greatly, considering a portion of my business is through in-person shows. I had already seen a downturn in the only show I was able to do. However, I definitely didn’t think it would get to this bad.

How has it affected your business?

Wholesale orders not being paid for and shows are being cancelled left and right. I’m not at a standstill yet, but it might happen. Honestly, even though I have bills to pay, I don’t feel like selling my work. It has given me a ton of free time I wouldn’t otherwise have, though!
Handmade Jewelry Business

How has it affected your lifestyle?

I work a lot, so I don’t have the social life I used to have. I do think twice about purchases, but I’ve been buying lots of food to stay inside and lots more vitamins than usual. Now that I want to socialize, I can’t! Because I can’t travel, I can’t see my friends that I would normally see at shows or on my almost monthly travels to New York.

What new strategies have you implemented or do you plan to implement in your business?

I haven’t even thought that far ahead. I’m trying not to inundate shell shocked people with “buy, buy, buy” right now. Instead, I’m posting pretty art on my instagram and maybe sending out a Covid-19  related newsletter. I’m sure folks are tired of that too.

If you had one ask of your community right now, what would it be?

I’m not sure. Stay positive and support one another if you can. This will take months, possibly years to recover from, but we will get through this!

-Tony O. Lawson
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Sewit Sium Creates Handmade Jewelry that Celebrates Black History and Inspires Cultural Pride

Sewit Sium is a designer of historically and culturally inspired African jewelry. Each handmade piece is a modern heirloom imbued with story, statement, and sentiment.
We spoke to the founder, Sewit Sium to find out more about her business.
Sewit Sium
Sewit Sium

What inspired you to start Sewit Sium?

I’ve always been captivated by the intersection of jewelry, education, and grassroots activism. Prior to starting my business, I taught Fashion Politics and Design at various High Schools in NYC, using jewelry as an educational tool, as primary source material (like a text) to teach predominantly Black and Brown youth about their history, about the world. We had powerful conversations about where we came from, where we are now and where we are going.
Sewit Sium
Much of what is conveniently omitted from NYC Public School curriculum, from common core texts. It’s crucial for us all to recognize and insert ourselves in our own stories – symbols, motifs, jewelry. I believe that this is the work that runs counter her to Western speared revisionist history. This is the urgency that Sewit Sium was born out of in 2015.
I have the opportunity to hand-make meaningful jewelry that will outlast me.  I’m always asking myself the question, what message do I want to send people 500 years from now? If the answer doesn’t revolve around truth-seeking, equality, and justice, its not usually worth my time. Nothing against abstraction.
Sewit Sium
 
We literally know about the world because of what was engraved and memorialized in jewelry and stone. Jewelry is the oldest form of decorative arts, a phenomenon that was born on the African continent. Without it, we wouldn’t know about ourselves.
This is why I’m continuing the legacy of hand-making statement jewelry encoded with this history, culture, sentiment, and love. My hope is that people adorn and become activated and inspired by my work.
I recently made Harriet Tubman and Malcolm X Medallions (took over a year!) to not only honor and channel their spirits but to remind us of what’s possible, that change comes from the bottom up, not from the top down. Always has. 
Sewit Sium

How do you decide what pieces you want to create?

I don’t choose what pieces to create, I’m only a vessel of the creator. We all are. So to answer your question, the designs urgently choose me.  I usually become possessed and obsessed over the course of 3/4 months at a time. This is how collections come to me.
Designing jewelry is an exercise in memory, it’s a reconjuring. It’s a tactile political and spiritual practice, during this time I feel touched by divine inspiration. This might sound out there, lately, I’ve been channeling Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman, Nefertiti, the Orisha Goddess Oya, and my late father. They’ve all deeply moved me on a visceral level. Jewelry should do the same.
 
I recently re-read the Autobiography of Malcolm X, ASSATA and Ngugi Wa’Thiong’s Moving the Center. Reading key texts and writing is a huge part of my design process. 

How would you describe your design style?

Timeless, beautiful, sentimental. There’s a vintage quality, one of revival and innovation. I draw on indigenous African iconography that is relevant across time and space. I’m an activist and jewelry historian first, so my style direction is freedom bound. The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible. 
Sewit Sium
 

So far, what has been the biggest challenge and biggest reward of being a business owner?

Discipline has been an issue. I wear all the hats in my business and as it grows the overwhelm is real.  I have to do the jewelry research, design, making, marketing/selling, PR – I’m an artist, all I want to do is the research-design-making, the rest doesn’t come naturally. Making time for all of this requires an airtight schedule.
When I sleep in or procrastinate, the guilt can take me out of creativity and the present moment, still working on it. The biggest reward for me isn’t press or outward success, its those days when I get up early, meditate and complete my daily goals. The days I show up for myself and do God’s will. 

Where do you see the business in the next 5 years?

I recently made some dope jewelry for a huge Black Hollywood production due out in 2020. Let’s just say I got to work with the legendary Ruth Carter (She did the costume for Black Panther and Spike Lee’s “X”)  Stay tuned!!! I would love to continue consulting and making animate jewels for movies that are instrumental in telling our stories.  I also want to do a PhD in the Politics of Fashion.  Of course, I’ll continue to grow my business.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Make sure you absolutely love what you do because the money doesn’t come overnight.  Work hard and keep going. Take everything one day at a time, in a sense tomorrow is none of your business. Do your work.
Don’t compare yourself to others, you’re on your own sacred journey. Have a full-time job that supports your passion? That’s okay. Do what you can, with what you’ve got, in the place you are, in the time you are. Hang with people that support you and get your vision. Don’t commune with people that leave you feeling depleted. Get a mentor and mentor others, give back. 
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Black Owned Jewelry Businesses That Should Be on Your Radar

Historically, jewelry was meant to indicate social status, familial roots, and significance. Today, people wear jewelry to jazz up an outfit, express individuality, or to profess their love and passion.

Whatever your reason for rocking some fly accessories, there’s a Black owned jewelry business that can provide what you need.

Here are just a few.

black owned jewelry

Black Owned Jewelry Businesses

Lorraine West Jewelry

Sewit Sium Jewelry

black owned jewelry

Egbo Collections

Black Owned Jewelry

Johnny Nelson

black owned jewelry

Yenae

Afrohemien Jewelry

Whim Byaree

Billie Hilliard

Adele Dejak

Black Owned Jewelry

Sheryl Jones Diamond and Gemstone Jewelry

Lunaversoul

Anita Quansah London

Valerie Madison

Tracey Beale

ADORN 42.20

Sandy Baker Art Collection

 

Moijey Fine Diamonds

Nirvana Wild

Black Owned Jewelry

Mock & Co 

 

Saint Jewels

Lingua Nigra

Black Owned Jewelry

Limba Gal

Jam + Rico

Black Owned Jewelry

Omi Woods

black owned jewelry

 

-Tony O. Lawson


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Expedition Subsahara: Empowering Girls To Rise From Poverty

Expedition Subsahara is on a mission to translate beautiful home décor and jewelry into education for girls in poverty. They are doing this by working with artisans in Senegal and Uganda to produce amazing handcrafted goods. We spoke with Rosebell Komugisha, one of the two founders. This is what she had to say:

SB: What inspired the creation of your Expedition Subsahara?

ES: We know some of the obstacles to development in the rural areas in Sub-saharan Africa, having always been action oriented, we wanted to take responsibility by doing something for the women in the underdeveloped communities back home.

Expedition Subsahara
Founders: Safietou Seck and Rosebell Komugisha

We focused on women specifically because United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) studies have shown that women will invest their income in the development of their families and communities, but men tend to use their income to indulge in selfish vices. Literally, when you educate a girl, you educate a village.

On the U.S. side, we were sensing a need for people to connect, embrace, and understand cultures beyond their own. By introducing African goods into the American market, we would be able to share our rich Sub-Saharan culture with people in the United States while elevating women back home.


SB: What makes Expedition Subsahara a “conscious” business?

ES: Our goal is to add value to our societies and not to exploit the environment or consumers and producers for the sake of profit. The intention is to foster social change through education, to provide economic emancipation to women with few opportunities in the case of Sub-Saharan Africa.

In the U.S., our purpose is to expose Americans to unique forms of home decor and link African and American cultures.

All of our goods are handmade by local Sub-saharan artisans. We have noticed that handmade African baskets and clothing are now being mass-produced in China and have been solicited by those wholesalers.

Our response is always no, we are not here to maximize profit, but to elevate each stakeholder, the producer, consumer, environment, and the communities where we intend to build the trade schools.

SB: Why is conscious economics or conscious consumerism important to you?

ES: It is important that we move away from the market model that pushes profit for the sake of profit without trying to build people or the environment. It dehumanizes producers and consumers, keeps people trapped in cycles of poverty and encourages the over consumption.

But it doesn’t just end there for us, we are very much aware that African markets are saturated with western goods that are mass-produced in China.

Through conscious consumerism, we have an avenue to hand some selling power back to African artisans by creating a space in the western market.


SB: What have been the most interesting and challenging parts of running your business?

ES: The most interesting part about running our business is witnessing African products being wholeheartedly embraced in the western world.

The challenge is remembering to keep the vision of our company woven in all of work even with the demand of the smaller daily task.

SB: What are some pros and some cons of using artisans to produce your products?

ES: Sub-sahran artisans are very dedicated, patient, and take great pride in their work. They also want to maintain business partnership, so they make sure to always deliver well made products. The only disadvantage is the very high cost of shipping from Africa to the united States.

SB: Where do you see your company in 5 years?

ES: We’ll be running or first trade school in Senegal and equipping women with the skills necessary for them to be economically independent and build their communities.

We will also have systems in place to track the impact of our graduates on their local communities. Lastly, in addition to our online store, we have a brick and mortar location.

SB: What advice do you have for those who want to work with artisans that reside abroad?

ES: Be fair to the artists that you are purchasing your products from and keep in mind that for many of them, this is their main source of income.

Find a great shipping company, international shipping costs can be obnoxious. Partner with local organizations whose goal is to develop the community. Any time they are already working with local artisans, this give you a reliable and fair source for your goods.

Find out more about Expedition Subsahara by visiting their website here.

-Tony O. Lawson


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20 Black Owned Businesses in the UK

By now you must have seen our first list of Black Owned Businesses in the Diaspora. On that list, we mentioned several Black owned businesses based in the UK. This time, we are showing even MORE love to our brothers and sisters across the pond with a new list of dope businesses you should most definitely check out and support from your country or when you visit the United Kingdom.

20 Black Owned Businesses in the UK

Home Decor

Eva Sonaike is a lifestyle company that produces luxurious home décor, fashion accessories and textiles.

Black Owned Businesses

 

Fashion

Uptown Yardie is a British company inspired by Jamaican heritage, selling a lifestyle captured through shoes and clothes.

Black Owned Businesses

Afrination is an urban clothing brand inspired by African culture and tradition.

Black Owned Businesses

Dionne Gooding is a footwear designer that combines the latest London styles and soft leathers and suede with jaw dropping fabrics from West Africa.

Black Owned Businesses

Tsemaye Binite  is an award winning contemporary fashion label characterized by exquisite clothing encapsulating a love of luxury and innovative design.

Black Owned Businesses

 

Duro Olowu is impressing the right people with his vibrant mix of African prints, seventies tailoring, and unlikely color combos.

 

Hair/Skin Care

Hug My Hair

Curly by Nature

Almocado

Root2Tip

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Jewelry and Accessories

Mya and Joe il_570xN.811655049_1uq8

Afro Deco 

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MaroonDawta

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Sapelle 

Turquoise_Multistrand_necklace_grande

Food

The Black Farmer

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Check out our most recent list of Black owned businesses in the UK !

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