Guest Post by Andrea Rodriguez-Tarazi, founder and president of Knots & Stones
The use of seeds in making jewelry and body ornaments has been in practice for thousands of years. Back in my home country, Colombia, and in particular in cities like Bogotá, beautiful necklaces, bracelets and key chains made with chocos (huayruros), achiras (chirilla), bombona (pambil) and chumbimba (jabon) seeds are commonly found on the streets as they are sold by street vendors and beggars. Unfortunately, the beauty of the craft is often lost due to the conditions that bring these artisans to the city. Many of these street artisans and beggars are indigenous men and women, and farmers that have been displaced from their rural homes because of threats or killings carried out by FARC rebels in their communities.
About six years ago while visiting my family, I realized that if I was able to organize my jewelry making hobby as a business (which would also come with the benefit of not having to practice law), I would have the chance to provide a few of these men and women with an opportunity to provide for themselves and/or their families.
Consequently, when I quit my job last year, I connected with a small workshop in Bogotá, which is run by a young couple who provide training and employment to single mothers and young men by making and selling quality handicrafts, specifically, seed jewelry. Currently, Knots & Stones employs four men and six women working on a full-time basis and a few women who work from home because they have small children to care for. The full-time artisans are paid the official minimum monthly salary while the “satellite” workers get paid per piece.
This past year has been very exciting for K&S; our line of seed jewelry has received positive attention and we have developed a great relationship with these artisans. Additionally, we could not be happier with the quality of their work. Moreover, our Colombian team is very skilled and is able to work with variety of seeds and organic materials such as orange peel and coffee beans, which allows us to bring to our customers a variety of styles that not only include Tagua, Huayruros, Pambil and Acai, but less commonly used and known seeds like Ojo de buey, Acacia, Carambola, Boca de pez, and Algarrobo, to name a few.
At K&S we believe that the beauty of our pieces come from the beauty of the seeds … the colors, shapes, and texture of these organic beads, therefore we try (as much as possible) to keep our designs free from non-organic material like plastics, metals and the like. We want our jewelry to mirror the natural beauty that surrounds us. Our hope is that through our jewelry people will once again feel a connection to nature.
You can find Knots & Stones at several NYC-area retailers here.