Sunday, March 29, 2009

Thank you, Miss Malaprop!

The lovely Mallory from Missmalaprop - a website of green and indie finds - wrote a wonderful review of the label. Here it is.

Thank you, Mallory! You made my day!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Textured stackable rings with a literal twist

I've always loved stackable rings. I think it's the whole idea of having options - one or many; dainty or chunky; subtle or dramatic. The problem though, from a designer's perspective, is that it's been done to death.

As such, I decided to work with a mini checkerboard stone instead of the ubiquitous (albeit) brilliant-cut rounds. The problem though is that checkerboard stones are never readily available from gemstones suppliers. No problem I thought, and so I went to buy the rough and got the lapidary artisans to facet them as liked.

The Rough

And they turned out beautiful:

Checkeboard Aquamarines

For the shank, I decided to do one with a literal twist in accordance with the label's design themes of asymmetry and beauty in imperfection.

First, the rings were constructed in waves where the different parts of the shank would consist of multi-sized curves and widths. Then, they were either hammered or scratched all over. This is the final look, worn.

Part Two of Social Entrepreneurship Series: Growing Pains

I was thinking of deleting an old blog post, specifically this because it no longer applied to the label. Not those themes of sustinability and CSR of course, because that really *is* one of the main philosophies underlying the brand but rather, the specific declaration that partial proceeds of the label's revenue would be donated to the scholarship committee that I volunteered with.

But then, I realised that part of this journey for me was to be authentic and honest; hence, I've decided to share the details of how I came to this decision. In traditional business circles, this might be unthinkable, because you shield the public from the mis-steps one might make as an entrepreneur; however, I'll take muy chances and break all the traditional rules.

Anyway, it was with the best of intentions that I first declared that announcement - a mini corporate philanthropic commitment of sorts, if you will. However, I soon realised that it was counter-intuitive to any start-up to make that kind of commitment. Every single cent in the initial phase is needed to drive the business forward, and to bleed money (albeit to a good cause) like that was just plain bad business sense.

Worse still, feedback from peers seemed to suggest that there was a general mistrust about donating partial proceeds. In the worst case scenario, I was told that the public might think that I was merely raising my retail prices in order to keep my profit margin the same. This was especially so because I was new and that the public had no way of that I was taking a cut off my profits.

Ah well, the naivete of a start-up entrepreneur with a bleeding heart if you will. Having said that, I was reluctant to give up this element of CSR and I do believe that there are instances whereby CSR, or more specifically, micro "corporate philanthropy" could work for start-ups. I'll share more about it in my next post on this topic.

P.S. I still am volunteering with the committee. I'm just not linking it with the business anymore. :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The development of this label as a social enterprise (Part One)

Few people know this but I almost gave this up last year. While I loved designing and started this label because I came from the angle of the artist, I was resentful of having to expend energy on marketing.

Besides jewellery designing, I had my other commitments, both social and philanthropic, and I found myself having less and less time to engage in those because of marketing the label. Suddenly, the love of jewellery dissolved. As such, I thought I'd just go back to doing private commission work for some choice clients as opposed to pushing out a bona fide ready-to-wear collection.

Then, by pure serendipity, I happened to meet up with a friend who ran a consultancy firm in Singapore. He runs Sequoia and he spoke a little about the concept of social entrepreneurship. He told me that many people laboured under the misconception that social entrepreneurships are only non-profits where in fact, a significant number operate as for-profit businesses. And seemingly ironically, these firms with social missions were partly judged by how much money they raised. As more money was raised, the social mission would be better addressed. In other words, it was a double bottomeline, with both profit maximisation and addressing a key social cause built into the core business mission.

He told me that my business was effectively a social enerprise, given my work with the hill tribe artisans. I didn't know it then, but the talk left a huge impression on me and I can safely say it was a watershed moment in my life. All of a sudden, the resentment of having to invest so much energy in marketing vanished. There was a perceived personal meaning to it; that this became bigger than just profit-maximisation and I was happy to pursue it.

So thank you Shang, you didn't know it, but you're partly responsible for the existence of Choo Yilin Artisan Jewellery. :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pondering aquamarine cabochons

I cannot believe that the first quarter of 2009 is almost over! I've been incredibly busy with new projects that I'll talk about in the upcoming weeks. But first, here's some really aquamarine that I bought. They're all cut in random cabochon sizes - some oval and some round - and they all have a beautiful transparency with some unique dendrites included in them.

I haven't decided what to do with them yet. While they're each pretty perfect in their own right, it'll be a shame to split them up because the different blues come together so nicely together. Maybe I'll have the lapidary artisans re-cut and polish some of them so that I'll keep some sort of pattern in the midst of the organic asymmetry. It'll be a pity having to lose any of the glorious >140 carat weight though. We'll see.