Thoughts for International Women's Day

Our First Women's Day Sale

Those of you who have known us for a while know that we almost never have sales.   

That said, a confluence of recent observations has led us to decide to have a sale (click here for details!)... but one with a focused purpose.  Fairbank and Perry is a woman-owned, women-run business.  This sale is about women, who we are, what we do, and what we stand for.  This is a sale, yes, meant to sell our work, but also to connect with women in our community and in the world in a slightly different way.

Observation One:  Women in leadership

One of our newer clients is a professor of Women's Studies at a university in the mid-west.  It was she who first brought to our attention that we are a female-owned and -operated business.   Remarkably, this actually had not occurred to me!  Over the decades, in fact, this business has done a complete gender-flip, going from three male goldsmiths and a female bookkeeper,  to three female goldsmiths and a male bookkeeper.  It wasn't a conscious plan, but it is now the reality, and one which fills me with excitement for the future.  Because within these walls I see three women occupying positions of autonomy and creativity, working collaboratively to meet collective goals, and sharing in the satisfaction of achieving them.  

A woman may not have won the White House (yet), but women have achieved, through determination and perseverance, leadership positions in virtually all business, political, academic and philanthropic settings, contributing enormously to their families, communities, our country, and the world.

Every week, I am impressed and elated at the diversity of roles that our female clients fulfill.  I am often humbled by the impact they have on improving the lives of others.  And I am touched by the caring they show toward the people they love.  Being a woman serving women, I have a small but revealing window into their lives, and I have noticed the ways in which we share many of the same goals:  to create a safe and stimulating environment for those around us, to address and conquer challenges with the talents we have without hindrance, and to express and fight for the values we hold dear.  

Observation Two:  International Women’s Day

On March 8th, the United Nations and countless organizations around the world will celebrate International Women’s Day, and day to recognize progress made toward women’s rights, and to take action against the inequalities still faced by many women in the areas of education, economic independence, health, and safety from violence.  

Clearly, while women are experiencing more gender equality than in generations past, there is still much work to be done.  

We and most of our clients have considerable comfort and freedom.  We enjoy the benefits of a sound education, supportive families, and access to high-quality health care.   We often have complete financial independence.  These things have helped make us strong, creative, and, by international standards, prosperous.  We have been able to blaze our own paths in life and direct our energies in the ways we choose.  

Meanwhile, others still endure a vastly different reality.  These women, in the US and around the world, also have goals and dreams, but their paths toward self-determination are filled with obstacles.  Furthermore, the current political climate has put women on the defensive, forcing us to reassert our equal standing in society and worry even more for those already on the margins.  Battles we thought we had won are now back in contention and require renewed dedication.

To take a small step toward improving the lives of women in need, we are donating 5% of the sale price of every item sold between March 8th and 11th to the Global Fund for Women.  

Why Global Fund for Women?

Choosing which nonprofit to support was not easy.  Women around the world face so many different challenges, and there are so many excellent organizations, large and small, doing solid work on these fronts.  Identifying one as most deserving proved impossible.

Ultimately, I selected Global Fund for Women, a nonprofit that works to identify, strengthen and fund grassroots movements and courageous individuals working directly in their communities, in countries all over the world.  By giving resources to and amplifying the voices of those who fight for women’s rights, Global Fund for Women increases the impact these groups have on their governments, leading to wider, more lasting change.

Given the sources of many of our gemstones, it was also important to support an organization with an international scope.  Global Fund for Women supports grassroots efforts in Afghanistan, Burma, Cambodia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Tanzania, just to name a few.  Our craft depends, in part, on the workers of small-scale, family-owned mines to bring gems to market.  We hope to contribute in a small way to improving the lives of people on which our own livelihoods depend.  

Being craftspeople who literally live by the work of our hands, we want to affirm our connection to others who do the same, albeit in very different circumstances, and to give back a bit of what we’ve received from their toil.

Observation Three:  Women often resist buying jewelry for themselves

We know several independently-minded women who feel fine about buying jewelry for themselves.  We know far more in need of a little encouragement.

We see it all the time.  A woman comes in and falls in love with a piece of jewelry.   She looks great in it, she feels great in it, and she knows exactly how it will fit with her wardrobe and her lifestyle.  Then she says, “I’ll have to send my husband/boyfriend/significant other in”.  

And we wonder, “But why wouldn’t she buy it for herself?”

Women who admire our work are responsible, professional, intelligent and savvy.  They make their own money and know their own mind.  They easily purchase clothing, accessories and cosmetics for themselves, even without a major occasion.  And yet, fine jewelry remains something they don’t feel comfortable buying for themselves.  They assume that fine jewelry should come from another person as a gift, and usually in a romantic context.  Why?  Is it because so much marketing and imagery around jewelry shows it being given?  Have we come to think that our role is to drop enough hints, so our partners will buy us what we love?  Are we simply not in the habit of giving gifts to ourselves once in awhile?  Why not?

While it’s a wonderful thing to have a partner who knows your style, gets how jewelry can be worn to express it, and will go the extra mile to actually shop for it, let’s be honest:  not every woman is that lucky.  Partners… and yes, it’s mostly men we see… usually have either no idea about buying jewelry, or have their own ideas of what kind they should buy.  So, let’s take matters into our own hands, shall we?

We want to encourage women to be jewelry self-purchasers.  We want them to feel empowered to choose something they love, independently. Fine jewelry is intimate, long-lasting, and a pleasure to wear.  This is especially true of jewelry that is one-of-a-kind, handmade, and artistic.   It is an enduring accessory, appropriate for everyday life, not just special occasions.  Why should it jewelry be the one adornment that carries the condition of having to be a gift?  

We believe that women should feel free to treat themselves if and when they want to.  So we’re having an uncommon sale to encourage that! 

Join us!

Even if you don't come to the sale, we hope you'll join us in supporting Global Fund for Women to help advance the progress of women around the world, toward achieving the healthy and fulfilled lives they deserve.  If you'd like to make a donation directly, click here.

Thanks for reading. 

-Geraldine

  

 

Language Rant: Bespoke

I know that railing against inappropriate word usage might invite others to (correctly) point out my own language mistakes.  But, well, nobody’s perfect.  So why not offer yet one more imperfect opinion?  Currently, I have, shall we say, a discomfort with the widely misused word bespoke.

The word bespoke traditionally refers to the respected trade of master tailors.  It indicated the practice of making clothing by hand, carefully and skillfully, and to the quality standards, measurements and preferences of the wearer.  Sadly, today bespoke is misused in many instances simply to invoke the idea that a product is special, customized, or adaptable.  Such examples are: a “bespoke” safari vacation, a “bespoke” café latte, or “bespoke” investment strategies.  Let’s be clear.  The true meaning of bespoke should be reserved for something original that has been created for and in close consultation with the individual who will wear it or use it. 

Bespoke does not mean handmade, or even one-of-a-kind.  Anything that can be purchased from Etsy is not bespoke.  Handmade?  Probably.  Well-crafted?  Often.  The point is… it’s already made.  It wasn’t made for you.

Bespoke does not mean distinctive.  If you’re a Masterpiece junkie like I am, you’ve seen the ad that leads you to believe that Ralph Lauren personally handcrafted your new coat.  The shears, the embroidery thread, the carefully selected rhinestones… Imagery of the bespoke tailor is flaunted, but the truth lies in mass-production behind a posh brand.

Bespoke does not mean adaptable: a bike with an adjustable seat, a gluten-free entrée, maternity pants.  Nor does it mean customizable: choosing the carpet color in a new condo, monogrammed bed sheets, made-to-measure window shades.  These are items that were either engineered to fit a range of needs, or pre-manufactured up to a near-end point to be finished according to one small piece of client-provided input.

So, what is bespoke?  It’s an adjective that declares a process involving time, skill, and care:

A project begins with a consultation where questions are asked and answered regarding the intent, the significance, and the requirements of the piece to be made.

Original design options are generated based on those answers.

Materials are gathered specifically for the project, and chosen by (bespoken for) the client.

Design decisions are made with a high degree of client involvement, requiring multiple consultations and fittings.

A relationship develops between the client and the person who actually creates the item.  Any intermediary is highly trained and sensitive to translating the needs and recommendations of both.

The final piece, created over several weeks or months, is unique in the true sense that no other object in the world is like it.  It is perfectly fit to the wearer and embodies multiple aspects of his or her own aesthetic vision combined with the talent and skill of the maker.

That said, we at Fairbank and Perry are bespoke goldsmiths, but not everything we make is bespoke.

 “That’s crazy!  Who would do that?  It takes so much time!”

Of course it does.  That’s the point.  It’s about committing one’s energy, workspace and resources to the production of an extraordinary object for one person only.  It is necessarily relegated to the small, local shop.  It cannot be scaled up.  It cannot be streamlined.  Sometimes, it is not even very profitable.

One-of-a-kind Opal Bead Necklace: We made this necklace from an extraordinary strand of graduated beads, which we selected from our favorite opal dealer upon his return from abroad.  We interspersed round tiger-eye spacer beads to show each opal’s individual character.  We hand-fabricated the 18 karat gold toggle clasp in our studio, and used special texturing tools (also made in-house) to give the clasp its weathered-looking surface.  When finished, we placed the necklace in our gallery, where it was admired by many and eventually purchased by returning clients as an anniversary gift.

Bespoke Boulder Opal Collar:  This piece, however, originated with a client’s request for a custom-made, colored-stone necklace.  She was unsure of what the design and materials should be.  Together, we defined a color palette (blues and greens), an affinity for natural shapes and smooth texture (no glittery faceted stones), and a desire for the necklace to be suitable for casual as well as special occasion wear.

We assembled two collections of stones for her review, and created sketches of potential designs.  She chose a collection of eleven boulder opal doublets, but opted to change the largest one after seeing a more vibrant, heavier boulder opal.  We sketched a new design using these stones, which she approved.

The stones differed in thickness, but the client strongly preferred them all to appear at the same height.  We addressed this by creating elevated shelves under all but the center stone, thereby raising the others up to its level.

The rest of the necklace was made to fit this specific client by first creating a five-part silver model complete with hinges and a clasp.  Investing preliminary hours to make this model allowed us to fine-tune the shape to fit her perfectly.  Later, the actual gold elements were hand-forged and curved based on that model.  Several fittings later, with friends and family in tow, the finished necklace was delivered, and more than met expectations.

So, the next time you see “bespoke” used in a context that does not describe something uniquely and laboriously created for one individual, know that there all but certainly was a marketing team, not a craftsperson, behind it. 

Geraldine

We have a new website!

Well, it’s finally happened.  After months of talking about it, listening to constructive feedback from our clients, and making pathetic excuses for not doing it, we have finally launched a spiffy new website.   This one is full of pictures, thanks to our fabulous Nikon DX digital camera, nay, jewelry portrait-taker, and showcases our most current offerings of finished, in-stock jewelry, as well as many of our favorite recent custom pieces.  Phew!

It’s not that we didn’t like the look of the old website.  It had a warmth and texture that we loved, and it was designed by a talented fellow named Eddie.  The problems were…

  1. ... it wasn’t well suited for viewing on mobile devices 
  2. ... it didn’t show enough jewelry other than rings.  (And we make so much more than only rings!) 
  3. … we had to ask Eddie anytime we wanted to make a change or update the galleries. As a result, the old website languished and justifiably felt neglected.

Thankfully, one truth of today’s world is that information technologies are always changing, and in our case, for the better.  Thanks to my husband, Bob, we discovered a DIY site-building platform that even I can use and keep current with a minimum of fuss.  A miracle!  The second miracle is that I have help with the tedious task of tagging images and making the site searchable.  Thank you Selma!

So, welcome to our new, clean, image-packed and easy-to-scroll-while-you-should-be-doing-something-else website!  If you view it on your smartphone, the images are big enough that you can clearly see them under the conference table during a boring meeting, or you can share an image with the person in the row behind you in class without her having to squint and be obvious.  Soon we plan to add notes on the actual dimensions of each piece, so it’s clear what “life-size” is.  But for now, you may just have to call us for details, or come in and try it on!   
One more thing:  As always, we can customize the items you see on the website by changing the metal color or the size, shape and type of gemstones.  If you covet something that’s left the shop and out having a life of its own, tell us and we can begin to design your version.  It’s what we do.

So, I hope you enjoy the new site.  I welcome feedback…really.    Please let me know how we can make it better.   Which questions have we left unanswered?  What features would you like to see added?  I promise, I will consider any reasonable suggestion, as long as it doesn’t involve politics, plagiarism or porn.  (Politics may be up for discussion…)

But for now, I’m going to dust of my workbench and do something I love more than taking pictures of our work… I’m off to make more jewelry! 

Happy Weekend!  

- Geraldine