How we began.....
A lot of people want to hear the story in how I founded kimber elements and how I met the Maasai artisans that I collaborate with. So welcome to our first blog post!
T H E J O U R N E Y
In 2011, I founded kimber elements as a modern jewelry brand uniquely known for its wearable sculpture. I was the sole maker and personally designed products that were fabricated from steel and silver in limited in limited runs of eleven.
I visited Kenya in 2019 with the goal to understand the complexities of human-wildlife conflict and to observe how Kenya is at the forefront of implementing interconnected solutions. The most important lesson I learned is that it’s critical for people to support conservation and for conservation to support people.
During this trip I met Isaiah, a well-respected modern Maasai man with a strong commitment to generating social and environmental change within his community, and an advocate for empowering women through access to education and financial independence. We formed a friendship over many conversations about culture, empowering women, the importance of keeping girls in school, and environmental conservation. He expressed his desire to create a market-driven solution for his village and invited me to collaborate with him and his wife, Naomi, to create an artisan group with 30 Maasai women. While these artisans have access to local markets to sell their beaded jewelry, they are often over-saturated and competitive. Gaining access to global markets in order to make a sustainable livelihood is logistically and socially challenging.
“Most of the girls in our community don't go to school. They have early marriages when they are young. But working with kimber elements is life changing. Thank you for supporting our community.”
D E S I G N P R O C E S S
Ultimately, it inspired me to rebrand kimber elements to be a female-forward social enterprise. I continue to design the metal pieces that are inspired by geometric patterns and are hand fabricated by metalsmiths in the impoverished communities of Nairobi, Kenya. The Maasai designers create their traditional ornamental beadwork that is inspired by storytelling for the purpose of beautification. Our designs evolve out of an ongoing dialogue and a melding of our strengths. We communicate though sketches, samples, and photos via Whatsapp. Naomi works closely with the artisans to ensure quality control, while helping them invest their revenue and encouraging them to keep their daughters in school.
I’m honored and humbled to be an outsider guest in this community. I’ve learned so much from collaborating with Isaiah and Naomi’s community, and I’m grateful for the impact that we're making to build a better society through design. In the fashion industry, there’s a fine line of cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation, which can often lead to the dominant culture borrowing and exploiting the marginalized culture. I’m sensitive to this risk, and committed to upholding the dignity of our artisans by celebrating their cultural techniques and traditions, preserving their craft, and sharing their stories.
Thanks for reading and being a part of our journey.