Thursday, July 7, 2022

What is Handmade? A Rant.

Nancy in Guatemala
I launched Dunitz & Company back in 1989. And I have focused on our handmade fair trade jewelry collection since the early 1990s. I have spent countless hours with artisans in Guatemala. We've worked out designs together at beading tables. I've sketched many a jewelry concept. Artists have presented their ideas to me. I've watched my colleagues laboriously craft countless pieces of jewelry. What Dunitz & Company offers is definitely handmade. And as an integral part of the design process, I can without hesitation confirm that our designs are original and not mass produced.



When did the definition of handmade change? At many junctures over the years, we've seen the definition of handmade change and/or be questioned.

One of the first times Dunitz & Company was affected by how people defined "handmade" was when the New York Gift Show decided to reorganize their show.  And after that, most of major trade shows followed suit. In the "old days" everything considered handmade was presented to customers in the same section. And then it was decided that artists making their goods in the first world (USA, Canada, Europe, even Japan) were different than artists working in developing countries. My theory was American artists complained about being in the same room as those working in Africa or Central America because designs from developing nations tend to be less expensive. So, it happened. It didn't matter if your designs were ethnic or contemporary, we were all segregated into sections based on where physically artisans produced goods.  I had always preferred it when everyone was all mixed up in a hall. I found I was able to sell to a more diverse group of retailers who "shopped" the entire handmade section regardless of where things were made. I found retailers were searching for a "look." They weren't necessarily shopping price or visiting what was now perceived as the "ethnic" sections of the shows. Bottom line. It is what it is. And it was what it was. We didn't have control of our locations. We took what we got and hoped enough buyers found us.

I know it's a dirty word. Amazon. Dunitz & Company does sell some designs on Amazon Handmade. [Did you know there is a juried handmade section on Amazon?] We do not sell to Amazon resellers. (In fact, we do our very best screen retailers so we don't sell to those that  buy wholesale and then resell on Etsy, eBay, Facebook or Instagram.) [One time a major mail order catalog placed an order for our botanical earrings, and at one point I saw them being offered on an advertisement on eBay. I wanted to pull my hair out. The amusing thing was they described poppies as dahlias and dahlias as poppies. No wonder they couldn't sell those earrings well.] 

We didn't jump on the B2C bandwagon until very late in the game.  Our wholesale business was ample, and stores always asked if we retailed. We learned if companies sold direct to consumers, those retail store buyers would not buy from them. It didn't take the world very long to change and retailers didn't have the luxury of walking away any longer.  We have fair trade colleagues who were emphatic that they would never sell direct to retailers. They all do now.

Having said all this, there was a time in 2017 that Amazon was at the New York Gift Show actively recruiting vendors to sell in their then new 'Amazon Handmade' section. I'm certain Amazon was attempting to compete with Etsy, another B2C website focused on handmade goods.  In the beginning these sites were struggling with their definition of handmade.  Was handmade a first world artist working at their desk making as many earrings as they could make in a day?  Was handmade that first world artist with a few or many employees making their designs at work tables? Did handmade include products made by artisans in developing countries? And on and on. Since these are publicly traded companies, I'm sure the end game was and is to most broadly define handmade so the most sales can be made.  What was clear at that New York Gift Show, Amazon Handmade actively pursued me. Their representatives were very clear that I, a designer working with artisans in Guatemala and a vetted member of Fair Trade Federation would have easy clearance to sell on Amazon Handmade. And that AH rep was right. Dunitz & Company was accepted and up and running quickly. 

Crafting Earrings
So what happened recently? Amazon Handmade questioned whether Dunitz & Company jewelry was handmade or not. Seriously! After being vetted by them back in the day, it was as if they wanted to vet us all over again. They even started singling out products in our collection. The designs they were questioning couldn't be anything other than handmade. They wanted proof that our beaded teardrop earrings were made by artisans (and not by machine?) They singled out our beaded coral necklaces, one of the very first designs I offered in the 1990s. One friend of mine suggested that a competitor who had copied our designs had written in to Amazon Handmade complaining. It can be dirty business selling on some of these B2C websites. It is true that these two designs singled out are two of our oldest and most copied by other companies. If they didn't sell well, I would have retired them long ago.


Beading Coral Necklace

How do you prove to Amazon Handmade that your product is in fact handmade? Their definition of handmade? Videos showing artisans making our glass earrings, embroidered & beaded jewelry and yarmulkes was not good enough. Proof of Fair Trade Federation membership is not ample. What was the clincher, I think? I asked the artisans that create our work if they could snap a few photos with the teardrop earrings and beaded necklaces in front of some old Dunitz & Company posters that hang in the workshop.  It was a lot of work to convince AH reps that I was not buying from Alibaba in China. After several emails, AH reps informed me I could still offer my designs in their handmade section. 

AFTER NOTE: 7/12/22 - Not yet 3 weeks after this Amazon Ordeal described above, they have written me again, threatening that Dunitz will be removed from their Handmade section because they're questioning our work. Let's see where it goes. The result might be we no longer vend on Amazon. And now 7/13/22, they report once again, I'm good to go on Amazon Handmade. What a roller coaster!

Oh my gosh. I think today's rant is over.  I'm sure this isn't the end of Dunitz & Company justifying our artisan jewelry is in fact handmade. But, these are my stories for today.  How do you define handmade? -ND

Monday, June 6, 2022

Meet Amber Solomon, Marketing Advocate for GOEX

Amber models Fair Trade
I recently met Amber Solomon through social media, and more specifically through Twitter. It seems we're two of the most active Fair Trade Federation members "working" Twitter.  From this a  friendship has blossomed. Amber is the Marketing Advocate for GOEX, another proud FTF member.  Recently GOEX and Dunitz & Company collaborated on a social media marketing campaign for Mother's Day. I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here. I asked Amber if she was willing to have me interview her for our blog. She said yes. That means we'll hear a bit more from her about this campaign.  Frankly, she was the brains behind it.  We all can learn a lot from this social media maven.

Keep reading here for the interview.

NANCY: You seem to be an integral player at GOEX. Can you tell me a bit more about this company you work for and what you position is there?

Helping Children in Haiti
AMBER: GOEX Apparel is a fair trade, sustainable apparel company and the marketplace initiative of The Global Orphan Project. GOEX's purpose is to use a simple tee to connect the consumer and the maker. GOEX customers sustain fair wage jobs that liberate families from poverty and empower them in their families and communities.  GOEX values high service, high quality, excellent design and integrity.

As a Market Advocate, I act as the person with the megaphone on the soapbox.  If there's a way I can get GOEX's name out, I find it and then do it.  Through marketing, social media, event management, promotions and partnerships I let the masses know "we're here!" I advocate!


NANCY: Were you a fair trade advocate before joining the GOEX team, or has working at GOEX turned you into one?

GOEX Cardigans
AMBER: I actually knew very little about the world of fair trade before working at GOEX.  Prior to  GOEX, I had worked in the entertainment industry.  Working at GOEX has changed my perspective and my life. I am now very much an advocate for ethical consumerism.  That will never change and I am happy about the journey that's brought me here.






NANCY: Was there one event in your life that propelled you to work at and in a fair trade business?

AMBER: I like to think fair trade found me. I was laid off from my job in the movie theater industry due to COVID-19. It was a terrifying time for me but I took the opportunity to sit down and think about exactly what I wanted from life.  I quickly recognized that I am a person who desires purpose and that purpose, to me is more than cutting a check to a cause. I need to be out there making the change, being the change.

NANCY: I always thought I had a jump on social media.  After working with you on our joint Mother's Day campaign, I realize there is so much more to learn.  Can you share just a bit about what exactly that campaign was? You had me "take over" your accounts for a day and honestly, I still don't get quite how that works.

AMBER: Sure! At GOEX, we work to sustain fair wage jobs that keep families together.  I thought what better way for families to empower others than to expose people to fair trade products.  As part of the bundle, I wanted to dive into what it means to be a working mom in Fair Trade worlds, showcase the work that working moms do, and show that the contributions that mothers' make to our world is vital. I wrote a blog about women in fair trade and another about some working moms of GOEX, educated out subscribers through email and social media posts, in addition to the awesome Instagram takeover. (GOEX Instagram, DUNITZ Instagram The Instagram Takeover means I posted and provided stories on the GOEX account that spoke to our collaboration. Truth be told, those posts looked like they came from me. Amber did all the work. I do not have their passwords!)

NANCY: If you'd like, you can brag about the fair trade bundle we put together for the collaboration. 


Mother's Day Bundle

AMBER: From the laser cut earrings (has an vintage botanical image of dahlias) provided by Shop Dunitz & Company, to the cardigans and tees made by our makers, so many working mothers touched that product before these bundles met their final destinations. I mean, what a great story, right? Someone buys a Fair Trade product for their mother. That purchase in turn empowers another mother. That's IMPACT! 





NANCY: For a small fair trade business, do you have a best recommendation for where or what they should focus on in the social media realm?

GOEX on Twitter
AMBER: The world of social media is at a very exciting point in it's evolution, in my opinion. You have the Metaverse, the new Twitter, TikTok all empowering people to become stars. What a time to be alive! My advice to small fair trade businesses is to find where your audience is and meet them there. Also, don't be afraid to make videos. Even just a zoom in on one product or service you offer is a great for the frustrating world of algorithms.  Go beyond the sales pitch. Remind your followers that there are indeed people behind the logos and the add to cart buttons.  People want to know who you are and what you stand for. Show them.

NANCY: Tease us! Do you have a favorite item from GOEX that you wear on your own time?


Woman Up Hoodie
AMBER: Yes! I LIVE in GOEX cardigans and the Woman Up Weekender Hoodie.  I have a cardigan in almost every color. The Woman Up Weekender hoodie is the best to sit back with a cup of tea and play video games or watch movies.






NANCY: And I know you've been browsing the Dunitz Collection recently. Maybe you're lusting for one of our designs? Which one might that be?

: I'm a sucker for all things Virgo and butterflies. Your
Virgo & Monarchs
ceramic Virgo earrings
and the Monarch laser cut stud earrings are saved to my wish list.







NANCY: Anything else you want to share with me today?

AMBER: Thank you so much for working with me and with GOEX. I am a firm believer that collaboration is greater than competition and together we can make the world better. (Are we two peas from the same pod?)

--end of interview--

This was such a fun collaboration. I adore connecting with others that believe collaboration over competition is the way to go. You might think that most fair traders feel the same. I've learned over the years this often is not the case. Human nature kicks in and many small businesses and their owners are more concerned about protecting their turf and don't want to promote others.  I already knew that this was not the case with Amber. Did I mention that we met through Twitter? (Yes!) She's one of the few fair traders I know who actually re-tweets what I share. Bravo for Amber.  Bravo for GOEX Apparel

Here's my pitch for GOEX.  You know you wear tee-shirts and sweatshirts. Why not buy ethical? Check out the GOEX site and you're bound to find a gift for you and everyone in your household. 

And after you've found that new shirt, consider the jewelry you'll wear with it. Dunitz & Company, with our fair trade jewelry from Guatemala is always ready to decorate your ears, neck and wrist. -ND

Monday, April 11, 2022

More Portrait Drawings with Fair Trade Jewelry

I can't stop drawing. And I can't stop sharing what I've been drawing. I found by adding Dunitz fair trade jewelry to some of my portraits, I can post them on Dunitz & Company social accounts, most notably our Instagram feed. With this blog post, I have another excuse to share some of my artwork. These drawings shown here were all created within the last several months.  In no particular order, check out how I add our fair trade designs to my drawings.

Crazy. For some reason a couple of years ago we started receiving all sorts of random magazines at the office. We received an issue of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. There are so many beautiful women on its pages that provided plenty of material for my drawing pleasure.  This woman wears our Glass Teardrop Earrings.






This bombshell was inspired by a cover from IN STORE, a fabulous jewelry trade publication. They always have such great covers. On this occasion, I braved up and challenged myself to drawing a hand. Then I decorated that hand with one of our embroidered rings.  (Retailers can order these on our wholesale website.) This woman also wears our Glass Triangle Dangle Earrings.





I had purchased some new wider pastel sticks (Nupastels) and wanted to give them a whirl. For this quick drawing I didn't use sharpened pencils. It seemed appropriate to decorate this woman with purple earrings. This style is quite popular and we always offer it in many different color combinations.






An old and dear friend of mine visited recently. She & I worked together in the 80's during my Corporate America days. Years later she & I traveled to Cuba together for a jazz festival. I snapped this pic mid-drawing. And for fun, I added our Crystal Teardrops.

Same drawing. But completed. My friend deserved roses. If you love vintage fashion, our laser cut rose earrings feature old botanical illustrations. These certainly make for fun, eco-friendly and affordable gifts.
My drawings seem to really allow me to show off Dunitz & Company earrings. In this case, my friend's ears were hidden and a long neck allowed for one of our glass pendant necklaces. I mention all the time that blue always sells better than other colors. For this drawing, a blue necklace was added.





OK - It's a bit scary, I know. This is a self-portrait. I don't wear earrings. But for this transformation, I thought I should be wearing one of our best sellers ever. No matter how many Starry Night Earrings I order for stock, they continually sell out.

This was another challenge I set up for me.  I wanted to try a portrait where I used no black. No black outlines. No black sketching. These color blocked earrings are from our Contemporary Colors collection.  Sometimes I pick school colors for these dangles. Do you know a MSU Spartan for a pair in this color combination?




A first for me. I zoomed to a garden in Manchester, England to draw this model, Heather. She posed nude for a few quick sketches. And then because it was cold and breezy across the pond, she covered up a bit. For her longer pose, I worked on this portrait.  If I could have decorated her ears, I would have had her actually wear these glass teardrop earrings.  The color shown her matches her red hair so well.

This close up is a crop from another Sports Illustrated swimwear mode portraitl.  These women are fun to draw since they're all young and beautiful.  I decorated this gal with a pair of our triangle shaped glass earrings.




Another magazine model. Her lips were so full. Maybe she uses fillers. I added some striped beaded teardrop to her portrait.


Sometimes I specifically look for photographs where the model is not looking straight on. I also like looking for pics with lots of shadows. This model also now wears one of our most popular round beaded earring styles.






Curly hair. Yes! That's what I was after. And ears. Ears to show off our long skinny glass earrings. I fondly call these our stick earrings because they are so narrow.







This is fun! (I use that word a lot. It's what my drawing has given me.) Earlier this year the tree trimmers came to my house to....yes, trim my trees. I have one absolutely huge ficus on my property. It's a really big "tree" job. I asked a couple of the men if I could take their photo so I could draw them while they worked. At the end of they day, I gifted them my drawings.  I of course take photos of my work. This allowed me to give Carlos a faux earring for a social media post. These small glass dot studs are a super seller and very loved by our customers.

I saw a most beautiful photo of this friend of mine.  That prompted me to draw her. Hands are challenging and I went for it. I added what I call our "skinnies", little bracelets you roll over your hand. We offer this set of 5 on our retail website. You can wear them all. Or give them out as friendship bracelets.

A beachy girl with wild hair needed a pair of our long embroidered fringe earrings. These earrings are all one-of-a-kind and will match up with your Boho aesthetic.

Another swimsuit model. Drawing the arm and a well endowed bosom was a new challenge for me. Since her bikini top is turquoise, I thought she should be wearing some matching glass dangle earrings.







I fondly refer to this model as 'big hair girl.'  What fabulous long curly waves she has. My choice for her ears? Our large embroidered teardrops made with recycled denim. I always have to reassure our customers that the denim we use, which comes from discarded pants is always thoroughly washed before using.






When I first started creating portraits early in 2021, I would often spend a few hours on each drawing. In recent times, I've often given myself a "30 minute challenge."  This was my first one and still is one of my favorites. I didn't have time to re-think my strokes. I just made them. This sweet model is wearing our smaller glass earrings, which are very loved by so many customers of ours. They really are the perfect accent with so many outfits.




So, there you have it. In another few months I'll post a bunch of other drawings with Dunitz fair trade jewelry added for fun. Want me to draw you? Send me over some photos. -ND

Monday, March 7, 2022

My Favorite Designs I Wear from Dunitz Fair Trade Jewelry

Some of you know I've been collaborating with artisans in Guatemala since 1989. Dunitz & Company has been around the block. The other thing you may not know about me is I don't have pierced ears. I've gotten lots of flack about that from everyone. You betcha. Knowing that, I thought it would be fun to share my favorite designs I enjoy wearing (not in any particular order) from my fair trade jewelry collection when I'm not actually working.


Glass Bib Necklace
When I dress up a bit, I love wearing our Glass Bib Necklace. It's a classic look that you can wear short or long. And it isn't heavy at all. 








Embroidered Rings
We sell a lot of rings to stores all around the US. Since they're not sized, it's impossible to retail them online. You can often find me wearing one our Daisy Denim Rings. These are embroidered on upcycled/recycled denim. We find old jeans at the local markets, wash them well and then cut them up to create jewelry.





Denim Floral Bracelet
I can't hide it. I'm nuts for our embroidered flowers. You'll often find me wearing one of our Denim Floral Bracelets. We also offer this design embroidered on traditional corte fabric. Want to see more? Watch this video we prepared with artisans making these gorgeous pieces.

Suede & Glass Cuff
When you don't wear earrings, you MUST wear a lot of bracelets. I've always been a bracelet gal. Our wide suede and Fused Glass Cuff is also a favorite of mine. I like it because it's handsome and not so girly.




World Coin Bracelet
Several years ago I designed a complete collection of jewelry using retired world coins. It was a huge success and it still sells today. I think the World Coin Bracelet on my dresser has coins from France, Mexico and Thailand. I even wore it to my niece's bridal shower recently. These bracelets jazz up all sorts of outfits. 

Vintage Button Bracelet
I can be a bit predictable. I love vintage. It absolutely makes sense that you also might catch me wearing one of our beaded designs that use vintage buttons.  And since I often wear black and earth tones, you'll find me wearing a Vintage Button Bracelet in dark earthy colors. 




Stacking Bracelets
Finally, you'll find me stacking some of our most inexpensive bracelets on my wrist every day. Our Beaded Skinnies come in so many colors; solid, color blocked and with a radial pattern. We have little Square Bead & Crystal Bracelets which are so fun to pair with them.




Pin me
Take a closer look at  my favorite things. I'm guessing something I love from the Dunitz fair trade jewelry collection will make you or your loved one happy. Yes, I know. You wear earrings and I do not. You'll find lots of amazing fair trade earrings from us too.-ND

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Karen Sparacio. The Heart and Brains behind Project Have Hope.

Karen in Uganda
It seems I'm always talking about Dunitz & Company and our fair trade jewelry collection. Over the years, it has also given me great pleasure to share the stories of some of my fair trade friends and colleagues. There is so much we can learn from their talents and experiences.  One of those people is Karen Sparacio, the heart and brains behind Project Have Hope. Thankfully for all of us reading this, Karen was a willing participant when I asked to interview her. Keep reading here to learn what she shared.

NANCY: Like many of us, you stretch yourself thin so you can make a difference. You operate an incredible fair trade business working with artisans in Uganda and you also manage to find time for wedding and journalistic photography. I'd love to know more about both. And I think people reading this blog post will as well. I'll do my best at asking you a bit about both.

Can you tell me what inspired you to get involved with fair trade? How did you come by working with artisans in Uganda?

KAREN: As a professional photographer, I first traveled to Uganda in 2005 to volunteer for several non-profits to provide them with high quality imagery for their fundraising and marketing efforts.  During that trip, I was introduced to a woman who brought me to the Acholi Quarter. I ended up spending two weeks photographing in that community and learning more about the families who had been displaced because of the war in northern Uganda.  It was there I was first introduced to the craft of paper bead making. Inspired and awed by the strength and endurance of the people I met, I simply wanted to find a way to help. In that spirit, we started the non-profit, Project Have Hope, which has been a collaborative entity in which I help find a market for their artistry and we use the profits to further educational opportunities for their children and the artists themselves.

NANCY: Tell me a few more specifics about the work you do in Uganda.  Is there a type of product that Project Have Hope specializes in?  Do you have a favorite items you sell?

KAREN: The work I do in Uganda has a lot of elements beyond products and craft-making. Although the crafts are what makes it possible to fund our work, my primary focus is helping the artisans become financially independent. Much of my work has to do with overseeing our child sponsorship, vocational training and loans programs and developing new programs that will help the artisans find ways to support themselves. Although I have many ideas, ultimately, it is the artisans and the community that knows best what they need, so it's imperative that I spend time talking and listening to them and helping to implement their ideas into living, breathing, effective programming.

Alice learned Tailoring
Project Have Hope is definitely known for our high quality, inspired, paper bead designs. We spend a lot of time developing new designs to ensure that our jewelry is on trend and fresh. With so much competition in the paper bead jewelry industry, we stand out for our high quality and unique artistry.

Over the years, our product line has greatly diversified. We invest heavily in vocational training and have trained more than 25 women as tailors.  These tailors have helped us to expand our textile offerings to cloth napkins, tote bags, aprons, oven mitts, headbands and plush animals. The most exciting part of our crafts is the collaborative process. By sharing ideas, skills and strengths, we have been able to create a versatile line of products that have been very well received.

NANCY: Is there something you feel particularly good about when you think of your work in Uganda. An accomplishment? A life you changed? I'd love to hear a story or two.


KAREN: Oh gosh, we're going on 16 years now, there are so many stories. I guess there is one that stands out more than the rest. It's a story of little Gerard.  I still remember when he first came to our community center for a workshop to paint peace tiles and he looked so sickly.  I asked one of the women what is sickness was. "Malaria? HIV? TB?" They responded with words I didn't understand. And then they translated. "Lack of protein." Gerard was slowly being starved to death. There's a long, ugly story around that situation, but the result was that we stepped in, got him medical treatment and found a home where he would be well taken care of. Now, more than ten years later, he is thriving and you'd never know that there was a time that no one expected he'd survive. He is my shining light. So often it's easy to think of all the things I cannot do, I cannot change. Gerard is the reminder that we all have the power to make a difference in the life of one person. And even if we accomplish nothing more, we've done well.

NANCY: Another aspect of you that I really admire is your photography work. Your Instagram feed is loaded with wonderful product shots and amazing artisan pics. Here's a technical question you might be able to answer for me. Sometimes you have background items such as flowers that help you show off a pair of earrings. The flower is a bit blurry and the earrings are crystal clear. These kind of photos always interest me. Is there a "tip" for how someone manages that effect? Answer as technically as you must.

Camera Focuses on Bracelet
KAREN: It's all about focus and depth of field. Focus on the area you want to be sharp and use a shallow depth of field to keep the rest soft. I'm old school. I don't use post-production editing tools to change the photos I intended to take.






NANCY: Wow. You'll need to be even more specific for me. Can you baby-sit me through the process?

KAREN: I typically use F2.8 to keep a shallow depth of field and a moderately fast shutter speed of 125. I also generally stand on a stop ladder so I'm above the subject and can tilt my camera to focus in on one specific area. This helps to naturally blur the background. 

NANCY: And your people pics are extraordinary. I adore how you've had relationships over many years with some of your artisans and their children. In many cases you document their growth. It's obvious to me they admire and trust you, allowing you to take and share these images. Can you tell me a bit more about how you've changed some of their lives?

KAREN: I think a better question is how they've changed me.  I'm exceedingly impatient; they've taught me patience, among so many other things. They've taught me the benefits of interdependence, collaboration, the importance of being still, present and truly listening. They've taught me that someone's educational level or financial status does not in any way represent their net worth and their value, nor does it lessen their impact, nor make their voice any less worthwhile and strong. (Wow! Love this!) They've taught me more than I could ever impart on them. I've been extremely fortunate to be the connector - connecting their stories and artistry to others.

NANCY: I view you as a photographer extraordinaire. Do you have any tips for a small business person when it comes to producing good photography? Go out on a limb here. You can share tips for product pics or people pics.

KAREN: Producing good photography, whether it's products or people, is all about the lighting. For product pics, even if you're not using a professional set up, you can easily get a piece of white board or foam core and position that to bounce light back into a product so the light is more even and the shadows are reduced. For people, photography skill is minimally important. It's the time you put into building relationships and the trust you develop. There are many times when being a photographer takes a back seat. There are times I'd love to just start shooting, but I know the real value comes from  being patient, making sure everyone is comfortable and respected and is able to share their voice in how their story is told.

NANCY: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

KAREN: I think I've already said too much. (said with a big smile.)

--end of interview--

Pin Our Blog Post
I hope you learned a useful thing or two by reading this interview with Karen. I know I learned quite a bit from our conversation. Project Have Hope and Dunitz & Company are both vetted members of Fair Trade Federation. That means you can feel secure and good about supporting our organizations. Definitely take a closer look at Project Have Hope's website. There you can learn more about their mission and score some great gifts. By supporting fair trade businesses like ours, you are making a positive difference in lives. -ND