Monday, September 29, 2014

Queen of Monochrome

Years and years ago, I designed many pieces in solid colors.  My colleagues told me it was boring.  Other (beaded) jewelry designers were creating highly contrasting color schemes.  Some I knew personally laughed at me and told me what I was doing seemed uninteresting.  Guess what? They weren't laughing when the saw the volumes of bracelets & necklaces I started selling.  Dunitz "solid" colored adornments matched every floral, plaid and multicolored striped dress, shirt & pantsuit.  Women only needed to love our designs and quality to know our pieces would coordinate with any of their outfits.
To this day, my colleagues call me the "Queen of Monochrome."  I do create schemes that include an array of colors. These always match "solid" colored clothing. And, every season, I hone in on important fashion trends and zoom in on very specific colors.  The clothing designers do the same. Here are a few I project for Spring 2015 with the help of some very influential people.

Coral orange was spotted everywhere for Spring 2015.  This great dress shown here comes from Carolina Herrera's line up.  Dunitz & Company will have the goods to match all of the clothing you'll find on store racks.

I love yellow. But, sometimes it is a tough color to wear.  My monochromatic pale yellow this season adds a touch of pinky-beige.  This "not in your face" yellow will work for most people.  And it will go with the array of yellow you'll find in all the clothing shops this Spring.  The outfit shown here was designed by Nanette Lapore.

Blue is ALWAYS popular. Yes, almost any shade of blue. You'll find blue will be a big part of the Dunitz lineup for Spring 2015.  We wanted to create a scheme that would match every floral, plaid and stripe out there.  Our monochromatic capri blue scheme should do just that.  Of course, here we're showing it with a solid colored dress from Marc - by, yes, Marc Jacobs.

My final point is - yes, these wonderful clothing designers also create gems (great dresses, that is) in solid colors.  & our multischemed jewels will be perfect for those.  But, trust me - there are TONS of floral, plaid and stripes coming to the clothing racks near you.  And we KNOW our monochromatic colored jewelry works every time! -ND

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Judaica - An Ongoing Challenge

A handful of years ago, I decided to start a Judaica Collection.  I was certain I could do it.  What I learned very quickly's NOT that easy.  Initially I designed some higher end and beautiful beaded pieces, with Star of David iconography in fashion colors.  I also designed a line of kippot in fashion colors.  I learned almost immediately that the synagogue gift shows absolutely did NOT want fashion colors.  Everything needed to be neutral.  Neutral blues. Neutral blacks & greys. Neutral cream and beige.  I also learned that pricing for the most part was key.  I was told over and over by volunteer buyers that they could not sell anything that was expensive.  It put the kabosh on most of my initial designs.  Since then, I've reworked my kippot collection - focusing on more conservative colors.  My little row of Stars of David bracelet seems to be the design with selling legs.

Fall 2014. Voila! I've been designing a wonderful collection for my specialty boutique and museum customers.  Dunitz has introduced loads of necklaces and bracelet featuring "world coins."  People are digging it. I intuitively knew my Judaica customers would love these pieces too....if only I could secure LOTS and lots of shekel coins.  Success.  It didn't happen immediately.  But, now I have a source in Israel shipping me lots of out-of-date Israeli coins.  I was amazed how many synagogue gift shops purchased these designs for Chanukah gift buying.  It's been one of the few times that although many of the buyers balked on price - they purchased just the same. Now - that's a huge compliment.  Are you ready?  We can send you pieces with "world coins" or "shekels"! -ND

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Recycled Huipiles? Food for Thought. Helpful or Hurtful?

Only yesterday did I read this article published by Brenda Rosenbaum for Weave A Real Peace. If you are not following this group, you should. There website link is -. What I learned is that more often than not, poor women sell their huipiles (traditional blouses) at market to make a small amount of money so they can feed and/or care for their families.  It usually is a desperate act. These beautiful weavings are then cut up to make trinkets that appeal to those of us "in the west."  Instead of paraphrasing the article, go ahead and read it.  It's short & sweet and points out some real issues facing people in need. (Brenda's fair trade business, Mayan Hands works with women weavers in Guatemala.) -ND

Recycled huipiles?
"I would rather burn my huipil than sell it like that… The warmth it would provide has more value than the few quetzales they would give me for it.” (Catarina B.)
There are many forces threatening the survival of Mayan back-strap loom weaving today. A particularly pernicious current practice is that of buying huipiles (Mayan women’s blouses) for pennies, and “cutting and pasting” them (disregarding their integrity¬) into handbags, purses, shoes, jackets, etc., to sell in the tourist and international markets.
For the past 3500 years, the world has admired the magnificent cloth Mayan women create on the humble back strap loom. Huipiles represent the pinnacle of technical complexity and symbolic density of back-strap loom weaving. Walter Morris’ studies of Highland Chiapas huipiles argue for the continuity of ancient symbols. Indeed, he says, there are hidden worlds portrayed in modern huipiles: when a woman dons her huipil, she positions herself in the center of the universe, i.e. the diamond pattern around the neckline, which symbolizes the universe. “Wearing a huipil,” says Irma Otzoy, a Mayan anthropologist, “we are saying to ourselves and others, I am Maya, we are Maya, and we will continue being Maya.”
The current popularity of products made with huipiles has given rise to a renewed and intense exploitation of Mayan women’s work. Mayan women are the poorest of the poor in Guatemalan society, with few opportunities for an education or earning a living. Weaving continues to be the only source of income available to most of them. If weavers were able to sell, at a fair price, the thousands of huipiles piled up in Guatemalan markets and made into products, we would see prosperity in their communities. Instead, we see deepening poverty and, often, despair: the voice from the larger society—echoing through the centuries—deeming their work and skill, and the culture that generates these, as worthless.
I worked with Linda Asturias and Lucia Jimenez, Guatemalan anthropologists,to interview women from different Mayan communities and learn more about this practice. Even though the huipiles of each community are not comparable regarding the complexity of their designs, their techniques, and the time required to weave one, we heard this story repeatedly: buyers (mostly women) from Chichicastenango, travel to the villages, walk from house to house, and pressure the women to sell their huipiles. They pay most often Q25 ($3) for a huipil in good condition; in some cases, they will pay as much as Q40 ($5) for an outstanding one. They also buy blouses made of commercial cloth with profuse hand embroidery on them, paying Q5 ($0.60) or even Q1 ($0.13) for these. “Normal” prices for used huipiles, in good condition, (that a Mayan woman might buy), would be between Q400 ($50) to Q1500 ($200). The time to weave ahuipil varies greatly, between several weeks and several months (or even a year), according again to its complexity and the hours a woman can devote to weaving daily.
Why would women sell their huipiles for such a miserable return? They sell because of a pressing need: a sick child in need of medicine, a school payment, or to put food on the table. Mayan women with other sources of income commented they would never sell their huipil for that price. Many who sell their huipiles will never weave or buy one again, buying instead a simple blouse.
What happens with the thousands of huipiles purchased in this way? Middlemen sell them to business owners who will sew them into products and sell them. One of our interviewees commented that they are often sold by middlemen, not by unit, but by weight.
To add insult to injury, to make them more attractive to buyers, these products are wrapped in a cloak of virtue, presented as “recycled” products. What an egregious distortion! A recycled product is one that has been salvaged from the trash. By contrast, the purchased huipiles are almost new or in good condition and women can wear them for many more years. A huipil can last up to 15 years if a woman has more than one; if she has only one, it lasts between 5 and 7 years. These are definitely not “recycled huipiles”, we should call them instead “embezzled huipiles.”

Recycled Newspaper Teasers

When I last blogged, I posted photos of some of the people involved with our recycled paper project.  Now after taking this new collection to the Los Angeles and Windy City (Chicago) Gift Shows, it becomes obvious that without explanation, store owners can't 'exactly' tell what this new line is made of. In Chicago I even placed it with a museum!  I thought I'd tease you all with a few photos of our finished designs. Want to see more? Login to our website at or visit us at the upcoming gift shows in San Francisco and/or New York. -ND

Monday, July 14, 2014

Recycled Newspaper --> Turns into Jewelry

On my most recent trip to Guatemala, I spearheaded a new collection for Dunitz.  We'll be debuting a new collection made from recycled newspapers at the summer trade shows.  I find it fun, challenging and quite rewarding each time I help mastermind a new project.  This one is particularly unique. It is the first time we are employing a community of people that are mentally and physically challenged. I've always been familiar with Adissa, a NGO located in Santiago Atitlan.  They have a school on the property. And there are several men and women of many ages that find some employment there.  Of course, what they do depends greatly on their abilities.
So who is helping us clean, cut and prep the paper for jewelry making. There's Diego, David, Salvador #1, Salvador #2, Alicia, Joshua, Filipe, Jose & Tono. It feels great that these people are not only getting a bit more work because of this new project - it also makes them feel useful and important. I'm thrilled. -ND

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Why Be Shy?

I've been visiting Guatemala two times a year....for almost as long as I can remember.  I've been traveling there since 1989!  Having said that, I'm still rather shy about taking photos of the artisans that create our fantastic jewelry.  Over the years, I've managed to snag several wonderful shots. I always ask the women if I can take their photos working. It is never without trepidations. I was explaining my apprehension to Alicia, one of the workshop managers.  What transpired next completely tickled me.  Alicia grabbed a bunch of finished Dunitz jewelry.  She plopped a piece here and there with several of our beaders.  She explained that we were going to 'stage' working photos. Everyone was giggling and found this hilarious.  From there, many of the women posed for group shots.  I've never seen everyone laugh so much. If only for a short moment, that sure created a lot of group love! -ND

Friday, May 30, 2014

Two Women

I was browsing through some of the photographs I've taken in Guatemala earlier today.  What I noticed is I've taken several photographs of "two women".  Is it me? Or do women frequently travel in pairs?  I rarely have a photo of just one...or three. Perhaps no matter the culture, women always have their BFF at their side.  Tell me what you think? -ND
Two Women, Santiago Atitlan
Santiago Atitlan stop light

Two Women...& a child.
Two Women, Solola

Two Women & tomatoes

Monday, May 12, 2014

Fashion Colors & Joanie M

I know I've posted photos before of how we create color combinations for our beaded line  We do the same for our Joanie M fused glass.  Designer runway shows frequently give us inspiration for our jewelry. Here are two teaser pics for Fall 2014.
Check out the coppery red presented by Dennis Basso.  Our new color #63 will surely translate the richness.

I love the designs from Vivienne Tam each and every season.  Her Fall 2014 lineup was no different.  It only made sense to use some of her outfits for color inspiration.  Drawing from this wonderful jade & jet outfit, we've created Joanie M's new color #55.

Yum! Right? - ND

Friday, May 9, 2014

A Little Nostalgia...& Big TV Sets.

I confess, I still have one of those large TV's.  I remember sweating over which brand and what size to buy. Yes - that's the TV with the image of Dayna Devon from EXTRA TV. 
One of my very first beaded designs was a little net choker.  Dunitz sold 100s - maybe 1000s of these.  We created so many fun color combinations.  One mail order catalog we worked with had us create Halloween, Christmas and July 4th versions. I'm certain we created them for other holidays too. Unfortunately all good things must come to an end. After other companies copied our net choker, we retired it from our arsenal.  I'm sure you can still find this design from other wholesalers.
The most fun was seeing our net chokers turn up on TV! Yes - it was fun catching Dayna Devon on EXTRA wearing our choker. We also captured Tangi Miller wearing our net cutie over and over on her hit show, Felicity. I was lucky enough to snap her a couple of times - yes watching the BIG TV. I know it's Friday. Can I call today #ThrowBackFriday? OK - #ThrowBackThursday one day late. - ND

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Bit of Photographic History - Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala

A friend of mine has spent a lot of energy researching, collecting & sharing old photographs from Guatemala. I've been particularly interested in the old photos from Santiago Atitlan. This is the community where Dunitz & Company's beadwork is created.  It is amazing to see how so much and yet, so little has changed. The women haven't changed their style. Many of the buildings in these photos are the ones you see in town today. Enjoy! -ND.
1955. Art, Architecture & Engineering Library. University of Michigan. Donated by Louis Redstone.

1955. Art, Architecture & Engineering Library. University of Michigan. Donated by Louis Redstone.
1960's. Stoiber Collection. Dartmouth University

Public Beach. 1920's. Photographer Unknown.

1920's. Photographer Unknown.

1930's. Carnegie Institute of Washington. Peabody Museum. Harvard University

1931. Public Beach. Samuel Lothrop

1950-1960's. Pablo Sittler.

1953. Karl Paschkis.

Semana Santa 1960's. John Dealy. Cirma Fototeca

Thursday, April 24, 2014

There's A New Gal In Our Offices

I thought I'd have some light fun today and talk about mannequins.  Our (Dunitz & Company, that is.) mannequin, Ms. White has been showing off our jewelry for several years now.  She doesn't complain and she can sit (or stand) still for hours on end. What I like best about Ms. White is that she doesn't "fight" our jewelry.  She may be lithe and have an enviable body.  But, for the most part, she falls into the background.  And - well, she does have a torso, legs and arms.  This allows her to model earrings, necklaces, bracelets and anklets.  Oh yes, she has also modeled our kippot, part of our Judaica Collection.  Hats off to Ms.White.  Our website catalog wouldn't be as wonderful without her.
You can see what I mean in the photos I just snapped.  I'm almost certain you see our colorful earrings before you focus on her beautifully shaped lips. I've always thought our jewelry is most outstanding when featured on a white or beige background. If you've seen Dunitz at the trade shows - you know our display is always eggshell color.
Last week, a new gal joined our staff.  Ms.White now has some competition.  Nancy joined up with "Tippy" (recently named by a customer of ours) at an area flea market.  We're not sure what generation Tippy comes from. But, she's definitely been around.  She has sexy full lips.  And heck, this gal knew how to put on makeup and falsie eyelashes!  Face it. She's hot! 

She's already modeled our earrings.  She does have pierced ears.  And a fine job she's done.  I'm also wondering if her beauty calls more attention to her than the earrings she is wearing. Maybe so.  But I also think her glow is quite appealing.  Tippy's work load will be limited.  She has a torso without arms. And she has no legs. I'm guessing she'll look fabulous in some of our designs that use vintage components - watch parts and old coins.
What do you think about the battle of the mannequins?  I'd love to hear your feedback.  For now, I'm certain both of them will have some work to do later this season when our Fall 2014 designs are ready to be photographed. - ND

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What Small Contribution Can You Make for World Fair Trade Day?

World Fair Trade Day is coming up on May 10th.  Since Dunitz & Company is a member of the Fair Trade Federation, it only seemed appropriate to blog about the event.  On this day, people around the world will celebrate the impact of fair trade relationships. If you are a supporter of fair trade, you’ve probably read a zillion articles about fair trade. You’ve reviewed the nine principles set out by the Fair Trade Federation.  And YOU know what fair trade is about. You know fair trade is all about supporting livelihood, safety and well-being of farmers, craftspeople and artisans.

This left me in a conundrum about what I could say that might have some impact.  The light bulb went off when I was walking Stetson, the mascot earlier.  I thought, why not make a list of things any person could do, however small, that might make a difference in lives . And  by all means, let me know anything we should add to the list.  I’m only starting it.  Please chime in.  I think the main thing is how can we, backers of fair trade –promote education.

      1.  Buy a can of Fair Trade Coffee. Share a cup with a friend of neighbor and tell them why you purchased fair trade.
      2.  Drag a friend to a Fair Trade Store and of course tell them why you did it.  Can’t get them to move? Give them a tour of Fair Trade Federation member websites. 
      3.  Visit any store and show off the hat, bag or jewelry you are wearing  that is fair trade. Tell the owner why they need to sell what you are wearing.
      4.   Search #fairtrade on Twitter and start re-tweeting things of interest. All you need is for one person to stop and read! The smallest activity can make a huge impact.

5    5.   Share something about #fairtrade on your Facebook page. Don't forget the hastag! Help #fairtrade trend!
      6.  Share something about #fairtrade on Instagram. 
      7.   Drum beating is becoming an event associated with World Fair Trade Day celebration. Make some noise. Get others involved and tell them why  they’re making noise.

8    8.  Bake something with fair trade ingredients. Google for a new recipe! Share some of your culinary masterpiece and tell your tasters why you chose fair trade. Heck, after that tweet and share your new recipe.

9    9.  Buy, eat & share a bar of fair trade chocolate. You’ll taste the difference and feel good about it. 
      10. Watch a documentary such as “The DarkSide of Chocolate” or some other educational feature with themes including poverty, climate change and other environmental issues. 

Please share with me your #11, #12 etc. - ND