Monday, December 18, 2017

More About Pantone's Ultra-Violet

There are so many influencers of fashion design and the colors used in fashion. I've always thought the most well known "international" designers (think Calvin Klein, DKNY, Stella McCartney etc.) cast the greatest directions. I've been told these designers are working two years ahead in many cases. Dunitz & Company starts working on new fair trade collections about six months ahead of their fair trade jewelry release. And then there is Pantone making their announcements of color long after the rest of us have done our work.

I've been at the design game for a long time. Often, I dream of color combinations. Most often I am inspired by the ready-to-wear runway shows. I watch them avidly for inspiration. I also have noticed over the years that color trends gradually evolve and disappear. For instance, shades of grey have dominated for as much as three years. In recent years all shades and tints of jade seem to persist. This has allowed Dunitz & Company the opportunity to repeat successful color combinations. Shades of grey or silver with jade and seafoam ....just isn't going anywhere. And then there is PURPLE!

With our fair trade jewelry collection, I tend to always offer twelve colors. With our lower-end jewelry, our gift shop customers are more successful when they can offer their clients a potpourri of colors. For the upcoming Spring 2018, our plans were no different. New to my color range for Spring and one I'm most excited about is Black/Silver/Crystal. There seemed a plethora of black & white on the New York runways. And after I finished my colors this season, I thought something is missing. Guess what that was? Yes. Purple. To round out our fused glass and beaded collections we added some amethyst and plum. And in a few cases combined with lime or grass green.

Flash forward. December 2017 and after all of those "international designers" I mentioned earlier have launched their Spring 2018 designs, Pantone crowns ULTRA-VIOLET color of the year for 2018. Seriously? Leatrice Eiseman is viewed as the goddess of color. And clearly, everyone is scrambling. Harper's Bazaar immediately wrote that many designers including Tom Ford and Michael Kors were showing more flattering shades of amethyst for Spring 2018!

So why did Pantone choose ULTRA-VIOLET as their color? Eiseman is quoted here, "We are living in a time that requires inventiveness and imagination. It is this kind of creative inspiration that is indigenous to Ultra Violet, a blue-based purple that takes our awareness and potential to a higher level."  Pantone's website suggests Ultra Violet is focused on the mysteries of the cosmos,  the intrigue of what lies ahead and discoveries beyond.  Enigmatic purples have also been symbolic of counterculture, unconventionality and artistic brilliance. Seriously, who is Pantone hiring to write this stuff? I'm afraid to say that purple is also the color of kings or those that think they are king.

Pantone has joined the Facebook advertising craze and is actively sponsoring posts about their 2018 color choice. And Facebook strollers are eating up the announcements. ("I better paint my walls purple now." "I bought a dark purple shirt last week. I'm way ahead." and the comments go on and on and on.)  You better believe Pantone is successful in creating trends. I'm sure many an "international designer" is masterminding how they can cut some last minute garments for retailer racks.

Bloggers and top magazines and publishers are grabbing at straws. Nylon and New York Times and every other magazine last week launched articles with found photos of perfect purple clothing and accessories for your 2018 wardrobes. I'll almost guarantee that their next printed editions will offer the same.

Even the stylists on NBC's Today Show were in on the act this morning. Both Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb were decked out in 'Ultra-Violet' clothing. I tuned in late. I have no idea if they featured a story today on this recently crowned shade.

I'd like to say that I was on the pulse in advance of the Pantone announcement. The truth is, as mentioned above, I added 'shades of purple' to our 2018 Spring collection, because it was needed to round out our offerings. Honestly, I would have never guessed "Ultra Violet" (AKA dark Purple) would be bestowed such an honor. But heck, Dunitz & Company is ready for you. Our fair trade fused glass will shine this season with our color 88 (a repeat of amethyst and violet) and our new color 117. This luscious combo marries plum with lime.

Our newest bead-work color 354 joins amethyst and violet with various shades of spring green. We think you'll love it. It's bright and perky and makes one think of new growth and flowers. One might suggest that this combination is the perfect coupling of Pantone's 2017 color "Greenery" with their 2018 queen, "Ultra-Violet".

Dare I say sometimes these projections don't equal sales or popularity. Somehow, 2016's Rose Quartz was a big bust. In the meantime, if you want to fit in, you might look to Allure magazine's suggestion. After the Pantone announcement, they offered new hair coloring as a way to blend in!

What are your thoughts on this topic? -ND

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Chat with Rachel Spence of Fair Trade Federation

I thought it would be fun to know a little bit more about Rachel Spence, the Engagement Manager at Fair Trade Federation. I asked her if I could interview her for this blog. She graciously said yes, and today, she was my victim ;). My goal was to learn a bit more about her and find out what had motivated her to work in 'fair-trade'.

LinkedIn seemed a good place to start when prepping for my chat with Rachel. I loved learning that she had studied for her Masters Degree in International Affairs at George Washington University and worked at the DC - UN offices during those years. (I softened her up by mentioning that my nephew had also studied at GW and loved it.) I wondered if there was a life experience that attracted her to this course of study. Rachel mentioned that growing up in Delaware had a great deal to do with that choice.  She stated that many international headquarters are based in Delaware and as a kid she was ever-cognizant of their presence. That, family vacations abroad (she specifically mentioned loving Mexico) and  frequent trips to a Ten Thousand Villages store kindled her interests in world affairs.

One of Rachel's first gigs was working at United States Council for International Business, a trade association that assists larger corporations with issues concerning gender equality and labor rights. She spoke enthusiastically about this experience.  I also garnered she had a light bulb moment while working at USCIB. Rachel recognized that she wanted to work with small businesses where she felt she would have a greater impact for change. A volunteer opportunity at RUNA, a producer of fair trade tea and energy drinks put her boots on the ground in Ecuador where she helped them through the fair trade certification process.

Rachel joined the staff of Fair Trade Federation during the summer of 2016. And that is when I met her.  She along with other FTF staffers visited NY Now, (a wholesale trade show) to meet and greet with those FTF members exhibiting at the show. That might have been one of her first activities working at FTF. And I learned in our conversation that such activities are some of her favorites. Rachel told me she feeds off meeting members in person at trade shows and gatherings such as the annual Fair Trade Federation conference. Mingling with FTF members (nearly 250 companies now) amplifies her voice and enthusiasm. She's all about educating the public about fair trade and creating visibility for FTF and its members. [Photo to the right was taken at NY Now. I'm on the far left. Rachel is on the far right.]

Now the fun stuff! I asked Rachel to tell me about her favorite fair trade items she uses in her every day life. Right off the bat she mentioned that she's all about jewelry and clothing. You know I wasn't going to have any of that. I insisted on specifics! Phew!  Maybe it's lip service. Rachel mentioned she adores the two pair of Dunitz & Company Joanie M fused glass earrings she owns. (Note, she's wearing a pair in the first photo posted above.) She also described a beige and brown handbag she carries each and every day that comes from Manos Zapotecas, another Fair Trade Federation member.  It was clear she owns many fair trade adornments and it was not a simple task to select a favorite.

The thing is Rachel wants everyone to enjoy fair trade pretties as much as she does. And as Engagement Manager for FTF, she's continually finding new ways to communicate to the world about just how great fair trade items can be.  Just yesterday she was an integral part of a "Twitter" conversation focused on holiday shopping.  If you were on twitter yesterday, and you didn't know about the Fair Trade Federation Holiday Guide, you may very well know about it now. There are oodles of fashion, food and home decor items featured. Luscious items.  Haven't finished your shopping? Check it out. Dunitz & Company's fused glass cuffs can't be missed!

It was at this point we digressed a bit. Rachel shared with me her love for her 2 year old, possibly Labrador/MinPin X rescue dog, Ivy.  And then of course, I had to brag about my two Doberman rescues, Stetson and Ida.  Dogs? Don't get me started. But, at this point, I think both Rachel and I were operating on fumes. I mean, this can be tough for both interviewers and interviewees!

In closing, I asked Rachel what was the one thing she'd like people to know about fair trade. Guess what? That wasn't a simple question either. She left me with three thoughts.
  1.  Many companies working in fair trade spend a lot of energy focused on the well-being of our environment.  Yes, fair traders take care of people. She also wants everyone to know that when talking about fair trade, the environmentally friendly aspect of fair trade often is overlooked.
  2. She recognizes that people who support fair trade (with their pocketbooks) are most often interested in the stories of aid and support. But, just as important is the high quality and good design now available from fair trade producers.
  3. And finally, she mentioned it is easier to "shop fair trade" than ever before. This is the case because you can easily purchase great products on line and there are more and more (brick & mortar) shops and producers offering fair trade items. It's not always about coffee!  
Thank you Rachel for spending your morning (on the phone) with me. I really enjoyed our chat. Want to learn more about Fair Trade Federation, fair trade and FTF members?  Please check out the FTF site. There you'll be able to easily browse and learn so much more. -ND

Saturday, December 9, 2017

My Favorite Instagram Feeds

I look at a lot of photos each and every day on Instagram. Between my @ndunitz feed and @shopdunitz feed, I breeze through nearly 2400 accounts of images. Yes, that is a load of images! I follow the retail shops that sell Dunitz fair trade jewelry. I watch sustainable and ethical bloggers. I track all sorts of fashionistas. I follow back - those that watch me. And at the end of the day, there are a few feeds that have become my favorites. Here are a few you might enjoy watching too. Note, none of these Instagramers have paid me for this mention.

Many of you know, I learned so much about fashion from my mother. She was my first teacher of fashion. As a kid, I watched her dress up for all sorts of social events that ranged from charity luncheons to gala dinner parties. She was a clothes horse and she looked good in everything. And she knew her designers.  I think this is why I've become so intrigued with Rachel Adelicia's Instagram feed. This girl rocks style. And it warms my heart to see her wear amazing vintage design.  I drool over the clothing she shows off.  I'm almost sure she has great relationships with some upscale resale shops. Women wearing beautiful clothing on IG are a dime a dozen. Rachel not only looks terrific in so many styles, she styles her shots very very well.  Seriously, she could be a magazine editor. She has a great eye. I sent her a message through IG recently asking her about her inspiration.  She responded to me that she loves looking at fashion advertisements in magazines and recreating the looks with vintage. Bravo, Rachel. Read her blog to learn more beyond the photos she shares on Instagram.

I love to eat. OK, most of us do! And I love to look at beautiful food. For this very reason, I watch a few foodie feeds on Instagram.  My favorite eye candy comes from Ivy Chin, who describes herself as a self taught and passionate cook. She uses edible flowers. Her works are full of amazing colors. And her combination of colors has inspired my jewelry design. You just NEVER know what will be the catalyst for design. I can't tell you how many times I've commented on Ivy's photos with "too pretty to eat."  Check out her feed and let me know if you agree.

Weaving tales in color seems to be a specialty of Emma Thomas. She's going through a pink phase right now. If you scroll through her feed you'll see lots of luscious and foggy colors. I loved her recent posts of hunter green images. She features yummy vintage time and time again.  And the filters she chooses create such a wonderful moody feel. I drool over many of her choices. And I know I'll never find or be able to afford many of the breathtaking designs she features.  So for now, I live vicariously through her feed. Love it, Emma!

Last year a friend of mine suggested I reach out to fashion bloggers on Instagram to see if I could obtain some visibility for Dunitz & Company's fair trade jewelry. I wrote to several women. Many ignored me. Several looked at our website and emailed specifically which pieces of ours they'd love to own and model. Others left it up to us. Rie Victoria Aoki was one of the women I contacted. At the time, she posted several photos on Instagram and on her blog wearing Dunitz jewelry. Since that time, her's has become one of my favorite feeds to watch on Instagram. And clearly, I'm not alone. Her followers have been growing exponentially. Why? Because this is one woman who has it going on. She's stunning. She has style. And, from experience, I can tell you she is lovely too. Add her to your IG list! She will inspire your style.

Please share with me your favorite Instagram feeds. I'd love to watch what you find most inspiring. And of course don't forget to follow ours.-ND

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

How did Dunitz & Company get in the Holiday Guides?

It's hard work! I've been doing my very best to get Dunitz & Company fair trade jewelry some visibility in this season's magazines and holiday guides. I had no idea what a challenge it would be. I also know as consumers change the way they make their purchases (more often than ever people are shopping online) it is imperative that Dunitz & Company grows a, however small, online retail presence. Without developing an additional arm to our business, maintaining the business and sustaining our artisans becomes more difficult.

Perhaps some of my ideas will help you in your business. Perhaps you'll have some ideas for us! In May, I signed up for several months with a service called Media Leads. For $99.00/month, this service provides editor and blogger requests for pitches. It's easy to use and many quality reporters use this service. I also signed up for HARO (Help A Reporter Out) which now emails me three times per day with requests for information. Most aren't applicable to a fair trade jewelry business. Every once in a while, a blogger requests information and/or samples where I know Dunitz & Company will be perfect.  Since May, I've emailed over 200 pitches (each requiring a follow-up). Unfortunately, just writing editors and bloggers doesn't result in publicity. It's a BIG numbers game. Often bloggers and editors ask for samples or high res photos and never use them. You can see the nods we've received in the Press sections of our websites. The Press section of the retail "Shop Dunitz" site only shows our consumer press nods.  The Press section of our wholesale "Dunitz" site also includes trade nods. My head swells as I add the accolades we've received.

Earlier this year, I initiated contact with several Instagram fashionistas and bloggers.  Many asked for samples. Many kept them as gifts and never posted or wrote about our work. Of course, this frustrated me to no end. If you check out the Blogger Posts on our website, you'll see that several women came through for us!

I'm determined. Keep watching us. The jury is out whether all of this hard work translates to sales. In the meantime, our web press sections are growing. And don't forget to shop for fair trade jewelry on our website! -ND

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Museum Store Sunday - November 26th

Forget about Black Friday. Consider Museum Store Sunday. This will be the first of what will be an annual event promoting museum stores. Of course, I think museum shops provide some of the best curated gift selections available anywhere...all year long. Not only do museum shops sell great stuff...the profits earned from purchases directly assist in the missions and programming of museums. I can't think of any reason not to support Museum Store Sunday. And besides, if you're reading this blog, you're a fan of Dunitz & Company. And we consistently sell our beautiful fair trade designs to many museum shops all around the good 'ole USA and sometimes abroad! (Did you know that Dunitz & Company is now a member of the Museum Store Association?) If you read the 'News' section of the Museum Store Sunday website, you'll see that many shops are offering special discounts, giveaways and musical entertainment on November 26th. Why wouldn't you do your holiday shopping at a museum store?

Yes! Shop at a museum store.... & take in an exhibit or two.  Since we're located in Los Angeles, I thought I'd highlight some of the museums & shops I've recently visited. Each of these are participants in and are promoting Museum Store Sunday.

J. Paul Getty Museum - is on my list. I haven't been there yet this season. But, our jewelry is in their shop! And their current exhibit Golden Kingdoms, Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient Americas is calling my name.  I'm sure I'll be there soon to take in the Mayan, Aztec and Inca art on display. And yes, I'll take a secret shopper pic of our embroidered earrings and bracelets! They've already reordered, so we know museum store shoppers like their Dunitz selections.

The Library Store -  I was at the Central Library for the opening of Visualizing Language: Oaxaca in LA in September. The murals on display are fantastic. And of course, while I was there, I had to visit the shop. The staff was lovely and they really have some amazing and innovative gifts there. And seriously, many are so affordable. It would be the perfect place to check out on Museum Store Sunday.

Japanese American National Museum - A regional Museum Store Association meeting, hosted by the Japanese American National Museum prompted my visit. There current special exhibit Transpacific Borderlands: The Art of Japanese Diaspora in Lima, Los Angeles, Mexico City, and São Paulo is so worth checking out. There were some fabulous installations. While there, you better believe I visited the museum shop. And it's terrific. There were so many cool gifts to choose from. And some were edible :). Somehow I think many people automatically assume museum shops  only offer expensive goods. This definitely was not the case here. You could easily pick up affordable treasures for all of your loved ones.

Skirball Cultural Center -  I didn't know about Anita Brenner. And now thanks to the Skirball Center and their current exhibit, I do. Anita Brenner, a Mexican Born, American-Jewish woman was paramount in educating those in the United States about the culture and arts of Mexico. It's not a large exhibit...easy to digest in an hour or a bit more. It is well worth seeing. Now let's talk about their gift shop. It's fantastic. The Skirball may have the best selection of Judaica gifts in all of Los Angeles. And guess what? They also sell Dunitz & Company's fair trade Judaica! You'll find our kippot on display and for purchase.

Annenberg Space for Photography - Most of you reading this won't know that I visited Cuba in 2000 for Jazz Fest. I spent 10 days in Havana listening to amazing music and feasting my eyes on the places and people of this iconic city.  The current photo exhibit at Annenberg Space, CUBA IS is replete with breathtaking and thought provoking images. I saw it last week. And now on my 'to do list' is revisiting all of the images on film and slide I snapped while I was there.  If you're interested in Cuba, or photography, consider this location for your Museum Store Sunday excursion.  The shop has gifts and a lot of really cool books.

Hammer Museum - The Hammer has one of the most talked about exhibits currently showing in Los Angeles.  Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985 had been mentioned to me so many times that I made a point of visiting this museum a few weeks back.  Definitely go with your thinking cap on. There is a lot to read and watch. Do you like watching video?  You'll find it here.  Oh -and while you're there....VISIT the gift shop!

I'm in a tough spot now.  There are several Museum Store Sunday participants driving distance from my home and our offices. Where shall I go on November 26th? All are worthy. All have great shops. I know because I have been to many, just not recently. And we know all of these fine institutions have great exhibits going on as well. OK - so if it's not next week - my mission is to visit each of these museums and their shops over the next several months. This list is long! Pasadena Museum of History, Kidspace Children's Museum, Gamble House, Huntington Museum and Gardens, Long Beach Museum of Art, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, Museum of Contemporary Art, LA Philharmonic (although I have been to the Hollywood Bowl and there gift shop many times this summer because it is located a stone throw from where I live), Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, Craft & Folk Art Museum and Norton Simon. Phew. I have my work cut out for me! Where will you be on Museum Store Sunday? - ND

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Steals & Deals - Dunitz Jackpot Jars

So as of today, Dunitz & Company is pilot testing some new offerings to our wholesale customers. And for those retailers that take advantage, we'll call this a little bit of legal gambling. Of course, we think there is little risk. If you now log into Dunitz & Company's wholesale catalog, in the Closeouts & Specials section you'll find a link to Jackpot Jars. OK - not all of these special deals are in jars. We'll be showcasing Jackpot Boxes, Jackpot Jugs and other containers too! Each will be designated with a random number. Each will be filled with random fair trade jewelry.

As many of you know, I've been designing and wholesaling fair trade jewelry since the early 90's. Every six months we change up all of our colors. Every six months we introduce a host of new designs. Sometimes we have designs that Dunitz & Company sells oodles and oodles of. Even then, we eventually retire those designs. Other times we have designs that bomb.  Sometimes they under-perform because our costs are too high and we can't offer them at a competitive price allowing for successful reselling. Other times, we introduce something that just doesn't excite our wholesale customers. We've also learned over time that what a wholesale customer responds to doesn't always jive with what a retail customer sees. (I've learned this over the years at some retail charity sales I've participated in.)

Bottom line. Dunitz & Company has been around for a really long time.  And we have an office with bins filled with beautiful jewelry that our customers never see.  For this reason, we decided to test market Jackpot Jars. These will be containers of all sizes filled to the brim with some of our older designs. Remnants from season's past.

The first handful of Jackpot Jars are on the site now.  Our customers will never know specifically what they will find. We provide you measurements of the container and a few hints.  For instance, our first jars are primarily filled with fall colored earrings. We also state what the original wholesale value of the contents were. And finally, you'll see that we've slashed our prices way below our actual costs. That's right, way below our costs. That's the point. We might clean up our shelves a bit. Even if a purchaser only sells a few items from any given jar, they will be a winner. Make sense?

This Key Lime Pie cookie tin is a work in progress.  Because of its size, it most likely will be filled with earrings. Going forward, we may be decorating brown shipping cartons. Bracelets and necklaces take up a lot more room. We'll be improvising with this project.

So steal some Dunitz & Company fair trade jewelry for your shop. Roll the dice. We think you'll be happy you decided to gamble...just a little bit. -ND

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Fair Trade Kippot: A Visit to the Skirball Cultural Center

Have you ever been to the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles? I knew when I went there this weekend, I would see the Anita Brenner exhibit and Dunitz & Company kippot in their stunning gift shop. If you live in Los Angeles and you have an interest in Jewish history, this is a must-see museum. The permanent exhibit which explains the history of the Jewish diaspora is exquisite.  Did I say they also have a magnificent gift shop? Yes. Yes. It's even more amazing when they have Dunitz & Company offerings on hand.  Just the same, the choices for menorahs, candle sticks and other Judaica is some of the best available in the City of Angels.

I've been on a mission to see as many exhibits as I can, currently hosted as part of Pacific Standard Time. PST was initiated by the Getty to celebration Latin in Los Angeles. Over 70 arts institutions in and near Los Angeles are hosting exhibitions that do just that. Another Promised Land, Anita Brenner's Mexico, educates us about this influential Mexican-born, American-Jewish writer and journalist who was part of the inner circle of many Mexican artists (Think Kahlo, Rivera, Orozco) most of us are familiar with. It amazed me that she, who had suffered at the hand of so much anti-semitism in her childhood (in Mexico), returned to make a huge difference in educating those living in the USA about the culture and important art scene of Mexico.  I definitely suggest you visit the Skirball Center while this exhibit is there. You'll learn a lot. You'll also see a portrait that Diego Rivera painted of Brenner's then young son....such a precious portrait.

Did you know I absolutely love mural art? If you follow me personally on Instagram, you'll see that I often post images of graffiti art and murals I see everywhere. I seek them out. In Los Angeles, of course. In Melbourne, Berlin, Copenhagen, New York -where-ever I find myself.  I was delighted to see an ancillary exhibit produced by the Skirball featuring many photographs of Ken Gonzales-Day. He has captured images of countless murals that are found all over this expansive city.  It was fun seeing them (most I've never seen) covering the walls of a huge gallery top to bottom. This exhibit is only in one large room, but there is plenty to check out. And the floor you walk on is a huge map of Los Angeles with a red pin for the location of each mural Gonzales-Day has photographed.

The take-away - is definitely visit the Skirball Center! And definitely see as many Pacific Standard Time exhibits as you can. Most are here in Los Angeles through January and February of 2018. Need a suggestion? Send me a note. I've already seen several others.

And, if you're in the market for fair trade kippot, definitely think of Dunitz & Company. And don't forget you can find a nice selection at the gift shop at the Skirball. (And if you're looking to carry fair trade yamulkes in your store, also think of Dunitz & Company! -ND

Monday, October 30, 2017

Vintage Handbag -> Now Planter -> DIY

For years, I've been friends with Bonnie Stauch, costumer extraordinaire. When you live in Hollywood, CA, you're bound to hang out with people that work in the industry. (Yup, I did too - during my early years after college.) Many years ago, Bonnie created wardrobe for what seemed like 100s of Hallmark movies. More recently she's dressed Bruce Willis.  Lucky me, she has used Dunitz & Company designs in several shows. Mel Harris (think Thirty-Something) wore our amulet pouch in one movie and I actually had a press shot of her showing it off. I have scoured my home and office for that image. Unfortunately I put it in such a safe place, I cannot find it. When I'm feeling insecure about what dress to purchase for this event or that event, Bonnie allows me to drag her shopping. Now that's a friend! If you're professionally dressing actors all day long, every day, I'm sure the last thing you want to do is go shopping with your girlfriends.

So, here's the thing. For Bonnie's birthday, I wanted to create a gift she'd appreciate - but was not way over the top. Truth is, none of us need anything. So, something imaginative and thoughtful is always the prize. If you don't already know this about me, I love a good flea market. Hunting the steal is my fun. You can only imagine how stoked I was to find this vintage Lucite (fancy name for plastic) 'Original Rialto NY' handbag. It's not in perfect condition, but it sure is pretty. I knew I'd never carry it.  I knew Bonnie would never carry it. I also know that either of us would love staring at it.  So, the question became, what should I do with it?

Here's the transformation!

Do you think she'll love it? I've given it a trial run in my kitchen window box. So, here's food for thought for you. Just about anything can make a cool planter. A rusty coffee can. Old boots. A humorous coffee mug. Get creative. Succulents are absolutely impossible to kill. They hardly ever need watering. If you do so sparingly, you won't need to have holes in the bottom of your creative pot. So, grab some dirt. Snatch up some cuttings from your yard (if you can) or pick up a few small plants at your nearest nursery. Easy. You'll have your next creative gift in no time flat. Who will receive one from you? (And by the way, she LOVED it!) - ND

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Why Fair Trade? - ABC's

What is 'Fair Trade' and how can I possibly explain the ABC's of it all easily?

Let's start with my backyard, Hollywood Blvd., a big tourist draw. The old Grauman's Chinese theater is surrounded by souvenir shops selling T-shirts for only a few dollars. Seriously, $3.50 for a shirt? We all love a bargain. But, you must wonder how is it even possible for these items to be priced so low. Don't turn a blind eye. Such low priced items on store shelves absolutely means they were produced by exploited people in developing countries. Unfortunately a huge percentage of the world's work force labors very long hours for very low pay.

According to the World Bank, the global poverty line was raised in 2015 to $1.90/day. In 2012, 900 million people lived below this. Can you imagine living on less than $700/year?  It's even more shocking when you look at what percentage of people live on less than $1 or $2/day in various countries around the world.  I was shocked to learn in a recent report published by the World Bank that 45% of people in Nicaragua live on less than $1/day.  If you take the time to digest these stats your stomach will curdle and you'll surely make an effort to change your buying habits.

Not convinced yet? Check out this map of the world. Those countries in blue suffer little poverty as a percentage of their populations. Red or orange, the situation is bleak. Even in the areas shown in yellow, up to 20% of their inhabitants live in poverty. That's less than $1.90/day. I am not an economist or am I prepared to research and write a dissertation on poverty levels around the world. However, I certainly believe in advocating for fair trade and decent treatment of people around our globe.  Simply put, 'Fair Trade' is about giving all people who produce things we consume a fair price for their labor. Workers should earn enough money to live without malnutrition and with the ability to educate their children. Everyone should live with dignity.

This next paragraph was written by Chris Woodford a British science writer. There's no way I could write about this topic better than him. (I made a few small edits.)

"Fair trade is a system that starts from the premise that workers lives have a value; this social benefit is partially what you pay for when you buy something. Fair trade doesn't just mean farmers and producers receive more money so they can support their families in the short term-though that's vitally important.  It also means they work under long-term contracts (and relationships) so their communities have enough security to invest in improvements both in their businesses and their societies. Fair trade producers are often part of small cooperatives of workers. Cooperatives use no child or forced labor, use organic and environmentally sustainable methods, and most often have high standards for animal welfare.  Typically, fair trade producers sign up for some sort of labeling system that guarantees things have been made under good conditions." (Examples of this are World Fair Trade Organization, Fair Trade Federation and Fair Trade Certified.)

 Here's my plug for Dunitz & Company! You know I had to do it! Dunitz is a proud member of Fair Trade Federation and we live according to the group's defined nine principles. Read them and you will have in greater detail a better understanding of our views on worker rights, environmental sustainability, empowerment of women and trade justice. FTF members are diligently screened to verify that they adhere to these principles. Dunitz is also a gold-certified Green America business. (Truth be told, once you pass your screening at Fair Trade Federation, Green America provides reciprocity. No need to be screened again. That doesn't hold in the other direction.)

So how do you explain "Fair Trade" to a total beginner, someone who wants to do good but doesn't want to hear a long lecture? I absolutely loved a recent blog post written by Sarah Culler, our FTF colleague at Fair Trade Winds. She tackled this issue so simply and perfectly. Here are the easy to share tips she suggests.

1. Fair trade means that farmers and artisans earn a fair, living wage for their work and are guaranteed safe working conditions.

2. There are certifications, similar to the organic label, for things like coffee, chocolate, produce and some clothing.

3. For items such as jewelry, cards, mugs and handcrafted pieces, there isn't a certification. But these types of products are made by organizations that are part of the Fair Trade Federation and World Fair Trade Organization. Members have been screened and verified and that's how we know they're fair trade.

4. Fair trade is NOT charity. It provides opportunity for artisans to break the cycle of poverty.

5. YOU can be part of fair trade by thinking twice about many of your purchases. And now that you have a better understanding, spread the word.

Simple, right?

It's Fair Trade Month. Let's all make an effort (and when I type, I'm speaking to myself as well) to tell people why everyone should purchase fair trade items and make a greater effort to purchase fair trade.  As consumers, we can help break the cycle of poverty for so many that suffer around the world. It's easy to do. Are you in? -ND

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Celebrating Latin America in Los Angeles

This is an incredible time to be living in Los Angeles. (Yes, and to visit too!) Led by The Getty, more than 70 arts and cultural institutions across Southern California are celebrating Latin America and Latino art now through January 2018. The 65 page booklet shown here from Pacific Standard Time outlines all the amazing exhibits and activities going on. It means I already know what will be filling up some of my free time on weekends over the next few months. Don't have the hard-copy in hand? You can visit their website to learn more. Many events are free. Others require tickets.

Earlier this month, I attended the opening of Visualizing Language: Oaxaca in L.A. at the Central Library. Los Angeles Central Library is an amazing place even without this current exhibit of huge canvas paintings largely created by those belonging to the artist collective Tlacolulokos. These amazing images are powerful and speak to the marriage of cultures. The images show the spirit of Oaxaca, Mexico with the life and living of immigrants in Los Angeles. Men and women, many in traditional dress are shown using the tools of our current world...stylish tennis shoes, cell phones and digital cameras.

While I was at the library celebrating the start of this great month of activities, I know there were others in other locations doing the same. My experience included hearing songs in the Zapotec language and dancers performing in traditional Oaxacan dress. There was a large crowd and the excitement was infectious. The show started outside. The dancers performed with baskets on their heads. At the time, I had no idea what was in the baskets. Honestly, there were flowers visible and I assumed they were decorative. And then when they completed their dance, they started throwing fistfuls of hard candies and bread rolls (in plastic baggies, of course) at the audience. An elder woman who had a basket of larger bread loaves offered them to people in the audience as well. A visitor near me accepted one
and share a bit with me. It tasted like typical (North) American cinnamon rolls I'm more familiar with. Just not as sweet. These loaves would make great breakfast food with a cup of good fair trade coffee. (I had to get the words fair trade in somewhere on this blog, yes?) After the performers were done sharing the treats they brought, they paraded into the library atrium where the paintings hang. The crowd followed them in. It was loud and fun even though the acoustics inside the library were far from perfect.

Reminding me of my visit, each and every day, I now have a small poster up in my office which shows a large detail of one of the pieces currently on display.  It's also signed by one of the artists in the bottom left corner.

I can't wait to get over to the Getty Museum to see their current exhibit, Golden Kingdoms. I'm told this exhibit will be a huge crowd pleaser. It's a major international loan exhibition featuring more than 300 masterpieces and traces the development of luxury arts in the Americas from about 1000 BC to the arrival of Europeans in the early sixteenth century. This exhibit covers Inca, Maya and Aztec cultures. Are you in the Los Angeles area? Did I say you must check this exhibit out? (And many others going on?) Yes!

OK - here's the pitch for Dunitz & Company! When you're at the Getty, you MUST check out their gift shop.  For the duration of this exhibit, they are selling Dunitz & Company fair trade earrings and bracelets. The buyers thought some of our designs were reminiscent of Pre-Columbian works, so it made complete sense. And of course, they were thrilled that we are members of Fair Trade Federation and our prices very reasonable. This photo shows a couple of styles that you'll find in their shop. You'll find these earrings in other colors too.

Another exhibit I know will be well worth seeing is at the Skirball Cultural Center. Their exhibit this season focuses on Mexican-born, American Jewish writer Anita Brenner. Through her life and work, we will experience the culture of Mexico and its relationship with the United States. The Skirball always puts on amazing shows. In the area? You must attend. And while you're there, check out the gift shop. The Skirball is currently selling Dunitz & Company kippot.

There are too many shows going on in and around Los Angeles celebrating our relationship with Latin America to list them all. To learn of them all, spend some time online at Pacific Standard Time.

Here are a few more I absolutely do NOT want to miss:

Photography of Cuba - Annenberg Space for Photography

Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-85 - Hammer Museum

Found in Translation: Design in CA & Mexico 1915-85 - LACMA 

La Raza - Autry Museum of the American West

Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of Caribbean Archipelago - MOLAA

Hollywood in Havana: Five Decades of Cuban Posters - Pasadena Museum of CA Art

OMG - & there are so many more! I'm going to be VERY busy. If you're in Southern California, please join in and enjoy all this city and our surroundings have to offer. -ND

Friday, September 8, 2017

Museum Store Association Membership - Inspires Memories

I recently applied for membership to the Museum Store Association. And thankfully my application was approved. In all honestly, various members have been encouraging me to join this group for a very long time. Most recently and obviously persuasive was Ione from New York Historical Society. Dunitz & Company has always worked with and placed our fair trade jewelry in many museum gift shops. I'm now in an even better situation to mingle with and exchange information with a host of buyers I may not have met at the trade shows we attend.

Becoming a member of this group brought back a host of museum memories for me. For this blog, I thought it would be fun to share some of them. Now you'll know even a little bit more about me. I attended West Bloomfield (Michigan) High School. My senior year, I was one of 4 students chosen to participate in an educational program at Cranbrook Institute of Science.  Evidently Matt, Harold, Mark & I were the smart and nice kids chosen to "teach" sixth graders that were bused to the museum for introductory classes on a host of topics. My expertise became microscopes and introductory astronomy. Honestly the funniest memory for me is that I was paired up with Mark to teach the astronomy class. (Shall we talk about Alpha Centauri? No.) Nearly a year before this, Mark who lived in my residential neighborhood had asked me out on a date, to a school dance. I had already been on dates, so I remember thinking at the time how odd it was when his older sister chaperoned us. It was an awkward evening. What turned out to be even more awkward was that even though we only lived a few houses apart, we didn't speak again until we were paired for teaching this class.  Now THAT was awkward for two gawky kids. Thankfully we resolved the situation quickly and successfully taught together that semester. Guess what? Mark is now a 'facebook friend'!

I graduated from the University of Michigan and majored in History of Art. Truthfully, I always dreamed of attending Art School. My parents however didn't think that was a practical move and for me that was not an option. Instead, I spent my college years studying other people's art. One wonderful memory I have from my college days was being part of the first docent class at the University of Michigan Museum of Art. (The photo posted here is of the museum I remember. This building remains today. However, it is attached to a spectacular contemporary addition.) Our docent training took place over two semesters my junior year. Most of the class was comprised of women living in Ann Arbor who after training intended to volunteer at the museum for many more years. As an experiment,  three students were selected to be part of this program, Jonathan Kuhn (who is now the Director of Art & Antiquities for the city of New York), Barb Parker-Bell (now a professor at Marywood University) and me. Our instructor was a PhD candidate, Vicky Clark who later, and for years was affiliated with Carnegie Mellon. Our obligation after training was to provide docent tours throughout our senior year of college.

I don't remember my schedule exactly. Sometimes on the weekend, I would tour a group from the general public.  And more often, we took school kids who were bused from surrounding areas for a tour of the museum. If you asked them how a Helen Frankenthaler painting made them feel, they were without inhibitions. Or if you asked children how Esther (Esther before Ahasuerus by Guercino) felt in this prized painting, they were happy to share their thoughts. The kids were always the most fun.

For the most part, our tours were planned. We knew which pieces in the museum required a mandatory stop. A little leeway sometimes allowed us to squash in a piece not on our regular list.  A grey-scale print of the Swimmer by Alex Katz was one I typically added to my tours. I learned of Katz when I was a docent. And his images had never been included in my coursework. To this day, Alex Katz is probably my favorite living artist (other than my niece, Helen Gotlib!)

The summer after docent training, I had applied for internships at several museums. It was crazy but I was offered positions everywhere I applied. How was I going to decide between the Detroit Institute of Arts, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art or the Guggenheim? The choice was not easy, but it had to be made.  First, it was a given that I should leave home and experience the Big Apple.  I would have been volunteering my time to help out a curator at the Brooklyn Museum or the Whitney. The Whitney had always been one of my all-time favorite places. The clincher was the Guggenheim had a very specific internship program where they hired many students. At the time, I didn't know anyone in New York. It seemed a good idea to choose a job where I would have a built-in social life as well. I was selected to work in the business office of the museum. This was probably best suited for me since I had decided I wanted to somehow combine arts with business for my career. Truthfully, I didn't want to make a career out of studying other people's art.

And my other responsibility that summer....was being a docent at the Guggenheim. They knew I had experience. So, again, I was one of three interns chosen to study and then tour the general public on their then Rufino Tamayo retrospective. And those were some big crowds. Sometimes those tours seemed to attract 50, 60 or more people. Seriously it felt like 100! I must say, I've always been fearful speaking in front of crowds. And I'm not sure this experience helped me get over it.

My funniest memory was on what probably seemed like one of my largest crowds. Why? Because my mother traveled for a visit from Michigan to join in. At the end of the tour, my mom shouted out from the back of the crowd, "Young lady, that was an awesome tour!" And everyone clapped and seemed to agree. My reply - "Don't listen to her, that's my mother!" What a roar in the audience that created. I smile now just thinking about that.  (For years after this tour, my mom always remembered that Tamayo frequently painted small heads with bodies proportionally too large).

So, now I'm an official part of a museum gang again! I very much look forward to working more closely with many more museums. Do you have a favorite museum memory? -ND