As a B Corp certified company, UncommonGoods is excited about sustainability. That means more to us than just being “green” – we strive to offer products that reflect the environmental and social best-interests of everyone. So, when our makers are as concerned with sustainability as we are, we’re always excited to learn more about their process and the positive impact they’re having on the world.
Resin has long been a popular material that jewelry makers and other artists use to attach items together, coat or cover objects, or to cast. But many of the most commonly used petroleum-based resins are associated with high greenhouse gas emissions due to an unsustainable extraction process. To avoid these harmful effects, mother-daughter jewelry designing duo Tulianna and Alejandra Garces choose to make many of their pieces using plant-based, non-toxic resins. The Heart of Gold Necklace and earrings, the Full Moon Necklace and earrings, and the Gold Bar Necklace are all examples of stunning accessories made from such sustainable materials. We spoke to Tulianna and Alejandra to get a better sense of the uncommon impact they’re making with their eco-friendly designs.
Where does sustainability find a place in your work?
Even from the beginning when [our company] Belart was in the very first stages of development, we knew that we wanted to create a meaningful organization that was as much about purpose as product. Drawing from personal experiences growing up in Colombia and witnessing the depletion and destruction of environmental resources firsthand, which was accompanied by the displacement of native populations, Belart was determined not so much to reverse this destruction (which is more or less impossible) but to counteract it. We wanted to present the natural beauty of these resources to the world.
It all started, of course, with the tagua seed – not only sustainable, but beautiful, and a rich material with endless possibilities. And then as Belart grew, so did our library of materials with the addition of agave and eco-friendly vegetable resins. Our community grew as well; one artisan group became several, the majority of which are women who have been displaced by violence. However, as much as we have grown and expanded over the years, we are still constantly asking ourselves the same questions we did at the very beginning.
What first inspired you to want to create jewelry with eco-resin, like the Heart of Gold Necklace, Gold Bar Necklace, and Full Moon Necklace? What is the impact of using eco-resin and why is this an important issue for you?
We have always been fascinated by resin and the design possibilities it would provide; however, we were discouraged by how unsustainable and toxic the extraction process for petroleum-based resin normally is. So we were really excited once we discovered a vegetable-based resin made from the bagazo (byproduct) from Colombian lumberyards. It has been a great material to work with and the gold leaf inlay adds that subtle touch of glamour.
Where does sustainability manifest on a smaller scale in your day-to-day work?
At Belart we are constantly thinking with a global mind. We pride ourselves in being an exceptionally mindful and ethical company. In every design, in every conversation we have with our artisans on a daily basis, we are determined to offer our customers a deep connection not only to the environment their pieces came from, but from the hands that created it as well.
How does your work reflect on sustainability in the broader jewelry industry?
Ten years ago when Belart was first founded, the idea of sustainable jewelry was not as widespread as it is today. And just like anything else, as the market evolved, so did we. As the bar is raised, our goal is to keep meeting it, keep innovating, keep creating designs that are influenced by sustainability as they are by high fashion.
If you could visit any natural location in the world, where would you go?
Patagonia, in our opinion, is the final frontier of the untamed. As eco-conscious designers it would be a great trip to take and we cannot imagine the inspiration that would come from it.
In what ways do you hope to further expand sustainable jewelry production in the future? Are there any other eco-friendly and people-friendly materials that you are considering working with?
We are always on the lookout for new materials. At the moment we work with agave produced from 100% solar powered energy, meaning that no machines are involved during the entire process. It is far less corrosive but incredibly laborious – from picking the outer leaves of the agave plants (that replenish every 4 months), combing through them to get the milimetrical threads, dying with water base dyes and drying under the sun, then weaving and making the final product incredibly beautiful and unique. We also hope to continue working with tagua and resin. Even after using the materials for a few years, we believe that our designs and artisans have just skimmed the surface of what these sustainable materials can really do.
What was the most exciting thing about making sustainability a part of your operation?
As a Fair Trade business, we believe that when you create a product you have the ability and responsibility to know exactly where that product came from. You should be able to trace the exact journey of that piece from design to development to delivery. As producers, we can do that with absolutely everything that we make and that’s incredibly exciting. You can take pride in knowing that, in a way, you are playing a role in changing the conversation about how we consume things and how we can create tenable relationships with the world around us.
By choosing materials like vegetable-based resins, tagua, and agave, Tulianna and Alejandra have developed a reputation as a truly thoughtful, responsible design duo. Knowing the care that went into the creation of pieces like the Heart of Gold Necklace and earrings, the Full Moon Necklace and earrings, and the Gold Bar Necklace only adds to their beauty – and they were stunners from the start!