Eco-Friendly Fashion has, and forever will be, a subject that at once both intrigues and perplexes me. Sure I’m down to save the planet one pair of overpriced Toms at a time, yet as the prices rise from sneakers, to denim, to evening wear– I start to wonder if I’m better off snaggin’ a pair of Converse and picking up some trash around a lake or something. I mean they get you with the whole “Buy One Give One” thing, but on the flip side their shoes are made in China.
It’s a hot topic with heavy hostility in the industry. After all, it’s hard to distinguish a marketing scheme from a well intentioned/devised label. Not to bash the system (although you’re probably better off thrifting), but who wants to pay big money for small ticket items like hoodies and tanks? Jewelry on the other hand, is always worth spending a pretty penny for… Sooo, what if you could have your cake and eat it too? Oh boy do I love a good cliché.
Enter: Chloe Benjamin!
Organic, reasonably priced jewelry, supporting a Vassar grad and small business owner. (DAyyumm. You know you’re impressed).
“I use the word organic to imply that I try to only use elements that are entirely natural, which means I stay away from synthetically-modified components. I make an effort to source my materials ethically and locally; most come from small bead and rock shops in the Madison area,” said Benjamin in an emailed statement.
Graduating from Vassar in ’10, Benjamin now runs a small jewelry business to supplement her careers as a fiction writer and an English teacher. It was while earning her M.F.A in fiction at Madison, that she found her passion for jewelry making. “I've been making jewelry for myself since my teens, but it wasn't until I moved to Madison that I thought of turning it into a business. Jewelry-making became a way to channel my creative energy when I wasn't working on my novel,” said Benjamin.
Benjamin’s jewelry line has become especially important over the past year, as she graduated with a master’s degree and began teaching freshman composition as an adjunct professor at Edgewood College. “ [It’s] a gig I love, but which doesn’t pay very much. So my business has given me a way to get by while doing what I love.”
Benjamin tends to appreciate jewelry that is reflective of the natural world in some way, which is why she creates with raw stones and minerals. “I'm constantly amazed by the beauty of these elements that have undergone little to no modulation,” said Benjamin. Working with smooth and rough-cut stones, she creates polished, organic pieces that feel both raw and architectural. The contrasts between polished and rugged, smooth and edgy, strength and delicacy, inspire her creations. Benjamin said, “As a writer, I'm also inspired by personality and narratives; I give each piece a name because I like to imagine them as characters, with lives after they leave my studio.” Benjamin’s personal style is not dissimilar to her work aesthetic, as she adds jewelry to an outfit to illuminate the contrasts she so adores. Pairing an angular, metallic piece with a soft, feminine dress or using a larger stone necklace to bring a sense of play to a simple black shirt. To mix things up a bit, Benjamin incorporates vintage pieces into her work, like parts from old pocket watches, which add an element of richness and history.
Benjamin is committed to using high-quality materials like sterling silver and gold-filled wire and chain, as her jewelry is built to last. Yet it’s important to her that the product is affordable, ranging from $25 to $75. With much love to her alma mater, Benjamin has created a special coupon code for Contrast readers giving 15% off, storewide. Just enter the Esty coupon code: CONTRAST at checkout.
On selling her pieces on Etsy (a website that provides a platform for independent craftsmen & craftswomen to sell and distribute their goods) Benjamin stated, “I love being able to interact personally with customers and other sellers, which gives the Etsy community a sense of connection and accountability.” It’s a lot of work for Benjamin, who absolutely considers making jewelry a second job. Nonetheless, it seems the benefits have outweighed the time and effort it takes to keep her business up and running.
Check It Out:
Link to Etsy shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/abirchformonday
Link to Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/A-Birch-for-Monday/241243452611525?ref=hl
Etsy coupon code: CONTRAST, which can be entered at check-out for 15% off storewide.
Holiday orders should be placed by December 18th.