Avid traveler Jill Golden is the designer behind handmade jewelry line Flutter. Through her signature chain-wrapped and plated jewelry, Golden channels her past experience at Cartier and David Yurman into refined eclectic pieces that evoke the feel of her various destinations, from Morocco to Boulevard St. Germain in Paris. In 2012, Golden launched Isaro, a hand-woven beaded collection produced in conjunction with social enterprise Indego Africa.
When did you officially launch your own jewelry collection?
I was making jewelry as a side project and outlet for my creativity for years, but officially launched the collection for Spring 2009.
What was your first piece?
I launched with two collections. The Barcelona Collection, which is chain wrapped stones, inspired by the Gaudi mosaics– the Gracia bracelet is still one of my favorite designs. And the Greece collection–a series of ring and bangle sets with a studded motif.
How did the chunky spikey bracelets evolve into a delicate collection of hand woven Japanese beads?
My design aesthetic is constantly evolving, but it is always some combination of pretty and edgy, which is also a characteristic of the Isaro collection, which features edgy, spiky castings and the delicate bead weaving.
Can you tell us about your new line, Isaro?
I’ve had a bead loom since I was about 10 years old and have pulled it out many times over the years. Last year, I was creating these beautiful pieces, but knew that I could not handle production alone. I decided I wanted to do a Fair Trade production partnership and found the Social Enterprise Indego Africa while searching online. Beadweaving on a loom is not traditionally an African craft, but I knew they had a cooperative of artisans that would be up for the challenge of learning this new skill. We sent over the looms and training manuals, we ship in the Japanese glass beads, and the Ejo Hazaza Cooperative in Rwanda handles all of the beading production. The pieces are then finished in New York with Swarovski findings and brass castings.
Is there a charitable component? How much of the proceeds go overseas? What benefit is it providing to the people in Africa?
The women are paid a Fair Labor wage and I contribute to Indego Africa with each piece. All of Indego Africa’s money goes back to the women in training and development. Here are two quotes from women in Ejo Hazaza that depict the benefits better than I can:
“I feel proud to know the bracelet I made is being worn by someone else proudly, far away.”
“This partnership has really improved our lives because we are now able to buy the basic things we need.”
Where did you stay on your recent visit to Rwanda? What were the accommodations like?
I was in Rwanda for almost two weeks and stayed in Kigali, the capital city. We stayed at a lovely hotel, Chez Lando, and while it wasn’t luxurious, the rooms were very comfortable, the grounds were beautifully landscaped and the people were kind and attentive. We also spent two days at the Volcano National Park, one of the last places on earth where you can still visit the Mountain Gorillas –the same place Dian Fossey did her Gorillas in the Mist research. This was an incredible experience and one that I will never forget.
In what way did the trip impact you most?
I have been working virtually with the Indego Africa team in Kigali and the Artisans for the past year but nothing can compare to living a day in their lives. I was inspired by their strength and beauty and impressed by the work they do and the smiles on their faces with the conditions that challenge them. While their lives certainly have their challenges, the spirit of the Rwandan people is contagious. I felt so creative while I was there, my head was spinning with ideas and every time I look at my photographs I can conjure up their spirit.
Will your collection always have a charitable component moving forward?
For a long time I wanted to do something charitable but nothing felt true to my business and me until I found this partnership. I will continue to let that dictate the direction we go– staying true to the brand and not forcing something. It is very gratifying to know that in our own small way we are doing something good for others.
How do you see the collection evolving? What are you working on for next season to keep things fresh and original?
I just started working with textiles and I see that continuing. Spring/Summer is a time for bright graphic patterns and I love mixing different materials and styles in unexpected ways – that’s all I can say for now!