THOUGHTS

THE JOURNEY OF SELF-DISCOVERY




 




                                                                   

30TH JANUARY 2018

CHANGING PERCEPTIONS

Every time I see Antonia I am astonished at how great she looks. Her graceful petite figure is carefully sculpted- athletic, but feminine. Always smiling and full of positive energy, her strong mind creates her strong body. She squats 132.5kg , well over double her weight, and has a heart of gold.

Vegan since the age of 17, Antonia Blackler is my latest inspiration. I had the opportunity to photograph her for the Classic Collection back in November.

Today, I would love to share her journey of kindness and independence with you because it is challenging archaic perceptions.

At the age of 47, the bodybuilder has got 3 decades of plant based diet under her belt. She says there is no disadvantage in being vegan. Winner of 2017 NABBA South East Athletic Figure competition, the self-proclaimed feminist is now preparing for her next show in Hayes looking fierce.

Formerly a contemporary dancer, she has managed a wildlife hospital where she dedicated her time to saving lives of animals. She considers this to be her best accomplishment. Today she is a manager at Gover Gym in East Sussex.

Introduced to cruelty-free living and a life of compassion by Animal Aid stall in London, Antonia believes feeling content is of utmost importance in life.

You can follow her on Instagram @antoniablacker

11TH AUGUST 2017

LET'S SLOW DOWN FASHION

Up to mid-19th century , clothing and jewellery was hand-made. We appreciated the clothes on our backs and we would alter and mend them to make them last for as long as possible. Jewellery used to serve as a symbol of social rank and wealth then. By the beginning of the 20th century we see the rise of new factory technologies and global capitalism. New systems of production are introduced and the mass produced fashion is here to meet the need and want of every customer. Now even lower class can afford jewellery made by machines. Fashion brands are fighting to satisfy needs and demands of their customers by evolving products and introducing new must have trends.

Today we own more than we need and we just mindlessly consume because the fashion industry is trying to convince us that we will be happier, more beautiful and more popular. Manipulated by clever marketing, we are buying into cheap seasonal products that will give us about one day of sugar rush according to this recent survey. We will discard these products tomorrow thinking it’s ok, it didn’t cost a lot in a first place. But what about the environmental cost? We extract precious materials from earth we value for short time, only to return them back, this time to landfill. Equally important is the energy and resources needed to turn raw material into a finished product.

I want to talk about jewellery though. It seems that when we buy brand jewellery or jewellery made of precious materials, we tend to value it more. The advantage of buying for instance silver or gold adornment is that you can re-sell it because precious materials won’t devalue. How many times will you wear a fashionable piece of bling from high street ? And when it starts looking tatty and break will you get it fixed? Probably not, you will dispose of it because the material is of very little value. However the worst idea is to bin your unwanted jewels because it will take a very long time for them to degrade in the landfill. I would highly recommend donating to charities, some are interested even in broken costume jewellery. Also there are many craftsmen re-modelling old costume jewellery.

Yes we have a lot to think about on daily basis. Last thing we need is to think more! By having fewer items in your wardrobe you will spend less time thinking about what to wear. Have you heard of capsule capsule wardrobe or the Minimalists?

I hope we all want to stand for something. What do our choices say about us? Is British made what matters to you? Or no child labor? Organic? We are so lucky to have access to information via internet. In a blink of an eye we can find companies we want to buy from because their mission resonates with us. Little research and afterwards it’s all about habits. I am looking for brands and stores I want to support that cater to my needs. And I buy from them again without having to think about it too much next time I need those products.

Let's admit it-the responsibility needs to be assumed on both ends. Manufacturers should think about their environmental and social impact, concentrate on creating durable products with recycling in mind. Consumers should choose to buy less, to buy better and to question how a product is made and who made it.

Please support the forward thinkers and push the fashion industry to change from what might appear to be a money grabbing machine into an industry that’s good for mankind and the planet.

4TH AUGUST 2017

EXPLOITING CORAL FOR JEWELLERY

Corals are fascinating marine invertebrate animals exhibiting wide variety of colours, shapes and sizes. They play a vital role in helping to maintain the sea's delicate ecological balance and provide food and shelter for countless millions of other organisms. As a renewable human resource, corals are the slowest growing organisms of any known fishery past or present.

Coral reef is facing many threats today, but the one I want to talk about is mining coral for jewellery industry. Coral is classified as an organic gem along with pearls, ivory and amber. That’s very sad knowing that coral is an animal.Being harvested since the 8th century for use in jewellery industry, it is now vulnerable to over-exploitation, especially the red-pink-white corals.

Red coral is most commonly harvested for use in jewellery, thought to be the most precious of all types. Since ancient times red coral was believed to cure madness, calm storms, ward off the evil eye and bad luck and even provide protection against plague. Red coral symbolizes attachment and devotion.

Coral reefs provide shoreline protection and sources of food, work and livelihoods to local communities to name just a few benefits. Today it is believed that about one-third of coral reefs worldwide are damaged beyond repair and the rest is under critical condition and threat.

Most coral colonies that are harvested take a long time to recover. The skeletal framework of reefs takes hundreds to thousands of years to grow and if destroyed it will take as long to grow back.

Mining coral in unsustainable manner only provides short term economic benefits. Having recognized these issues many countries have banned coral mining, such as Sri Lanka and Indonesia, however due to lack of enforcement it still goes on. Hawaii and Australia established management plans that limit harvesting to a sustainable level.

I don’t agree with coral use in any way, sustainable or not. But I do understand that it supports many small economies. Local communities need to be educated on sustainable fishing and harvesting methods so that we don’t see the use of cyanide and explosives. Also if there are alternative livelihoods, they should be identified.

Consumers of coral and coral reef products need to be aware of the consequences of their choices. And finally jewellers should understand that coral isn’t just a material, it used to be an animal living in harmony with the planet.

Please say no to coral jewellery.


28TH JULY 2017

SAPPHIRE RUSH IN MADAGASCAR

Madagascar is home to wide variety of animal and plant species, mainly unique to this, the fourth largest island in the world. It is also one of the poorest African countries where reportedly ninety percent of people live on less than two dollars a day. Malagasy face problems such as poor health care, economic problems and malnutrition. It has been an island for about 88 million years since it split from India.

With that in mind you won’t be surprised to hear that people here will seize any financial opportunity, usually to the detriment of the environment. Madagascar is today one of the leading suppliers of coloured gems since they were first discovered in the 90s.

This island has lost more than 80 percent of its original forest land since humans arrived about 2000 years ago. So it took 2000 years to decimate 80 percent.

As if there wasn’t an issue with deforestation already for slash and burn agriculture, timber logging, fuelwood and charcoal production, now the remaining 20 percent of forests are slowly removed to make way for sapphire mining. Tens of thousands of miners are trying their luck, some having left teaching and farming professions. Whilst some might do better temporarily, for others such as locals, the prices of goods have risen due to higher demand and they worry about their safety. With this enterprise being largely unregulated, who knows what the future holds for animals such as lemurs.

It’s up to the government to regulate this industry. The gems should be extracted in the way least detrimental to the environment. Miners working in safe conditions paid fairly. The government taxing and re-investing back in to the country. Yes it is possible, just look at how Botswana adopted a new model for sustainability. I would like to see less greed and more consideration for land and people. It seems Madagascar is exploited and all Malagasy will be left with in the near future will be depletion of natural resources and devastation which will no doubt also affect the eco-tourism it’s renowned for.

Is it really worth the suffering?


21ST JULY 2017

DO WE KNOW WHAT WE ARE BUYING?

When you buy a bread, you mostly understand the making process and the ingredients that have gone into it. The same when you buy an apple, because you have seen fruit farms before, right?

How come when we spend a lot of money on a jewellery that may even become a family heirloom in the future, we have no idea how it was made and what the background of the ingredients are? Well it’s probably because it’s not really talked about and we don’t ask.

In the UK, the metal production has decreased in the past century due to globalisation. It’s basically cheaper to extract it from other countries. As for the gem mining, whilst there are precious gems of many varieties found across the country, there are insufficient quantities to justify expensive mining.

There you have it, the closest most of us ever got to catching a glimpse of reality was in the 2006 movie blood diamond starring Leonardo di Caprio. Yes, it mostly depicted the troubling funding of warlords and social exploitation, but there are numerous other issues.

We rely in the digital age on rare metals and minerals. They are also used in many components essential to make technology work, yet we don’t always recycle old technology because it isn’t cost effective and it isn’t always easy. So we are throwing away globally billions of pounds each year when we carelessly dispose of our e-waste. Recent reports show that up to 90 percent of e-waste is being illegally traded and dumped each year. Large quantities of waste are shipped to developing countries where they are recycled in the most eco-unfriendly manner.

We take and we produce and we fill this planet with garbage. Instead we should find a way to make stuff last. We all blame the corporations because it’s so easy. I definitely agree that products aren’t made to last no more and companies should show more responsibility and less greed. But what about us, the consumers? We have immense power, when will we realize it? You tell the manufacturers what you want to buy through your spending choices.

What influences your purchasing? Being vegan, I think an awful lot about what I’m buying (you do get into the habit of questioning everything when you do it long enough). Far from perfect, I learn something new every day and aim to implement it. With new controversies surfacing every week it’s hard to keep up. That said accessing information is easier than ever and in my opinion it’s our responsibility to self-educate ourselves. Knowledge is power and if we are informed, we will make a conscious decision, hopefully a good one.


14TH JULY 2017

ORGANIC COTTON

Cotton thread is one of my favourite materials, but only the organic type. If you aren’t familiar with the controversy surrounding conventionally grown cotton, please read on.

Cotton grows in warm climates such as the U.S., Uzbekistan and India. This shrub is known to date to pre-historic time.

Currently cotton is of the most chemically intensive crops in the world. At least half of the commonly used pesticides used on cotton crops are known to be carcinogens and cotton defoliants are the most toxic farm chemicals on the market.

So that’s your cheap cotton. There is an alternative thought, the organically grown cotton. Grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or defoliants, organic cotton is becoming more popular. Whilst the quality is the same, the social and environmental impact is what separates the two.

Sadly, organic cotton only represents less than 0.1 percent of all the cotton produced worldwide.

Ok, so what you put on your back is one thing, but what if i tell you that majority of the harvest ends up on our plates? Cotton seed oil maybe found in cookies, dressing and other processed food. cotton meal is fed to livestock.

I shall not elaborate any further as this is a complex topic, but I do hope you will look for further information.

Organic cotton is good for people and environment. Choose organic and support this slowly growing industry. The power is in our hands, the hands of consumers.


7TH JULY 2017

DO YOU REALLY NEED THOSE CHEMICALS?

I have been making jewellery since early teenage years, however it wasn’t until I started studying in London that I have gotten into the proper metalsmithing. Lacking any previous experience with harsh chemicals could be the reason I didn’t think about the environmental impact some of the chemicals have. It strikes me that when you are presented with health and safety issues around workshop it’s mostly in relation to personal health. But what of the environment?

Being more thoughtful now I try to find good alternatives to harmful toxic chemicals. I know you can’t always find green alternative, but I would rather not make certain type of jewellery if it can’t be produced safely. This article could turn out to be really long but I only aim to show you what I have changed to meet my new studio standards.

Soldering utilizes hot molten metals to join metal parts. The metals are coated with a flux to prevent the build-up of metal oxides on the surface. The flux i have been using turned out to be safe for the environment as well as for me. That said I am aware of the safety precautions that in general apply to metal working. the product is called borax cone, which is salt of boric acid.

Pickling is the process of removing flux and oxide from the surface of silver after soldering. The pickling solutions commonly used are a solution of sulphuric acid, or nitric acid in water, to name a few. I now use citric acid, but white vinegar and salt gives a good result too. Whilst the bath isn’t toxic to begin with, once used it needs to be disposed of safely as it’s full of copper, which is extremely toxic to fish and other aquatic life.

My old polishing pastes needed to be swapped for ones containing no animal fats. Funnily enough my new supplier of cruelty free polishing paste is even cheaper than my previous one!

To darken silver, I used to use patina called the liver of sulphur (potassium sulphide). I have searched quite some time to replace this toxic solution for something green. I have found at last a product which is commonly used as a bath solution in japan. Rich in sulphur, yet safe to use, I get exactly the same result.


30TH JUNE 2017

ABOUT ARGENTIUM SILVER

I am pleased to tell you about my latest eco material discovery which I believe will soon gain in popularity among fellow jewellers. Argentium silver is a modern sterling silver alloy, containing 93.5% silver. A result of research by Peter Johns at The Art and Design Research Institute, Middlesex University. The traditional sterling alloy (92.5% silver + 7.5% copper) is modified by removing some of the copper and adding the metalloid germanium. Manufactured in Rhode Island, USA By GSM Metals.

I choose to work with argentium silver because it’s made of recycled silver, therefore is eco-friendly (do read my article from 9/6/17 ABOUT RECYCLED SILVER to fully understand what I mean by that). Also very important is that it's brighter than white gold, sterling silver and platinum, has high tarnish resistance, hypoallergenic and anti-bacterial properties and this is just to name the most important ones to consumer.

Every day a new material with such great qualities is developed is a good day and it thrills me to see that there is real initiative to think forward and think green!

I am still learning to work with this new material and so far only made earrings. I am planning to use it more widely in the future though, so watch this space.

23RD JUNE 2017

WHAT DOES VEGAN JEWELLERY REALLY MEAN?

The vegan society describes veganism as a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.

However when it comes to jewellery it seems pretty hard to get a truly vegan piece of adornment. The best you can do is jewellery that says vegan on it, but that means nothing. most jewellers are trained in traditional ways which employ the use of tools and processes that are linked to animal cruelty or have negative environmental impact. Here is just a few examples: polishing paste commonly used contains animal fats. Bench skin hang from the underside of the bench is leather. Rawhide mallet is one of most common tools and is made of hide. Cattle bone casting is using cattle fish. Also many chemicals are toxic. This is just a few examples but if you imagine buying a metal ring with precious stone from a jeweller that doesn't speak of their studio practice in detail the following could be the real cost. That metal and gem came from unknown source, possibly sourced in detrimental way to the planet and people, maybe even funded terrorism and such. Whilst this might sound really harsh the point is that most jewellers often don’t know. They might purchase their supplies from reputable businesses, but that’s about all they know about the origin. Then the way the ring has been processed would most likely include tools and processes that harmed animals and environment. There are alternatives, I have found them. And whilst I feel fortunate enough to have great suppliers, I wasn’t able to get supply of everything. That made me re-think my designs. A small compromise for a huge gain in my opinion. Naturally the more professionals will demand alternatives, the more alternatives there will be!

I don’t mean to speak ill of the industry and majority of my colleagues for they might not know any better. Well most of them aren’t vegan and/or environmentally concerned individuals so probably it doesn’t matter to them. I suppose most jewellers don’t even think about the impact of their practice. But if I and others such as Ute Decker, Greg Valerio, Kerstin Leibach, just to name a few, can take selfless decision to change the impact of their business, then any business small or big can do the same!

The power of consumer to influence industry is tremendous, we just have to realize it! We can pressure every industry to make change for better by supporting brands that have the integrity and the correct mind set. The brands working in socially and environmentally responsible way. By choosing to support them you are sending a loud and clear message:

Let’s stop exploitation, we live in 21st century and we know better.


16TH JUNE 2017

NEWLY MINED GEMS? NO THANKS!

So here is the problem. Mining of gems has got a serious socio-economic and ecological impact , often irreversible. Whilst there is an emerging effort to improve extraction methods so that there is less harm to the environment and treat workers better, it still isn’t enough and it isn’t happening fast enough. The so often unregulated mining business is a fickle one financially and there simply isn’t enough consideration for the biodiversity and sustainable practices to keep the production costs down. This short term, short sighted financial gain is leaving us with more and more places around the globe devastated. Air and water pollution, deforestation, soil erosion, and others all contribute to destruction of local ecosystems, such as coral reefs and underground caves. Needless to say this high carbon footprint industry contributes to climate change and global warming.

Gems in general are durable and are likely to have a long life span as well as long lasting value. Again I believe in appreciating existing resources and using them wisely before we have the actual necessity to produce new. Speaking of new, the lab grown gems are now widely available and are highly sophisticated. Possibly this could be the future.

Next time you think of buying yourself a pretty piece of jewellery with a gem, you might want to find out where the resources came from and at what cost.


30TH JUNE 2017

ABOUT RECYCLED SILVER

Green alternative to sterling silver is Eco Silver. Made of 100% recycled and scrap silver, such as products, medical equipment, electronics and giftware. Sold by Cookson Gold, the  member of Heimerle + Meule Group. Eco Silver has qualities of sterling silver and  is refined in Germany. 

Historically silver has been always recycled, meaning it would have been melted and re-used. However when standard silver is purchased, it’ll be a mix or virgin and recycled. 

Generally, silver mainly comes to market as a by-product of the industrial mining of other metals, such as copper, zinc and gold. In 2005, only 30 per cent of silver came from actual silver mines. According to the report ‘Dirty metals: mining, communities and the environment’, by Earthworks and Oxfam America, the environmental and social costs of metals mining include using as much as 10 per cent of world energy, arsenic emissions, cyanide and mercury poisoning, child labour and human rights abuses, as well as vast landscape damage. Although the mining industry techniques are becoming more eco-friendly, you can’t mine without leaving an environmental footprint. That is why I choose to work with recycled metal rather than Fairtrade and Fairmined.

2ND JUNE 2017

WHAT REALLY MATTERS

This is my first blog post! My name is Sandra Tepla and I thought it would be fun and hopefully informative to write in detail about both my lifestyle and the green makeover my jewellery practice is currently undergoing.

I live in a quaint village in Sussex with my partner John and labradoodle puppy Pepper. We are living in our cottage as green as possible, creating garden with local wildlife in mind and finding new ways of reducing our impact on the planet.

I have been vegan for 15 years and it didn't occur to me up till now that many practices in my studio are conflicting with my lifestyle. I have been inspired at age of fifteen to become a vegan and ever since then I have tried to make sound decisions and be considerate.

I have studied jewellery design in London and ethical and sustainable practice wasn't part of the curriculum. However my personal research found many businesses that care about their impact and pointed out rising interest in ethical and sustainable fashion. I have now found a way to work in ethical and sustainble way and aim to share this with you here to raise awareness and promote better alternatives.

I have made the decision this year to make only sustainable and ethical jewellery suitable for vegans. As i am changing the way I work there are materials that are no longer available to me. I am in the middle of designing new collections and so the content of my website will change in due course to reflect that.

I trust to give like-minded people some food for thought and encourage fellow businesses to think about what is really important. I would like to spark a conversation so follow me on Instagram and Facebook where i will re-post my weekly posts. I am also guest blogger for the Veggie Eye.





          


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