Demdaco Appreciation Week continues today with another giveaway (see below!) and a rare behind the scenes peek at both the design process as well as how + where products are made, including lots of photos from my recent trip to China with Anne (the the product developer I work very closely with). We traveled to China to do some design work for a brand new artisan jewelry line to debut next year (it's going to be so great!) but while we were there we visited the artisan factories that make much of the KRR products. We traveled to Hong Kong and all over mainland China....a trip of a lifetime. Loved China.
Before I begin, I want to respectfully say this: From our ipods to house decor to the clothes we wear to our favorite stationery, so much of what we buy, wear, use, and celebrate in our everyday lives comes directly from China. I know there is concern out there about China's export industry. For those of you who may have strong opinions, I want to say that this post is not a discussion/endorsement on either side of the broader issues. This post is simply my personal story/experience of having products made in China after having traveled there and witnessed the process and the people hand making the products. Please refrain from leaving harsh/critical/judgmental comments. This is not a post for that kind of discussion. Thank you!
I love what Dave K. (Demdaco's co- founder who you met yesterday) says about Demdaco's relationship with their China partners:
"I love China and her people. I view that our industry is a truly global one, and our hearts and affections are with all who are part of our global supply chain. From the artists who conceive of and design the products, to the manufacturers who produce it, to the logistics companies who transport it, to my colleagues at DEMDACO who help distribute it, to the retailers who present it, and to the consumers who purchase and (hopefully) delight in it. All of these folks play an important part in the chain, and all deserve our respect and thanks.
For Demi and I as owners, we actually started our company as a buying agent, living in Hong Kong. So we view ourselves as much a “Chinese” company as an “American (USA)” one. In fact, without our amazing partners in China, we would not exist as a company, and the (hopefully) lovely products that we bring to market could not lift the spirits they do. I know the people who work in these factories; they are wonderful mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and they lead good full lives. And the places they work help them to do that. And, they are really, really good at what they do. So I’m beyond grateful to them, and I respect them immensely.
The word that probably sums it up for us is the word mutuality. We hope, at DEMDACO, to promote mutuality, which is to say that we hope to honor all those involved in the life of a product from concept all the way through to consumer purchase (and hopefully enjoyment!)."
Demdaco has many employees on the ground in China who visit the factories on a regular basis, overseeing all production/quality/etc. I met many of these employees and loved loved loved seeing all that they do to help in the development of product! They are a seriously motivated and talented bunch - very much a family to one another. You will see a couple of them in today's photos.
(girlie figures in process: hand sculpted, molded, and painted in artisan Chinese factories)
When it comes to the KRR Demdaco products, "made in China" could easily be "hand-made in China." This is something I really want to bring into focus and celebrate. I can say this because I had the amazing opportunity to visit the artisan factories where the products are made. I met the owners of the factories, the employees, and watched for myself how the products are literally hand made by skilled and talented artisans.
It was mind blowing. Seeing my artwork reproduced to such quality, among such talented people who work so, so hard to do it well and with integrity...it was eye opening, humbling, and made me feel even more like I was just one small part of a village that makes all of this happen.
That is something that China deeply instilled in me: that the Demdaco KRR products are doing more than offering meaningful gift products in the industry, but they're creating an impact among the global village that help make it all happen. From the people here in the US (the designers, the sales force, the retailers, etc) to the people a world away in China (the factory artisans, the Demdaco employees, etc) and all the places in between (transport, shipping, gift giving), these products travel miles and miles from concept to final product and then hopefully into the heart of a buyer/receiver. It takes a global village to make all of that happen. I want to celebrate that.
That's why we're celebrating Demdaco this week. They are the village leader that is making it all happen, changing lives, and doing business the way it ought to be done.
I'm not sure what I expected when it came to the factories, but I was happily surprised to find that they looked surprisingly like an artists studio....artsy messes were everywhere with lots and lots of glue, paint, scrap materials and more.
(decorative art girlies, hand-made in China))
(she's creating one of the girlie display pieces)
There were young men + women (as in twenty something year olds) sitting around large tables literally constructing, gluing, and painting the products inside big rooms that held all the supplies a typical working studio would hold: drying racks, stacks of materials, paint, trinkets, etc. They were chatting with one another just like you or I would when crafting.
(The wall canvases are completely hand-made in China. Love the precision of how they are stacked)
(Here we are working on jewelry design. That's Freddy to the right, a Demdaco employee)
It was like being a kid in a jewelry shop, constructing necklaces, bracelets and more. SO FUN. It was hard work though, with long days, and a ton of consideration and thought (a years worth) prior to the actual trip to China.
We traveled to several "showrooms" and literally designed jewelry pieces from the gems + stones + materials available to us in that particular vendor's showroom. It was utterly fascinating to work like this. It was speedy, super inspiring, and required quick creative thinking.
We had our trusted GIANT notebook filled with a years worth of research, ideas, sketches, and more, including artwork to inspire color combinations and such...
(me + Zoyee)
And we had Zoyee (in photo above), one of Demdaco's valuable employees in China who helped translate, resource materials, keep track of all the design details, and make sure we were where we were supposed to be here and there and everywhere else (we were literally on a plane, boat, or very long car ride just about every day we were there). Loved working with her - she and her co-workers are critical to the success of the products.
A love story, these two sweethearts met because of the KRR line! She (Lena) worked at one of the factories in mainland China that creates the KRR products and he (Freddy) is a Demdaco employee who works closely with the factory. They met at the factory, fell in love, and got married while I was visiting! How's that for awesome? LOVE!!!!!
Fort those of you interested in seeing more photos of our trip to China, head on over here.
We're giving away a little something special everyday this week in honor of Demdaco Appreciation Week here on the blog. Feel free to enter each day's giveaways! We'll be picking winners next week, including the winner to the all expense paid trip with me (see Monday's post to enter that giveaway)!
For today's giveaway:
*One lucky commenter will win $75 to spend on whatever they wish in the online shop.
*Another lucky commenter will win an original painting by me!
* To enter the giveaway, leave a comment in this post. Tell us what you are most enjoying about your summer (for me, it's porch time in the afternoons with my family). Tell us if anything jumped out at you in this post - was it interesting. Did you learn something? We'd love to know!
* Just one comment per person, please.
* We'll announce the winner soon.