Not So Ordinary Citizens | Creator of Heather Benjamin Jewelry
Posted on December 13, 2014 by Trace
This story encourages you to follow your heart; be lustful for adventure, life experiences, and how to combine your passions with work and at the same time, travel the world…
We are chatting to our friend Heather Goldman, Founder/Creator behind the
beautiful and unique designs that
HEATHER BENJAMIN JEWELRY
are famous for. Heather is currently located in Santa Monica L.A. and manufactures her jewelry in Bali, Indonesia.
This is Heather’s story
— ‘Not So Ordinary Citizens’ interview —
Well, I began putting together beads and other treasures that I had collected from my travels around the world in the form of earrings. My dad offered to sell them at his dental office and Heather Benjamin Jewelry was born. I personally fabricated the jewelry for a couple of years and soon hired independent contractors. My business was growing as well as my desire to travel. Feeling excited about this growth and passionate about adventure and exploration, I decided to create my life so that it was essential for me to travel.
I considered setting up production in MEXICO – they have a long tradition of silver smithing, I speak Spanish and it is close to the States. But I felt intimidated by the machoism and not so drawn to their style of silver work.
INDIA – I had traveled there and wanted to go back in a heart beat. But I felt wary of what seemed like such a chaotic pace of life, the huge variety of languages.. I decided that I didn’t want to have to do business there.. I just wanted to travel there some more.
While I had never been to BALI – Something about it spoke to and excited me.. I had been buying beads from a company based in Bali with an owner from Montana. I loved working with them. They were members of the Fair Trade Federation; were true to their word, and made beautiful and creative sterling silver beads. During one of my calls to them, the owner, Jon, answered the phone. I told him what a wonderful experience I have every time I order from them. And that I was thinking of coming to Bali to produce my first line of Jewelry. He said great! Fax me your itinerary and I’ll pick you up at the airport. He also opened up his majestic Canggu house to me. At this time he was the only westerner living in a Balinese community. And he liked it that way. Through him, I met my first producer. Production flowed and I fell in love with Bali, powerfully…
My client base steadily grew from a handful of small boutiques located near Chicago to larger Boutiques, Department Stores, Art Galleries and Catalogues. This came about through a large series of road trips and personal appointments with stores around the US that I thought/hoped would be good ‘fits’ for my collection and then later Trade Shows all over the US and Paris – my client base grew wider afield.
HC: Tell us a little bit about your background..originally from Chicago, what brought you to LA?
Originally from a suburb of Chicago: I felt deeply that I would leave. I did, and moved around the States for a while. For a summer I took older school students on outdoor and cultural trips in the South West/Four Corners area of the US. And then the South East, where we did service work on a Native American Reservation and immersed ourselves in the intense natural beauty. I floundered a bit after that as I started to create my Jewelry business. I headed West for Berkeley, California. I loved living there but felt I needed to be in a larger city to grow my business. A man came into my life who lived in LA. I was intrigued with him and ready to expand my business/change my life, so I moved there…while my business flourished, the relationship did not..
HC: Did you study anything that helped you get to this point in your career?
I’d say everything that I studied helped me get to this point in my Career. I spent a semester in College/Uni living on a ship circumnavigating the globe.
Bahamas, Venezuela, Brazil, Kenya, Seychelles, India, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and Japan. There I became deeply intoxicated with Cultural Diversity and began to see life as an adventure. And began to appreciate the culture of innovation and opportunity in which I had grown up. I ended up transferring to a very alternative school.. No tests, no grades; where I focused on Cultural Anthropology and Photography. My jewelry designs are very much an extension of these experiences and their impact on me. ‘Cultural Design’ can be seen through many of my Collections. It is my intention to honour these distinct traditions as well as bridge Cultural divides.
HC: What is it that inspires you to create these unique pieces?
At first I created Collections that were inspired by Indigenous and native people from around the World. I did an entire collection based on the Maori people of New Zealand. The fish hook, which they call a ‘peace hook’ stands for peace, abundance and keeps people safe while traveling in, over or on water. Collections inspired by the Balinese concept of Duality – Light/Dark – Yin/Yang. I realized that the majority of cultures that inspired my collections were cultures by the sea. My collections became a general extension of the vibe/current found in or running through coastal cultures of the World.
You can see the native cultural element in Heathers designs
HC: Heather Benjamin Jewelry is manufactured in Bali. We’ve heard that you support fair wages and equal gender opportunity employment. Thereby showing your commitment to sustainable development and ethical trading. Can you tell us more about this?
I love being a part of what I see as a ‘Powerful Culture of Adornment’. I also am quite cognizant of how little energy it takes to make a positive difference in someone’s life. I see my business as a way to open up or create opportunities for other people. So working with a production facility that pays their employees well; hires woman at all levels of Management and gets involved with Community Development Programs is one facet of this. I am also involved with a Foundation based in the States called Creative Visions Foundation. They are an umbrella Organization for “Creative Activist” basically people committed to making positive change through the Arts.
HC: What does a day in the life of Heather Goldman, at your home base of Santa Monica, consist of?
Hmm… I have happily been traveling in Colorado for the past 2 weeks… so I must stretch my relaxed brain to remember! If I am not taking a walk on the beach, yoga or doing some sort of odd exercise class I am enjoying a hand made cappuccino (an Australian flat white) or Americano at my neighbourhood Luxxe Caffe. The majority of the rest of the day, is a tapestry of designing, sourcing stones, approving carvings, managing the operations of HB. Perhaps an evening of Art openings, a dinner party with friends, a film, a date (yes this beautiful and smart woman is currently single), a stroll on the Pacific at sunset or a quiet evening of ordering in Thai..
HC: How does it compare to your day in Bali, if you were working on your designs and with your manufacturing facility?
Nice question. My Bali day begins with the sweet song birds, gentle rising sun and the beautiful sounds of nature and Elena (our friends dog) barking at the arriving staff.. An outdoor yoga class and a completely home-made breakfast of tropical fruit salad, home-made yogurt, muesli full of seeds and oats and home-made fresh baked bread. Italian coffee and freshly made fruit juice. I set up my office overlooking an infinity pool, that looks as if it cascades into the Pacific Ocean. I surround myself with bright colored stones, materials and components that I find inspiring as I seek to create something new. Being surrounded by the natural beauty of Bali is so inspiring to me. Often it seems like only moments go by, before I lose my light and the sun begins to set.. Or I might take a bumpy drive into town. Here I will be greeted by a member of my Bali team. We will go over specific pieces from the production. Making sure the finish is the way that I have designed it and the piece translates well, from my one dimensional drawing to a three dimensional piece. Last time I was in Bali I spent time teaching new staff, about a particular weaving that I wanted for the Collection.
HC: Who and what inspires you creatively?
Adventure and nature. Cultural Diversity and contribution/making a positive difference. Dynamic, engaged, funny and intelligent people.
HC: Do you have any words of inspiration for new up-coming designers, or other young people looking to turn their passion into a career?
Follow your Passion. Be brave, innovative and create something new. Remove the word ‘cannot’ from your vocabulary.
HC: We know you are not one to be ‘star-struck’, however have you had any ‘pinch me’ moments, perhaps when you’ve seen a celebrity wearing your designs?
Morgan Freeman – cuff links when he won an Oscar. He does not care about fashion…but I am a huge fan of his.
Halle Berry – she bought earrings at Fred Segal. I was happy for that news!
Heather Graham – she has a cuff.
HC: What are some of your favourite haunts around LA?
Caffe Luxxe (Santa Monica). It has become a wonderful part of my daily ritual and an interesting and dynamic Community of people. It is more European style where people really talk to one another. I have developed dynamic Community of people. It is more European style where people really talk to one another. I have developed some very special friends out of my time there.
Coffee snobs are sure to be satisfied at Cafe Luxxe in Santa Monica. A cortado, above, Handsome Citizens coffee of choice in the States.
For eating out:
‘Cholada Thai Beach Cuisine’ – a shack on the beach. I tend to like restaurants that make me feel like I am not in LA.
‘Musha – Creative Japanese’ – on Wilshire & 6th in Santa Monica – I adore their Spicy Tuna Dip
GTA – Gjelina located @ 1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice Beach CA (Heather pictured above by HC, outside Gjelina on their milk crate tables & chairs) Go for a breakfast sandwich, scone & cortado.
El Matador and Paradise Cove also Point Dune – beautiful beaches that I go to in my down time, they are in North Malibu – worth the drive.
Also Malibu Creek State Park and hiking at Chataqua (which is in the Pacific Palisades just Northeast of Santa Monica) And when I’m in Colorado: Telluride is my new love, it defines breathtaking, I can’t wait to go back there.
HC: …and where you love to stay in Bali?
The name must remain a secret for as long as possible.. but I will share a bit. It is the “perfect balance of organic elegance and best food on the Island”. It has become to feel like my ‘Bali home’.
Handsome Citizens have been honoured and excited by the opportunity to bring Heather Benjamin Jewelry to Australia. You will see the range we are currently offering, with more planned in the future. If you haven’t yet cast your eye over her pieces click here