Legacy: The UK Black Jewellers Fund
Updated: Sep 27, 2021
This musing is inspired by the activism of ethical fine jewellery designer Kassandra Lauren Gordon. She has lived in many places in the UK and settled in London seven years ago. She studied jewellery manufacturing and design in Hatton Gardens at Holts Academy, now the British Academy of Jewellery, learning the traditional techniques of making handmade jewellery before setting up her own East London studio. She uses Fairtrade gold and her work is sold at stores across Europe and has participated in many events, including IJL and the Islington Wedding Fair. She has also had four solo gallery shows at Craft Central. She is the choice for hard-working and confident women who want pieces that they can wear seamlessly from day to night. Her jewellery styles are minimal with organic, textured elements contrasting with geometric shapes.
In her Open Letter to the jewellery industry published June 23rd 2020 on The Jewellery Cut, Kassandra Lauren Gorden shares her experiences as a jewellery designer in London. An excerpt from her letter titled, 'An Open Letter To The Jewellery Industry re Racism' reads: “Due to a legacy of systemic racism, many Black jewellers are hindered by socio-economic disadvantages. We also don’t have established networks and professional communities that jewellers from other minority backgrounds do.”
It's a thread, we can all see and feel across many creative industries and sectors. Editorial publications, designer houses and fashion brands have been called out for racism since the fight for racial equality was reignited when the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and too many more mobilised people to take action through protest and media (please vote USA friends, don't let there be another trump card). Kassandra asks for the UK jewellery industry to be more inclusive and offer more opportunities for Black jewellers to be able to contribute to the industry. She has compiled a list of practical questions and suggestions for the jewellery industry to consider. Each one can help increase the visibility of Black jewellers in this industry and amplify our voices.
In her open letter Kassandra wrote a plan of action found below:
Create a pledge. What are you going to do to support Black jewellers? What resources can you offer? Create a task force/quality assurance group to hold the pledge accountable.
More financial aid. We need a hardship fund for Black jewellers, as well as dedicated bursaries and grants for things like materials, education, studio space, PR and participation in exhibitions.
Increase visibility. The jewellery industry bodies, associations and trade publications should proactively highlight Black jewellers in communications, social media and publications. Trade shows should celebrate Black talent through dedicated installations or catwalk shows. Let’s create a directory for Black UK-based jewellers.
Amplify Black Voices. Send out a survey to Black jewellers asking them about their experiences of the jewellery trade. Invite Black jewellers to speak at industry events. Hire Black jewellers to be a sounding board and sense check issues in the jewellery industry.
Open doors. Develop structured mentoring schemes for Black people. Create space for Black jewellers in jewellery and department stores that don’t rely on the type of sale-or-return agreements that can financially cripple designers.
The UK Black Jeweller Hardship Fund campaign has been created to help her vision for equality within the jewellery industry. She has volunteered over 240 hours in recent weeks towards organising and bringing into fruition a fund that, hopefully, can lead to a programme working with a well-known jewellery trust, all this is in the pipeline and I will update the blog as it comes into fruition.
Here are the details of The UK Black Jewellers Hardship fund:
This fund is for 10 UK Black Jewellers (£1000 each).
The rest of the money (£4000) will go on fundraising fees, project management fees, fund monitoring and publishing a report.
The UK jewellery trade has been super slow in responding to support Black Jewellers, especially after the recent US murders due to police brutality.
The fund is a no-strings-attached financial support to help the selected Black Jewellers in whatever they want – be that make new work, buy equipment or materials, travel, research, visit exhibitions or conferences, or to even just cover some living expenses. This is specifically for Black Jewellers; not politically black, not POC or BAME.
This grant has been set up because Black Jewellers are systematically under-supported by the jewellery trade; by institutions, curators, the artist-led scene, major and minor funding bodies, the market, art schools, and by audiences too. We recognise that a full institutional overhaul and dismantling of racist structures is required to transform the industry permanently, but we hope in a small way that this grant will help enable recipients to continue their jewellery practice when the odds are so stacked against them. Grant accountability All I ask from the grantees is to fill in a short monitoring form to say how the fund has benefited them. The results will be published in to the jewellery trade by in August 2020. 3 independent people in the UK jewellery trade will be asked to review applications for selection (to make it fair.)
Criteria for the grant: -Must be a black jeweller/ work in the UK jewellery trade -Must live/reside in the UK -Show proof of your work -Show your social media information/website -Write in 300 words of less how the grant will benefit you/ why as a black jeweller you are currently in hardship
Today the fundraiser has raised almost £13,000 of the £14,000 goal. I do look forward to hearing what develops from this contribution to Black creative talent working in the jewellery business. Kassandra's storytelling and ability to speak openly about her experiences has created space for opportunity. Her passion is so beautiful and I am excited to watch this seed, and her, grow.
We are living in a world where racism has been ignored for too long. It has always existed. We have so much to change but love is a good place to start.
Many are calling this time an awakening. As a Black woman who has lived in London, England, Lagos, Nigeria and Texas, USA, my views and experiences of racism are broad and many. Whether it is subtle or obvious, the systemic racism that is now being openly discussed can be changed. Racial, social, and economic inequality can be challenged and changed and should be.
While Black lives have always and will always matter, racism is not just an American problem. Racism is everywhere. Colourism is real too, but classism is also an issue that many ignore. There's a lot of injustice and when you look at some countries in Africa or Yemen, for example, you have to really say, there is such a bigger picture here, we need to do better. No matter your creed, colour or race, it's time to come together and start loving each other, forgiving and starting fresh. On a global level, the world has a lot to clean up and fix.
It is time to reset.
I am no expert, so to stay zen and keep my peace, I am reading, listening, having open dialogues, consuming minimal media, and positivity is my favourite tool.
As the UK Black Jeweller Hardship Fund campaign grew, jewellers from around the world reached out to Kassandra, and began to donate their work in support. A raffle giveaway of 50 jewellery items was drawn on Saturday 26th of June. There were so many winners of some very beautiful jewellery items. In my next two Musings you can find out a bit about each of the fifty jewellers in the giveaway.