Meet Many Hands
Hello and welcome to the Many Hands Blog - a new space for sharing thoughts, goals, and questions. For a mission-driven business like Many Hands, there are plenty of important topics to explore, from our processes to industry ideas. Here, you’ll find more of a deep dive on what we care about most.
To start things off, this first post will just give some background on who I am, how Many Hands came to be, and what I hope for it to become.
The voice behind the brand (the “me”), is Samantha. I am the founder, designer, maker, shipper, customer service agent - and at this particular moment, blog post writer for Many Hands. My hope is that by sharing a bit about me and my background, I can shed some light on why Many Hands was made, what my goals are, and what to expect next.
After spending a good portion of my young life in the Amazon region of Brazil and other parts of South America, I was on track to become an anthropologist. College strengthened my interest in the human experience, and I explored ways to make sense of how just one earth can house so many different kinds of people.
Ultimately I received a graduate degree in International Business, with a focus in Fair Trade. My goal was to answer one question: how can business be used as a force for good?
Some years of corporate work in NYC were essential to my journey. I worked in various roles and industries, including fashion, and I enjoyed it. I learned a ton. And I experienced how complex it can be for a business to try to do the right thing. I saw firsthand how easily good intentions can mutate as they move through the veiled constraints of reality. Eventually I moved on to work as an independent sustainable business consultant and researcher, which I still do now.
Jewelry was a quiet hobby for me for years, beginning with chain assembly projects in college and gradually escalating to metalsmithing as a side hustle for various brands around Brooklyn. Throughout these freelance projects with other brands and agencies, I kept searching for ways to understand the intersection of people, planet, and profit. On a personal level, I also kept searching for that perfect intersection of purpose and passion.
Soon I found that the more jewelry I made for myself, the more my friends wanted to buy it from me. As sales picked up, I realized that my handmade jewelry offered a perfect opportunity to explore sustainable business in an even more hands-on way (literally). Fueled by this culmination of interests, hobbies, skills, and goals, Many Hands was born.
The industry calls…
Quickly I found that there’s actually not much existing research into the environmental and social impacts of the jewelry industry. The fashion industry, for example, is consumed by discussions of ethics and sustainability these days (and for good reason). By comparison, the jewelry industry seems to be lacking high-level data and collaborative strategies to combat the blatant social and environmental damage associated with its activities. This is both a great challenge, and a great opportunity.
This is not the time to get into the whole list of issues facing the jewelry industry. That’s a blog post for a different day. But trust me, there are millions of people, and countless acres of natural land, involved in the highly impactful global extraction and distribution of metals and gems. Yet there doesn’t seem to be a corresponding call to action among the industry or consumers.
The goal is for Many Hands to help push the jewelry industry towards collective positive change by modeling responsible business practices, communicating transparently, and harnessing the power of collaboration and consumer pressure.
Who is “we?”
You might notice that Many Hands often writes from a “we” perspective. For instance, saying things like “we believe in transparency,” or “we can make custom sizes.” I just want to take a moment to touch on this, an active decision, which aims to acknowledge my position within a long supply chain that involves so many other people.Even though Many Hands is in many ways a one-woman show, simple word choice helps me remember to feel connected to all the actors in my supply chain - from the miners who unearth the minerals I buy, to the USPS team who delivers your orders, and so on. All this to say, I couldn’t do this alone. Words are powerful tools that can uplift smaller stakeholders who often have to fight for a voice in the global economy. When I think of Many Hands, I think of us as a team.
Product is Paramount
Though Many Hands is certainly a mission-focused endeavor, it is first and foremost a handmade jewelry brand. The jewelry itself is born of artistic vision and practical design; most pieces are inspired by friends or designed initially for my own collection. I want each piece of jewelry to be emotive in itself; a beautiful shiny object that helps the wearer feel more in touch with their inner beauty through outward expression.
Simply put - I want to make great jewelry the right way. In fact, the success of the larger mission actually relies entirely on that. A business is nothing without strong products and services at its core. So I’m committed to creating high-quality pieces that really speak to my heart, in recognition that the pursuit of beauty is inexorable.
What’s next for me and Many Hands...
First and foremost, I’m always focused on improving my production skills. Making jewelry requires so many intricate and detailed steps, and I want to be able to execute whatever I can imagine. This sharp learning curve is one of the most challenging and most fun parts of this journey for me. Send prayers for my fingertips.
More making does, of course, mean more sourcing, which is a challenge. In some cases it’s actually proven impossible to locate responsible sources for seemingly basic materials. For example, I have had no success locating recycled chain manufacturers in the USA. Even globally, it seems that almost all chain is made from virgin materials instead of recycled metals. This is a concerning issue that I hope to bring to light as we work towards collective pressure.
Though using recycled metals does greatly reduce the environmental footprint of Many Hands jewelry, I know there are other ways to expand our social impact. This may involve working with artisan groups, sourcing from small certified mines, or donating to community development initiatives; maybe even a combination of various approaches. There’s no objectively right way to tackle this goal, but that’s what makes it interesting.
Earlier I said that I can’t do this alone, and that is true. Actually, nobody can tackle these industry problems alone, so we have to work together towards a common goal. There are some organizations out there who are leading the way in this, and while we’re already involved with some great partners, we aim to step up the engagement and support. I’ll keep you updated on that front.
Don’t be a stranger…
Did I mention that I want to make connections? Whether you’re a customer, jeweler, photographer, artist, consultant, whatever - don’t hesitate to reach out. Just send an email to email@example.com and I’ll be on the other end.
For more on me and my general consulting work, visit www.samanthajoywood.com