By Daniela Degrassi
At The Kind Bride we love featuring jewelers that source their materials ethically. The reason why we prefer to support these mindful artists versus mainstream brands is because they use techniques that are more respectful to the environment, which also means that no animals are harmed in the process of extracting their gems and stones. This week we are happy to introduce you to a new brand from Australia, founded by Leah Straughair, a fellow vegan.
Leah has just launched a Kickstarter campaign to seek some help in financing her new business. How could we not give her a shout out through our pages?
Leah, when did you go vegan and why?
I take the train everyday to work, and one day on my way back home I met a lady, she was probably in her 50’s. I saw that she had a bag that said ‘vegan’. Which caught my eye, so we started talking. She was telling me that she had been vegan for 25 years. I thought to myself, ‘why aren’t I vegan?’
About a week later at the start of November 2015, my sister showed me a short Gary Yourofsky video on Facebook. I was already vegetarian for roughly a year and a half, but this video just instantly opened my eyes to things I had never thought about. So I said I would good vegan for a week to try it out, and I’ve never been back! I have always loved animals, and the main reason for becoming vegan would be for them. We are doing such good things for this world and I’m so proud to be apart of this community.
And what about your passion for jewels? When did it start?
When I finished school, I went to a university in Melbourne and studied Visual Arts. I have always loved being hands-on and creating things. I enrolled in a sculpture class and used a little bit of silver in one of my projects. After i graduated, I thought I might start something a little different, and seeming that I loved wearing jewelry, I thought that I would apply for a Jewelry Apprenticeship.
In 2014 I started my Jewelry Apprenticeship, for a duration of 4 years. Since then, I have been pushing myself to do the best I can do! I entered several competitions winning gold at the Victoria Regional WorldSkills in 2017, and winning silver at the 2018 National WorldSkills
Leah Straughair at 2018 Nationals WorldSkills – Placing Silver
Congratulations Leah! And how did veganism inspire your dream of being a jeweler?
The animals is what gave me inspiration to create the ‘vegan’ jewelry collection. I wanted to make something meaningful, and to be able to help a good cause.
Back in 2017 I made a vegan ring for my sister, and had posted it on a Vegan group on Facebook which got a massive amount of attention. Which threw me back, I didn’t think it would get that sort of attention. As I was still finishing my apprenticeship to become a Jeweler, I didn’t have the the tools and equipment to do Jewelry privately at home. The tools and equipment are quite expensive, so this is why I have started a Kickstarter campaign.
What will you be able to accomplish by being fully funded?
I want to be able to grow my business into something amazing! I am a hard worker and love my job, although buying tools, material and equipment can be quite expensive. I want to be able to create videos of me making Jewelry, so I am able to show people why handmade Jewelry is so much better.
I want to have a Vegan line of Jewelry that can allow Vegans to express themselves, to be proud that they are making a massive difference in the world and to provide awareness.
I currently donate $10 to Animals Australia for every Vegan purchase, although I would like to expand and make this worldwide, so that I am able to donate to more places across the globe. By backing with me you will not only get Handmade Jewelry but you will be helping a Vegan business try to spread the word and show off Veganism.
Leah, in your Kickstarter profile you mention that there is quite a difference between ‘handmade’ and ‘handcrafted’ jewelry. Can you explain?
Handmade is when the jewelry has been completely handmade by a jeweller themselves. This involves rolling down the metal, bending, soldering, emerying and polishing the product. Either the jeweler has finished an apprenticeship to become a Jeweler or has gone to school to learn the skills of a Jeweler.
Handcrafted is still finished by hand, but it can mean a lot of different ways the jewelry was made. Two examples are, the design has been made as a CAD File an has been 3D printed then casted into the desired metal. Another was is wax, this is when a piece of wax has been carved out into the jewelry design and then been casted into the desired metal. Then finished by hand.
Leah, do you take requests to customize jewelry? I am sure brides our curious to know!
I love making customized Jewelry! I always enjoy seeing what kind of beautiful things my customers come up with and that they have the opportunity to get something that they want exactly and that is unique.
Where can brides find you?
I do have a website which is where I sell my Jewelry. My dream would be to own my own shop, I would have a showroom I’m the front, with my jewelry bench at the back. So that when I am making Jewelry, people can see how it is made and how much work and love is put into it.
You can read in more details how Leah is going to use her funds on her Kickstarter campaign and we would encourage you to support and share her project with your friends and through social medias so we can help make her dream come true! Please note, the $ amount donations on her campaign are in Australian Dollars ($15 AUD are about $10.83 USD). Good luck Leah!
A feminist and independent spirit since she could remember (her childhood heroines were Pippi Longstockings and Katharine Hepburn) Daniela Degrassi found her creative outlet as a lifestyle photographer, working mainly in Northern California where she lived for 15 years before moving back to her native Italy to continue to be her autistic sister’s primary caregiver. Vegan since 2014, she found a perfect way to carry her message of compassion while celebrating her love for the wedding industry launching The Kind Bride in February 2018.