If you've been around, you're probably familiar with our Viona bracelet. It's the perfect complement to any arm party. You might even know that every Viona is woven by a team of women in the Dominican Republic. Our partnership with Vida Plena started almost 3 years ago. Josh, the Vida Plena director, approached us with an idea to partner and create a product together. As he shared stories of hardship of Haitian immigrants in the Dominican, we were immediately hooked. So in 2018 we flew down to train 25 women to weave Vionas.
Fast forward to 2020. The community of Monte Verde, near the resort town of Punta Cana, depends almost exclusively on tourists to run the economy. As the pandemic locked up the country, unemployment soared. In fact, unemployment is still above 50% in many areas. Thanks to your purchases in 2020 we were able to help provide steady work for the women at Vida Plena. And it gave us an idea.
Luke shows an extruding die to the clay team.
If the women at Vida Plena could weave Vionas, what else could they do? Luke spent months brainstorming new clay products and teaching himself 3D printing. Whitney refined the resin pouring process for her own business, Bel Kai. Then we set up three training days, purchased tickets, and packed our bags.
The challenge was exciting: Train 9 women to create 6 clay products and 4 jewelry styles, along with the countless techniques to bring them to life. In three days!
Whitney demonstrates chain assembly to Darline.
So, what's possible in 3 days? Everything! This group surpassed every expectation we had. At the end of three days they were confident mixing colored resin, stamping beads, and glazing bisque clay.
Josh split the ladies into two teams. One would focus on clay production. The other on jewelry production for Bel Kai. At the end of three days there were rising stars on both teams. Mirtha was fantastic at glazing. Damaris was becoming skilled at pouring resin. See the rest of the team at work here below.
Alicia and Damaris learn how to work jump rings.
Mabelle, Feline, and Mirtha work hard to extrude clay!
Inspecting a stamped bracelet
Cleaning the edge of a new bracelet style!
Martin pours resin into necklaces pieces.
Whitney demonstrates using a lighter to pop resin bubbles.
The team with their personalized MudLOVE tumblers!
Whitney and Luke, a powerhouse.
Lots of learning going on!
Josh helped us translate our training into Spanish.
By the last day the mood was less serious; we were having fun!
It was fun to watch the teams try out other skills!
Huge shout out to Josh and the rest of the Vida Plena team for hosting us! We'll be back!
It was an honor to work side-by-side with this group of amazing women. Their innovation and and desire to take advantage of every opportunity makes us better. We're so excited to show y'all the products we're working on. You're going to love them! Meanwhile, you can support these ladies directly by purchasing a Viona HERE.
Learn more about Vida Plena by going to their website HERE.