Vegan Biz Profile: McFarland Designs

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Our second entry in the Vegan Biz Profile series is McFarland Designs a one-woman handmade jewelry maker in rural Humboldt County, California.

Tell us about McFarland Designs.

Well, it’s just me, toiling away in my garage, trying to make pretty things. :-) I hand-fabricate jewelry using various types of gold and silver and ethically sourced gemstones. My specialty is custom wedding/engagement rings. 5% of my sales go to a different charity each month. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be able to make a living doing something I enjoy so much (and to be able to do it in ways that have positive effects on society and the environment). Self-employment seems to suit me well, and I love working from home so I can be near my animals and human family.

What types of things do you have for people to buy from you for the holidays?

Lots of rings! (And occasionally earrings or pendants, which I’m always happy to make as custom orders.) Every year I hear from a lot of customers who are planning to propose over the holidays, so it’s usually a busy time for custom engagement rings, and I’m also working on adding some more affordable silver rings to my shop in time for holiday gift-giving. I have a lot of rings in stock right now and I’m running a sale through the end of November to try to reduce my inventory before year end – in my Etsy shop (www.mcfarlanddesigns.etsy.com), you can use coupon code ‘NOV25’ for 25% off any regularly priced in-stock ring, or ‘NOV10’ for an additional 10% off sale items. Year-round, coupon code ‘HEYIMVEGANTOO’ is the secret-vegan-handshake for 10% off anything in the shop.

Before looking at your site, I had no idea there was such a thing as “fair trade gemstones.” From your perspective, how is the adoption of fair trade practices in the jewelry industry catching on?

Slowly, but it’s happening. Due in large part to customer demand, more and more businesses are beginning to take a closer look at their sourcing. But as with many other social/green movements, there are a lot of smokescreens and conflicting information to sort through. It’s so important for consumers to do their research and ask lots of questions. I get almost all of my metal through Hoover & Strong, the industry leader in recycled precious metal refining, and the only one to be third party certified as to their products’ recycled content. Some of my gems come from Columbia Gem House, a company at the forefront in developing the fair trade gemstone movement. Others come from a small local business that deals directly with small scale miners around the world. I also work a lot with lab created stones (also called synthetic, cultured, or man-made), which are physically identical to their mined counterparts. Just as gemstones are formed in nature through heat and other forces within the earth, man-made stones are cultivated through applying similar forces within a laboratory, resulting in a stone that is optically and molecularly identical to a mined stone. Lab created stones’ main impact on the environment is in the power used to run the laboratory, an amount far less impactful than what is incurred with traditional gem mining, and without the often destructive environmental effects of the mining itself.

I want to hear more about all the animals you live with.

Where to begin… we have three dogs – two 13 year old Weim mixes that we’ve had since puppyhood, and a very sweet brindle pit/hound mix who is about 3 years old. We also have a rescued bunny rabbit, a small flock of chickens (including two roosters), two ducks, and two turkeys. The chickens and turkeys all came from Animal Place and Farm Sanctuary. Some of them are ‘spent’ factory laying hens and others are ‘broilers’ (ugh, I hate that term!). The broiler girls have some specific challenges when allowed to live out a full life – due to being genetically manipulated to grow very large very fast (and be slaughtered at a very young age), when they are granted the chance to live longer than a few months, they often have heart problems or issues with their legs due to their weight. We’ve had pretty good luck with ours – the broiler hens’ life expectancy is just 2-3 years and of the three we adopted, one died at just over three years of age and the other two are still kicking approaching four years old. The second of our two broiler turkeys just passed away, but she lived to be six, which is really good considering her genetics. I think that’s the most rewarding part for me – seeing these animals whose supposed destiny was to become Thanksgiving dinner some five years ago out on the lawn, enjoying fresh greens, sunshine, and dust baths.

Tell us about another vegan-owned business that you love that other people may not know about.

I don’t know if I can keep it to just one! I love A Scent of Scandal, and of course Herbivore Clothing Company, but maybe everyone already knows about those. I am a big fan of Etsy, and there are a lot of wonderful independent vegan sellers there – you see a list of all members of Vegan Etsy here. I also have to give love to Sjaaks Organic Chocolates – their inventory is not 100% vegan, but they do have tons of vegan options, everything is fair trade, and I believe the owners are either vegan or nearly so. I spoke with one owner recently and he told me they are definitely working towards their entire line eventually being vegan. (As an aside, I’m coordinating a holiday Sjaak’s chocolate sale for a local nonprofit I volunteer for called SpayHumboldt – if you want to try some Sjaak’s chocolates knowing that the proceeds go to a great cause, please buy them here!)

2 Responses to “Vegan Biz Profile: McFarland Designs”

  1. Jerry | Quest Organic

    Organic chocolate is a great idea. In New England there’s the Lake Champlain Vermont chocolate company – I looked them up after reading your post and found that they carry organic chocolates too.

  2. Vegan Jewelry « Fresh N Lean

    […] CA company, McFarland Designs, makes beautiful pieces of jewelry…Handmade and animal-free! http://www.vegblog.org/archive/2011 […]

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