How One Small Business Shares The Stories Of Artisans Through Handicrafts

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JJ Caprices Stunning Earrings I Courtesy of Jennifer Jedda

While we can interact with locals around the world when we travel, we don’t always connect enough to learn their full stories; not to mention there are those who can’t leave home, but would still love a cultural encounter.

Jennifer Jedda, founder of JJ Caprices, curates local handmade women’s jewelry, accessories, and small home accents while traveling the world. Through her online boutique, she tells the stories of the artisans, the techniques which are used, how the pieces were created and what makes them special.

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Jen Jedda at Bhutan Day I Courtesy of Jennifer Jedda

The Meaning Of Travel

Jedda sees travel as bring just as important as breathing. Recognizing the world’s beauty and diversity, she wants to encounter its majesty with her own eyes, rather than just on pictures. Tasting different flavors with her own palate and learning from different cultures and people are some of the things that fascinate her most. This, she believes, feeds her curiosity as well as her soul.

Most often, she travels alone. This, she thinks, plays a crucial part in her overall discovery of new lands. Jedda explains:

When I am by myself I see and feel more. My senses become more heightened. Every part of me soaks in the newness and differences in a way that I don’t experience when I have companions.

As Jedda feels more completely the rhythm of life in the destinations she goes to by herself, and communes more with the locals. She finds solo travel to be exhilarating, addicted to the sense of absolute freedom it gives her; but it’s not all about her, as she seeks to enrich the lives of the people she meets along the way, as well.

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The Founder of JJ Caprices in Paris I © Brian Wright

JJ Caprices: The Story Of An Inspiring Brand

A bit of backstory: Jedda used to be a technology consultant; however, her dream had always been to run a small business. After a divorce in 2011, she took the opportunity to pack her bags and move to Paris for a new beginning.

There, she lived for two years traveling as much as possible, learning French and eating baguettes. Meanwhile, she was reflecting on the type of business she wanted to open when she returned stateside.

That is when she came up with the idea of an online boutique to showcase extraordinary, handmade women’s jewelry, accessories and small home accents that have surprised and delighted her during her travels. Jedda says:

My business combines my passions, travel and beautiful art that has a story. Everything I feature has to be created by an artisan or designer I discovered during my travel to their country and it has to be hand made in that country as well.

Since July 2013, the pieces she selects are not only aesthetically appealing, they are also “intellectually” beautiful. Sometimes it is the traditional technique used to create the product which makes it fascinating, or the artisan’s story, or even the place it comes from. Whatever the case, she shares all these narratives with potential customers visiting her online shop in order to bring each piece to life.

JJ Caprices is also part of World Vision’s sponsorship program which aims to help girls get access to quality education and health so that they and their community can strive to have the quality of life they deserve.

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Rings Curated in Mexico I Courtesy of Jennifer Jedda

Sources Of Inspiration

When it comes to choosing a country to travel to, Jedda can’t really pinpoint anything specific that inspires her to go there. It can be a book she has read, a conversation she has had, an interesting  and so much more. What she knows for sure, however, is that her dream is to travel to every country in the world. So far, she has traveled to 39, living in five of those.

Her last trip was to Oaxaca as this is the Mexican state which greatly inspired Frida Kahlo’s style. She went to look out for artisans who made the typical filigree jewellery Frida wore. While there, she serendipitously stumbled upon of Oaxaca’s best craftsman. Needless to say, Jedda still feels very excited about the pieces she found there.

People often ask if I research destinations for artisans or designers prior to arriving, and the answer is “no.” To me, the joy – and the art of what I do – is literally stumbling upon pieces as I walk the markets and talk to locals.

Once she come across pieces or collections she likes, she tries to find out more about the techniques used, the artisans and the story behind it, and what makes it special.

Empowering Women

Although Jedda supports both men and women artists, she aims to support women especially in developing countries.

During her Oaxaca trip, for example, she purchased necklaces mixing traditional embroidery with contemporary elements, like the charms of Frida Kahlo. These necklaces are all made by a cooperative of women artists led by a woman designer called Gabriel Vilchiz, who works hard to mix old and new to make it new again.

Jedda’s online shop also features baskets made in the Panamanian rainforest by the Wounaan tribal women — baskets considered by many to be some of the best in the world. By buying these baskets, Jen not only supports the livelihood of the women involved in making the craft and their families, she also encourages the preservation of this traditional craft which is unfortunately slowly disappearing.

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Jen Jedda with Young Mayans in Guatemala I © Jennifer Jedda

What Makes JJ Caprices a Sustainable Business (In 3 Words)

  • People – Jedda allows her customers to “further discover the world and perhaps at times look at people or cultures a different way through its wearable art”. Eventually, the aim is to realise that there is more that brings people together than separates people.
  • Planet – Producing handmade goods is an art that is valuable across cultures. Preserving traditional techniques helps in keeping the history and values of a culture alive while maintaining a base of identity.
  • Profit – As an entrepreneur, Jedda is in business to make a livelihood for herself. In addition to that, she is also able to support artisans around the world, helping them make a livelihood by doing the work they are gifted to do.

What’s In It For The Artisans

Jedda gives the artisans a voice by telling their stories and a platform where to expose. Her mission is to highlight the things that make these artisans’ artistry stand out.

In addition, Jen buys the goods directly from local artisans, paying them a fair wage based on the price of their choice.

Sharing The World’s Riches

The world is full of wonderful artistry — sometimes in the most unexpected places — and Jedda wishes to share these amazing riches though her shop. She also wants to educate her customers about why they are so special while supporting the creative traditions and craftsmanship which make the world vibrant and interesting.

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Dublos Earrings I Courtesy of Jennifer Jedda

Shopping At JJ Caprices

Customers can visit JJ Caprices’ online shop, but also pop-up shops in Seattle. They can attend trunk shows at wineries, fashion related events, holiday bazaars or conferences where the brand is represented.

By Sarine Arslanian

Also Check Out:

How Stylish Recycled Jewelry Is Empowering Women Artisans Around The World [Blog Inspiration]

Free As A Bird Necklace [Travel Style]

Tapping the Power Within: A Path to Self-Empowerment for Women by Iyanla Vanzant [Must Reads]

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Sarine Arslanian is a writer, documentary filmmaker, researcher and photographer with a passion for travel, arts and culture, society and development. She graduated from the University of Cambridge with an MPhil in Development Studies.

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