Happy International Women's Day 2016!

Today is International Women's Day and every year on this day is an opportunity to rally together and invite everyone to celebrate the women in our lives and across the world. On this day, we recognize the passion, intelligence, strength, compassion, resilience and inner beauty that make women a formidable force - one that brings incalculable value, nuance, balance, structure, and cohesion to our companies, organizations, homes, schools and small businesses. 

Taking a day to celebrate and recognize women for their achievements in moving the needle forward economically, culturally and politically is one step in the right direction. Our goal is to bring about a more equitable and bright future where boys and girls & men and women enjoy access to the same positions of education, employment, and roles of decision-making power, and respect. #pledgeforparity

Here at Kicheko, we want to provide hope and a brighter future to both boys and girls. Mango Tree School is our first partner school and an educational institution that educates over 200 students in eastern DR Congo. Through a grant administered and managed by Mango Tree School's leadership, Kicheko supports the costs of tuition and attending primary school to over 71 students in Mango Tree School, who have varying levels of financial and circumstantial need.

While progress is happening, approximately 7 million Congolese children are out of school - with an estimated 53% of this number being girls. The disparity gap in literacy rates remains substantial with approximately 79% of boys ages 15-24 able to read whereas girls in the same age range remain at an estimated 53%. That is why we are privileged to partner with Mango Tree School in their goals of bridging the gaps to provide safe, quality and consistent education to this future generation. Mango Tree School also engages with families in the community and employs both male and female teachers and staff, providing much-needed jobs to a post-conflict area in need of development, governance, and investment.

We can all do something. Start by recognizing and celebrating the women in your life and begin to draw the circle out and around. Who are the women in your workplace and communities that propel all of us forward? Who are the women around the world you admire and inspire? Take moments today offline and online to write encouraging notes, letting them know we're all in this together and that you appreciate them. 

To the women in our lives and around the world, we recognize and celebrate you. #iwd2016

New Kicheko Goods on TOMS Marketplace

From earthy textures to sunset hues, Kicheko's new pieces are inspired by the colors and warmth of spring and we are excited to share that these pieces are now for sale on TOMS Marketplace. With two new necklaces and a pair of druzy earrings, this batch is composed of the Soleil necklace, Queensland Arrow necklace and Prism Aura Druzy Studs. Learn more about the collection below!

Soleil Stone Necklace

A statement necklace that gives off vibes for the sun, beach and outdoors, this necklace is made out of agate and quartz in a unique color matrix that gives the wearer a truly distinctive piece. Edged in gold-plate and set with a matte gold-plate brass bar, the Soleil is set on 14kt gold-filled chain.

  • Imported Materials. Made in the USA
  • Quartz/Agate, Gold–Plate and Gold-Filled Brass
  • Stone color may vary from translucent yellows to deep orange
  • Dimensions: Stone is approximately 30mm x 30-40mm. Necklace is 30” in length

Queensland Arrow Necklace

A beautiful stone of royal and historical significance, this necklace is made of bright and deep green chrysoprase edged in gold-plate. No two stones are alike as each piece is fashioned uniquely from specific raw material. An elegant statement piece, the Queensland is set on 14kt gold-filled chain.

  • Imported Materials. Made in the USA
  • Chrysoprase/Agate, Gold-Plate and Gold-Filled Brass
  • Stone color matrix varies between green/browns and teal/turquoise
  • Dimensions: Stone is approximately 30mm x 30-40mm. Necklace is 30” in length

Prism Aura Druzy Studs

Brilliant in color with a naturally velvet texture, the Prism Aura Druzy Studs feature tiny crystals that have grown slowly over millions of years on top of quartz stone. Finished and refined with a layer of titanium on the outside, these studs are beautiful additions to your accessories line. Stones are set on stainless steel posts and earnuts.

  • Imported Materials. Made in the USA
  • Genuine Druzy Quartz, Stainless Steel
  • Dimensions: 10mm (diameter)

As spring draws even closer, the warmth, greens and flora of the season will inspire a season change of wardrobe and accessories. Think of us as you edit your wardrobes and curate for the sunnier temperatures. Remember, each purchase sends one child to school for one month in eastern Congo. We can't wait to see how you style your new Kicheko pieces. Tag us @kichekogoods and use #kichekostyle. Shop your new looks and the sale on TOMS Marketplace

Thanks to the ever-talented Erica Baker @ericabakerphoto for the gorgeous photography. It's such fun making pictures together. Thank you to Theresa Bennett of @madebytheresa, Amanda Lee of @shopkaleidos and Carolina Soto of @cdsoto for modeling for Kicheko. Your spirits are so so bright! xoxo

Happy Thanksgiving From Us to You!

Today we're giving thanks for community and the gift of friendship. This year has been a stretch year for sure - one of growth and amazing opportunities that have humbled us and given refreshed vision for why we do this. Really grateful. The energy and current that keeps us going is the incredible community of individuals that have become a part of this dream and helped build it along. Your faith, friendship, hours, encouragement and jokes mean so much. To our friends in eastern Congo at Mango Tree School, we are so grateful to you for sharing your lives, hopes and cares with us. You give us a glimpse of the great, big world around us and show us that we are all a part of something bigger than ourselves. We will continue to share your story with our best and partner to make education a reality to the children that enter your doors. Friends, we wish you a very happy thanksgiving and a day full of gratitudes. 

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.
— Marcus Tullius Cicero
Posted on November 26, 2015 .

TOMS Marketplace Feature: Introducing Kicheko

Repost from the TOMS Story Blog posted October 9, 2015 by TOMS: http://toms.com/stories/inspiration/toms-marketplace-feature-introducing-kicheko

photo taken by Erica Baker Photography

This week we would like to introduce you to one of our newest TOMS Marketplace partners Kicheko Goods. Kicheko is a socially conscious brand that designs and makes distinct pieces that invest in education. Each purchase of a Kicheko Goods product sends one child in eastern Congo to school for one month. Read on for the full Q&A in the words of the founder Sarah Bayot.

TOMS: How did the idea for Kicheko come about?
 

Kicheko: I began making jewelry in 2012, primarily simple and functional pieces like fabric covered studs. Since I wore my earrings on a daily basis, friends and coworkers began asking to buy pairs and I found myself after work and on weekends fulfilling orders. The business didn’t have a name at the time, but I was keen on dedicating a portion of the proceeds to help with community development efforts in DR Congo. Once I honed in on this model, my friends served as my focus group to vet names and the consensus landed on Kicheko, a Swahili word describing smiling/laughter.

sketching concepts

TOMS: Can you tell us more about Kicheko’s mission?
 

Kicheko: I have worked with a locally led community in eastern Congo for five years and in 2014, I helped the community raise funds to construct a primary school called Mango Tree. What we discovered is that most families can afford to pay school fees for at least some months out of the full academic year. However, for the remaining months when they cannot afford school fees, their kids fall behind and that gap in their education causes them to repeat the same grade the next year. We seek to eliminate the education gaps by providing student scholarships to supplement the costs of attending school.

To date, Mango Tree educates over 200 students and we are excited to expand our partnerships in the next couple years so we can extend opportunities to more students.

children playing soccer outside of Mango Tree School in eastern DR Congo

TOMS: Why is giving back through business so important to you?
 

Kicheko: We are committed to building a company that sees aesthetic and impact as equal partners. Education strikes a chord in me because it’s such an empowering vehicle. Our kids in Congo also have helped me realize the transformative effects education can have on a young mind, in a social group, in a community, in a village and beyond. These kids value learning so much and do not take it for granted. In Congo, there are so many things that can change from day to day. However, one thing that cannot be taken away is education. Once you have it, you have it for life.

TOMS: What is something that’s surprised you as a social good business owner?
 

Kicheko: Something that has surprised me is that while there are tomes of advice on building and running a business, the “special sauce” is actually something very personal and unique to each business. That special sauce is the personal journey of discovering the field, medium and social issues you care enough about to want to create something because the status quo is not quite enough. You also learn so much about yourself during this process. But if you care strongly about something, you are willing to continually learn and grow, you celebrate the wins and take moments to enjoy the milestones with others—it’s an amazing process. There’s nothing quite like it.

Collection now available on TOMS Marketplace

TOMS: What inspired the products we’re featuring in TOMS Marketplace this holiday season?
 

Kicheko: One of the staple materials I work with is natural stone, particularly quartz. All of the pieces are made of druzy quartz interpreted in various forms. I love quartz because it’s a prolific mineral found in the earth’s continental crust. Trace amounts of minerals, gases or liquids that combine with the crystal create these beautiful colors and effects on the mineral’s structure. I enjoy sourcing pieces that represent these unique relationships in nature taking place.

TOMS: What Kicheko piece are you most excited about sharing with the TOMS community?
 

Kicheko: I am most excited about the druzy studs collection. It’s a line of beautiful pieces that can dress up a t-shirt and jeans outfit, but also rock with a dressier ensemble. The druzy effect radiates uniquely depending on the natural or artificial light levels. The blue midnight and purple aura are deep and gorgeous colorways for adventurous color lovers, while the gold and rose gold are perfect for a classic, elegant look.

Summer in Paper by Lorraine Nam

August in the District is particularly lazy and hazy - Congress in recess, residents away from the office, students at all levels soaking up the last rays of summer before school starts. In fact, I am writing this post from Cancun on a much-anticipated vacation with my husband's family. Celebrating many milestones this year and eager at a chance to be all together next to blue waters and ancient pyramids, family members flew in as far as The Netherlands. While we're enjoying this week on the Yucatan, I am quite excited to share Kicheko's latest collaboration. Kicheko teamed up with Lorraine Nam, New York-based illustrator, textile designer and paper artist, to produce three distinct images styled with pieces from the new collection. Narrowing down our favorite summer activities to exploring the city, poolside hangs, and weekends at the beach - Lorraine went to work in her Brooklyn-based studio cutting and transforming sheets of paper into 3-dimensional landscapes. Her attention to detail and whimsical product styling evokes a sense of play and reminds us to pay attention to the details and enjoy these hazy days. I chatted with Lorraine about her work and lessons she's learned along the way as an artist in New York City.

Tell us a little about what you do. What do you like about your work?

I like to say that I’m a paper illustrator. I work as a textile/bedding designer where I get to work with a team of talented people and on the weekends and after work during the week, I work on my paper projects which is my own personal creative outlet. I’m constantly thinking about what I can do in my work and usually what I make is reflective of what I’m thinking about and what I think will look really cute as a miniature! I really enjoy using paper as a medium and I’ve been cutting paper for about 8 years before I experimented with using paper 3-dimensionally. I really enjoy telling stories through my visual language.

Tell us more about your design process.

I usually start with an idea. I keep a list on my phone of any ideas I have and the list is always growing. Then I start cutting! I don’t like to overthink an idea because I still want the process to be enjoyable and I want to learn as I go through. Once I’m done with the different “props”, I’ll arrange them together and figure out what the best way to photograph is. Then I take a photo and the last step would be to edit the images to reflect the story I want to tell.

What design in your own work are you incredibly satisfied with/proud of?

I’m always happy with the newest thing I make. Once a project is done, I look forward to starting the next and seeing what happens through the process!

What has been the biggest challenge working in your industry? 

Probably the biggest hurdle for me,  after moving to New York was creating your own community of creatives. It’s difficult to work in the creative industry and having that support from friends who are doing the same thing or something similar helps tremendously.

If you weren’t at your current job, where would you be? 

If I wasn’t working as a textile/bedding designer, I would still be in my studio working on paper projects!

You have a blog called #ffffff walls. What was the impetus or inspiration for the blog?

I created the blog with Jonathan Chapline, who I also went to school with. The idea started after moving to New York and missing that sense of community that we had in school. We were going on these studio visits where we were having these amazing dialogues about art and what it’s like to work as an artist in New York, ESPECIALLY with a limited amount of space! We felt that the work that these artists were creating deserved to be shared and we created the blog as a platform to document this particular moment in which the artist is creating their work.

 

What’s your favorite artist feature to date?

My favorite studio visit is with Sterling Wells in his Red Hook studio space. His studio visit was one of the first ones we did when we started the blog and it just captures his energy. After working in watercolors and creating landscape paintings, he ventured into sculpture. Sterling showed us his in progress water sculpture in which he proceeded to take out a hose and just douse his studio with water with no care to everything in his small studio space.

 

Wow, that's ballsy. Now, I want to ask you some rapid fire questions that speak to who you are and what you are learning. Go back one year, what is the best thing you learned last year?

Exploring with paper 3-dimensionally and learning the importance of a good photograph.

 

What is the best thing you have learned this year? Using Instagram as a way to tell a story and showcase my work.

 

What is the best habit you have going for you right now? I have a pretty good work habit once I get to my studio. I just need that extra push to get there!

What is your biggest challenge right now? My biggest challenge is having the right work/life balance. I love to work and be productive but I also need to figure out when to take a break!

 

Name three creatives, artists or style mavens that inspire you?

  1. Matisse

  2. Iris Apfel

  3. Maira Kalman

Now to some fun ones. What's on your playlist now? I don’t have a specific playlist but I do love listening to Com Truise on Pandora when I’m working in studio. Also, Blood Orange and Rolling Stone.

 

What books/podcasts/TV shows are you loving right now?

1. Book: Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

2. Podcast: This American Life especially the ‘Stuck in the Middle’ episode with the hold music.

3. TV/Movie: Frasier and Ex Machina

 

Most used app on your phone? Instagram! I’m a visual person and I love using the explore feature to find inspiring people doing cool and creative things.

 

What recipe can you not get enough of? I don’t ever get tired of avocado toast!

 

Next place you want to travel? There are so many places but India has definitely been on my list for a really long time.

 

What is something  silly that makes you laugh uncontrollably? Cat videos

 

What makes your heart happy? Definitely food.

 

Best advice someone has given you or you have given someone…. It’s not someone I know personally (though I’d love to meet him!) but this quote by Ira Glass has always resonated with me.

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” -Ira Glass

 

I have to ask - do you have a favorite Kicheko design? There’s so many to choose from but I think my favorite would have to be the original Parlay Cords. I love that there’s so many combinations to coordinate back to your outfit.

Thanks to Lorraine for taking the time and working with us on this super creative collaboration! We love what you do and especially enjoy collaborating with artists to make something together. Please check out her work and her studio visit blog #ffffff walls - it's full of great conversation and inspiration.