What are the possibilities?
“If an orange peel can become a rose, what can you blossom into?”
Not many people would turn their thoughts in a positive direction like this, or perhaps even think in terms of an orange peel-to-rose analogy. After all, orange peels are trash and roses are objects of beauty, aren’t they?
Catalina Lemaitre, founder of Calamarie (eco handmade art), had both the vision and experience to apply the synergy necessary to develop someone’s trash into treasure. With a background in public diplomacy and economic development for the State Department combined with a love of art and history, a trip to her native Columbia to research starting a nonprofit arts organization brought her face-to-face with finding a way to realize uniting her passions: the environment, economic development and empowerment of women, art and the preservation of traditional art forms.
“The Orange Peel collection was inspired by ‘roses’ made from the discarded orange peels collected from street juice vendors in Cartagena. The skins are thoroughly cleaned before undergoing a seven-day sun-drying, shaping and dying process that results in gorgeous, wearable roses, that are then combined with seeds, vegetable ivory,coffee beans, and other eco-friendly materials to create necklaces, bracelets, earrings, pins, hair combs and belts. I also incorporate natural materials in other pieces—the La Mariposa collection incorporates dried silk cocoons, and other jewelry makes use of recycled sari fabric and metalwork.”
Cocoons from silkworms are transformed into lightweight statement accessories. Seeds (camajuro, acai, chirilla, bombona) and nuts (vegetable ivory, an eco-friendly ivory alternative) are hand polished and painted to become soft and warm-to-the-touch beads. Freshwater pearls and hand-forged gold-dipped bronze add elegance and a touch of whimsy. Cañamo, a resistant and beautiful natural fiber strings it all together, uniting these gifts of nature and transforming them into wearable little treasures.
Catalina understood that most people don’t analyze every purchase, that every time they buy something, they make a choice about what kind of world they want to live in: the things we purchase have a tremendous impact on the planet and are connected to the real people who make them. She strives to allow Calamarie designs to pay homage to the culture, arts and crafts of the indigenous communities across Colombia as well as to the inventiveness and creativity ofmodern day artisan’s art. She named the company in honor of the indigenous Calamari people who lived in her hometown of Cartagena, Colombia, prior to the Spanish conquest.
A Florida-based company, Calamarie promotes fair trade and social responsibility through long term alliances with gifted artisans. For the majority of these women artisans, their craft is their sole income. Catalina goes to Colombia three times a year to work with the artisans to develop new designs and to oversee production.
“Our socially responsible agenda also extends to collaboration with foundations that promote healthy communities,” she said. “A percentage of our sales benefits a range of social justice causes worldwide, among them Fundacion Ipauratu, a small foundation on the coast of Colombia that benefits indigenous mothers and their children, and the Center for Mind Body Medicine in Washington, D.C.
“Calamarie jewelry is natural, one-of-a-kind, and made for the conscious modern woman who wants to do good, look and feel good, and who deserves to have it all—without breaking the bank. My hope is that people will want to support artisans when they understand their story, when they know a little something about where theitem came from and what it means. In a world that is ever more disconnected it is about connecting us with those behind the products we purchase.”
Catalina says what she sees every day has become the most rewarding part of her job, recognizing that through this project Calamarie is helping women feel beautiful and inspiring them to connect with themselves and nature and to think outside the box.
“If an orange peel can become a rose then…..what can you blossom into? The company slogan, wasn’t dreamed up as a part of any marketing effort when starting the company; it was born from years of meeting women and seeing them be inspired by Calamarie pieces. It’s that sense of wonder and appreciation for nature’s magnificence and beauty that for me personally, has been the greatest gift to come out of our work.”
Like most fine jewelry, Calamarie pieces should not be exposed to harsh chemicals (perfume, hair spray) or excess moisture.
You can find Calamarie in Naples at the Shop at the lovely Naples Botanical Garden, at Oh My Gauze (also in Sarasota) or shop online at www.calamarie.com.