Thursday, 22 May 2014

Design Porn: Sweet Cavanagh

The tale of Sweet Cavanagh is so wonderful and inspiring that it needs to be told. I have an overwhelming sense of HURRAH about its gorgeous bling and the women behind it, and I can't wait for you to fall in love as well. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin.

Its end result is beautiful bling: ethical jewellery made by women in London that doesn't cost a squillion quid? Yes please. It starts with the women and the social enterprise behind these ridiculously good looking pieces.
Rainbow Sweet necklace, £35

I saw the owner, Florence Norman, at our friend's hen party. I hadn't seen Florence since about 2009. On Saturday she was glowing: happy and joyous after a lovely holiday, and getting engaged in December. All wonderful things, but even more so because a couple of years ago, aged 24, she entered rehab for drug addiction and eating disorder.

While in treatment, Florence found that she enjoyed making jewellery: it was time alone without anyone talking to her about trauma, it kept her hands busy, and she was good at it.

When she came out of rehab, the lack of proper aftercare in London came as a shock: she managed to get through thanks to her family, nutritional care and the 12-step programme, but friends were struggling with the change between protective in-patient care and the world.

"A friend of mine was in this very cycle when I asked her to join me and make jewellery a few times a week," says Florence. "Slowly we added another woman and then another. During one of our sessions one of the women pointed out that we had created a social enterprise, once I had this awareness I knew it had to grow. Six months later we had a limited company, a premises, charitable status, affiliations with two treatment centres and a group of five women."
Golden Rainbow necklace, £60 - made by that very same Florence!
Sweet Cavanagh is named after Florence's mum, for all her support while she was in rehab. Her dad has advised her on how to actually run a business - all the profits from Sweet Cavanagh go into Florence's charity Free Me, which supports the craftswomen and invests in materials, support and education.

All members are paid the London Living Wage, and are supported by treatment centres. Slowly, just as Florence found, they rebuild their self-esteem, develop new skills, and find support. Oh, and make some outrageously beautiful jewellery. Witness!
Certain Success necklace, £35 - made by Eva
Star Spangled necklace, £28

Each product comes with a little tag showing the name of the woman who made it. Each member has their own section in the online shop, telling something about them - be it brief, or a real life history.

There is also Oldie but a Goodie, for jewellery made by women who have graduated from Sweet Cavanagh and are back in the working world, and Penny Wise Pieces is the place to look for jewellery under £20. The whole site has such a positive, wonderful feel about it, especially on the blog which has funny, truthful posts largely written by Mina.

Be Bold, £32.50 - read AJ's story
You can find all these pieces and hundreds more on the Sweet Cavanagh online shop, and at Spitalfields Market where you'll find Florence at the till. What's more, you can currently get 20% off all jewellery bought online by typing 'women are awesome' at checkout. Yes, they bloody well are.

2 comments:

  1. Oh what a lovely, lovely thing. I made jewellery through my depression (although I wasn't nearly as good at it as Florence), there's something about using your hands and building something with a repetitive process that's quite therapeutic. It's a little bit like a meditation of sorts, all that beading.

    These are really beautiful, this is one of my favourite Sluttery shares.

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    Replies
    1. Exactly that - she describes it as a mindful activity which sounds like just the ticket. And I'm totally with you, I love this - and not just because I need a new statement necklace and the minute payday strikes I am all over this.

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