Silver in Mexico:Our Guy Noir Bodyguard: (Part IV)

November 9th, 2010

Susan, the professional jewelry buyer, glanced at me over her shoulder. By her expression, she was saying – pleading really — why don’t you negotiate with her. Susan seemed intimidated.

Whether it was Sangria’s good looks, the unusual merchandise, (that’s one of her earrings at right), her smarts or whatever, Susan wanted me do the heavy negotiating. Let’s be honest, Susan won’t be invited to join Mensa any time soon, but she has been buying fine jewelry for years.

But to be fair, I don’t think she’s ever found herself in such a complicated buying – sourcing – predicament as this. Here’s our dilemma.

A)  The seller – Sangria – is a talented jewelry designer without a manufacturing facility.

B)  Her styles – per Susan – would be a big hit in the US as long as the designs are “priced right” – (as they say in the trade).

Holding her powder blue cigarette between her thumb and middle finger, she said she appreciates the wonderful order. “I happy you like my styling,” she continued.

C)  One of the major reasons these beautiful styles haven’t reached our competitors stores — and web sites — is most US retailers can’t — or are afraid to — order small quantities from designers like Sangria. To be sure, they don’t want be out-of-stock of any style, especially during an important buying season.

D)  Sangria would simply give Susan’s US$50,000 order to a motley bunch of local factories.

E)  Having the styles manufactured by 20 local factories can – and usually does – turn into a fiasco. It leads to nothing but unanswered questions. Will Sangria handle quality control? Who checks on delivery schedules? You get the picture.

F)  Will Sangria’s company, handle all these administrative details? Her firm, don’t forget, has just seven employees.

G. Oh, did I mention, the labor cost in Mexico is among the lowest in the world.

I stood up to stretch my legs. I glanced at our Guy Noir bodyguard, the Tony Soprano look alike. He had taken off his aviator sunglasses and lasciviously eyeing Sangria’s assistant. So much for tight security.

To save Susan any embarrassment, I told Sangria I generally handle the shipping and financial details for my company. (Our logo, a cheap plug for my company, is below, on the left.) She turned her attention to me. For some reason, I felt like an Acapulco Cliff Diver ready to take a plunge. I sat down.

Holding her powder blue cigarette between her thumb and middle finger, she said she appreciates the wonderful order. “I happy you like styling,” she continued.

I told her that I’m not sure we will place the order. We want to work with one factory, not twenty.

Sangria chimed in. “My firm will take care of all the quality and administrative details.” She went on, “We normally do this for several of my European customers.” (I didn’t see that as much of a positive endoresement.) “It seems – in some ways – business in  US differ from Europe.”

No surprises there.

I had a thought. I suggested to Sangria that we break the order into a few smaller units, say five orders, each 20% of the total. Once we have tested Sangria’s quality and administrative systems on the first one, we will release the rest in sequence  – one at a time. “Good things happen in phases”, I told her.

“Once we have established a confidence level,” I said, “We will visit you in Mexico often. By that time, we should have developed a strong relationship.” A little incentive for her could benefit us all, I thought.

Will this system work? Your guess is as good as mine. But please stand by.

After Susan finished working on the five orders, we gave Sangria our red QC Manual and what we expect for delivery, communications,  yada, yada.

We were ready to leave. By this time, Tony Soprano was in deep conversation with the homely assistant, (see pix at right.) Seeing that we were ready to leave, he apologized for not being more attentive.

“Fuhgeddaboudit,” I told him. (Yes, I’m from Noo Yawk).

After a friendly good-bye, (a kiss on each cheek), we were on our way to the next appointment. Mexico was growing on us, indeed.

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Silver Jewelry in Mexico: Don’t touch Anything: (Part 3)

October 30th, 2010

Susan – the buyer — and me, Jan Brassem, – the owner — were sitting in Sangria’s (the shop owner), spacious and sunny combination office, showroom and living room. (Sangria and her smile is on the left.) The room was decorated with a decidedly female flair – frilly curtains, pink walls and pretty pictures of horses and hearts. The room smelled, er, ‘flowery’.

Everything on the tables and breakfront was porcelain and apparantly very delicate so I didn’t dare touch anything. I was big and somewhat clumsy. There was no evidence of computers anywhere.

Susan and I sat across from Sangria at her over-sized desk. The Tony Soprano look-alike, (our bodyguard), still wearing dark sunglasses, was reading a magazine, guarding her door. I was not sure what he was guarding. (In case you don’t remember, the original  Tony Soprano’s picture is on the right.) An assistant stood, almost at attention, next to Sangria waiting for instructions. Our driver, Brett, was across the street, watching the girls and guarding his big, black Mercedes.

Since the styling was beautiful, unique and imminently saleable, Susan would have to use her professionalism and figure out a way to solve the difficult problem(s).

Without a word, Sangria nodded to the assistant who quickly brought in  jewelry in pink and powder-blue trays. Susan gasped. She had never seen so many beautiful styles merchandised so carefully. In fact, she told me later, she had never seen such beautiful trays.

Susan started working. Within an hour, she had pre-selected 90 styles, which she quickly whittled down to 45. She asked Sangria if it was okay to change the stone configuration of a few styles. Sangria told her that since production was an issue, changing stones – from ruby to emerald, for example – would slow down the production process. Susan would use the stones shown in the samples.

She reached into her briefcase and, writing feverishly, prepared a Purchase Order. (A “PO” is music to a  salesman’s ears). Susan would order 50 pieces of some styles and 100 of a few others.

Sangria smiled.

Susan asked her how quick she could ‘deliver’. Sangria replied that since she only has five jewelers working in her shop – most of those used to make her designs — she would have to ‘farm-out-the-order’. She could have the order ready for shipment in the normal six weeks, she said.

When a professional buyer – Susan – hears the phrase, ‘farm-out-the-order’, mental bells, whistles and sirens sound a warning. As it turns out, Sangria’s company was not a jewelry manufacturer at all, but rather a design shop – although a good one.

Sangria would send out Susan’s order to ten, or even 20, small factories in and around Taxco’s colorful streets, (see the picture below), – the perfect definition of a ‘cottage industry’. As a matter of fact, we learned later, many of Mexico’s famous designers operate using this cottage industry ‘model.’

Under this purchasing system, quality becomes a major issue. In addition, production communication, payment terms, pricing, responsibility and a host of related issues can quickly lead to disaster.

Since the styling was beautiful, unique and imminently saleable, Susan would have to use her professionalism and negotiate a way to solve the difficult problem(s).

To be continued…

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A Note from the Writers: A Brief Intermission on Silver.

October 30th, 2010

While we’ve been blogging for only 90 days, almost 900 people have left great comments, (although we erased a few that weren’t so great – for one reason or another).

This positive reception was very unexpected and deeply appreciated. I, Jan Brassem,  now consider them as part of our Blog-Family. We’ll write a fresh blog every Sunday for them and post it Monday.

You could make the blog even easier to read — and more fun — if you could give us your thoughts on making the blog better. Nine-hundred heads are better than say, four, if you get our drift.

Just a few days ago, for example, Rob left a comment that we should make the blog titles more interesting and enticing. Without missing a beat, we’ve changed most of the titles. Thanks Rob.

While we’ve been blogging for only 90 days, almost 900 people have left great comments

Also, please don’t forget to read all the blogs – especially the older ones. (Click on “older entries” listed on the bottom of the last page), or different ones, (click on one of the many “Categories” listed on the top right of the first page).

The next installment on Susan and John’s buying trip adventures — or misadventures – to Mexico follows above. Find out about Cottage Industries.

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Silver Jewelry at 110 MPH: (Part 2)

October 18th, 2010

The next day, the four of us, Susan, (my silver jewelry buyer), our driver, (the Brett Favre look-alike), our body guard, (who reminded me of, yikes! Tony Soprano), and me, (the silver jewelry company owner), were having breakfast at our over-priced hotel in Mexico City. As the owner, everything seems overpriced – part of my job description.

We were on our first buying, (sourcing), mission to Taxco, the Mexican city known for silver mining and an abundance of extremely talented jewelry artisans.

The trip to Taxco would take about two hours so we ate quickly. Susan and I climbed into the rear seat of Brett’s big, black, lumbering Mercedes. Once out of Mexico City’s congestion, we were on the open road.

Susan and I started looking at truly beautiful, delicate and unusual silver designs displayed in big class cases. For Susan to be impressed — she was, after all, a world-class silver jewelry buyer — was notable.

The 2-lane highway – the Mexican version of a super highway, I guess — was straight and clear. Brett opened up the Mercedes and we were soon doing 110 MPH.

When I die, I was telling myself, I want to die like my grandfather — peacefully in his sleep. I do not want to die screaming — in a highway accident, without seat belts — in the middle of Mexico.

I took a breath when Brett slowed down — he almost stopped — to pay a toll. I opened my eyes to see two or three uniformed guards with Thompson sub-machine guns standing in a shadow near the booths. Very scary. I tapped Tony on his shoulder and pointed. He had seen them too. Keep driving fast, he told Brett.

I was sitting behind Brett. I had a partial view of the speedometer and the on-coming left lane. After an hour or so I had composed myself. I even spotted a few classical Mexican burros on the side of the road.

But, things got worse. Bret was now tailgating, (by 4 feet or so), behind a big green, lumbering truck. He turned to me and asked, “Do you see any on-coming traffic – is it safe for me to pass?” I gurgled something to the effect my glasses were dirty.

We finally reached Taxco.

By any measurement, Taxco is a picturesque town. Light colored houses and buildings of all descriptions surrounded a small mountain – a hill really – that is reportedly the main silver mine. The mine has been in operation for centuries so one wonders if sooner – or later – the hill will collapse. “Not a problem,” reported Brett.

Brett parked and stayed with the Mercedes.  Tony accompanied us to our first appointment our Hong Kong agent had made for us. We walked into a bright, sunny showroom – Tony stood near the door. Susan and I started looking at truly beautiful, delicate and unusual silver designs displayed in big class cases.

For Susan to be impressed — she was after all a world-class silver jewelry buyer — was notable. Maybe the trip to Mexico was worth it.

A woman came out of a curtained room and, without speaking a word of English, offered all three of us a cup of tea.

After about fifteen minutes, just enough time for us to see the entire line, the designer came out. As we learned later, she was the company owner, salesperson and designer. She reminded me of my daughter Julie.

An attractive, blond and delicate woman of about 45, she led us to her spacious office. Tony followed and sat on a chair near the office door.

Susan enthusiastically started to work. It would turn out to be a difficult process for her.

To be continued…….

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“The Bulge”: Silver Jewelry Sourcing in Mexico: (Part 1)

October 11th, 2010

Susan, (the silver jewelry buyer) and I (the owner) had just arrived at the Mexico City International Airport for our first silver jewelry buying, (a.k.a. sourcing), trip to Mexico.

Compared to buying trips to Bali, Italy, Hong Kong or Bangkok, the three-and-a-half -hour trip was a piece of cake. Our driver, (who reminded me of a shorter and older version of Bret Favre) and our bodyguard (gulp!) met us at the arrival gate. I ask the Tony Soprano look-alike if he was ‘packing’ and nodded in the affirmative. He pointed to the bulge in his jacket.

We were under the direction of our agent –  Hong Kong based – who made arrangements, including hotel reservations. I had ‘Googled’ the impressive silver jewelry scene in Mexico a few weeks ago but neglected to check the crime/security situation. My bad!

Our agent had made jewelry appointments for us in Mexico City and Taxco. Taxco is arguably the best — and most active – silver jewelry design city in the world. More on that later.

On our way to our fancy hotel – Susan forgot to tell the agent that we were on a budget – we got a run down on Mexico City from Brett and Tony. Both now sitting in the front.

The city, as Tony explained it, was experiencing a flu epidemic so much of the Mexican City population were wearing facemasks as a form of protection.  Susan and I looked at each other, accusing each other, without saying a word,  for the terrible timing.

The city was colorful and beautiful, just like in the movies. On some sidewalks, vendors were selling sterling silver belt buckles, silver boot toes, silver goblets and a whole line of sterling dinnerware.

• Mexico City is notorious for kidnapping. Unless you know your way around and speak Spanish, do not take a taxi. They have a habit of locking you in, unless you pay the kidnapping ‘fee’ which could be as high as US$10,000 or as low as US$35.

• All taxi’s – at least while we were there – were green VW Beetles from the 60’s – 70′s. There were thousands in the city driving like crazed ants, (see the picture on the right).

• Many – but not all – street corners had machine-gun toting soldiers instead of policemen. Bret said the cops were corrupt and not to be trusted. The President of Mexico decided the Army was more to his liking.

• There were no apparent traffic regulations. If there were, no body paid much attention to ‘em.

• The city was colorful and beautiful, just like in the movies. On some sidewalks, vendors were selling sterling silver belt buckles, silver boot toes, silver goblets and a whole line of sterling dinnerware. Tony told us – as Americans – it was too dangerous to stop.

We arrived at the high-end, and expensive, hotel. The bellmen took our bags while we checked in. I noticed the two plain clothed men, with bulges under their jackets, standing on each side of the entrance.

I told Bret and Tony that we would meet here at 7 AM for breakfast. We would plan the day then.

To be continued…..

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Silver Jewelry and al-Qaeda in Bali: (A Finale)

October 4th, 2010

The only thing left to do – in this exhausting buying process — was for me to formalize the details with the factory. Don’t forget, Susan (the buyer) and I (the owner) go through this process every time we ‘work’ with a new factory.

When we’ve been buying from a factory for a year or so, we skip the administrative stuff unless there has been a problem, i.e. late shipments, poor quality or whatever.

We usually complete two of these ‘visits’ a day. Sometimes, however, when the factory owner asks us join him – and usually his family – for dinner or lunch — the process can take all day. When we are invited, we accept since, in many cultures, it’s rude not to. In many foreign countries, the fine line between business and family is often blurred.

Susan, Barney, Dong and I took a few minutes off before we started the ‘administrative’ phase – as I called it. We ‘schmoozed,’ (yes, I’m from New York), a few minutes about the marvelous weather, our hotel, kite flying and al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda, as it turns out, has a habit of blowing up popular Bali nightclubs frequented by Australians. As a matter of fact, that’s one of the reason Barney has heavily armed guards at the front and back gates. The lighthearted banter had turned too serious. It was time to get back to work.

The first thing I did was ask Barney if Susan could have a quick tour of the factory. I wanted to make sure it was – in fact – a quality jewelry factory and not a wholesaler pretending to be a factory. I also wanted it well managed so I could count on it if, by chance, one of our customers placed a big order. Could Barney deliver?

Susan and Dong left for the tour.

I asked Barney how quick could he deliver the order Susan placed. He gave the standard reply: four to six weeks. It’ll be six to eight weeks for the iDesign samples.

Al Qaeda, as it turns out, has a habit of blowing up popular Bali nightclubs frequented by Australians.

Barney and I discussed his payment terms. His were the standard terms offered by new factories; 30% with order and 70% when notified ready for shipment, or FOB airport. These terms are stringent, but once a relationship is established, they’re relaxed. After a while, terms from foreign manufacturers can be better than from some US suppliers.

I reminded Barney of our red-covered, quality control “Movement Tolerances and Delivery Standards Manual” which we had given Dong a little while ago. If Dong’s people followed the standards, invoicing and shipping procedures the relationship between our offices should be a piece of cake.

We are always annoyed – the manual covers this in detail — about careless administrative mistakes. We call those “Ooops Problems”. Late shipments, missing invoices, short shipment, he got the idea. We are always annoyed and does nothing to build a solid relationship between our companies.

After about 45 minutes, Susan and Dong returned from the tour. She gave me a subtle nod. The factory was fine – in her eyes anyway. (I’m still not sure what Susan knows about manufacturing jewelry, but you can get a quick sense of how the place is managed just by being observant and asking lots of questions. After touring about 50 factories, though, Susan should know something.)

After a nice toast to new friends and the start of a new business relationship, Barney and Dong escorted us to the car. Our driver/agent/guide was playing cards with the tough-looking armed guards on a picnic table near the fortified front gate. He ran over, packed up our bags, put them in the trunk and started the car.

Since we had become friends, Barney and Dong hugged both of us.

As we drove off, we took a deep breath. One down, three to go, I said to no one in particular.

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Beautiful Silver Jewelry in Bali : Meet Barney Fife, (Part 4)

September 27th, 2010

Within a few minutes, the Factory Manager, Mr. Sanadrij Dong, appeared.  Wearing the male version of the colorful Bali sarong, Dong (first names are last and last names are first in Asian culture), bowed instead of shaking hands. Another element of Asian tradition. (Dong is pictured on the left.)

Dong sat down next to Barney Fife’s look-alike (the factory owner), and faced Susan and me, Jan Brassem,  from across the table. He smiled. He was a short man, (5’2” I would guess), with a well-traveled wrinkled face. With 580 jewelry people working for him, he must have been a skilled and experienced jewelry manager.

Turning to Barney, he said something in Bali. Evidentially, Mr. Sanadrij doesn’t speak English. Barney would have to translate.

Working with translators, has a few important features. First, since the conversation goes through a third party, everything, obviously, takes twice as long, allowing you more time to think. Second, since longer sentences have ‘fuzzier’ meaning, they quickly become shorter. (It’s amazing how precise people can be when they have to be.)

Finally, it is important not to interrupt when sentences are being translated (That was hard for me, since “interrupting” is one of my irritating habits.)

After both Barney and Dong signed our formal Nondisclosure Agreement, I handed the blue lapis sterling silver iDesign — a watch – to Dong. The watch was one of our simplest. (It’s pictured on the right, below) He turned to Barney with the surprised look that Susan and I had seen before. I asked Dong, via Barney, if his people could design a series of those – but with the same technology.

“The person who came up with this idea is either crazy or a genius,” Dong said.

Dong was going to look under the hood — so to speak. He held the lapis  iDesign watch in his gnarled fingers and studied it. Deep in thought, I waited while he studied. Wait! Wait, I told myself, Dude, let him think.

Dong asked a few technical questions, (What’s this and why’s that?), while absorbing and processing the answers. Every time he understood something, he smiled. “…very clever.”

“The person who came up with this idea is either crazy or a genius,” Dong said. “I’m not crazy,” I said in a huff. Susan said she wasn’t sure. I wasn’t smiling.

“Yes, we can design a series of these and simplify the internal movement a little,” Dong said. “It’ll be fun and challenging for me and my jewelers. …something different after all these years.”

Barney asked if we would supply some watch movements and the “Patent-Applied-For” tech-components. Susan said she’ll ask the factory to FEDEX enough pieces for the six-each samples, plus a few extras.

Susan reached into her briefcase and handed Barney a copy of our bright-red formal Quality Control “Movement Tolerances and Delivery Standards Manual.” For the second time today, Barney was surprised. “There is no point,” Susan told him, “In making great designs without perfect quality. Without excellent quality, everyone looses.”

To Be Continued…….

It was suggested that some of our hundreds of readers might agree, disagree or even augment this — or our other — posts. She was so right. We would love to hear, (er, read), your constructive comments.

Also, please be sure to read all our posts. Just click on one — or all — of the categories on the right side of the page. You may find the post on China, Hong Kong, silver jewelry, etc. interesting as well.

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Bali: Cue the Trumpets. Introducing Our Silver Styles. (Part 3)

September 17th, 2010

After two hours of analyzing, fine-tuning and buying over 80 samples, Susan was mentally exhausted. In her best New York accent, she asked one of the pretty assistants for a cup of tea.

She turned to me and gave me an approving nod. So, in her professional opinion, this factory had good styling and quality. Since Susan didn’t want any second-guessing on her final selection – not a word from the ‘peanut gallery’, (Another harrumph) – I was getting bored.

It was finally my turn. The boss, Jan Brassem, gets his turn.

The factory owner – kind of a grizzled Barney Fife look alike with cigarette stained fingers – turned his attention to me. Now came the tricky part.

A few years ago, we had developed an extremely popular silver jewelry brand. We were wondering, I asked Barney, if his factory could design and produce a few, (two or three), original designs for us. If successful, we could potentially sell thousands. They would have to be exclusive to us and made from scratch.

“Of course. We would love to,” said Barney.

Cue the trumpets. Our brand, known as Eclipse iDesigns, contains a unique, small, micro-mechanical component.  The brand’s name shortened to iDesigns, allows the wearer to change the silver style’s look, color even character – with only the slightest touch.

Each design contains a self-contained ‘movement’ – much like a simple watch movement. Many of the movements have patents pending. “Simply put,” I told Barney, “iDesigns combines two current and big-time consumer appeals, beautiful silver jewelry with simple technology. … never been done before.”

Barney gave me that ‘deer-in-the-headlights’  look. Susan smiled — she had seen that before.

The brand, known as iDesigns, allows the wearer to change the silver style’s look, color even character – with only the slightest touch.

To make it even more confusing, Susan chimed in with some more details. “The wearer can’t see the movement, the cost of the style doesn’t change and you don’t need a crowbar to make it change.”

“It was developed with ‘outside-the-box’ thinking,” she continued.

By this time, Barney was thoroughly dumbfounded, even mystified. I reached into my briefcase and pulled out three popular iDesigns. The first, a silver lapis bracelet that transforms into a watch. The second, a silver filigree pendant that converted from onyx to turquoise. The third was an earrings that changed from puffed heart to blue topaz.

Oh, did I mention, I told Barney that the iDesign ‘technology’ uses bearings, hinges, computer codes and algorithms as well as other tech components under extremely close tolerances. Most factory managers find iDesigns challenging and enervating — especially after working in a  tedious jewelry factory for years, generations.  Just ask your factory manager,” I said. 

Barney, amazed, took a deep breath, and asked one of the assistants to get his factory manager. She ran to the phone.

To be continued…

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Bali: Buying Silver Jewelry (Part 2)

September 9th, 2010

The sun-lit room smelled like Orchids. My buyer, Susan, and me, Jan Brassem, were sitting next to each other along side a long dark wooden table facing the factory owner.  One assistant was standing behind him while the other rolled in a cart loaded with trays. Each tray must have held at least 100 jewelry styles.

Our first day in Bali was nothing more than a paid vacation. It was finally time to get to work. Susan took out a raft of computer generated sales, profit, style/type reports. She had done her homework.

Like many jewelry buyers, she was under the gun — so to speak. It was time for her to apply her taste, design knowledge, manufacturing know-how, cost breakdown, experience, negotiating skill, financial knowledge, you get the idea. Her work could spell the success or failure of my jewelry store’s season.

Concentration was key. She had to analyze each design, its cost, markup, quality, customer tastes and who knows what else. She asked me – I was just an observer now – not to talk or banter with the owner or flirt with the pretty assistants. Hummphhh.

• She knew what styles, types and price-points our customers preferred.

• She knew what kind of designs, (basic, fancy, ornate, etc.), our customers bought.

She had to analyze each design, its cost, markup, quality, customer tastes and who knows what else

• She knew what margins, (at least keystone), we had budgeted for the season. Susan would look at each style she had ‘pre-selected’, (these were put in a special tray), and once she went through their entire line, she would ‘review’ the pre-selected tray to be sure each design could ‘carry’ the necessary retail price. If it couldn’t it was returned to the cart.

• Known for its special designs, (she had done her homework here too), she selected styles that had the Bali ‘look’. There was no point in selecting styles that could be bought in other parts of the world — or even in the US. We were, after all, trying to differentiate our store from the competition.

Bali styling was indeed unique. Whether due to the island being remote, the silver jewelry artisans having special skills or who knows what, Bali jewelry had two special features.

Classical Bali Chain Bracelet

The first was Bali’s hand-made rope/chain look. Highly labor intensive, (machine made rope/chain jewelry looks like, well, machine made jewelry), the man-made designs were beautiful and unique to Bali.

The Bali artisans were also skilled at carving faces and animals on small semi-precious stones. These faces were then set in silver creating beautiful pendants and brooches. Almost one-of-a-kind works of art.

When Susan finished, (all her choices were now in one previously empty tray), she would total up the cost of her selection. Since she had budgeted a certain dollar amount for each of the four factories we planned on visiting, she could add a few pieces to the tray or take a few out.

The buying process, however, was far from over.

To Be Continued……

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Bali: Silver Jewelry & Kites (Part 1)

August 25th, 2010

dreams-kiteA while ago, my silver jewelry buyer and me, Jan Brassem, left New York on a sourcing junket, er, mission, to Bali, Indonesia. We were looking to add some unique Bali designs to our branded sterling silver line and check out Bali’s sophisticated jewelry manufacturing expertise. More on that later.

As you probably know, Bali is arguably the most beautiful spot on earth – considered the Australian Riviera. James Mitchner wrote South Pacific with the island in mind. “No wonder you want to go,” the buyer told me.

Bali is arguably the most beautiful spot on earth – considered the Australian Riviera. James Mitchner wrote South Pacific with the island in mind.

The flight, via Hong Kong, lasted 20 hours. When we arrived at the Bali International Airport, we adjusted to the slow customs check-in. (What’s a computer?) Hurry up and wait, (we’re from New York after all). But we had no choice

Other than that, the airport was bedlam — Bali’s definition of organization. We kept our eyes open and hoped for the best. Exhausting.

We selected a taxi – or rather a taxi selected us – and left for the hotel. Our agent-guide-translator would meet us there. The taxi ride was –well, read for yourself  — and see the YouTube video.

• Kites filled the clear blue sky. Kite flying is Bali’s national pastime.
• Huge, ornate, carved statues guard many street corners.
• There is no speed limit. We arrived at the hotel shaking and in one piece
• The men are handsome, the woman beautiful
• With an abundance of teak, inexpensive labor and cheap land, hotels were all on one level and gorgeous. Never seen any hotel like them.
• There were lots of Australians.
• One negative. While we were leaving, al-Qaeda blew up a local bar frequented by Australian tourists. The island is mostly Muslim.
• Everything, (trinkets, furniture, souvenirs) is teak. Given enough time, (a few days) they will carve anything to your specifications.

We arrived at the first factory early the next day. The rifle toting guard/sentry, after opening the barbed wire-topped gate, let us in. Inside was a bustling compound – a fort of sorts. Much of the factory labor was done outdoors.

We were led inside to a long dark showroom. Everything Teak.

The  Australian owner introduced himself and his two attractive female assistants. The assistants wore typical wrap-around sarongs and spoke no English.

They brought out the trays of silver samples…..We began to work.…..

To be continued…..

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