Making environmentally conscious decisions can be daunting when there are so many variables to consider, be it the food we eat, clothing we wear, or the cleaning products in our homes. An area not to be overlooked is the jewelry accessories we adorn ourselves with.
In recent years there have been numerous studies citing the devastating environmental effects of gemstone and precious metal mining, however there are several jewelry designers who are making efforts to create jewelry that does not further contribute to harming the earth.
One such designer is Tamara McFarland owner of McFarland Designs in California. Tamara has made it her mission to create jewelry that is environmentally friendly using ethically sourced gemstones and recycled metals. She specializes in sustainable, eco-friendly wedding rings and jewelry. Her handcrafted designs are stunning which prompted me to want to learn more about this talented designer.
How long have you been creating and how did you get started?
Creating in general – all my life, jewelry specifically about 4 years, metalsmithing for about 2 years.
My adventures with jewelry making started out with creating sterling silver photo pendants. From there, I started to do a lot of bead work, and then quite a bit of intricate wire work (Eni Oken style). Next I learned basic soldering and bezel setting, and finally, most recently, more setting techniques for faceted stones. I consider myself to be a work in process, and I’m always thinking about the next skill I hope to acquire.
Where did you get your training?
I haven’t had much formal training; I’ve learned a lot online, and have taken a few classes at local establishments (Unauthorized Art in Arcata, CA, and the Mendocino Art Center), and have learned most of all from trial and error and experimentation.
What are some inspirations for your designs?
I think I’m really most inspired just by the stones themselves. There’s something very intriguing to me about gemstones, especially those with really saturated color. When I find a new stone and fall in love with it, I can’t rest until I’m able to create a suitable showcase for it.
Why is working with recycled metals and ethically sourced gemstones important to you?
In all that I do, I strive to minimize harm to people, animals, and the environment, and to leave the world a better place than I found it. In my personal life, this philosophy guides my choices about food, clothing, and entertainment, and it feels very natural to extend these philosophies to my work as well. I feel very fortunate to be in a position to have a profession that is in such close alignment with my personal ideals.
Why wedding rings and bands?
I actually create everyday (non-wedding) rings quite often as well, and an occasional necklace or pair of earrings as well. But it’s true that much of my work is with wedding rings, which I love. It’s fulfilling to be a part of something that means so much to someone else, and rewarding to work with couples to create the perfect rings that reflect their tastes and personalities.
Where is your jewelry sold?
Online through Etsy and 1000 Markets, and I do a lot of custom orders just through my own website mcfarlanddesigns.com, email, and/or personal consultations with local couples.
What’s your favorite part of designing jewelry? What is your favorite gemstone?
I really love collaborating with a customer to create something unique and special. Knowing that I’m creating something that they helped dream up is pretty cool. I can’t possibly pick just one favorite gemstone! Right now, I’m very into Oregon sunstone (the darker orange, the better), grape garnet, and Zultanite.
What is your favorite piece of jewelry?
I love jewelry that has some history or a story. My mom and two aunts share joint ownership of my late grandmother’s four-stone diamond and white gold wedding ring – they take turns, each wearing it for a few months and then passing it to the next sister. Sometimes when it’s my mom’s turn, she lets me wear it for a few weeks, and knowing that my grandmother wore that ring every day of her adult life – for over 50 years – is really something special.
Do you employ any other environmentally friendly practices in addition to using recycled metals and ethically sourced gems in your business? What about in your personal life?
Wherever possible, I make decisions in my studio that take into account the environment and my commitment to conservation and animal rights. I use recycled office paper, ship my jewelry in boxes made from recycled materials when possible (although I have yet to locate a good source for clamshell-style jewelry boxes from recycled materials), and I ship all orders in gently used bubble mailers that I obtain from a local radio station.
Each month, I donate 5% of my gross sales to a different charity. These are often animal-related causes, since these are some of the nearest and dearest to my heart, but I’ve also featured international women’s rights groups, children’s health organizations (only those that don’t test on animals, of course), marriage equality efforts, and more. I consider this to be an integral part of my business, and a way to bring more meaning to my work, and to the jewelry I sell.
In my personal life, the most significant thing that I do for the environment is following a vegan lifestyle. Since animal agriculture generates more greenhouse gas than even the entire transportation sector, we each can have a huge positive impact simply by reducing or eliminating animal products from our diets. Beyond that, I do all of the usual/predictable stuff… cloth grocery bags, cloth diapers when our son was a baby, reduce/reuse/recycle, composting, growing some of our own food, buying as much locally farmed food as possible, etc. I’m also active with a local vegan group; we host community potlucks and movie screenings, which often deal with environmental issues.
Do you possibly have time for a hobby and what is it?
Being a mom and making jewelry are the two things that take up most of my time. I also enjoy cooking, reading, and taking care of my animals (two dogs, two rats, four ducks, seven chickens, and two turkeys). Jewelry is such an enjoyable creative outlet for me that it really feels more like a hobby than a job. I’m just very lucky that I’m able to make money doing it.
What was the last really fun thing you did for yourself or someone else and what made it fun for you?
My husband and I recently went to a local spa for massages to celebrate our 12th anniversary. That was a really nice treat.
Escaping to the river periodically has also been a really fun diversion this summer. Since I work from home, it’s hard sometimes to fully disconnect from jewelry mode to relax and truly connect with my husband and son, so sometimes it takes getting out of the house – away from the torch and the computer – to be able to truly unwind and have some fun.
I really like to treat other people by cooking delicious vegan food for them. We’re hosting a vegan sundae bar and slip-n-slide party next weekend, which should be lots of fun.
McFarland Designs, www.McFarlandDesigns.com to learn more.
Not long ago I received this testimonial:
Jaszy! Thank you so much on your recommendation on McFarland Design. I just got my wedding ring yesterday and it’s absolutely beautiful! I ended up choosing one with Moissanite, gold on the edges and silver in the middle. So pretty, I couldn’t be more happy with it.
Have a great day! Edi