I am inspired by the work of Jessica Hendricks who was moved to start The Brave Collection during a trip to Cambodia while studying at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts. The collection is a line of brass, silver, and gold vermeil jewelry handmade by Cambodian artisans with disabilities or from underprivileged backgrounds. All of the artisans in the program make above-average wages and receive health insurance as well as stipends for their children’s education. Jessica took some time out of her busy schedule to answer some of my questions about her background and the work she does.
Please tell us about a bit about your jewelry line, The Brave Collection.
The Brave Collection is a line of jewelry handmade in Cambodia to support local artisans and celebrate Bravery. Each piece provides a job opportunity for a local artisan and 10% of our profits are donated to fight human trafficking.
From your website we see that each piece in your collection is carved and woven by hand in Cambodia using traditional metalwork techniques with brass, silver and gold vermeil materials and that your cotton threads are hand-dyed in the Cambodian countryside. How much of a hand do you have in the creative process of the pieces?
Each of our pieces is a true collaboration between myself an our artisan team. Our designs are inspired by the culture of Cambodia — their unique and ancient alphabet and their Buddhist spirituality.
Do you have a favorite piece of jewelry?
I love neutrals so I tend to wear the Moon Necklace and Caramel Brave Bracelet.
You graduated from NYU with a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts. How do you think having studied in NYC has helped with your creativity and entrepreneurship?
I think NYU is the perfect breeding ground for entrepreneurship. At such a young age you are thrown into a pretty adult life in NY and you are exposed to so much. You’re able to feel the rhythm of so many different sub cultures, and connect to the pulse of the city in a deep way. It’s a very driven, passionate and often creative soul that is drawn to this type of environment right out of high school, so it’s an incredible opportunity to be surrounded by incredibly motivated and free-thinking peers.
Your mom is an entrepreneur and owns a jewelry business. What advice has she given you over the last few years as you have built your company?
My mom is an amazing mix of dreamer and realist. She has a wonderful imagination and sense of style but she is able to really channel that into a very focused business. For me, starting out I have so many ideas all the time sometimes it’s difficult to choose which path to take. My mother helps to ground me and remind me to be deliberate in my choices.
You are an inspiration to young women worldwide. What advice would you give them for following their dreams?
Make the choice that excites you, not the choice you think you ought to make.
Manhattan or Brooklyn? Why?
Brooklyn all the way. I’ve lived in NY my whole life, but I’m kind of a California girl at heart, and I feel the relaxed, community-focused, healthy-living vibe in Brooklyn in a way I have never felt in Manhattan. I always appreciated what New York afforded me to do, but I always felt a certain unsettled transient anxiety living in the center of it all. Since we moved to Brooklyn, the buildings are lower, there are more people carrying yoga mats than briefcases, there are tons of independent restaurants and boutiques, and the energy feels fueling, not overwhelming. In our new place, I feel a sense of permanence I’ve never felt before in a New York home.
I’m a big foodie and always like to know this: what are your favorite NYC restaurants?
Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?
Check out Jessica’s full line of jewelry at TheBraveCollection.com