We’ve been making rings for 15 years under our small, family business Ash Hilton Jewellery, which was great, but pretty limited in scale because we wanted to keep it sustainable for us as a family. We always wanted to work from home while our boys were little, and we didn’t want a lot of employees in our personal space.
Also, the idea of growth for growth’s sake never sat right with us. We got to a sweet spot where we could handle the workload and were able to live a great lifestyle. Now that our boys are bigger and both in school, we realised we were ready to stretch out a bit. We missed the energy of working with other people and also wanted to share the love, create some cool jobs for local jewellers and make Ash’s Sister Siggy a full partner in the business.
However, Ash and I knew that we had to make it about more than just grow! grow! grow! (we read The Lorax to our kids many times), we knew we needed a bigger purpose. So, we started looking for a non-profit to support that matched our values.
There are a tonne of good options out there, but we’ve settled on the Toolbox Initiative. The initiative was started by two jewellers, Matthieu Cheminée and Tim McCreight, while working together on a book about West African jewelry. These two were struck by both the talent of the Senegalese jewellers and the paucity of resources available to them.
So, they started the Toolbox Initiative as a way to support their fellow metalsmiths.
The Toolbox Initiative is a charity supporting metalsmiths and jewellery makers in West Africa. Through their programmes the Toolbox Initiative arrange for contributors like us to send retired tools and metals to metalsmiths throughout West Africa.
Basically, jewellers from around the world donate tools they’re no longer using as well as their metal scraps which are refined and turned into workable silver and given to the Senegalese jewellers.
This whole idea works for us on so many levels. For one, it’s obvious how much respect Tim and Matthieu have for these jewellers, they’re all sharing resources, inspiration and knowledge with each other. It’s not a one-way street. This gets to the heart of what we love about the handmade movement, people connecting over shared skills and freely sharing tips and information so that everyone produces better work.
We also love that it encourages recycling, travel and respect, and understanding of our global community of jewellers.