I began working with Julie Johnson, Elevat’s founder, in University of Northwestern’s music department two years ago. Here I have been a spectator to a parade of beautiful bracelets, purses, and necklaces that have adorned the corner of her office. The bright colors and intricate designs draw the eye of passersby to the office window, and when my friends stop by to say hello, they always ‘ohh’ and ‘ahh’ over whatever products are on display. I have always encouraged their awe and curiosity, but also wished that I knew more about the jewelry, the women, and where all these beautiful handmade products came from.
My desire for this grew when the Syrian Refugee scarves arrived in October of this past year in a big cardboard box that sat in front of the office windows. When I arrived for work that day, Julie was bursting with excitement about their arrival, and it was easy to see why. Inside, the sheer volume of scarves astounded me, and the variety and detail of each one allowed me to dwell on them for minutes at a time. When Julie asked me to help model them for the website, I immediately agreed. Getting to try on so many--admiring each bead pattern, pairing it with an outfit, feeling the weight and softness of each on my neck--strengthened my connection to Elevat and the refugee crisis. The images of hundreds of families having to walk away from their homes and communities felt so far away. To me, the scarves were a tangible representation of the resilience of the Syrian people. The physical presence of the scarves reminded me to think of and pray for the women who made them and their communities. Just being involved with modeling the scarves transported me from overwhelmed to involved, from paralyzed to participating.
Now, as an intern, I’ve gotten to know several products more intimately through organizing inventory, uploading their information to the website and promoting them on social media. Each time I get to learn about or interact with a new product, I find more fondness and admiration for this company and the women and communities it supports. The more I learn, the more excited I become about the work that Elevat and these women are doing. Through showcasing new products and stories of the artists on Instagram and Facebook, I hope to inspire Elevat’s customers and supporters to learn more about Elevat, be amazed by the work of the artists, and become apart of it. It’s a story of hard work and hope—one in which I feel so privileged to play a role.
Love, Kirsten (Summer Intern 2016)