As most of you know, Cara Becker was diagnosed with leukemia in the fall of 2012, and during the course of Cara’s treatment, she and her family started Karma for Cara Foundation.
When Cara passed away in December 2012, Jenny—Jill Becker’s sister & Cara’s aunt—handcrafted a cuff in Cara’s favorite color (orange) adorned with the protective eye and gave it to Jill as a gift. Though they did not know it at the time, this cuff–now called the “Karma for Cara Cuff”–was the beginning of Lema J Design. Lema J donates 100% of the profits from every sale to Karma for Cara Foundation, giving life to their #CuffsForACause.
What follows is an interview with Jenny about Cara, Lema J Design & Karma For Cara.
1) Tell us about what inspired you to make that very first cuff for Jill. What thoughts & emotions were you experiencing at the time? What were you hoping to accomplish? I knew no words could make things better. Being the artist I am, all I could think of was to make something tangible and give it to Jill so she’d know I’m always with her. I’d been working with stingray material recently, the protective eye concept spoke to me, and the cuff’s leather liner felt like a hug. Everything fit together.
2) How long have you been an artist? Has jewelry always been your favorite artistic medium? I’ve always been a creative person, but surprisingly, jewelry was never my thing. After I graduated from college, I took classes at RISD & MICA, but I was mostly painting & drawing. After I got married & had kids, my art went on the back burner. Many times when I saw handcrafted jewelry, I thought, “I could make that.” I had a friend who was a metalsmith—I didn’t have that skill—and I gave her drawings of what I’d like to do, but the jewelry never turned out exactly like I’d visualized.
3) What is your most favorite memory of Cara? Seeing her playing with my kids and the joy on both ends. She loved being the older cousin.
4) What is your favorite thing about the Karma for Cara Foundation? How does it make you feel to support our non-profit? My favorite thing about K4C is the microgrant program. It is so fantastic & gets kids involved in service at an early age when it really sticks. It makes me feel so good that Lema J has connected many people to the K4C cause. Our cuffs are a conduit for learning about Karma for Cara. It’s a “feel good” all around. People like to be part of that. Most importantly, although Jill & I are not in close proximity location-wise, we are always connected with the relationship between Lema J & Karma for Cara.
5) What quality do you most remember about Cara and how does that translate to making Lema J cuffs? Cara was very generous of spirit which translates to giving which is what we do at Lema J.
6) In that vein tell us about the Special Edition Karma for Cara cuff. Every time someone buys the K4C cuff, Lema J donates an identical cuff as a gift of love & hope to a cancer patient. What’s really lovely is the letters we receive from those cancer patients. At the most recent Baltimore ACC show, a woman from out of town was perusing our cuffs, and she shared with me that her daughter who is a leukemia patient was in the hospital having a bone marrow transplant at that time. I gave her a K4C cuff to give to her daughter. Months later, I received a thank you note from the woman explaining how significant the cuff was for both her & her daughter, that it provided a huge lift for both of them. I like to think our paths were meant to cross.
7) Tell us about how you & Jill came up with name for the cuff company: Lema J Design. The word “Lema” (pronounced leh’-ma) flows off the tongue. And the acronym LEMA which stands for Love Empowerment Motion Adventure epitomizes the concepts that are important to us which we drew upon to move forward with the company. The J stands for Jill & Jenny of course.
8) We’re guessing that running a jewelry company like Lema J is somewhat of a “labor of love.” Are you involved in every step of the cuff making process? How long does it take—start to finish—to make one cuff? What are the hardest parts of running Lema J? What are the very best parts of running Lema J? I am involved in every step of making a cuff. My production staff consists of 3 full time and 1 part time workers. It can take anywhere from 4 to 6 hours to make one cuff, and from start to finish, each cuff involves a 3 day process with paints & glues. So to make even one cuff is very labor intensive. Until this year, I only handled the art side of the business, and I’ve learned that the business side of the business involves a great deal of time! My favorite part of the business is designing and playing with new things & ideas. Even some of my mistakes have turned out to be something I can use. I like traveling to craft shows across the country where I meet & educate people about Lema J & K4C. It’s at those times that I know I’m a part of something bigger than myself and engage people that come to realize the cause is bigger than all of us.
9) What are you most excited about right now as far as Lema J is concerned? For the past 6-8 months I have been collaborating with Liza Hathaway Matthews on abstract floral cuffs. Liza has fantastic energy & a special spirit & she loves the cause and the art as much as I do! No two of our floral cuffs are the same. When I get the pieces she has painted, I figure out cropping which visually exciting to me. So far the collaboration has been a huge hit, and the cuffs sell even better in person. After a client purchases a cuff, they often feel compelled to buy another. Each cuff is like a painting from Liza and a piece of jewelry from me. We have great synergy!