Christelle Paul, the founder of Haiti-based Atelier Calla, an artisan workshop specializing in jewelry and home décor made from bone, horn and wood, knows a thing or two about disruptive challenges-namely an earthquake and a hurricane named Isaac.
In 2006, Christelle started to create jewelry on her own as a hobby, but that passion would soon evolve into a business. Her dream, however, to design and make her jewelry soon collapsed when Haiti’s massive earthquake struck hard in 2010, followed by Hurricane Isaac’s walloping of the already damaged island.
But her ambition and faith were not shattered but reinforced thanks to a meeting with American designer Donna Karan. By the fall of 2011, after quitting her full-time job, Christelle opened the doors to Atelier Calla.
Christelle’s inspiration to run her own company was inspired by her travels and growing up in multi-cultural environments on three different continents. “I’ve been exposed to many different cultures and their aesthetics. When I returned to Haiti, I was drawn to the artisan world and felt I could be a part of it and contribute to upgrading the bone and horn designs and products.”
When she first opened the workshop, she employed only five people, and now she has nine full-time employees and six individuals who work outside of the workshop. Christelle’s philosophy concerning employment is to provide fair wages, a healthy work environment that helps promote personal development, but also develop skills to grow and earn an income that will enable workers to provide for themselves and their families.
Although Christelle is not a traditionally trained designer, she says, “My experience and my love for well-processed raw materials has made an impression on the artisans under my supervision.” She encourages sharing design ideas amongst themselves and has paid for the professional training in woodwork for one of artisan employees. A fan of ABN, Christelle takes advantage to learn as much as she can from the seminars hosted by the organization.
As Atelier Calla evolved, so did the nature of the designs. “We primarily use horn, bone, and wood. We try to let the natural beauty of the materials shine. We look for unique colors and texture in each piece. For instance, obeche wood has a rich variety of grays that bring a soft look to any piece. Rough horn, on the other hand, ranges from yellow to orange to rich browns. The creative process is basically to allow the material to speak, and I translate its message as best I can.”
From January 31st to February 3, 2016, Atelier Calla will be exhibiting at NY NOW’s Artisan Resource at New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Christelle plans to show retail buyers a series of functional items including cheese trays and knives, spoons, votives as well as statement jewelry and jewelry for daily wear.
Of the products she and her artisans design and produce, Christelle notes how warmly they’ve been received by buyers and noticed by artists and other designers. “Not having trained in design, this validation has great value. The main challenge, now, is to stay focused to expand and grow the company.
To purchase items made by Atelier Calla, visit www.elishac.com. Some products are also available at Urban Zen and Macys.