ABURY meets designer Soraya Cedeno-Fetzner
Posted on 02 September 2016
Soraya Cedeno is the face behind the Ecuadorian brand Organic Tagua Jewelry. Born in a small coastal village of Ecuador, a place renowned as a haven for artisans working with a relatively unknown raw material: Tagua. With a mission to give back she traveled the world and gained influence by people, places and high fashion. As founder of Organic Tagua Jewelry, Soraya Cedeno now works with village artisans to design gorgeous items that is not only eco-friendly, organic and sustainable, but also provides unparalleled economic opportunity to the artisans who produce it.
Meet Soraya Cedeno, a strong woman representing the fantastic culture of Ecuador:
Soraya Cedeno, start by tagging yourself with three words.
Warrior, Passionate, Mother
We believe that “hands tell stories“. What do your hands tell about you?
My hands are that of a mother, wife and entrepreneur. Therefore, my hands carry the people in my life to places they could not go themselves. And lift them to positions that were otherwise unobtainable.
What is the last thing you created with your hands?
Organic sweet potato pancakes for breakfast.
If you could choose, what would you like to be able to do with your hands?
Rub my son‘s skin and make his eczema disappear.
Looking back on everything you’ve done in your life - What is the one thing you are proudest of?
Being a single mom for many years was very hard but looking at my daughter and seeing her grow up as a strong, giving young lady is a the most rewarding accomplishment.
“One of a mind” underlines our strong belief in equality and the value of sharing. How does intercultural exchange benefit our global society in your eyes?
I believe it is only through intercultural exchange that our global societies might have a chance to raise communities with brighter futures for our children. We need to share with the rest of the world what makes us grow as a family, as a community and as human beings.
What differentiates Ecuador from other countries? What does it have that no other culture has?
Wow - This one is tough... We have so much and at the same time we have very little, I sincerely think we have large diversified natural resources considering it is the smallest country in South America. We have The Galapagos Islands!
Talking about other senses - how would you describe the “Tastes of Ecuador” and what is your favourite?
We are known for the best ceviche in the world! Growing up on the coast it is all about fresh fruits and vegetables (no meats) but lots of fresh fresh fish!
You are the founder of Organic Tagua Jewelry. All your products are made from a material called tagua. Could you explain what it is and why you are focusing on that particular material?
Buttons for US military uniforms and more expensive garments were created from the tagua nut, in the 1800’s, also known as vegetable ivory. A huge industry for Ecuador up until the mid 1950’s, when it was replaced by plastic buttons. Due to the mass production of plastic buttons the vegetable ivory material was overthrown by inexpensive quality. The button making industry all but disappeared in Ecuador and so did the jobs for over 4000 artisans and their families. Growing up in Ecuador, I always came across many struggling tagua jewelry street vendors.
The artistry of shaping, carving and the hand crafting of tagua, from intricate figurines to one of a kind handmade. Jewellery was passed down from generation to generation. Due to the feeling of artistry needing to be celebrated, not only for it’s creativity and sustainability, but to appreciate the talent behind the artistry in creating these pieces. The tagua nut does many things, the harvesting helps protect the rainforest, the amazing people who harvest make their living by doing this on a daily basis. Today, we employ over 45 artisans, all of them depend on the success of Organic Tagua Jewellery! How can I let them down? Although, I have been offered the opportunity to expand my business with other sustainable and natural products from other countries, I am committed only to my fellow Ecuadorean artisans.
How come the shape of a puzzle piece has very special meaning to you?
The Puzzle is the Symbol for Autism Awareness. Matthew, my son was diagnosed at the age of 2. My first Tagua designs were a blue Tagua puzzle piece bracelet and key chain. 3000 bracelets later I knew I was onto something good for everyone. We raised a lot of money for my son‘s school. I will always continue to raise money, support and awareness to this cause. It is funny how things just sort of fell into my lap. I will always continue to support the local Autism Schools. Families who struggle financially with Autistic children, or anything else that our Autism Community needs.
Soraya Cedeno, we are delighted to add some of Organic Tagua Jewelry's products to our selection. What makes the particular tagua bracelets unique in your opinion and why?
This jewellery is co-designed by the artisans of the village where my tagua jewellery is manufactured and myself. We work closely together in the design process. I want all of the jewellery to look colourful and stylish. While keeping all of its natural originality and beauty. We tumble each piece for about 14 hours just to give it that beautiful shine. We started with this Puzzle Piece bracelet and it continues to be our #1 Seller! I love it.. I love all that we do, I am so grateful.
© All photos via Soraya Cedeno-Fetzner