Finding Extreme Joy, Love and Hope through Symbolic Jewelry with Rough Love’s Diana Gaitirira
Learn how Gaitirira was motivated to start a handmade jewelry business during lockdown that celebrates the color black and Black people’s beauty, and discover how she plans to return the love to her supportive community.
Diana Gaitirira was already busy long before she founded her own business in Rough Love Jewelry. A first-generation American born to immigrant parents from Haiti, Gaitirira was accepted into Gallaudet University's exclusive Hearing Undergraduate Students (HUGS) program, where she graduated in 2007 with a B.A. in Deaf Studies. As a certified sign language interpreter, a SAG-AFTRA actor, and an IATSE 871 film crew member, lockdown made her look into other opportunities to find new sources of income and new outlets for joy and stress relief. That's when she started making bracelets, necklaces, and earrings by hand.
"During the COVID-19 lockdown I started making jewelry as a hobby to keep my mind and my hands busy, but it turned into an amazing outlet of happiness and a beautiful business venture, so I now sell handmade jewelry and accessories," she reflects. "When I am making my jewelry, I am in a completely creative space, which I find to be very soothing, relaxing, and therapeutic. I string, stitch, mold my heart into every piece, and I want my customers to get that vibe and energy, too."
But there's more to Gaitirira's tale than simply turning her hobby into a prospering company. Rough Love Jewelry was also built to support the Black Lives Matter movement and deliver a powerful message about people's perceptions of color.
"Since birth, we are conditioned to believe that all things black are negative, bad, evil. However, there is nothing sinister about my line," of mostly black jewelry and accessories, she says. "I want to change the narrative and convince individuals that there can be extreme joy, love, and hope found in the color black, and in Black people, too."
Rough Love Jewelry sells an assortment of uplifting, eye-catching items, from hand-beaded obsidian "Inspiration Beads" with messages like "JOY," "BLM," "LGBTQ," and "CHANGE IS COMING," to stylish black wooden earrings and sleek face masks. As Gaitirira describes it, "I make rugged wear jewelry and accessories for those who have been brokenhearted, been through the fire, yet emerged through the flames with a resilient heart. I stand with Black Lives Matter, dreamers, immigrants, [people with] various abilities, LGBTQ [people], and more."
Gaitirira has a simple goal: "to give [her] customers hope and love." She delivers on that daily, and she believes in eciprocity between her business and its diverse community of supporters. "I love my community, and it is important to give back," she says. "I donate a portion of the proceeds from my mask and bracelet sales to the National Black Deaf Advocates, the Deaf Queer Resource Center, and the Pazapa Center for Children with Disabilities in Jacmel, Haiti."
To other small business owners navigating uncharted territory these days, especially those who operate 100 percent online like herself, Gaitirira offers some advice: "Don't be afraid to get to know the people in your community and be willing to sacrifice some time to volunteer. I think we could learn a lot from each other if we communicate and listen to each other."