Djennin Casab is a jewelry designer at E’lur Wrist Designs, a handmade luxury jewelry brand that celebrates African and Latin American cultures using AAA-grade gemstones and precious metals. After visiting her home country, Djennin was inspired to explore and reimagine her Mexican heritage through art, which took shape as jewelry design. Read on for Djennin’s maker story.
Artisan Joy: How did you get started as a jewelry designer?
DC: I have always loved artisan unique jewelry, making it a point to purchase it in art fairs and by local artists, and the bonus for me, was also fair trade. I looked for originality and beauty with a strong spirit.
On my recent travels to Mexico, my home country, I learned of a movement of rediscovering one’s roots and reinterpreting our heritage through art. I just loved it. The colors, the textures, the emotion behind every piece of art, be it murals, paintings, sculpture and jewelry. So, I wanted to do something like this from Detroit.
About a year and half ago, I met Shawn Rule, the founder of E’lur Wrist Designs. He was creating bracelets that spoke to him and his customers from a cultural standpoint. He’s African American, and I immediately connected with his vision. We became business partners, and I design E’lur’s Femme line. My first collection FRIDA was inspired by the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. This collection speaks to me as a Mexican, but it also speaks to every Latin/o/a/x as Frida’s work belongs to all of us. I am very excited about this collection—every piece has a story behind it—and, of course, it won’t the be the last. Our vision as partners is to connect with everyone, not only to our personal heritage.
AJ: When did you realize that jewelry design could become your business?
DC: Well, Shawn started making his own bracelets because he couldn’t find anything that would speak to him culturally, without thinking he would sell them. People complimented his designs so often and asked where they could buy them, which prompted him to start E’lur.
We were a good fit for business partnership because I was looking for a way to bring the reconnecting with one’s heritage movement to Detroit.
AJ: Where do you find inspiration for your creations?
DC: In my heritage, in my multiple identities—Latina, Middle Easterner, woman, creative spirit, lover of freedom. Also, in the figures I admire, like Frida Kahlo, not only for their immense talent, but also for their love of life, grit, courage, confidence and indomitable spirit.
AJ: How do you apply that inspiration to your work?
DC: I look at the work and life of the people I admire, to the cultures long gone, to anything that evokes emotion in my heart; then I close my eyes and feel the colors, the textures, the messages within and I choose the beads carefully to create a unique bracelet and earrings set that will send that emotion or message.
AJ: What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
DC: That all my life I’ve been told I’m not a creative person, that I’m more of a square-minded individual. All my family was super surprised when I told them I had become partner in a handmade jewelry business!
AJ: As creatives, we can be continuously creating and refining our art. How do you handle perfectionism?
DC: I have two messages right in front of me all the time. One says, ‘Maybe swearing will help’ and the other one says, ‘Don’t let your motivation be the cause of your demise.’ I read them both. I curse a little—or a lot—laugh—and take breaks even if everything in me is saying stay until it’s perfect. After a break, I come back to my workstation refreshed with a new perspective. Sometimes I continue working on it—and sometimes I see the work is really good and I finish it.
AJ: When it comes to running a creative business, what keeps you going through the ups and downs?
DC: Patience, lots and lots of patience and faith in ourselves. Sometimes it seems like no one is interested in our pieces, and sometimes we cannot get enough praise and orders. The downs are rough though, so honestly, it is really great to have a good partner. We build each other up—we work really hard and we learn from each other. That helps immensely.
AJ: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in putting their work out into the world but feels vulnerable about it?
DC: I would say I absolutely get it, but you need to be courageous. Your creation has part of your heart and soul in it. This reflects your inner thoughts and self, so it is hard to think of criticism, sometimes negative. I get it, seriously. It happened to me with my Frida collection. I was fearful of the reception, but you have to put yourself out there. Put the best work you have in you and have a really good support system that will help you handle it.
The reality is that most comments I have received are great—people love the colors and patterns and everything. I am glad I put myself out there, a risk to my heart, yes, but also the promise of great reward. And I also thought, if it doesn’t work as I expected, then I will have learned a valuable lesson. That mindset helps.
AJ: Has someone ever criticized your work? How did you handle it?
DC: Yes, I listened and learned. Sometimes people see things you don’t, so I am grateful for constructive suggestions always.
AJ: Creatives are often very in tune with what’s happening in the world. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming. If this happens to you, how do you cope?
DC: Oh, yes absolutely. The greatest thing about creating designs is that it is a positive outlet from the negativity that one can hear on the news. Every time I make a bracelet, I make sure I am in a positive mindset so the bracelet will have good energy too. And I think, that in doing so, in a very little way, I am helping to transform negative to positive energy. That thought makes me happy.
AJ: Is there a cause that you’re passionate about?
DC: Yes! I used to be in charge of community engagement at a local university, so I am passionate about service in the community. I have a favorite from Detroit’s Corktown: Peace and Justice Hive which houses grassroots nonprofits such as MannaWorks Clay Studio, Manna Community Meals, Corner Shower Laundry, Michigan Interfaith Power and Light, We the People of Detroit and many others.
AJ: And, of course, we have to ask you this: What brings you joy?
DC: The smiles of the people wearing our creations. Even though it brings me joy to create them, it is never complete until it is shared with someone. Of course, the love, light, and music from the people I love around me is the best thing ever!