Day #2 of Demdaco Appreciation Week!

Jun 21, 2011 | Entrepreneurship, Life in Progress

(me + Anne in Hong Kong)

Holy smokes, you guys! Thanks so much for all the lovely comments yesterday about Dave K’s video (isn’t he incredibly inspiring?) and for all the great feedback about the products. We love that you have embraced them and cannot thank you enough for the ongoing support! If you haven’t already entered the ginormous giveaway from yesterday, please do – we’re not choosing winners until next week! Big thanks to the folks at Demdaco for coming up with the idea for the giveaway and for offering it. It’s a HUGE deal and can’t wait to meet one of you!

Demdaco Appreciation Week continues today with another giveaway (see below!) and a rare behind the scenes peek at both the design process as well as how + where products are made, including lots of photos from my recent trip to China with Anne (the the product developer I work very closely with). We traveled to China to do some design work for a brand new artisan jewelry line to debut next year (it’s going to be so great!) but while we were there we visited the artisan factories that make much of the KRR products. We traveled to Hong Kong and all over mainland China….a trip of a lifetime. Loved China.

(wishes hung on a line, Hong Kong)

Before I begin, I want to respectfully say this: From our ipods to house decor to the clothes we wear to our favorite stationery, so much of what we buy, wear, use, and celebrate in our everyday lives comes directly from China. I know there is concern out there about China’s export industry. For those of you who may have strong opinions, I want to say that this post is not a discussion/endorsement on either side of the broader issues. This post is simply my personal story/experience of having products made in China after having traveled there and witnessed the process and the people hand making the products. Please refrain from leaving harsh/critical/judgmental comments. This is not a post for that kind of discussion. Thank you!


I love what Dave K. (Demdaco’s co- founder who you met yesterday) says about Demdaco’s relationship with their China partners: 

“I love China and her people.  I view that our industry is a truly global one, and our hearts and affections are with all who are part of our global supply chain.  From the artists who conceive of and design the products, to the manufacturers who produce it, to the logistics companies who transport it, to my colleagues at DEMDACO who help distribute it, to the retailers who present it, and to the consumers who purchase and (hopefully) delight in it.  All of these folks play an important part in the chain, and all deserve our respect and thanks.

For Demi and I as owners, we actually started our company as a buying agent, living in Hong Kong.  So we view ourselves as much a “Chinese” company as an “American (USA)” one.  In fact,  without our amazing partners in China, we would not exist as a company, and the (hopefully) lovely products that we bring to market could not lift the spirits they do.  I know the people who work in these factories; they are wonderful mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and they lead good full lives.  And the places they work help them to do that.  And, they are really, really good at what they do.  So I’m beyond grateful to them, and I respect them immensely.

The word that probably sums it up for us is the word mutuality.  We hope, at DEMDACO, to promote mutuality, which is to say that we hope to honor all those involved in the life of a product from concept all the way through to consumer purchase (and hopefully enjoyment!).”

(Cammy [Demdaco employee] + me with our praying sticks, Hong Kong)

Demdaco has many employees on the ground in China who visit the factories on a regular basis, overseeing all production/quality/etc. I met many of these employees and loved loved loved seeing all that they do to help in the development of product! They are a seriously motivated and talented bunch – very much a family to one another. You will see a couple of them in today’s photos.

(girlie figures in process: hand sculpted, molded, and painted in artisan Chinese factories)

When it comes to the KRR Demdaco products, “made in China” could easily be “hand-made in China.” This is something I really want to bring into focus and celebrate. I can say this because I had the amazing opportunity to visit the artisan factories where the products are made. I met the owners of the factories, the employees, and watched for myself how the products are literally hand made by skilled and talented artisans.


It was mind blowing. Seeing my artwork reproduced to such quality, among such talented people who work so, so hard to do it well and with integrity…it was eye opening, humbling, and made me feel even more like I was just one small part of a village that makes all of this happen.

That is something that China deeply instilled in me: that the Demdaco KRR products are doing more than offering meaningful gift products in the industry, but they’re creating an impact among the global village that help make it all happen. From the people here in the US (the designers, the sales force, the retailers, etc) to the people a world away in China (the factory artisans, the Demdaco employees, etc) and all the places in between (transport, shipping, gift giving), these products travel miles and miles from concept to final product and then hopefully into the heart of a buyer/receiver. It takes a global village to make all of that happen. I want to celebrate that.

(do you recognize what this is?)

I also want to celebrate that for every single person inside that global village that helps create the product, an impact is made. Demdaco and I have received countless emails from people who have been touched by a product they received as a gift or something they bought for themselves in a store. But at the same time, these products are also creating jobs and boosting incomes, intimately creating abundance (big + small) for the people who make it all happen globally, and locally. It really is astounding. And I’m happy happy happy to be a part of it. The stories and the smiles from the men + women hand making the products in China was confirmation for me that these products are making a difference in ways I could have never imagined. Inspiring, humbling, and something I want to be a a part of. And something I want to celebrate.

That’s why we’re celebrating Demdaco this week. They are the village leader that is making it all happen, changing lives, and doing business the way it ought to be done.



I’m not sure what I expected when it came to the factories, but I was happily surprised to find that they looked surprisingly like an artists studio….artsy messes were everywhere with lots and lots of glue, paint, scrap materials and more.


(decorative art girlies, hand-made in China))

Totally surprised to find A LOT of men creating these super girlie products!

(she’s creating one of the girlie display pieces)

There were young men + women (as in twenty something year olds) sitting around large tables literally constructing, gluing, and painting the products inside big rooms that held all the supplies a typical working studio would hold: drying racks, stacks of materials, paint, trinkets, etc. They were chatting with one another just like you or I would when crafting.


Here I am being shown how to glue a piece of a decorative girlie together by one of the skilled crafters.


And here I am giving it a try! I loved seeing actual glue sticks and supplies everywhere I looked.


Here I am helping to create one of the girlie display stands among watchful eyes – I totally messed it up which generated some friendly laughter. I loved jumping into the process – so cool.



It was such a joy meeting the men + women who work so hard on the products. I loved seeing where they work, and how they work together as a team to make it all happen. This is something I want to celebrate.

(The wall canvases are completely hand-made in China. Love the precision of how they are stacked)

I was AMAZED to see all the care given to the wall canvases. They are hand-made in China, down to the tiniest of details: precisely gluing the canvas to the hand constructed frame, hand painting the creases of the canvas sides black, and on and on.


It’s important to note that many of the original samples of the products are made by very skilled artisans, talented people who create hand-made molds (like the one above), sculpts and amazing things from raw materials. It’s so impressive and they are compensated accordingly. I saw a few talented artists creating these. It’s detailed, artistic work…I want to celebrate their work.


While we were there, we proofed several of the new canvases that will come out next year by approving color and so on. They do such an amazing job matching the color, I can hardly stand it. LOVE!

(Here we are working on jewelry design. That’s Freddy to the right, a Demdaco employee)

The main reason for going to China in the first place was to work on the upcoming KRR artisan jewelry line that Demdaco is releasing early next year. This has been in the works for well over a year and we went to China to work out the final stages of design.

It was like being a kid in a jewelry shop, constructing necklaces, bracelets and more. SO FUN. It was hard work though, with long days, and a ton of consideration and thought (a years worth) prior to the actual trip to China.


We traveled to several “showrooms” and literally designed jewelry pieces from the gems + stones + materials available to us in that particular vendor’s showroom. It was utterly fascinating to work like this. It was speedy, super inspiring, and required quick creative thinking.


We had our trusted GIANT notebook filled with a years worth of research, ideas, sketches, and more, including artwork to inspire color combinations and such…

(me + Zoyee)

And we had Zoyee (in photo above), one of Demdaco’s valuable employees in China who helped translate, resource materials, keep track of all the design details, and make sure we were where we were supposed to be here and there and everywhere else (we were literally on a plane, boat, or very long car ride just about every day we were there). Loved working with her – she and her co-workers are critical to the success of the products.


A love story, these two sweethearts met because of the KRR line! She (Lena) worked at one of the factories in mainland China that creates the KRR products and he (Freddy) is a Demdaco employee who works closely with the factory. They met at the factory, fell in love, and got married while I was visiting! How’s that for awesome? LOVE!!!!!


One more thing before I go. One of the things I really loved about China in general was the way in which they choose beauty. It’s everywhere inside the tiniest of tiny details (including their packaging of medicine boxes!). One day we were leaving one of the factories and I noticed something out of the corner of my eye along the long row of bikes (bikes are a major mode of transport). There it was, bright and pink: a scrap piece of my art converted into a pretty bike seat cover. I couldn’t believe it! Not only are they helping me produce my work, they actually like it, too. I loved this more than I can say.

Fort those of you interested in seeing more photos of our trip to China, head on over here.

everyday giveaway

We’re giving away a little something special everyday this week in honor of Demdaco Appreciation Week here on the blog. Feel free to enter each day’s giveaways! We’ll be picking winners next week, including the winner to the all expense paid trip with me (see Monday’s post to enter that giveaway)!

For today’s giveaway:
*One lucky commenter will win $75 to spend on whatever they wish in the online shop.
*Another lucky commenter will win an original painting by me!

Giveaway rules:
* To enter the giveaway, leave a comment in this post. Tell us what you are most enjoying about your summer (for me, it’s porch time in the afternoons with my family). Tell us if anything jumped out at you in this post – was it interesting. Did you learn something? We’d love to know!
* Just one comment per person, please.
* We’ll announce the winner soon.
* Go!

Sending much love,

Show/Hide Comments (755 comments)
  1. KareN Rae steele

    I just received one of your scarves, poppies I have learned from your shopping site. The colors are so soft and beautiful. My friend bought it in the Metropolitan Museum gift shop in NYC. I love ❤️ it so had to search for the brand, making 2 more sales! Thanks.

  2. AriZona

    To Kelly and the Village it takes for you Kelly to make your dreams come true…

    Thank You Everyone for bringing all the JOY to the rest of us in the world.

    You’ve outdone your wonderful, beautiful, joyful and magical self with a new website and generous soul for you give-away! You and your team are Ah–May–Zing!!!

    I can go on and on about your quotes Kelly they touch me dearly, inspiring all that I am and can be! As you said you want to “Encourage people to Bum Up to the Edge of Their Dreams!” That says so much about you and your journey Kelly and all the terrific people who stand with you and encourage you to not only lift your spirit but the rest of the universal spirits as well.

    I’ve loved you and your desire to keep pushing forward encouraging the rest of us–––those who may already be Dreaming Big Enough–––and those who aren’t Dream Big Enough.

    I love, love, love that you share so much with us! Sharing the factory experience–––the Artisans helping the Artist make her dream become a reality–––and the ‘Love Story’ of Lena & Freddy and while you were there!!!

    I’m all about seeing magic around every corner through child-like eyes and wonder. You have that same personality Kelly and I can see your little guy (True) has the magic as well and is also a great teacher for his mamma and daddy.

    WooooHoooo Kelly! THANK YOU FOR YOU!! How exciting too for all the 50 people who will receive your gifts!!!

    Just Be–––Be You!
    AriZona Williams

  3. Gracie Stanley

    Wow! To win anything you have created would be an honor. I have always loved your work and commend you for your hard work and having the courage to do what some of us only dream about and that is to find your talent and to have the confidence to leave your job to follow your dreams. I wish you the best nothing but the best in all your endeavors and look forward to more of your wonderful artwork. Thank you for reading my comment and I wish everyone luck in winning some of your goodies. 🙂

  4. Traci

    what I love about summer is having my two kiddos home with me with no schedules for them to adhere to. and staying up late…..that's the best!

  5. Melissa R.

    You're hard work and talent has paid off. Thanks for sharing what goes on behind the scenes to make all your wonderful products!


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I’m Kelly Rae Roberts

Before I picked up my first paintbrush at the age of 30, I was a medical social worker. I followed my creative whispers, and today I’m an artist & Possibilitarian. I’m passionate about creating meaningful art and experiences that awaken and inspire our spirits.

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