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. KZ

    I love it when it rains and the kids and I can go out and play-we have even done blown bubbles in the rain. Try it some time, it is really neat!

  2. Katie @

    Summer always makes me smile. It's what makes winter oh so worth it. My brother is in Minot, North Dakota. This summer isn't so amazing for him there. But hope always keeps us alive.

  3. Constance Mueller Rawlins

    Having come from a different generation, I truly appreciate seeing the beautiful artisan work being done in China. Thank you!

  4. SConn

    I'm enjoying lying out on my fire escape (one day I'll have a real balcony!!), drinking a gin and tonic and playing with my cats! It's the best at the end of a long day

  5. Island Soul

    What I am most enjoying most about my summer is participating in an online art journalling course. I've never really thought of myself as an artist.(just started exploring mixed media as a potential way of using some of the vast stockpile of images I've taken over the years to decorate my new home in a more personal way.) What I'm finding is the work I'm doing for the course is therapeutic. It forces me to accept a part of my identity that I had given up a long time ago in pursuit of a highly scientific career.

  6. ten_33

    Silly question… which gift… wouldn't I want. That would be difficult. All your pieces are beautiful.

  7. Heidi H

    I am enjoying walks to get iced coffee with my Jack Russell, Peter Pan.

  8. emilystrange

    I love the constant sun of summer. I live in the desert so I'm also looking forward to Monsoon Season. Thanks for being so inspirational!

  9. bethy

    i am so greeeennnnn!!!

  10. jane

    I look forward to summer the other 9 months of the year. To me it means warmth, freedom, outdoor fun and travelling.
    This year I'm especially looking forward to it because of the impending birth of my 2nd grandchild in August. Nothing is
    better than that.

  11. eliz burton

    I am cherishing everyday of this summer because my oldest son is leaving the nest for college! He is such a joy and has worked so hard for this opportunity. Its just hard to let him go,which is such a selfish feeling. Since you are a new mom advice I would give you would be cherish the moments because they go by way to fast.

  12. spindelmaker

    The best thing this summer was going to an English wedding to a friend of mine. She invited the rest of my family as well, and for the first time in over 20 years we went on holiday together. It was SO MUCH FUN!!! I must have the best family ever! And the wedding was so beautiful too.

  13. Suzanne

    My favorite thing about summer is that my kids are out of school and that I can spend lots of time with them doing all sorts of fun things 🙂

  14. Lori Yardley

    I loved the pictures of you with the jewelry. How I wish I was in that room with you. I can’t wait to see the finished pieces. What I also love about the pictures is that there is McDonald’s on the table, with little bags around the cups….how clever is that!

  15. Laura Haviland

    This summer is going to fast for me.
    What I am enjoying is the peaceful moment with a mug of tea watching the birds and the the sun shining upon my face.
    I started teaching too, it was a blast. Sorry there are too many enjoyable moments this summer. LOL
    Have the best summer ever..
    Hugs and Smiles Laura. xoxx

  16. xoxaine

    enjoying outdoor time with my daughter!

  17. Anonymous

    HK – China, you were in my part of the world. Wonderful crazy place isn't it!
    Cristal in HK

    My fav thing in the crazy HK heat and humidity is spending the day at the beach

  18. Peggy Wilkinson

    It hasn't really felt like summer yet with the way our weather has been, but I'm not complaining. I like the cooler and rainy weather. I've been busy taking care of my mom and haven't had too much spare time, but can't wait to spend mornings reading and drinking coffee on my swing on the deck listening to the birds!

  19. Tammy Fulinara

    I almost forgot about your generous giveaways. I just had surgery and have been a little out of it. (I'm okay!) Your posts and work inspires me each and everyday.
    I am enjoying getting some knitting and reading done. My favorite part of the summer is spending more time with my little man Howie (my dog aka my baby). He is such a character. I wish everyone knew him.
    Enjoyed the photos and information about your trip to China. What wonderful and creative people.

  20. Elma

    What I love about summer is just staying home and relaxing and enjoying the kids:)

  21. Tessa

    Wow, this blog post was so amazing! To see the behind-the-scenes view of your line was too cool, and I love seeing scenes from countries I have never been to.

    One of the things I love about summer is spending time with the puppy outside. I love watching her play and enjoy herself!

  22. Nichole

    It's winter here in Australia, so I am enjoying just snuggling up and drinking lots of hot chocolate!

    Thanks for sharing what goes on behind the scenes. It's amazing to see your products made by hand!

  23. Mindy

    Hi Kelly,

    I really enjoyed this post! It was fascinating to see behind the scenes of your products! I'm really impressed with the level of artistry that goes into producing everything – as you said, "handmade in China."



  24. Brittany

    This post was so interesting to me. A co-worker of mine recently took a trip to China and had a very different perspective on the country- I enjoyed reading your perspective and experiences. I loved seeing the pictures, esp. how the products are made (I had no idea what went into the production). I think reproducing your art would be an awesome job to have! I am SO excited for the jewelry line! Can't Wait!!!

  25. Laura McHugh

    I am a art teacher and today was our last day…I am happy to be off so that I can create for me and was so looking forward to this time but I am having surgury on Monday on my right arm and I am freaking out because I had so many fun things planned and the surgery will keep me from my many loves….My summer loves besides my family and adorable pup is lying in my hammock with my hubby and pup, and creating any kind of colorful art, such as beading, sewing, painting, crocheting and collaging…I hope I will be able to heal so I can enjoy my favorite things…..while I am off for summer vacation…Hope you enjoy your summer with your Hubby and adorable True….

  26. All About Cute

    Winning this would be a dream come true, an original piece of art + $ to spend on products

  27. malissa32

    love the peek into the process of creating your artful pieces. love the peek into your heart and your world. you are so inspiring. love the pace of summer- sleep in, read, get frozen yogurt…

  28. TraciW

    Thank you so much for the photos from China. I'm mesmerized by China's beauty after watching movies with actual footage from China. How fortunate you are to have gone and had such a lovely experience with the people. I was also amazed that the factory looked like an art studio and I wanted to see more of the giant book full of sketches. That was a super post, thanks again for sharing. You are so generous and I want to be a good steward of a creative life just as you are. You wrote about how people come in to your life at just the right moment. This has happened to me so many times. I know you've also blogged about serendipty in the past. I have a great story that I so want to make art about and I would love to brainstorm with you about it. So although I'm commenting for a different day I so want to win that trip with you!!

  29. amytangerine

    loving the longer days, sunshine, bike rides and little getaways. have really enjoyed this week- thanks so much for sharing!

  30. shelley

    ahhhh…summer…i live in a very short summer season state…so i love everything about it…green, warm…outside. what amazed me most about your journey to china…is the human connection, love and compassion…thank you for showing me another side that's not seen very often…play well

  31. Lauren

    What a fabulous experience this must have been for you. I am sure it was heartwarming for you to see how much care was going into your line and the way in which it was handled.
    Summer? loving fresh fruit! eating it every day!! Thanks for the chance.

  32. Erika

    I love, love, love, to see the work being represented in a POSITIVE way. You offered a great truth and realism to your story–the company provides jobs (world wide) and you provide impactful products.

  33. Kelly

    What I love about summer is the long days of sunshine, the feeling that time goes a bit slower, and that summer feels like the time for adventures big and small.

    As for what I learned/liked, I never really thought of artists working on the products in China, and love that they are artists who are passionate about the work they are doing.

  34. Mattos

    What I am enjoying most about summer is reconnecting with my kids that are all in school now, just spending time together engaging in the little everyday things.
    What I thought was cool about the photos of China is that instead of looking like a assembly line factory it looked more like happy creative studios.

  35. carol penner

    Please bring your product in the Candian market you are truly my fav….

  36. Anonymous

    WOW Kelly!
    That must've brought tears of joy to your eyes seeing your beautiful art come to life, right.before.your.eyes! Awesome and amazing!

    I love that you have a direct connection to two people falling in love and getting married!

    My favorite thing about summer is going on vacation and experiencing new places, sights, smells and tastes!

    Thanks, : ) kristy

  37. Shari

    What I love about this summer is that I'm heading down to one of my favorite places in a couple of days…Sanibel Island!

    Thanks for sharing all of this with us, Kelly. It's eye-opening, and interesting, and really helps with the dream imagining process!

  38. Courtney

    What I love most about summer is being outside! Whether it's going for a run, swimming in the lake, or heading to the farmer's market, it is nice to be outside

  39. mkotb

    Another fascinating post!
    What I am loving about this summer is staying at home with my 4 month old and 17 month old. Lots of work but lots of fun!

  40. missy

    Ahhhh summer time. What I'm enjoying most about this summer is planting diffferent flowers and veggies in my garden. Trying my hand at growing Garlic.

    Thanks for the give-a-ways!!! So fun to dream big.


  41. Angelique

    Thank you thank you thank you for caring enough about your image as an artist and about your effect in the world to visit these workshops and meet the crafters/artisans making your products.

    What am I enjoying must about summertime? My husband discovered that our local cemetery has an abundance of fireflies–it's amazing. I've been visiting several nights a week, just to soak in the bliss and magic of it.

  42. Anonymous

    I am disgusted that you choose to have your line made in China. So very shocked and baffled.

  43. Angela Barribeau

    Thank you for sharing your trip, it was neat to see the whole production of the pieces and the people who do the work! Congratulations again, Kelly!

  44. Nina Watson

    Wow, I didn't realize how much of it is done by hand. i have a new appreciation for the pieces I own.

    I live in AZ and the temp is up to 113, so anything I can do to keep cool. My family & I will be taking a trip to your neck of the woods…We are first visiting relatives in Washington State and then checking out the Oregon coast. Looking forward to the cooler climate.

  45. lauren

    i love that in the summer people are so hustly and bustly…. things seem to slow down a bit. i learned from your post that you are such an open artist and that is so respected! love your work and would love to win something original by you!!

  46. Tracy Ann

    WOW, Kelly that was an amazing journey!! You always make my heart go pitter patter when I read your blog and see all your photos. You are truly an inspiration to all. I am an artist/craftsperson and have always wanted to take the leap, but . . . maybe someday. (I also want to open a shish-ka-bob restaurant, how fun would that be)
    Love :o)

  47. Michelle Joy Wecksler

    Your trip looks like it was an amazing growth experience! Thank you for giving us a look into how artisans in China are helping bring your art to the world! It is incredible! This summer I am enjoying spreading my creative wings in the garden, in the craft room and in my home with those that I love!

  48. christina

    Hi kelly, love your art and thankyou for doing a give away!!
    What I love most about summer is going to my family's place on shuswap lake. We have been going there for 30 years. there are so many happy childhood memories attached to that place for me!!

  49. kelly@thebluemuse

    Listening to the robins sing me awake each morning and then the sun to bed each night…

  50. "Girl"

    So fantastic that you were able to visit China and all of the fabulous people making such beautiful things!!! Loved your post and pics!


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Hello + welcome!

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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