By Barbara Yau, AsAmNews Staff Writer
Buying a beautiful piece of jewelry can now make you look good and feel even better. In a fundraising promotion running until Monday December 14th, Sublima Jewelry will be donating 100% of their sales to several nonprofit organizations that support New York City’s Chinatowns during these challenging times.
This is not the first time that Sublima has lent support to a good cause. In April, they donated 100% of sales over a two-week period to Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund to help food banks across the country support communities impacted by the pandemic. And in June, they donated 100% of sales over a two-week period to the Equal Justice Initiative, which supports criminal justice reform, racial justice and public education.
Recently, AsAmNews interviewed Sublima founder Kelly Bit to learn more about her background, her company and its most recent fundraising effort.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your company, Sublima?
Sublima Jewelry is my collection of artful and sustainable jewelry that’s handmade in recycled metals. I design the jewelry and hand carve wax to make the prototypes, which are molded and used to cast the pieces into recycled brass or recycled sterling silver. I aim to create striking and quality pieces, and because they’re made in 100% of the recycled metals used, they’ll last a lifetime, and each piece comes with a complimentary polishing cloth.
I started Sublima in 2017 after spending eight years of my career as a journalist. While I loved reporting and storytelling, in my free time I was always crafting—a favorite childhood pastime—and it wasn’t too long before I realized I wanted to learn technical skills in jewelry making. I took classes in metal smithing and wax carving, and through the process of designing and making, I discovered that I had a lot of creative conviction. I cherish having an idea that I can’t wait to create, and how rewarding it is to transform an inkling of a concept into a beautiful, tangible form that conveys taste and self-expression. That’s what led me to form Sublima, as a way of sharing what I love doing.
Through December 14th, you are donating 100% of your sales to support New York City’s Chinatowns. What prompted you to make this donation?
For me, Chinatowns in New York City link to the history and culture of my family—and more broadly to that of the immigrant Chinese experience in America. As a third-generation Chinese American, I was raised on Long Island, and while I love that community, I grew up with so few Chinese or Asian American peers, and Manhattan’s Chinatown has been a way to take pride in and experience, first hand, my family’s culture, which is at risk of becoming lost through generations.
I wanted to use Sublima and the jewelry I create as a way of bringing awareness to some of the amazing charitable organizations supporting small businesses and people in NYC’s Chinatowns, which are struggling during COVID-19, and to amplify what I could give to these organizations personally.
You have chosen to donate to five non-profit organizations that support Chinatown businesses. How were they selected? What is your connection to Chinatown and these organizations, if any?
I’ve watched how Chinatown has struggled in the wake of the pandemic, and that’s been illustrated so well by the organizations we’re donating to. Xenophobia created by anti-Chinese rhetoric plays a factor, and combined with lockdown measures, small businesses and many of the low-income and working class individuals and families they serve are at risk of displacement, which is already an issue with gentrification that preceded COVID-19.
I admire how these organizations tackle the community’s challenges from different angles—whether by raising awareness and funding for struggling businesses, providing services that help merchants with reopenings, offering legal support, or running meal deliveries that combat hunger and isolation.
My friend Jaimie Wan helped me choose Send Chinatown Love, Welcome to Chinatown, Chinese American Planning Council (CPC), Think!Chinatown and Heart of Dinner. She recently auctioned her plant collection as she prepared to leave New York and donated all proceeds to these organizations, and she’s also volunteered for some of them and loved her experience doing so.
My parents, Lillian and Carlton Bit, grew up in Manhattan’s Chinatown, and both have relayed their memories of growing up there as children of immigrants, and the challenges that they and their parents overcame. They’re big supporters of Chinatown and its local businesses and people, and I love sharing Cantonese food there with family, forming new memories in these places that preserve our history and culture through their physical spaces and the food they serve. My partner, Eddie Pugmire, who’s half Chinese and grew up eating in Chinatown constantly, has also played a big role in helping me strengthen my connection to Chinatown and to take pride in our culture through a passion for food.
There have been so many people stepping up to use their talents to help the businesses and residents of Chinatown. Have you seen anything that has inspired you?
I’m in awe of the creative talents being used to uplift Chinatown, including artist Jerry Ma’s Chinatown and Monkey King vignettes, Peach Tao’s murals beautifying Chinatown, all of the brands and artists associated with and donating to Send Chinatown Love and Welcome to Chinatown, and Wing on Wo’s traditional and modern ceramics and art, alongside their efforts to protect and preserve Chinatown’s creative culture through arts, culture and activism.
According to your posts on social media, this fundraising program started at the beginning of December. How has it been going so far? Have you met your fundraising goal?
I’ve been blown away by the interest and support that people have shown, and I’m so excited to announce the donations we’re on track to give to each of these organizations. By donating 100% of our sales from December 1-14 and with the help of a very generous anonymous donation, we’ll be giving more than $25,000 to these five organizations, each receiving more than $5,000. I’ll be updating these numbers with the final totals and will make the donations on Tuesday, December 15th.
I understand that you design and make each piece of jewelry by hand. How would you best describe the style of Sublima? What are your best selling pieces?
I aim to create artful pieces that are classic forms with striking and eye-catching design elements. Our bestsellers include the Oyster Hoops, Acme Ring and Yves Knuckle Ring (which are both adjustable), Gilda Wave Hoops, Dia Deconstructed Signet Ring, Dome Topography Ring and Scrunchie Cuff.
How can people shop for and buy your jewelry to support your fundraising efforts? Will orders get delivered in time for the holidays?
Folks can visit sublimajewelry.com and any orders placed through Monday, December 14th will support Chinatown and are guaranteed for delivery by December 24th. We have plenty of pieces in stock and ready to ship, and our holiday shipping cutoff also allows for made-to-order items to be delivered in that time frame.
I am sure that Chinatown will deeply appreciate your generous donation. What is your hope for its future?
I’d love for NYC’s Chinatowns to remain bastions of history and culture that serve intergenerational communities spanning age, socio-economic background and race. I’ve been so inspired seeing older and younger generations come together to safeguard the small businesses and residents of one of America’s oldest Chinese enclaves. I’d love for the generations that come after me to experience the same direct connection to the history of Chinese in America and New York, so they can connect the dots between the exclusion our forebears struggled to overcome, discrimination still suffered by many today and to celebrate the progress won by us and those before us.
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