Paula DeSimone - About Paula
My jewelry making began years ago when I re-styled and re-cycled pieces that I purchased from department stores or even better, received as gifts. I always had an interest in creative design, art, acting and showbiz beginning as a child.
Upon attaining adulthood, I spent many years like many other professional women; earning a graduate degree, career tracks and so on. Of course, I was simultaneously mothering, schooling, chauffeuring, cleaning, washing, etc. etc. etc., while not really creating anything.
So after twenty-something years, all the kids are out on their own and all I have to do is juggle career and a new marriage. Easy, right? Then, one day my husband came home from work and said “Quit the job, we’re moving to China!” Needless to say, I was ecstatic….…a chance for some adventure, big time adventure!
Arriving in China, I had no children to care for, no house to clean and no job to go to, so I answered an ad in a Shanghai newspaper for western people needed for movies. So, what the hell…. I applied and found out that there were lots of films being shot in China by Miramax, Columbia Pictures, Merchant-Ivory and many other production companies from all over the world.
I started in “The Great Raid” by Miramax as an extra and decided to partner with a Chinese-born woman to start our own casting company supplying actors. She worked directly with the Shanghai Film Studio and the Beijing Film Studio, which collaborated with foreign movie companies when shooting within The Peoples Republic of China. My job was to find the actors. We called ourselves "Shanghai Stars" and the agency is still very much in business today.
It was great fun working with these people as a partner, talent scout and the talent. It was also fascinating working in movies like The White Countess, Mission Impossible III, several Italian films and lots of Chinese movies and Chinese TV series. I played a nun in a Hong Kong movie, a grieving Mother on Chinese TV, a 1930's affluent woman being chauffeured around in a rickshaw and a Madame of a brothel in a Chinese TV series. In some of these parts, I even had lines to speak. The biggest joke was always trying to fit my size 16 body into a costume designed by Chinese. And...... I had to be in NY for a show when my partners gallivanted around China with Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible III. Darn!
During slow times in the "movie business" I traveled around China while my husband had to focus on his work. With help of local born friends, it didn't take long for me to find the pearl markets of China where I was absolutely mesmerized by the quantity, quality and variety available. Soon I was designing and making my own jewelry, and soon found that others liked what I created.
It was then I realized I had a unique opportunity. Since I dealt directly with the people who harvested the pearls, there was no middle man to inflate my costs. This allowed me to offer quality jewelry at a fraction of the price asked by the better jewelry stores. I had the design capability and the sources of supply and have great fun designing my one-of-a-kind pieces. For small production runs, I do all the work myself at my home in the Catskill Mountains. But for larger production runs of pearl strands of all lengths that required the art of knotting, I needed a production staff.
Since I am opposed to the concept of sweat shops that are found throughout China, I wanted to involve young Chinese women and give them an opportunity to improve their lives. This led me to choose a small store in Shanghai where I often shopped. Ellen runs the shop and she herself is a 20-something year old woman who started this small business after coming from a remote town in China. As business grew, she added and trained more staff. Ellen recruits this staff from her home town where there are few opportunities for women. The chance to move to Shanghai and learn a skill gives them an option in their life.
These women now feel good about themselves and are valued members of their society. Their quality of life has improved and they have gained a support group of friends. As important as earning a wage, they have gained a sense of dignity and self worth. They take pride in every piece of jewelry they make, which is reflected in their workmanship.
High volume is not our objective; each design is limited in quantity. Our objective is to offer quality jewelry at a reasonable price, pay a fair wage and make a fair profit. This makes everyone a winner. It is a “win” for our customers, a “win” for us and a “win” for our extended family in Shanghai.
Our long range plan is to replicate this success with migrant women from the Catskill Mountains of New York. They also deserve an opportunity to improve their quality of life.
We hope you enjoy our beautiful handmade products!
For more information or inquiries on becoming a retailer, please contact me.