Black History Month Feature - Q&A
Rain City Forge is a Seattle-born jewelry brand founded by metalsmith Adia Bobo. RCF was founded in 2010 and its collections are hand-forged in the USA and molded from metals like silver, vermeil, and 18k gold. Adia’s creations are simple and modern, but unique enough to stand out from your typical jewelry pieces. A portion of her proceeds goes towards Feeding America, an organization dedicated to helping fight hunger here in America.
We’re in awe of Adia’s designs, and we caught up with her to ask about her process and her inspirations for Black History Month and beyond.
WHITE RHINO: When you began building your brand were there any unexpected challenges you faced? Any pleasant surprises?
ADIA BOBO: When I first started, finding the right shows to participate in was trickier than I’d anticipated. This is not to say I thought it would be easy. I knew it wasn’t going to be an “If you build it, they will come” situation but really, truly figuring out who the line was for and where to meet them took a fair amount of consideration, trial and error.
The pleasant surprise is totally connected to that - when you get in front of the right people, they respond differently. When we were doing in-person shows it was such great immediate feedback. You can watch what people are drawn to (or not) and have conversations that help move you onto the next iteration of a design or the next stage of growth for your business. It’s a nice surprise when you run into unexpected people too - I’ve caught up with old friends and co-workers, family friends and even my second-grade teacher at events!
WR: People talk about having to ‘wear all the hats’ as an entrepreneur. What are three skills that you have or had to develop that you feel have been the most valuable?
Product photography: learning to take photos of shiny things has been a huge learning curve. My skills have come a long way since the beginning and I’m still (and always will be) refining. I’m constantly learning new tricks and spend a lot of time thinking of ways to try and either reduce reflection or embrace it.
Website building + maintenance: I’ve hosted my website through a number of different platforms and some of them just didn’t work for what I needed, I've probably built like 10 websites by now. Managing the website and keeping everything up to date is an ongoing project - it can literally always be worked on. Having a site that functions well (and looks good!) from both the back-end and the front has made all the difference in my workflow and consistency.
Creating cohesiveness: this one is sooooo important. People often think that when you have your own business and are your own boss that you can do whatever you want. Which in some ways, you can. But here’s the thing: not always! Things have to make sense and they have to tell a cohesive story. Remember that everything is connected: the individual product designs and how they relate to each other; do the website and social media have the same voice?; what about product packaging, does that fit in?; when doing an in-person event, making sure the display speaks to the brand (and that includes how you’re dressed too!).
WR: Reflecting on Black History Month, who or what (could be a historical figure, movement, event, etc.) has been a point of inspiration for you?
AB: This is a tough one… it’s difficult to pinpoint one particular person, movement or event. Everything is so interwoven and connects to so many other things in my consciousness.
Favorite inspiring people + works (in no particular order): Alice Walker’s “Our Mother’s Gardens”, “Let America be America” by Langston Hughes, Titus Kaphar, Rebecca Walker (Alice’s daughter!), “I am Drowning in Whiteness” by Ijeoma Oluo, Girl Trek (check out their Black History Bootcamp project), Billie Holiday and Rico Gatson
In the context of current + recent history, the widespread focus on the Movement for Black Lives has brought a lot of things to the forefront. Things that are not news to many BIPOC. During the “Great Awakening” I was in quite the emotional state (read: mess) and hadn’t really held much hope for lasting change. It felt like “We’ve been here before and things don’t change. People think they care but they’ll forget in a few weeks”. So far, I’ve been proven wrong - this time it feels different. We still have a long, bumpy road ahead of us but I’ve been really encouraged by what seems to be a societal shift toward recognizing and appreciating Blackness, Black people and Black history as more than a footnote or special occasion. I heard someone describe it as normalizing Black excellence and that resonated in a really clear tone.
WR: You design the jewelry yourself for Rain City Forge. Where do you get your design inspiration from? How did you discover that jewelry metalsmithing was your calling?
AB: Inspiration is kind of a funny thing. For me, it's all very abstract. The thing that might energize me or that I may find interesting may not reflect back from the work in an obvious way. I recognize that it’s all connected and that my love of clouds, the ocean, and contemporary art have converged someplace in my mind and influence what comes out of my studio. I love the stillness and quiet spaces and my favorite kind of days are grey and drizzly. I find that I have a lot of ideas during those times.
I discovered jewelry-metalsmithing while looking for a creative outlet from my previous life in corporate America. I had been making some beaded jewelry and got to a point where I wanted to design and incorporate my own metal findings. I took some classes at a local art school and was hooked.
WR: Do you have any favorite jewelry pieces from your collection that you've created?
AB: My personal favorites to wear are the Barred Hatch Necklace and the Tulle Concave Studs (both in 24k Vermeil). They’re my go-to set - the scale and weight are perfect, and I’m a big fan of things that “go together” vs “match”. Right now I’m also really excited about the jewelry-for-your-home pieces. I’ve been working on a small collection of wall hangings and plant hangers and I love the idea of extending a bit of jewelry-like adornment to the home.
For inspired jewelry pieces that benefit the greater good, check out https://raincityforge.com. Also check Adia out on Instagram @raincityforge