Mark and Anna Holland started Dorje Designs in July 2005. Disclaimer: Mark works full-time for the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation and despite his passion for Dorje Designs, it does not interfere with his work there.
• How did you think to start a business like this?
Anna: I saw a necklace in a book; and I searched everywhere, but couldn’t find the beads to make it. The designer was from Albuquerque, NM so I contacted her and we’ve since become the best of friends. She’s been in the business for 30 years.
• Describe the jewelry you sell here.
Anna: I try to contemporize old pieces. Some of the jewelry comes from sunken slave-trade ships and the beads washed to shore. Some of the detail from silversmiths took them days or weeks to do with rough tools.
Mark: Anna works with traders and collectors from all over the world to get the beads.
• Mark, what’s your role in Dorje Designs?
I handle the business aspects of it. I spend about 25 hours on it outside of work each week. It’s such fun; it doesn’t feel like work. It’s only been a few months, but with all of the people we’ve met, it feels like years. Right now, ethnic jewelry is only 1 percent of the bead and jewelry market, but we’re going to change that.
• Where does the name Dorje Designs come from?
Anna: Dorje is a Tibetan word that means thunderbolt.
Mark: It may also mean "lord of the stones." We liked that it wasn’t taken from the Internet (domain names).
• Have you sold jewelry to anyone interesting or shipped it anywhere exotic?
|Anna works in her Boulder studio.|
Mark: We get anywhere from one to 200 hits to our website each day from all around the world. We’ve sold jewelry in Italy and Belgium. We have a good following in London. A woman who runs two high-end ethnic art stores in Argentina bought 10 necklaces, which would cost them quite a lot since it’s a rather poor country.
Anna: I was at one of Mark’s conferences and a woman admired a big coral necklace I was wearing. Later, I was off with my friend and Mark sold my necklace. I never even got to say goodbye.
• Where do you get the beads?
Mark: We deal with collectors and traders, who go to villages to buy beads. The indigenous people travel for miles to sell them because they’re so poor. It can be very difficult to find beads, so sometimes it’s cheaper to buy from traders who have had their collections for awhile.
• Describe an interesting bead.
Mark: The rarest or maybe most expensive are the Dzi beads from Tibet. They’re pre-Buddhism. No one knows how old they are or who made them. The Nepalese and Tibetans will be offered $1,000 for one, but will never sell because they think it’s horribly bad luck. That’s what makes having one so special. (Ed: A newer version is pictured at top right.)
• What are your future plans with the business?
|Jewelry by Dorje Designs is displayed in a bowl. |
Anna: I would love to own a high-end clothing shop where the clothes compliment the jewelry.
Mark: But that’s a few years away.
• What have you learned from this experience?
Mark: I’ve learned things lawyers were never meant to know. I never knew there was so much history with beads, yet they’ve been used for both adornment and currency. I’ve also learned that this is a very trusting business. People will ship thousands of dollars worth of beads for approval and we’ll ship back the extras and a check for the ones we wanted.
• Any secrets to your success that you’d like to share?
|This is a modern version of the rare Dzi bead.|
Mark: Finding a partner you love working with on a daily basis.
Anna: Having a unique and interesting product that’s fun to look at — and Mark’s
• Want to take a look?
The Holland’s website is http://www.dorjedesigns.com. You can call to set up a time to stop by and look at the jewelry: (303) 494-0184. They offer a 100 percent money-back guarantee on all items. The Hollands hope to be at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, Boulder Creek Festival, and some art shows in the mountains next summer.