Q&A: Allison Stewart Bishins

Sustainable style at Happy Fox Studio.

Community is always top of mind for Allison Stewart Bishins of Tacoma. She attended the London School of Economics and Political Science for city design and social science. Later, she became an urban planner with a passion for sustainable development back home in the States. Before having her first child, she developed a new interest in making jewelry. Acutely aware of the environmental strains of consumerism, she started stringing together repurposed gems into necklaces and earrings. Not long after, she launched her company, Happy Fox Studio. And while she’s no longer an urban planner, she’s still passionate about bringing her city together. She’s launched workshops and meetups for women in business in Tacoma and uses flash sales to support grassroots organizations. To her, Happy Fox Studio is hardly just a small jewelry business. It’s a way to support her community and ignite change. “I am always growing and changing and working on myself. Why shouldn’t we do that in our communities? Why shouldn’t we be building a better community to serve people?” she said. Here’s what else she had to say.

 

On getting started:
I had started dabbling in making jewelry — just really simple starter jewelry — in about 2006. And then over the years, I started listing a little bit on Etsy to essentially just cover my cost.

On finding unique materials:
Some of the first pieces I listed were necklaces and earrings made out of vintage electrical resistors. I had just found them at a garage sale. You know, like 1,000 of them for 50 cents or something like that.

On women supporting women:
Any sort of extra time that I have, I try to support other women. Women makers especially, but other small business owners. I run a Facebook group called “Nurture,” which is strictly for women in business in the Tacoma area, where people can ask questions and get advice on things and share their business and find partnerships. We started a few months ago and have about 200 members now.

On achieving more:
Everything that I do has this element of accomplishing more than one goal. For me, I don’t make jewelry just to make jewelry. I make jewelry because it’s a creative outlet for me. But also because it makes people happy and because making quality jewelry that lasts for a long time reduces people’s desire to buy cheap jewelry. On top of that is this idea that if I can show people that secondhand and reclaimed materials can be really beautiful and minimalist and stunning, then that can help shift people’s ideas about what an eco-friendly jewelry business might look like and encourage people to be more conscious with what they’re consuming.

On recycling:
About 95 percent of the necklace materials and about 50 percent of the earring beads (are repurposed).

On climate change:
I think that part of my passion for environmentalism and climate change is that so many of the strategies that exist to reduce emissions or make progress actually are fairly simple and are not particularly expensive.

On the power of people:
I think people think they have a lot less capacity than they really do.

On the business name:
We have two Shiba Inus, and people always think that they’re foxes or wolves, which is bizarre because they weigh like 16 pounds each.

On becoming political:
If you’re going to be a compassionate human in this world who wants things to get better, then you can’t just operate from this very narrow place of, “If it doesn’t affect me, then it’s not important.” So, I’ve become a lot more political over the last year. A lot more vocal over the last year.

On the power of passion:
If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, it benefits someone. It might inspire another woman to become a small business owner. It might inspire a child to feel confident that it’s OK to desire being creative when you grow up and having that be your business. Whatever you do, if you do it with passion, I think you’re inspiring someone.

 

Buy Happy Fox Jewelry on Etsy, or follow Bishins on Instagram @happyfoxstudiojewelry.

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