How She’s Managing: Harwell Godfrey Founder Lauren Godfrey

Every Thursday during the pandemic, we’ll be checking in on members of the jewelry trade in an attempt glean shareable tips and tricks for a better and more productive quarantine (and for some, reopening).

Today we hear from Lauren Godfrey, founder of fine jewelry collection Harwell Godfrey, who is sheltering in place with her young son and husband.

Where are you located and who are you shacked up with?

I’m in Sonoma, Calif., with my husband Patrick and our 3½-year-old son, Miles. It’s a blessing being here. Miles doesn’t get social distancing, so to be somewhere that allows us to have space and be away from people has made this a lot less stressful.

How have your heart and mind been impacted by the Floyd murder and the protests that it’s sparked in cities across the United States?

My feelings are overwhelming. I feel a profound grief for the recent losses of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others before them. According to NPR, since Jan. 1, 2015, 1,252 black people have been shot and killed by police. That information was published just four days ago, and I know the number is even higher now.

My heart breaks for the beautiful black families that live with this terror hanging over them every single day and my friends who have to explain to their children that they are not safe simply because they are black. I am enraged by the complicity and lack of leadership from the coward in the White House. I am moved by the masses in our country who are fighting right now. I am hopeful that this time will be different and real change will come.

How do you think this historic time will impact your life, thinking, and work in the future?

It’s already impacting my life and my work. I am overwhelmed by the attention I have received in the last few days. I feel a deep sense of responsibility to do as much good as I possibly can with this spotlight and to never forget the tragic deaths that made it so.

Lauren Godfrey view
The view from Godfrey’s house in Sonoma, Calif.

Please give me a status updates on what’s happening with your company right now. Are you shipping, designing, etc.?

I’m doing a lot of designing right now. I have a collaboration project with Muzo Emerald that has been a great distraction and a lot of fun to work on. I could think of worse quarantine companions than insanely beautiful emeralds! I also have a lot of other designs that I’ve been working on. I’ve been taking time to work on my drawing practice, which has been meditative.

As far as shipping goes, I have a wonderful team who helps me with production, and we have found some people to produce for us, but it’s definitely not the same as it was, and it’s been a challenge managing that. Thankfully most of my clients are very understanding and patient while we work through this. It seems like every day more of our go-to people are figuring out safe ways to work, which is wonderful.

Muzo emeralds
Godfrey has been designing a collection with Muzo Emerald during quarantine.
Harwell Godfrey pendant front
The designer created the onyx Broken Heart pendant in response to the black community’s struggle for justice. She’s donating 100% of proceeds to the NAACP (see front, above, and back, below). The design’s 20 diamonds represent the year 2020, and each heart comes with a bail that opens and can clip on to the brand’s signature Foundation chain; the bail has two bars creating an equal sign “as a gesture of the unity we can achieve when we support each other,” says Godfrey. The choice of black onyx was twofold: “Its color not only represents the black lives it honors, but it is also said to be a stone of grounding and strength.”

Harwell Godfrey We Are One pendant

How has the pandemic changed the way you’re doing business, and how do you think it will change your brand’s trajectory going forward?

The pandemic has changed the way I’m doing business because there is no in-person experience any more. No trunk shows, no trade shows, no face-to-face meetings…. This has had me thinking about how to form relationships with people that feel personal despite the physical distance between us.

I have been sharing a lot more personal details on social media than I ever did before. It’s been great getting responses from friends, strangers, retailers, private clients. I plan to continue to figure out ways to tell my brand story in a way that people will connect to.

What advice do you have for brands (or even retailers) moving into the “reopening” stage of the pandemic? What should they be focused on?

I’m not sure I have the answers here, but I think people are looking for ways to support their small business communities, and I think there are ways we small businesses can support that by offering new ways to connect. I am sending personal thank you notes and answering DMs…. I want people to know there is a real person behind all of this, and that I am grateful for their support. That seems to matter.

How do you think jewelry consumers will change as a result of this pandemic? What do you foresee they will be looking for or will have become important to them? 

I think some jewelry consumers will change, and some will not. There are consumers with disposable income who I suspect won’t be so affected by this and will go along as they always have. For a lot of us, however, I think this pandemic has put into sharp focus what is meaningful and matters to us. I think that these consumers will be looking for something beyond the inherent beauty of jewelry; they will be looking for something more personal behind it—a story, a meaning, a way to make it personal to them.

Your jewelry has a lot of meaning and symbolism in it—do you find consumers gravitating to pieces in the line that are about protection or guardianship, etc.?

A lot of my pieces do have meaning, and I have always seen the people interested in my work interested in that. I was a creative director professionally for over 15 years, and I love to tell a story. I put a lot of detail into my pieces and design elaborate engravings for many of them. I was recently encouraged to make a book of the engravings so those little stories and their meanings can be more easily shared. I think that’s a pretty good idea!

Do you have any good book/movie/TV/podcast recommendations?

Right now I am loving The Great, Normal People (the book and TV show), and of course The Last Dance. TV and short bouts of reading books are about all I can manage right now—things I can consume in shorter amounts of time. Between being quarantined with a 3-year-old and keeping my business going, I don’t have a lot of time for media consumption!

Lauren Godfrey son
Godfrey’s son, Miles, in the kitchen
Sourdough bread
Godfrey’s sourdough bread

You must be cooking, right? [Godfrey graduated from the San Francisco Cooking School.] What kinds of things are you making and enjoying in quarantine?

I am cooking. Not as much as I’d like—I’m thankful for all of the options that are available for delivery and takeaway right now! The one thing I have decided to work on is bread baking. I’ve always wanted to do it, but am not usually home to manage it. Sourdough is high maintenance and requires a good hands-on manipulation every 30 minutes for about 5 hours the day before you bake it. It’s the perfect quarantine project. A couple of weeks ago I picked up an active starter from the Bagel Mill in nearby Petaluma and last week I baked my first loaves of sourdough. Just this morning I baked my 10th loaf. I’m hooked!

Top: Lauren Godfrey, founder of Harwell Godfrey, with her son Miles (all images courtesy of Harwell Godfrey)

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