Who wasn’t captivated by Amanda Gorman, the 22 year old who electrified Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony with her poem “The Hill We Climb.” Her energy, her profound words, her coupling of rhyme with the reality of our lives.
You may have noticed the striking ring she wore on her right hand, with the more eagle-eyed having spotted that it was a bird in a cage. Turns out, it was given to Gorman by Oprah Winfrey. “I have never been prouder to see a woman rise. Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I,” Oprah wrote on Instagram of the occasion.
The ring is a tribute from Oprah to Maya Angelou, the inaugural poet for Bill Clinton in 1993, whose epic coming-of-age autobiography is entitled “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” In it, she illuminates the metaphor of a caged bird, “his wings are trimmed down and his feet are tied, so he opens his throat to sing” – symbolising for Angelou how strength of character and a love of creativity can help overcome racism and trauma.
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As Gorman gracefully gestured during her reading, the sculptural ring caught our attention and the unique design sparked our curiosity about the creative forces behind it.
“I have never been prouder to see a woman rise. Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.” Oprah wrote on Instagram of the occasion.
The Creative Entrepreneurs back-story
What we discovered is that Oprah’s gift to Gorman is an Aviary Classic Ring from mother-daughter creative entrepreneurs and founders of jewelry brand Of Rare Origin.
Mother and daughter, Leslie Tcheyan and Octavia Giovannini co-founded this New York City based brand in March 2016. Thea Giovannini joined her mother and sister in May 2017 and the three work together from “a messy office on 66th and Madison.” They all have creative backgrounds, Octavia in architecture and Thea in art curating.
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Each handmade piece, primarily produced in Italy, is a carefully balanced harmony of artistry, precious and semi-precious materials, classical technique and contemporary intuition. Every aspect of the company’s world—from the initial inspiration to the manufacturing process is “suffused with familial joy and whimsy,” in the words of the founders.
The idea of the Aviary design, the basis of Gorman’s ring, came from Leslie’s own Mother who apparently made a daily habit of feeding the birds, so much so that they often joked that when she passed away she would come back as a bird, an idea her mother loved.
Business Model pivot – the “truck (not trunk) show”
This year during the pandemic, they’ve pivoted their business model, given the challenges to their network of bricks and mortar retailers plus “people living in pyjamas” and not needing jewels for big events. They took their jewels on the road, in an adventure across America in a truck they designed themselves, finding an enthusiastic reception everywhere they went.
We look forward to seeing where their business model experimentation and newly found Amanda Gorman-based notoriety takes them as creative entrepreneurs.
Youtube: Amanda Gorman reads “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s Inauguration, January 2021
The Oprah Magazine: Amanda Gorman, The 22-Year-Old Inaugural Poet, Wore Jewelry From Oprah
Vogue: Of Rare Origin on their Business Model Evolution: “We call our clients rare and original, and we like to think our business model is too.”
Of Rare Origin: Website
Smithsonian Magazine: Published 50 Years Ago, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ Launched a Revolution
Poetry Foundation: Caged Bird, a Poem by Maya Angelou