Rahel Tennenbaum is a Los Angeles transplant whose budding jewelry business is the very definition of the entrepreneurial zeitgeist that’s been supported by crowdfunding sites and independent retail marketplaces such as Etsy.com
Tennenbaum grew up in Israel and pursued a degree in graphic design after high school, with the intention of becoming a professional artist.
Rahel working on her jewelry
Instead, she spent her post-graduate years as a flight attendant for El Al airlines and fell in love — with New York City.
So, at age 29, she decided to make her dream of living in the Big Apple come true. After a stop in Philadelphia, she moved there and worked for the city’s branch of Maariv, the Israeli newspaper, and an art gallery, according to her website (odehya.com).
Her affair with New York was brief, and before long, she moved to Arizona, where she took art classes while doing graphics and marketing for a local performing group.
FLEXING HER ART MUSCLE
“I took classes in watercolor and sculpture to keep the muscles working. When we worked with wood in the sculpture class, as someone who likes to think outside the box, I tried to create something different than the traditional carving technique,” Tennenbaum said.
“And the piece from that class, with the phrase ‘AHAVA=LOVE,’ where the letters are actually cut out of the wood, permitting light to shine through it — that was the beginning of my business. Once people saw the piece in my home, I was asked again and again if I would sell it, or would make more to sell, until I finally made more, and sold more.”
But it wasn’t until she moved to Los Angeles and her friends goaded her to make jewelry that she found her niche.
“I thought, ‘There is no way to translate my style into jewelry,’ until last summer, after a friend asked again why I didn’t put a stone in a ring. I thought that it was time to revisit the idea. That’s when the magic happened, and my jewelry was created.”
First, though, Tennenbaum had to figure out how to manipulate the natural, sculptural materials she’d been using into wearable jewelry. She started with Jerusalem stone, which is still a staple in her work.
“Being born and raised in Jerusalem, I loved the stone surrounding me. I wanted to keep working with the Jerusalem stone — stones in general, and glass, which are all basically natural materials I already used in my art,” she said.
RELIGION, TIKKUN OLAM AND WORK
Tennenbaum is a spiritual person and a dedicated kabbalah student, both of which she said connect her to the natural world.
“I like Tu b’Shevat — the holiday of the trees, and eating fruits on that day,” she said. “The trees represent rising above nature. ... I like that idea. ... It’s about raising your consciousness and seeing the world more holistically.”
She also believes that her art can be a force for good in the world, as she describes in her Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, which concludes Aug. 27 and aims to raise $10,000 for her business.
“The motivation for my work is to make things that have positive values. I believe in the ability to ‘raise’ the internal vibrations of a physical object and to inject positive thoughts into it so that it will provide extra benefit to whoever wears it,” her statement on the Indiegogo website says.
“Just like a meal tastes better when made by someone who loves you, you feel the love and the energy in my jewelry.”
Part of her plan for her jewelry business, named ODEHYA (Odeya is Tennenbaum’s birth name, but that spelling was already taken), is making sure she is giving back to the community, particularly those with disabilities.
“My heart always breaks when I witness people with disability hardships, knowing that if it is hard for me sometimes, I cannot even imagine how it is for them, financially, day-to-day life, relationships — all of it,” she said. “My husband’s older sister has cerebral palsy, and so she still lives with her mom. She has a job that was organized through an organization that offers jobs to people like her. When thinking of my future business, I have a vision where I hire people through an organization, to do whatever job possible. I want to help people with otherwise limited opportunities.”
Tennenbaum, a mother of five, currently runs ODEHYA out of her own Pico-Robertson home, with the help of her husband, Matthew. Despite the difficulties that arise from having no dedicated workspace at home and the frustrations of building an online presence, Tennenbaum is trying to make it work, one piece of jewelry at a time. She believes she’s sold roughly 200 pieces at this point.
What Tennenbaum loves best about being an entrepreneur is the freedom to work for herself doing something she loves.
“I love the dynamic, starting from the creative idea part, through the business aspect, and ending with the gratification of happy customers, all the while making a living and being part of a bigger picture — bringing business to my vendors, hopefully hiring others in the near future, and being an active part of the local economy and community.”
If you're interested in Rahel's jewelry or other sculptural art (she makes a variety of pieces--including personalized work) or would like to help her see her dream come to fruition, visit her IndieGoGo campaign page.