Michele Chaboudy EM Board Member Interview

Michele Chaboudy is experienced in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. She generously shares her expertise with EM and serves on the Board. When not working with non-profits and start-ups she travels, engages in outdoor pursuits and weaves.

In December 2014, EM interviewed Michele Chaboudy, Environmental Advocate, EM Board Member.

Michele Chaboudy portraitHow did you first become aware of the negative impacts of mining for materials in the jewelry industry?

Although I knew about some harmful practices in the mining industry, previous to joining the Ethical Metalsmiths Board, I became much more aware afterwards because of the vast education resources available within the organization. My sister-in-law is from Bogota, and during one of my visits to Colombia, I visited the famous Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá which is an underground cathedral built by the miners who also took salt out for commercial purposes. Just seeing this huge mining operation, partly sculpted into an immense structure, reminded me of the positive and negative aspects of the mining industry.

When did you first start seeing jewelry as an art form being made using ethically sourced materials?

It was not until I joined EM that I started noticing where gold and precious stones were being sourced and what retail jewelry establishments actually displayed their metals’ sources.  Since I am the only non-jeweler on the Board, I’m catching up on the industry practices.  My husband (a mechanical engineer) has designed and welded several metal sculptures and we both pay attention to where the materials originate.  My passion for understanding sustainable practices carries over into the fiber arts area. I’ve been weaving on a four shaft floor loom for several years and am constantly looking for locally produced, naturally dyed fiber. 

Michele Chaboudy portrait with dog

What made you take a strong leadership role within the Ethical Metalsmiths’ organization as a Board member?

My experience as a founding executive for several start-up ventures and as a Board Member of several non-profits is helpful in strategic planning, budget analysis, communications and grant writing.  I’m on the Board of Advisors of NonProfitEasy which is a software platform for organizational functions/fundraising.

You’ve seen jewelers use recycled materials and ethically sourced materials in their artwork.  What do you see as certain of the benefits accrued to (and/or challenges faced by) jewelers who have adopted responsible practices?

Because ethically sourced materials are becoming more and more important to jewelry designers and jewelry buyers, the educational resources for both groups need to be readily accessible.  The more information available, the more everyone can learn about the alternatives and expand the practice.  After joining the Board of EM, I am happy that one of our main initiatives for the coming year is education about metals sourcing throughout the world.

Michele Chaboudy weavingWhat do you love most about your own work/job/interests and what else would like to share about your career?

After serving as an executive in large companies in my early career, I’ve enjoyed my work in start-ups since 1996, both as a team member and a mentor.  Most recently, since 2007, I’ve helped start-ups in the Internet/media/software space and am on the Board of Advisors of two of those.  I’m also on the Board of Directors of The Sea Ranch Association in northern California which keeps me involved in coastal and forest environmental issues.

Learning to weave on a floor loom has been one of several activities I love doing, including many outdoor adventures in cycling, hiking and swimming.  I was a triathlete for 12 years, starting in 1983 and, after a long “rest”, finished a short one in 2013. Other interests of mine include traveling, flying (I have a pilot’s license) and motorcycling (I have owned three motorcycles).  My husband and I have taken a couple of motorcycle trips in Europe, riding two-up.