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“Chickpiece began as an overwhelming urge to add to this conversation”

Hi, I’m Carla and I’m the founder of Chickpiece.

I created Chickpiece to promote healthy, sustainable, compassionate lifestyles and as an opportunity do something that I love and believe in for a living. I really wanted to join in with this conversation. I wanted to create something special that symbolised a beautiful way of life for like minded people to feel proud wearing meaningful jewellery that reflects their own ethos in a subtle, elegant way.

Chickpiece brings together a set of values that collectively embody an all-encompassing lifestyle that will enrich us and all life on our planet. I feel so passionate about banishing age old myths & promoting a connection with our own well being, our home and our fellow inhabitants. I hadn’t always lived this way but once I really started to consider, question and realise the consequences of the practices that have been ingrained in our culture I just felt compelled to make different choices and now for me, living in any other way is simply not an option anymore -and so Chickpiece was born.

I really hope that you love Chickpiece jewellery and our concepts as much as I’ve loved creating them. I hope that you will wear your charm with pride and feel strength from within in all that you do. I hope that in the face of adversity, they will sparkle, shine and radiate beautiful little messages everywhere and get people thinking, talking & feeling empowered.

Carla x

My Journey so far….

For me it all started with nutrition but quickly led to the dark reality for the trillions of animals, going on day in day out in order to obtain the food that we eat. 

I knew that animals were killed for us to eat but I’d not ever really thought about it in detail or questioned whether or not I actually needed to eat meat, dairy and eggs or wear leather shoes and coats, I just did, everyone just did, it’s the circle of life, top of the food chain and all that and in any case, how would I make a difference? One person? “I’d rather just not know as I can’t change it” was my attitude, also I didn’t like baked beans let alone kidney beans, lentils and chickpeas!

I started being more conscious of food labels when I became a step mum in 2012 and even more so when I had my own son in 2017, especially weaning, giving him things like sausages and processed meats made me feel uneasy… this brand new little body, it was my responsibility to do the best for him and it was really bothering me that I didn’t know enough. We’d been eating a lot more organic food and trying to do our best within our financial limits. A very close friend of mine got cancer which was devastating and really got me thinking even more about how much we can do ourselves, if anything, to prevent diseases.

This all coincided with my husband’s work colleague beginning a nutrition course and after hearing about my interest in nutrition and disease, suggested that I might find a book she was reading called ‘Anticancer’ interesting.

Later that week I sat at my favourite cafe, on the top floor of a hotel overlooking our local airport, my baby asleep next to me in his buggy and my stepson at school. I had my notepad and pen and my new book and furiously began reading and scribbling down notes – things to change, things to take away, things to add for an optimal disease free diet. 

There were massive eye openers about the repeated inflammation that we cause inside our bodies every single meal time by eating animal protein that can activate dormant cancer cells and allow them to thrive and multiply, clogged up arteries and fat around organs caused largely by the constant consumption of animal products, slowly narrowing our arteries and stopping the blood pumping round our bodies effectively, ultimately, causing high cholesterol and death, changes in our delicate microbiome as it fights this inflammation, wreaking havoc with our well being, from hormones to mental health, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, food intolerances, acne, alzheimer’s and so much more. That’s not even mentioning all of the other ‘stuff’ that comes with animal products like second hand antibiotics causing us resistance to this life saving drug and animal hormones disrupting our bodies every single meal time. According to this book, reductions in animal derived products could very clearly prevent a whole host of problems that we have accepted as part of life and just luck of the draw.

I was quite horrified and on a mission to disprove it or at least find a balanced argument otherwise our entire outlook on food needed to completely change – I like my food but I was no way going to slowly contribute to our deaths if there were healthy alternatives! I thought that there would be many other conflicting pieces of evidence as this was too shocking, otherwise why weren’t doctors and governments telling us all this ? 

This new-found curiosity led to Netflix documentaries Cowspiracy, What The Health, Forks over Knives which led to Dr Greger and How Not To Die, Gemma Newman, The Plant Based Health Professionals and a huge database of peer reviewed studies backing everything up. One of the things that really disturbed me in one documentary was that there were already visible signs of this buildup of cholesterol in toddlers demonstrated, white streaks in their muscle which would continue to build up over their lives and potentially be the reason for much suffering and death later on in life. Animal produce was comparative to tobacco for the negative effects on human health.  

And so it was becoming crystal clear that the fuel that we put in our bodies and products that we use throughout our lives were responsible for much of our well being, how we get sick, suffer and ultimately die. Many of our modern day chronic diseases and ailments were apparently preventable, treatable and even reversible with diet and lifestyle changes. I felt quite upset and angry that this all had to be found out by doing my own research, so many people have suffered from preventable diseases, medication and heart bypass operations dished out daily but no one talking about THIS, nutrition is barely even part of a GP’s basic training it transpired.

The only next thing I had to do was to convince my husband that our family should stop eating animals and anything that came from them. He was pretty sceptical, I rarely do things by half, but he agreed to give it a go and see how he felt.

I began to research diet excessively, obsessively, to be sure that my kids would get all the nutrients and muscle building blocks that they needed as I’d also come across some worrying stories about vegan kids being deprived of nutrients if not given varied enough diets. My How Not To Die and Bosh cook books at the ready and we were off on a week of whole food plant based eating. By the end of the week, my husband said that he felt so alert and energised. We never looked back from that moment.

My family had massive reservations and my mum in particular was actually scared out of her life for my children’s health and growth and we fell out quite badly about it. She insisted that we go to a nutritionist, which we did, anything to put her mind at ease. I was actually really nervous that I’d be told that I’d got it all wrong and been swept up in false propaganda or that the nutritionist might not like the idea of a vegan diet, she wasn’t vegan, but I came away completely reassured and told that the complexity of my food plans, nutritional content & research into vitamin supplements were going to be giving my family ‘the best shot’. A well planned vegan diet can be optimal for health and I was happy with that. 

I have learnt that it is about what you need but it’s also about what you don’t need. ALL of our nutrients are available in many different sources and we don’t need to get any of it second hand via unhealthy animal meat and secretions. 

It took my mum a while to be convinced, it’s hard when you have always thought that you needed it all to survive, cow’s milk for healthy bones etc. but the wonderful Dr. Gemma Newmans Rich Roll podcast was a breakthrough and really started to put her mind at rest. She is actually predominantly plant based these days and looking and feeling great with my dad really wanting to move away from eating animals and is trying things out too. They only drink plant milks these days too. 

My brother has been really accepting and understanding as it naturally changes the dynamics of family meals but he is very considerate and surprises the kids with awesome vegan hauls. I am incredibly lucky.

Once we had opened the door, there was no going back and it was like a kind of crossing over into a new head space. The natural next step was to face up to the reality of animal sentience and animal agriculture and the suffering that we’d buried our heads in the sand about for our entire lives as naturally that had been something that we would be relieved to not be a part of anymore. We wanted to understand it all and so we watched some of ‘Dominion’ and it was all too much. 

The reality of the needless abuse and exploitation of billions of animals hit us and we found ourselves regularly heartbroken and in shock. We were in vegan social media groups so naturally became exposed to videos from activists documenting the senseless murder of baby calves whilst others were watching on, huddled in a corner in fear, witnessing the sorrow in a pigs eyes as it sat in protest yet got brutaly dragged by humans by it’s ears to its death in a gas chamber and watched bouncing fluffy male chicks, just hatched, being chucked in a macerator alive. 

Once we had removed ourselves from being part of the cause and understood that we didn’t need to be doing any of it, the practices just seemed archaic and barbaric and it really was so emotive, we sometimes felt like we were in our own world. Why is this happening? Why doesn’t anyone else care? Why are people paying for this? It’s unhealthy, it’s destroying biodiversity and it’s a living hell for the animals. In this day and age these outdated, unethical practices are totally unnecessary where us humans have so much choice.

But then we were just like everyone else not too long ago and if I hadn’t started reading that book I may have never realised many things and felt such a passion about all of this. The nutrition side is very important to me but I am completely vegan for the animals now and I will never, ever go back. I don’t care if my food tastes bland forever, I can’t be a part of it. I think many people would feel the same, they just haven’t exposed themselves to it all. It really is a very different reality.

It very quickly became clear that being vegan was not much fun in a non vegan world. Socially, you are a minority group (often of 1!)… work cake days and social gatherings become awkward, feeling like you are making life unnecessarily difficult for people, being fussy and rude, and turning down their kindness. Conversations on the subject were awkward. The last thing that I wanted to do was be the preachy vegan at the buffet bar so every time I was asked ‘how can you not miss bacon?’ I found myself just laughing it off and mocking myself as some sort of crazy weirdo because the depth of my feelings would be too controversial for that moment and I didn’t feel like I knew where to start or how to say what I think about bacon without making everyone feel uncomfortable and like I was judging them. 

At the end of the day we are all just doing what we feel is right for ourselves based on the information in front of us and our own life experiences, I don’t think its my place to judge people unfairly… after all, this was a way of life that I had been happy living until not too long ago and that generations have been living for thousands of years with no question. A way of life that has been promoted as healthy and essential.

I will never forget how the cognitive dissonance that I had was so ingrained that the reality of ‘life’ for these animals wasn’t even part of my thought processes, animals were products on supermarket shelves. In order for the narrative to change, education has to change. I have great faith that when this information becomes mainstream many people will have a desire to do things differently. It’s about exposure and I began to have a burning desire to help add to the conversation.

I think many people think that it must be really tough being vegan, but the truth is, once you’re done, you’re done, almost daily I think of those animals eyes, defeatedly peering up from under their eyelids, shaking in terror. It comes so naturally now to not be part of it and the only strength we have to find is to live in a society that’s not set up in a way that makes being vegan easy. In fact the silver lining of the pandemic for us has been to live in our own little world, away from the often harsh judgement and disdain that society has for our way of life. Thankfully as we emerge from the other side, outlooks are slowly beginning to change, largely due to the increased media attention regarding the devastating environmental impacts that this way of life has contributed to.

I strongly feel that if people are going to understand or even try veganism, then they need to be allowed to go on their own ‘journey’ as I did. I felt passionately the need to do something to inspire people and I wanted to contribute to making the information accessible and mainstream. I was working Saturdays in an Estate Agency (an industry that I have worked in since I left school) and I had intended to pick up more hours when my son started nursery but my world felt so different now, I wanted my working life to mean something more and so during lock down, I began thinking of ideas for vegan work, something I could do from home. I wanted to help spread this new found knowledge and promote a change in mindset and be able to donate to sanctuaries and organisations who are also trying to help.

Lockdown gave me time to think about a business. My main aim was to focus on the positives and highlight all of the amazing benefits that we were finding with this way of life. Cute plays on words were being thrown around in our household for weeks. Chickpiece instantly clicked and I took a leap of faith in trademarking it. I wanted a vegan brand and I had these different ethical values that I cared so much about jumbling around in my head that I wanted to harness in some way and give each one their own special platform. Then it hit me, ‘Identities’ what better way of embracing them than ‘being’ them and each piece in my collection representing them, like a badge of honour. 

I was jumping out of bed at 6 a.m, before the madness of the lockdown day started, creating my Identity concepts, researching and writing my website content. I thought perhaps I could make an etsy or ebay shop and create some animal themed wine charms and see how it goes but the Tibetan silver charms that I ordered seemed cheap and disposable, so I looked into sterling silver and jewellery making and I was completely inspired. My amazing husband began learning to solder jump rings and creating an awesome website and before I knew it I had six charms to match my six ‘Identities’ and a trademarked company name. 

I have gradually built the business throughout lock down by investing ‘pocket money’ income from small admin jobs that I do for my family and then following each sale, after donations, I have bought more stock and built up the collections. We are always adding more options and already have a large range to offer. 

We are so excited to be doing our first event in September at the Southend Vegan Fair and I have felt truly humbled by the feedback and positive reception that both my concept and jewellery has received from customers and organisations that I care deeply about including all of the organisations that I support. I find it almost ridiculous that people that I have been in awe of since becoming vegan have even heard of Chickpiece! Thanks to all of these incredible groups of individuals for the work that they are doing to change the world. 

And without sounding like an Oscar speech I do feel indebted to the wonderful people surrounding me and it wouldn’t be right to end this without thanking them…

I want to thank my amazing friends and family who have all been incredibly understanding of my sudden lifestyle change, helped me promote my business, proofread my website, helped me brainstorm ideas and bought my jewellery. I love you all so much.

Daniel, my wonderful husband, I will be eternally grateful for the support and encouragement that you always give me, for trusting me and coming with me on this journey and embracing it as you have. I know how incredibly passionate you also are about this lifestyle now and thank you for being such a massive part of my business, learning new skills and spending hours with me getting things right.

To my incredible boys, I am so proud of both of you, my son who is a total vegan legend at preschool, holding his own, telling people about the animal sanctuaries and being a total ball of broccoli munching energy. And to my step son, me and your dad are so unbelievably proud of you for just getting on with your new dinners here at our house and then eventually choosing this way of life after watching that sad cow’s face. You have shown such strength and compassion, making brave changes in your life and also standing your ground at school. You are the best and you are so strong and dare to be different. Your passion has amazed us.

I hope that we can make the world a different place for you both.

To my boys, this is for you.