Graham (RIGHT) and her mentor, Gloria Baran, at Children’s Book World with examples of books Elephant Heart will be donating to the DCFS Shelter Care program.
For artist, jewelry designer, and Hancock Park native Elyse Graham, small actions make big ripples. In addition to her growing artistic presence (the artist has shown her sculptural objects, hand-poured geodes, and X-ray/photographs everywhere from LA and Laguna Beach to Vienna and Istanbul), Graham also designs delicate, nature-inspired jewelry in gold and semiprecious stones—for her philanthropically minded and whimsically named company, Elephant Heart, which she founded in 2008.
Graham, 32, partnered with mentor and philanthropist Gloria Baran to devise its business model, one that donates resources and materials to a variety of LA organizations that Graham feels connected to, whether it’s arts education, diapers for children in need, or assistance for returning military service members and their families. “Even though I’m just starting out, you don’t have to be Warren Buffett to give back,” says Graham.
For the month of December, Graham will partner with the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) Shelter Care program to donate books—one to match every purchase of Elephant Heart jewelry—to foster children, ages 4-21, who pass through the court system (more than 44,000 go through a dedicated children’s court in Monterey Park—the focus of Graham’s efforts) and are allowed to keep two books from the program’s library. “They try and make it as normal an environment as possible for the kids. To pick two new books to take home, that’s something that’s incredible for some of these kids who have never had a new book before and who have very few belongings,” Graham says.
A kiss is not just a kiss: Elephant Heart’s urethane Kiss necklace—hand-cast in LA from artist/ jewelry designer Elyse Graham’s own lips—comes in a rainbow of colors.
“Elephant Heart’s work on our behalf will enable us to continue to provide books to children and youth in foster care,” says Janice Johnson, program manager for Juvenile Court Services’ Shelter Care.
Graham is working with Children’s Book World to hand-select the types of books the program is most in need of. A brand-customer partnership project like this is central to Elephant Heart’s mission. Says Graham: “That’s part of our ‘customer philanthropist’ idea, where it really gives our customer a sense of the impact they are having and how important they are as our partners to enable us to do these projects.”