As a child in Quito, Ecuador, Kimberly Padilla remembers growing up surrounded by verdant landscapes and swimming in the local rivers.
"From an early age, I realized everything is alive," Padilla says. "But throughout the years, there's been so many oil drillings and bursting pipes that are damaging the indigenous people, and it's been happening since I was a little girl. But with what I'm doing now, hopefully, things can change for the better."
Padilla's earliest memories of her time in South America revolve around creating paintings, jewelry, or natural skin products.
"On Christmas and my birthdays, I wouldn't ask for toys but beads, string, and paint," she says. "My first wire-wrapped stone was a stone I found in the river that is used as a tool to make fire."
Despite living now in Miami, the 26-year-old continues to stay true to her family roots and culture through her businesses, Washkagems
and Kallaphealing. She's also become an environmental activist, advocating for the Amazon rainforest and its role as the "planet's lungs."
"Coming to the city and learning from my ancestors, I've been able to gain knowledge, and I realized the Amazon rainforest is vital to mankind's survival," Padilla explains. "I wanted to share about my home and how to protect this sacred land."
All of Padilla's pieces are washed in running water from the Amazon.
Photo courtesy of Kimberly Padilla
Washkagems is a jewelry-based brand with design styles inspired by her Ecuadorian heritage. Every piece of ethically sourced bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and more are produced in the Amazon rainforest and go towards her charity, Nukamunayki, which helps local indigenous communities. And with Kallapahealing, Padilla offers eccentric pieces, healing products, and social awareness, teaching customers about each item's cultural significance.
"It's in my heart to have a healthy environment and world," Padilla explains. "During the sickest point in my life, I was ultimately guided to go deep within the Amazon, and it was there I can say my life was saved."
All her brands are in the Quechua language, reflecting her indigenous roots.
"Every time I go there, I go to different communities and see what they need help with," Padilla says. "Communities have died, houses destroyed, people getting sick. Just last month, when I was there, they were doing a drilling for gold, and they destroyed the whole river and the health of the land and people."
Jewelry and specialty stones have always been a big part of Padilla's life. And adding to that energy is the fact that she makes sure all her Washkagems jewelry pieces are washed in a river in the Amazon.
Padilla says every piece of her jewelry design has a meaning.
Photo courtesy of Kimberly Padilla
"I cleanse the material through running water," Padilla says. "It's a way of creating empowering and cultural pieces of art and jewelry."
She works with various stones, seeds, feathers, beads, and plants, all from the Amazon.
"They're not like a regular necklace," she explains. "Each color and amount of strings has a meaning. Instruments that bring you energy and protection while raising awareness on our culture and how to help us save and protect our home."
One of her most popular pieces is feather earrings worn for strength, wisdom, honor, trust, and freedom. Since the feathers are ethically sourced, they vary from toucan to an eagle and are valued as sacred feathers as they are sent to the ground as a gift from the sky.
"I believe everyone deserves to experience the magic of the Amazon and realize as minimal as things may seem, everything carries its own energy and, like us, is all alive with purpose — and we don't need to pollute purpose," Padilla says.
To order from Washkagems, visit instagram.com/washkagems.