Meet The Artisans

 

 ATACORA

The Atacora team is a big family, tied by clan and village. As a collective, our mission is to collaborate in the direct fight against poverty and inequality, restoring people’s pride in knowing that a bright future is in their own hands. Atacora’s leadership on local initiatives in the fields of education, healthcare and environmental stewardship can be felt throughout the region.

 

Dave B. Goldman - Founder and President

Dave served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Republic of Benin from 1992-1994. He was posted in Boukombé in the mountainous and beautiful Atacora province in the country’s northwest; named for the mountain range that is its most prominent feature. In 1995, he contracted to train incoming Environmental Action Volunteers and then served as an interim Associate Director. As a Volunteer, he worked collaboratively with villagers, youth and women’s groups, other development organizations and Beninese government agencies to design and implement grassroots, participatory community projects, including agro-forestry, dry season gardening, Permaculture and appropriate technology. His acquisition of the local language, Ditammari, greatly facilitated his work and helped forge enduring friendships. He is a twice certified Permaculture Designer. His graduate studies focused on sustainable development and Africa, earning him an M.A. in Environment and Community from Antioch University Seattle in 2007. A subsequent visit to Benin, specifically to Boukombé, solidified his commitment and capacity to co-create with local participants a novel and community driven strategy for economic and social empowerment. This is Atacora Essential!

 



DiDi Bahini

 

The idea for this initiative was born in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, in 2005. I (Jane Gragtmans), DiDi Bahini's founder, spent three years living in Nepal from 2003 - 2006, while accompanying my husband on his work posting, together with our two younger children. We found Nepal and its people captivating! We enjoyed our time there tremendously and wanted to find a way of giving back to the Nepalese and supporting them in their struggle for development. 

The opportunity seemed to present itself. As an active member of the Cultural Studies Group of Nepal, I was introduced to several fascinating artisan groups and awed by their incredible skills in making high quality handicrafts. At the same time I was struck by the level of poverty and political strife existing in Nepal. Nepal has just come through a decade long internal war which has challenged the Nepalese in many ways and seriously limited its economic growth. Nepal is one of the world's poorest countries (ranking 163 on the UN world poverty index). GDP per capita is only USD $272 per year and the adult literacy rate is 48%. Thus the idea emerged of building on the strengths of the Nepalese handicraft skills, assisting with the development of the fair trade sector in Nepal (to encourage fair wages and work conditions) and developing markets for our partners in North America. 

FINDING A NAME …. SISTERS…

Didi Bahini means “sisters” in Nepalese - denoting our talented sisters who largely make our products, our hugely supportive sisters who largely buy our products and our committed sisters who organize the Didi Bahini initiative. Our artisan brothers and customers are also greatly appreciated! 

GIVING TWICE…

DiDi Bahini not only supports these socially minded artisan groups by making regular purchases but also seeks to support the very large destitute population in Nepal by providing an initial 5% of our profits towards programs that empower disadvantaged women and children. We have begun by supporting a group of out-of school children of female micro-entrepreneurs (vegetable and fruit sellers, etc.) in Kathmandu, allowing parents to work while knowing their children are receiving an education in school and not roaming the streets. See our Social Commitment page for more information.

ADDITIONAL BENEFITS OF SUPPORTING DIDI BAHINI…

Your purchase helps to support a fair trading relationship with our Nepalese partners. This includes: 
Developing markets for their goods
Keeping their craft traditions alive
Encouraging suppliers to move towards a fair trade model of business

Providing additional business support when necessary (i.e. product
development, full payment for purchases before they leave Nepal, 
assistance with administrative systems, etc..)

 

Ilala Weavers

Ilala Weavers is situated at Hluhluwe within the province of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. The organizations was established some 30 years ago, with a clear vision and objective of revitalizing and enhancing the age-old Zulu tradition of handcrafts, which at the time were in danger of being lost forever.

Today, Ilala Weavers helps over 2000 Zulu men and women, to attain self sufficiency, by working from their homes and therefore retaining their lifestyle and rich heritage of basket weaving and bead work, which has been passed down through the generations by Zulu crafters. Their modern counterparts today produce stunning works of art, sought after the world over. Each basket is completely unique, and an artisan may spend up to six months weaving a single piece!

 

Caribbean Craft - Painted Metal Art

Founded in 1990 by a multinational group of young entrepreneurs, Caribbean Craft promotes employment in Haiti by training unskilled craftspeople, and by assisting the independent artisans through the introduction of new designs and new market outlets for painted Haitian metal art. 

Caribbean Craft's specialty is the brightly colored, artistically hand-painted Haitian metal art wall hangings. These hand-painted Haitian metal art pieces are truly works of art. Wall art designs include painted metal geckos, painted metal dragonflies and painted metal frogs.

SMOLArts Wholesale Soapstone

Our Wholesale Soapstone is carved by the artists of SMOLArt a group of artists who live in the rural village of Tabaka, Kenya, the heart of soapstone crafts. The name, a shortened version of Small, Medium, and Large Artists, refers to the size of the wholesale soapstone products the artisans make, not their stature. Established in 1990, SMOLArt is a member of the WFTO, and as such assures that the artisans are paid a fair price for their work. In addition, the organization supports community development by contributing to projects that improve living conditions, education, and health of their members and the village at large.

Wholesale Soapstone is mined from great pits in the area surrounding Kiisi, Kenya. The mined soapstone is then delivered to carvers who carve sculptures from the natural stone for the wholesale market, the color of which ranges from cream, to pink, to brown, to yellow, to black, to a marbling of all of them. Once carved, the craftspeople smooth rough edges of the soapstone with sandpaper dipped in water and polish the piece to a high gloss or paint African motifs in brilliant colors with etched accents.
All of the wholesale soapstone products we sell are completely handmade. The tools consist of household items from screwdrivers, hand drills, to switchblades. "Pangas," sword-like tools usually used for cutting down vegetation, are used to cleave the stone in the mines. Soapstone, while very heavy, is very fragile. It is a form of talc, so standing water will affect the carvings. The paint used may also run if subjected to standing water. Light polish keeps it shiny. Chips can be smoothed with water and light grade sandpaper. With proper care, soapstone items will last generations.

 

Haitian Metal Art

When you visit Croix des Bouquets, the area of town known for Haitian metal art in the capital of Port-Au-Prince, you are met with a cacophony of tink, tink, tink as ball peen hammers strike sheets of steel.  The sheets  are cut from steel drums colored by oil and other liquids the drums at one time held.  The process of turning sheets of metal into beautiful wall art is all done by hand, from cutting holes that become edges of trees and leaves, to accenting each lizard with a texture of scales, to painting or lacquering the final design.  The artists are proud of their work, signing the pieces on the back side, leaving a raised, reversed signature on the front.

 

Global Mamas

Global Mamas creates hand-crafted accessories, apparel, decor, and skin care items using traditional techniques, maintaining local artisanal skills. Each product is full of life and love, and is crafted with the utmost quality. The producers in the Global Mamas network have worked together for over a decade in Ghana; West Africa developing products that resonate with consumers all over the world, and in-turn have created prosperity for themselves and their families.

Brass Images

Brass Images was established in 1988 in the coastal town of Plettenberg Bay, South Africa, about a 4 hour drive out of Cape Town . The long lasting success of the project is due to the fact that the group develops new designs on a regular basis and pays great attention to detail and quality. Brass Images employs 15 people from the local community to help create high quality fashion jewelry. As demand grows, the organization hires and trains more artisans, providing sustainable income in an area in need of employment.

Solid brass and copper are the base materials of the product. By applying extreme heat, the artisans create the interesting patterns and effects on the jewelry. No dyes are used. Each item is entirely handmade and a one-of-a-kind piece of art.

Tili Glass

Calypso Chile is a family owned business that operates from the family home. Marcela Cofre and her husband supported their family by making women's shoes until 1994 when the market for shoes dropped dramatically as cheaper imports flooded the market.

After dabbling in various types of crafts, Marcela found a particular talent for glass making, building a sustainable business to support her family as well as the families of others who she has trained to help make glass products, specializing in fashion jewelry. As a member of the WFTO, Marcela operates the business under the auspices of fair trade, ensuring that all of the artisans and craftspeople are paid a fair price for their work.

 

Artisana

The artisans of Tecalpulco, Mexico have long been known for their silver and abalone jewelry. ArtCamp, short for Artesanas Campesinas (or rural female artisans), is a women-owned cooperative that continues this tradition. The group constantly introduces new methods, materials, and machinery to compete in the highly competitive jewelry market, even surviving a collapse in the marketability of their pieces in the 1990’s after jewelry from other countries flooded the US market. The artisans have become business women, understanding the importance of customer service, quality, and design. Their product range includes semi-precious stones, shells, and even tiny flowers captured in resin. Each piece is accentuated by silver alloys or precious metals, and represents the tradition of fine Mexican jewelry.

 

Starfish Project

There are exploited women in every city in the world.
In 2006 a small group of friends began to reach out to the ones who live in our city. We began going into the streets to visit the girls in the shops. Training in Jewelry making for wholesale markets has created a sustainable income in wholesale jewelry production.

Over time, some of the girls have come to trust us enough to leave their old life and come into our shelter. Our shelter is not meant to be a permanent residence. Our desire is to see the girls transformed through a loving community. The women in our shelter receive regular counseling where they begin to heal from their past hurts. We provide for them work as alternative means of support, medical checks and consultation, as well as vocational classes in wholesale jewelry production to prepare them for the future.

 

Tonga Textiles

Founded by Zimbabwean-born artist, Jeremiah Makaza, this family run business has rapidly grown into a leading international exporter of Zimbabwean-made Sadza Batiks.
Set in the heart of Tynwald Industrial Park in Harare, Zimbabwe, Tonga Textiles is comprised of a dedicated team of artisans.
Through art, we believe we can make a positive difference in society. Tonga Textiles employs both men and women in the community. Through our training program, our artisans are empowered to work for themselves, thus alleviating poverty within the community. Tonga Textiles is a fair-trade company.
Our values of sustainability practices, quality and teamwork are at the heart of all our work.
Over the years, our products have evolved into contemporary pieces, showcasing the true essence of an African lifestyle. Our batiks are unique and every piece is authentic. The process is all hand-made and monitored to the very last detail.
Our goal is to not only meet your expectations, but to also EXCEED them!

 

Esperanza en Accion

Working with the fair trade organization Esperanza en Accion, men and women artisans in Nicaragua produce traditional pottery pieces that are world renowned. Artisans in San Juan de Oriente make the pottery using a manual kick wheel and finish the pieces using natural mineral oxides for the earthen colors. The fantastic flora and fauna of Nicaragua are the basis for stunning vase designs and novel wind instruments. The pottery is fired using a low-temperature technique so the vases are decorative as they do not hold water.

 

BaobArt

Based in Mozambique, BaobArt is a collective of over twenty artisans from impoverished zones in and around the Maputo City center. Brought together by craft enthusiasts who helped them grow production, the artisans now have access to global markets and with this access comes the ability to support their families and communities. BaobArt artisans produce a wide range of traditionally inspired crafts, specializing in the use of local and renewable wood and recycled materials in stunning jewelry and home decor. The artisan’s extensive training and love for their art is visible in the high quality of each carefully crafted piece.

WorldFinds

WorldFinds is a member of the Fair Trade Federation. They regularly travel to connect with our artisan groups in India, Indonesia, and Nepal, and each time it is evident how Fair Trade practices have changed their lives – they have been able to hire more women artisans, improve educational programs and send their girls to school, and expand healthcare initiatives. They continue to be the heart and soul of WorldFinds business.

WorldFinds mission is to create positive change, build hope, and design beautiful, sustainable products for a better world. It's a business using fashion and design to combat poverty.

 

Maya Traditions

Maya Traditions works with more than 100 Maya women in five established groups in rural Guatemala. Predominantly working with women who do back strap weaving, an ancient traditional art in Guatemala which women can do at home while caring for their families. In addition, they work with a group of women crochet artisans, foot loom weavers, and small family businesses to establish a Guatemala wholesale market for artisans.

 

Conserve

Born of a desire to reduce India's mountain of waste, improve energy efficiency, and help some of Delhi's poorest out of the city's slums, Conserve India achieves all this by turning plastic bags into high fashion handbags.

Conserve started as a fledgling recycling project but quickly adapted to confront the biggest challenge it was facing, what to do with the thousands of plastic bags that could not be composted or recycled locally.

After much experimentation, the Conserve team hit upon the idea of not recycling, but up cycling by washing, drying, and pressing the bags into sheets.  Handmade Recycled Plastic (HRP) was born and designs for handbags, wallets, shoes and belts quickly came flooding in.  The challenge was obvious: Use high fashion to support better lives for the poorest and a cleaner environment for all.

 

 

Cambodia Initiative

 

The purchase of Cambodian Purses empowers people who are primarily landmine and polio disabled.  Their group was established with the goal to provide jobs for those living in poverty - most often widowed mothers who can greatly benefit from a Fair Trade business model with positive economic and social justice.  They are employed, under Fair Trade guidelines, to ensure that they are justly compensated for their creations while building confidence and self-esteem.  The artisans are provided technical assistance, advance payments and a healthy work environment so that they can help themselves supplement daily food needs, send their children to school, and to save for medical services.  Profits are shared by giving sewing machines and providing incentives that benefit their children. Purses are made from renewable reed, a native plant which grows naturally without chemical fertilizer.  After harvesting, it is soaked and boiled in natural water or dye; then dries in the sun light.  The reed is woven together by hand and shaped into many different purse styles

 

Gifts with a Cause-Art by Elephants

 

The Original Elephant Paintings were painted by elephants in Northern Thailand. Of the 65 elephants at this well managed elephant camp, only nine elephants paint. Hong, the now world famous elephant painting elephant, was using a stick to "draw" in the dirt when she was very young. Then opening car doors and being very inquisitive. She was easy to teach how to paint while her art teacher used bananas and sugarcane as a reward.

We took the video of the Original Elephant Painting and posted it on YouTube where it has since received more than 15 million views. National Geographic also filmed a program about us and the elephant painting for their program called "Wild on Tape". The original elephant paintings are 22"x30" and we also have smaller size prints of the elephant paintings for sale.

 

National Geographic filmed their great program Wild On Tape with us in Thailand that regularly airs on the NatGeo Wild Channel.

We had just finished buying products from the 'Long Neck' hill tribe people when we serendipitously stopped at this elephant camp and was fortunate to have the camera in hand when the elephants carried their box of paints and brushes to the waiting easels.

The elephants seem pleased with the applause of the audience and of course the bundles of sugarcane and bananas after the paintings are completed. Your purchase of their art provides much needed financial support for this well managed elephant camp as well as support elephant conservation.

 

Dsenyo

 

Dsenyo is a social enterprise, ethical fashion brand and fair trade gifts company.  We believe business is a powerful way to address social and economic problems. After living in Malawi, artist Marissa Perry Saints founded Dsenyo in an effort to create opportunity for hard-working, African women.  We follow Fair Trade principles working to create maximum benefit for the women, artisans and communities in which we work.

Our Mission

Dsenyo works to create sustainable jobs for women and artisans in communities where opportunities are scarce or simply nonexistent.  We also commit to offering our customers high-quality, unique and marketable fair trade gifts and ethical fashion items.

Our Vision

Dsenyo aspires to empower a generation of women and artisans in Africa and Latin America eager to address the challenges facing their communities.

 

 

Jedandro Handicrafts

Working with more than 100 individual carvers in Machakos, Kenya, Jedando Modern Handicrafts markets African handicrafts primarily made of wood and bone worldwide. Carving is a tradition in Kenya with the children learning the craft from their parents. Carved by hand using only rudimentary hand tools, olive wood bowls, salad serving sets, and animal-shaped napkin rings take shape from pieces of olive wood, mahogany, and mpingo, or "African Ebony".
An integral part of the organization's function is to educate the craftspeople on the need for reforestation to enable the products to be available for years to come and offer a sustainable income for generations. While wood carving provides the major income for many in the Machakos area, other craftspeople earn a living by further enhancing the products including painting the napkin rings and carving discarded animal bone for the handles of salad serving sets. Often the bone is "batiked" by placing wax on the white bone and dipping the bone a dark brown/black dye, resulting in patterns African mud cloth designs.

Ceramics

There’s no sign to find the small family-owned ceramic workshop in the state of Guanajuato. Behind the large wooden gate, women artisans are hand painting unfired ceramics while men work the kilns, as they have since the late 70’s. Each piece has personality from the dots and swirls to the hand painted logo on the bottom. And each is lead free, microwave and dishwasher safe.

 

 

Asha Handicrafts

India has always been renowned for its rich silk fabrics, woodcarvings and carpets. However, many of these products are produced in conditions of abject poverty for the craftsmen, exploited by large producers and moneylenders. Asha Handicrafts is a not-for-profit making body, based in Mumbai, India, working to promote Fair Trade and Fair Trade practices. As a member organization of the The World Fair Trade Organization Asha Handicrafts ensures that the benefits of handicraft production reach the craftspeople themselves.

 

Faire Collection

Fair Collection (formally Andean Collection) is a preeminent brand of accessories, with a social mission that is as inspiring as its aesthetics. Designed in New York City and handcrafted by artisans in South America, Andean Collection is adored across the globe and can be found in thousands of locations, from Paris to Poughkeepsie. Our fresh, on-trend jewelry is made from sustainably harvested seeds, while our line of hats, scarves and belts are exquisitely handmade and fair trade. As a social enterprise, we substantially reduce poverty in disadvantaged communities in South America and inspire positive change through our social programs, which are funded through your purchase. Beautiful creations should have beautiful impacts. With one life to live, we intend to make the most of it and inspire you to do the same.

 

NOBUNTO

NOBUNTO is a South African Fair Trade company that creates high quality hand-painted candles, ceramics and handcrafted greeting cards with the utmost attention to detail using mainly African inspired designs. Their mission is, in a region with high unemployment, to alleviate poverty, not only through development of industry but to be socially, ethically, and sustainably responsible.

Based in the small village Napier, about 180 km east of Cape Town, NOBUNTO has provided employment to mostly woman of the disadvantaged community and guarantees an income for over 18 families. The unemployment rate in the area is in the region of 50%. The word NOBUNTO comes from the Sotho language, meaning "For the people".

 

 

 

Green Glass Chile

Started by college students in Santiago, Green Glass Chile reclaims and up cycles bottles into glassware. Some pieces make the most of the original deep jeweled colors of the bottles--accenting them further by etching natural designs like leaves and vines into the glass--while others incorporate patterns printed on the glass into the finished piece. Learning fair trade business practices from their parents, who have been engaged in fair trade craft making for many years, the entrepreneurs of this small business are poised to carry the fair trade principles into the future.

 

Jedando African Handicrafts

Working with more than 100 individual carvers in Machakos, Kenya, Jedando Modern Handicrafts markets African handicrafts primarily made of wood and bone worldwide. Carving is a tradition in Kenya with the children learning the craft from their parents. Carved by hand using only rudimentary hand tools, olive wood bowls, salad serving sets, and animal-shaped napkin rings take shape from pieces of olive wood, mahogany, and mpingo, or "African Ebony". 
An integral part of the organization's function is to educate the craftspeople on the need for reforestation to enable the products to be available for years to come and offer a sustainable income for generations. While wood carving provides the major income for many in the Machakos area, other craftspeople earn a living by further enhancing the products including painting the napkin rings and carving discarded animal bone for the handles of salad serving sets. Often the bone is "batiked" by placing wax on the white bone and dipping the bone a dark brown/black dye, resulting in patterns African mud cloth designs. 

 

Nobunto

NOBUNTO is a South African Fair Trade company that creates high quality hand-painted candles, ceramics and handcrafted greeting cards with the utmost attention to detail using mainly African inspired designs. Their mission is, in a region with high unemployment, to alleviate poverty, not only through development of industry but to be socially, ethically, and sustainably responsible. 

Based in the small village Napier, about 180 km east of Cape Town, NOBUNTO has provided employment to mostly woman of the disadvantaged community and guarantees an income for over 18 families. The unemployment rate in the area is in the region of 50%. The word NOBUNTO comes from the Sotho language, meaning "For the people".