Bir Bahadur Bishwakarma
Bir Bahadur Bishwakarma started producing copper crafts at the age of 9, carrying on the tradition of his Nepalese ancestors. After 25 years of working as a coppersmith, he was given the opportunity to train on metal sheets at the Balaju Mechanical Centre in Nepal, where he learned the skills to expand his trade. Now, at the age of 47, he and his brother employ 20 artisans, mostly coppersmiths who come from the low-income segment of the community. By creating these jobs, Bir Bahadur has been able to improve economic conditions for his whole community while, on a personal level, also paying for his son’s education and for his daughter’s wedding.
Kwasi Asante and his family from Kumasi, Ghana, have been in the carving business for many years. In order to create eco-friendly products, his carving operation uses fallen logs and government approved lumber. Kwasi, a skilled carver himself, employs a large staff of carvers and subcontract carvers, and his business has provided income to hundreds of carvers over the years, including many in remote villages. His business has also given educational opportunities to his children and extended family.
Orlando Paez and Mari Del Pilar Martinez and their team of artisans create lamps in Raquira, Colombia. They often use Guadua, a type of bamboo that is highly desirable for its strength. According to native tradition, Guadua must be cut once a month before five in the morning under a waning moon because that is when the water inside the plant goes to the bottom and the wood is at its driest. With the money earned by selling lamps on Worldstock, Orlando has been able to send his daughter to school.
The indigenous Wayuu’ people of the Columbian-Venezuelan peninsula are a matriarchal society known for their music, rituals and beautiful arts and crafts. In November 2008, two graduate fashion designers, Juliana Monroy and Giovanna Dominguez, started the company Atarraya Handbags to share Colombian talent with the world, including the Wayuu’ women's brightly colored woven products and handcrafted leather goods. The handbags the Wayuu’ women create often feature traditional motifs from their culture, geometric shapes that symbolize elements of nature present in their environment.
An Hoa Village Workshop
In the An Hoa Village Workshop of An Hoa, Vietnam, artisans like Nguyen Van Binh and Nguyen Thanh Dong make crafts out of bamboo. With the help of Bamboo54 and Worldstock, they are able to share their bamboo crafts with the world. Bamboo has long been considered a symbol of serenity and inspiration in Eastern cultures, and Buddha himself was believed to keep bamboo in his home for those reasons. Because it grows so quickly, bamboo is considered a renewable resource. When you purchase bamboo furniture and other bamboo products from Worldstock, you're not only supporting the people in the An Hoa Village Workshop, but you're also helping the planet.
Mayan Women of Lake Atitlan
In the highlands of Guatemala sits the majestic Lake Atitlan, surrounded by small villages with 21 Maya ethnic groups. The Mayan Women of Lake Atitlan make jewelry there, drawing on the master weaving techniques that have been a part of their culture for generations. The more than 50 women who make the jewelry sold on Worldstock combine contemporary designs with ancient traditions. As a Fair Trade program, they are all paid a fair living wage for their work, and when you purchase their jewelry, you are empowering women to be independent, support their families and sustain their culture.
In the northwestern desert of India, three artisan cooperatives make traditional arts by hand. When the area was devastated by an earthquake in 2001, these artisans needed help rebuilding their lives. Thankfully, Handmade Expressions could help. Handmade Expressions is a sourcing partner for socially and environmentally responsible products. Working with the artisans in India, they strive to improve the artisans’ economic conditions and social standing while also encouraging them to use recycled materials and natural fibers. Handmade Expressions goes the extra step to inform the artisans about global fashion and market trends, so these local artists are able to produce goods that are desirable and contemporary.
The Women of the Khan Family
The women of the Khan family in Rajasthan, India, create patchwork quilts in the style of their ancestors. Known as “ralli quilts,” these handcrafted textiles have been made by women in western India and the surrounding regions for hundreds -- if not thousands -- of years. Ralli quilts feature vibrantly colored fabric which is sewn into symbols that tell stories of the traditions of the families who make them. In the Khan family, just as in other families who make ralli quilts, the storytelling motifs that are used in the quilts are passed down from mother to daughter. The women make ralli quilts sitting on the ground without the use of a quilt frame, which adds to the folk art quality.
Ha from Nam Dinh
Life was very difficult for Ha from the southern Vietnamese province of Nam Dinh. He had an accident which left him paralyzed from the waist down, and he was worried about being a burden on his family. Fortunately, he was offered the opportunity to learn painting at the Take Wings Center, a vocational training center managed by the nonprofit organization Maison Chance (or House of Luck), which aims to help orphans, disadvantaged people and physically handicapped people. At the Take Wings Center, Ha not only learned how to paint, but he also gained self-respect and the energy to continue. Ha's hope is to be able to live off the sale of his paintings and become independent.
Mr. B. Anand and Mr. M. Alam
Mr. Anand and Mr. Alam are part of a group of artisans who form a small co-op called Moksha, which means "liberation" in Hindi. Various manufacturers outsource work to their co-op, giving them many opportunities to provide for their families and send their children to school. Located in northern India in Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India, Moksha also gives a portion of their profits to help educate underprivileged and orphaned children there. Their co-op produces a wide variety of goods, including mobiles, iron chimes, copper bells, handbags, belts and jewelry.
NISHTHA is an organization in Kolkata, India, which aims to aid and empower victims of abuse in rural West Bengal. Since 1975, NISHTHA has promoted dignity and education for women and children there. In addition to helping women understand their rights and encouraging them to fight injustice, NISHTHA also provides health, hygiene and nutrition information as well as market-based vocational training, leadership training and soft loans for the economic security of the women. Through NISHTHA, these women are able to sell their crafts on Worldstock.
Rehab Craft Cambodia
Rehab Craft Cambodia is a nonprofit organization located in Phnom Penh, where they train and employ people with disabilities, including Cambodian landmine survivors. By training people in crafts, such as silk weaving and leatherwork, Rehab Craft Cambodia creates many opportunities. Once the trainees reach a required skill level, they are offered permanent employment and paid fair wages. The program also pays for all expenses related to the artisans' disabilities. The artisans also have opportunities to become self-employed or to learn the skills needed to advance within the company itself. All of Rehab Craft Cambodia's earnings are reinvested in the program.
Siriporn “Toy” Jeerang
Siriporn “Toy” Jeerang was born in 1968 in Ban Tung, a quiet village located in the Man Wen district of China. Her parents were poor farmers, and with nine brothers and sisters, there were many things her family could not afford. One of those things was school, and she was only able to go through grade six. She found work in a shop in a large tourist village, where she met her husband, a skilled wood carver. Together, they decided they could make the same items crafted in the shop. They set up their small workshop in 2003 in their home but now have expanded, employing nine people from their village. They spend their days making wood crafts with the purpose of earning a fair living.
Thanda is a nonprofit organization in South Africa that is committed to bringing socially conscious crafts to the world. Through their Thanda Zulu project, Thanda brings to the world market the beaded jewelry of previously unemployed women in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Long known for their beading skills, the women of the Zulu nation in KwaZulu-Natal create modern versions of their traditional jewelry, where each color and shape carries meaning. When they receive large orders for jewelry, women from the whole village help make the pieces. With the help of Thanda, the Zulu jewelry makers can sell their high-quality, unique designs while supporting their children and helping their community fight poverty and the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Artist Thom Simon first began painting at age 15, using just crayons purchased for him by his brother-in-law, but his first canvas sale came soon after, when he was age 16. Thom's work is inspired by what he experiences in his everyday life in Malawi, Africa. Some of his work reflects life where he lives in the lakeside district of Mangochi, such as women carrying water or villagers working in the fields. Other pieces reflect the natural beauty of his country, such as Lake Malawi at sunset. Having the opportunity to show and sell his paintings with Worldstock is encouraging to him, and his dream is to one day have a market abroad and be able to paint in America.
Ahmed Khan lives on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, a place where he had trouble finding work. He was worried that he would be a financial burden on his family and community. Selling his products on Worldstock has allowed him to have the dignity of avoiding that fate. Ahmed creates furniture in the Mughal style, a style which once adorned the halls of royalty in Pakistan. Because he uses the abundant sheesham wood, a tropical variation of rosewood, Ahmed has a vast source of fine material for the creation of his exquisite pieces. Over the years, the income that Ahmed has earned from selling his pieces on Worldstock has allowed him to be a major contributor to his extended family.
Real Fair Trade
On the island of Bali in Indonesia, artisans carve intricate masks that reflect the workmanship and warmth of their ancestors. When the terrorist bombings between 2002 and 2005 severely limited tourism to Indonesia, the Balinese craftspeople had trouble selling their products. In 2006, Real Fair Trade started as a family-owned business, believing that growth though work is far better and more sustainable than offering handouts. They started by helping the people of Bali sell their wooden masks. They have since expanded to also help artisans in South Africa, and the family hopes to soon be able to help people in South America, too.
Women’s Bean Project
Women’s Bean Project strives to change women’s lives by providing stepping stones to self-sufficiency through social enterprise. By accepting transitional jobs in gourmet food, manufacturing and jewelry making, women earn immediate income, receive support services to overcome barriers to employment and learn the job readiness skills needed to get and keep a job. Program participants come from backgrounds of chronic unemployment and poverty, and the program helps them develop the work and interpersonal skills needed to function independently in the workplace and community.
Tahira and Rafia
Recognizing that many Afghan refugee women were pouring into Pakistan and living in poverty, Tahira and Rafia started Zardozi, an income-generating project that helps thousands of Afghan refugee women. For more than two decades, Zardozi has helped refugee women produce and sell embroidery, clothing and other handicrafts. With the money the women earn, they are able to support their children's education and keep their children away from working too young. The women also have access to medical care, many for the first time in their lives. By giving Afghan refugee women the opportunity to sell their products in the world market, Tahira and Rafia are giving them the independence that comes with having their own income.
Why do we want you to meet the artisans of Worldstock Fair Trade? Behind every item in the Worldstock Fair Trade store is a person, and each person has a story. Some have come from poverty, and with the help of artist cooperatives, they have been able to earn a living wage. Some artisans have learned how to use the traditional skills of their people in ways that can benefit them in the modern marketplace. Others have joined together when they see that the power of many can go so much further. When you meet the artisans, you'll see that every purchase from Worldstock Fair Trade benefits a real human being.
When Worldstock Fair Trade became a part of Overstock.com, the goal was not just to sell handcrafted products; we also wanted to give everyone the opportunity to benefit from the distribution channel of selling goods on the Internet. And while we pride ourselves on bringing high-quality, handcrafted products to you, we are even more proud that we can help sustain Fair Trade practices and provide opportunities for thousands of artisans -- real people in some of the most destitute places in the world -- to support themselves in ways they may not have been able to otherwise.
When you are shopping for handmade crafts on Worldstock Fair Trade, you are doing so much more than shopping for new furniture, clothing, home decor and jewelry. You’re helping people in remote areas of the world support their families, gain dignity and develop their communities. You're helping refugees afford medical care. You're helping women gain independence. You're helping people with physical disabilities develop a trade and reestablish their lives. You're giving back to the world.
Of course, when you give back, you also gain a lot. The products that you can buy in the Worldstock Fair Trade store are sure to please you. From jewelry made in South Africa using traditional methods passed down from generation to generation to handmade bags sewn in India from recycled materials, the quality and soul found in the products you buy here are sure to enliven your wardrobe and your home. After you meet the artisans here, we're sure you'll want to bring their handmade goods into your life.