As those of you who know us know, we pride ourselves in offering hand-selected, responsibly sourced beads and pendants from around the world. One of our greatest joys is collecting new friends, partners and artisans who share this passion. We know that designers of distinctive handmade jewelry are constantly seeking the excitement of craft, texture, color and style to give their pieces a unique look. This week, I thought I'd celebrate a few of our favorite Etsy 'finds' -- both suppliers and designers who especially love exotic beads and bead designs.
First, just a note about the term 'Fair Trade'. Most of the places our beads come from are countries in which people are relatively poor and have no welfare system in place. The production and sales of handcrafted items, including beads, is often the only means these people have of providing food and housing for their families.
Some of the smaller bead companies like ours do not have the resources to invest in formal fair trade organizations. But we and those we work with are committed to conducting business in a manner that is beneficial to all involved. That means paying a fair price for beads we buy, and purchasing from many different co-ops, vendors and craftspeople. By providing a market for the wonderful beads of the artisans of the world, we are able to help enhance their lives both financially and creatively. This allows them to house, feed and clothe their families, something they might not otherwise be able to do. That said, here are just a few highlights of some of our favorite places, sources, artisans and shops.
Note: Link to the very cool African beads pictured here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/198527534/multicolor-glass-african-beads?ref=shop_home_active_2
We've written many times about African beads -- here are a few of the previous posts:
African Trade Beads are one of the earliest forms of currency in Africa. Social status was easily determined by the quality, quantity and style of jewelry worn. Jewelry is a sacred adornment worn by both men, woman and children. African Trade Beads have a spiritual, religious and cultural significance to them. They are simple reminders of life, love, rituals of birth, the coming of age, marriage and death. Each piece has a voice of its own, as the various designs symbolize values, beliefs, achievements, status, rituals and ceremonies.
We were privileged to meet the wonderful Paul Wellhauser of Nharo beads at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show last year. Nharo offers unique and exclusive products not available anywhere else. Their voyages take them to the Southern, Western and Central parts of Africa -- namely, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Congo, Mali, Niger and South Africa. They have a wide network of award-winning African artists, crafts people, local partners and silversmiths, thus enabling them to provide an extensive range of African art.
Their products include wood carvings, African jewelry, mineral gems, African beads, and more. They have been captivated by Africa and its people, and their passion and dedication allows them to help marginalized producers and workers move from positions of vulnerability to security and economic independence.
You can see a sampling of their products and learn more about them here: http://www.nharo.com/
There's also the wonderful shop RedEarthBeads of Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/RedEarthBeads
These folks work to promote African Cultural Arts and help small, local producers find new markets for their work with recycled glass and metals.
From Tibet and Nepal
We love the Tibetan Bead Store on Etsy too. This shop works with local artisans and master silversmiths from Nepal and Tibet to make all their products and provide the highest quality items in traditional designs. They also are committed to ethical business practices, and always do their best to provide only quality items, a fair price to clients, and fair wages to artisans. You can see what they offer here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/TibetanBeadStore
By the 16th century AD Bali became known as for the exceptional quality of its silver and gold work. The traditons of the Balinese people inform them that their advanced skills were learned directly from the gods.
Today many bead store owners and jewelry designers make regular pilgrimages to Bali to stock up on Balinese sterling silver beads, findings and jewelry.
On Etsy, we found Matursuksema, a shop bringing artisans high quality jewelry making supplies from Bali and beyond. Everything is handcrafted by skilled artisans - women and men - who are fairly paid and work in safe conditions. Sharon, the owner, is a proud member of the Fair Trade Federation and Green America. You can find her shop here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/matursuksema
From Around the World
We wouldn't be satisfied with this article without a mention of the wonderful Serene Wright of TemplesTreasureTrove on Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/TemplesTreasureTrove
Every purchase from her store helps to feed and sustain widowed women and their children in countries such as Tibet, Nepal, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tunisia, Morocco, Ethiopia, Thailand, Maylaysia, and more. This is Serene's way of giving back to the world, raising consciousness in regards to the plight of women in far off lands who face unimaginable circumstances, and introducing buyers to beautiful cultures the world over. If you haven't already read it, be sure to check out the previous blog post I did on Serene and her shop: http://www.thebead.net/index.php/the-bead-blog/227-serene-wright-of-templestreasuretrove
[Note: When Serene graciously agreed to be featured in this post, she encouraged us and our readers to view this incredible video, to give everyone an idea of the sort of things women artisans - or artisans in training - must deal with. It's not for the faint of heart, but important to watch, and eye-opening -- about the importance of supporting women who depend on the jewelry trades and other life-changing programs and occupations. You can view the video here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNXfpPgi4I0
Obviously this is just a small taste of the many incredible ethical buyers and talented artisans of this common home we call 'the world'. But I wanted to share a bit about them because they are the ones I have been privileged to interact with. I hope to find many more and connect with them soon -- please do let us know about your favorites by commenting here below, at this web site!
Until Next Time,