Now that summer is in full swing, it’s time to spruce up our indoor and outdoor spaces with unique touches—not to mention, fair-trade, artisan-crafted products that have positive stories behind them—from Ten Thousand Villages. Below, our top picks for a seasonal home refresh you can really feel good about! —Vita Daily
Recycled Sari Circle Chair. Truly a unique piece of furniture, this chair ($275) is crafted from recycled saris that have been made into strong twine and then woven together to form the design. The material is fitted and woven over a sturdy iron frame. This process ensures that each chair is one-of-a-kind, with patterns as varied as the saris they’re made from. About the artisan: Prokritee (meaning “nature” in Bengali) provides jobs for poor rural women, including widows and divorcees, many of whom are landless and with little or no income. Prokritee manages several handicraft enterprises and helps other groups sell their products in local and foreign markets. By providing jobs for women, Prokritee improves women’s standards of living and helps them send their children to school. The organization provides skills development training to artisans.
Handcarved Mangowood End Table. This intricate cutout mangowood end table ($260) is the perfect addition to any room in your home. Use it as an end table or a nightstand—it brings an eclectic feel to your room of choice. Mango is a densely grained wood, but also relatively soft and easy to carve so this traditional handicraft doesn’t require special tools. Carved and cut by skilled makers from Asha Handicrafts in India. About the artisan: Asha, which means “hope” in Sanskrit, was started by professionals responding to the abject poverty of artisans, the problem of exploitative middlemen and the disappearance of many traditional crafts. Today, Asha works with over 6,500 artisans in India and offers benefits include marketing, interest-free loans, savings programs, medical care, and educational scholarships, uniforms, and books for children.
Sweet Sanctuary Hammock. This hand-woven Jute hammock ($92) with its sturdy wooden bar is made by women in Bangladesh. Jute is the leading natural resource in Bangladesh and also sustainable. About the artisan: Today, 4,000 artisans are members of the 154 rural co-operatives that make up Corr—The Jute Works, which markets handmade items created by Bangladeshi women and assists with job training, literacy and health issues, developing leadership skills and generating awareness of women’s rights.
Tuareg Jewelry. Once your space is updated, why not summer-refresh yourself? Launching on August 30th, 2019, the Tuareg jewelry collection ($350) is handcrafted using a lost-wax method by the jewelers of the Union of Peasants for Self-Development (UPAP)—an organization of 170 skilled Tuareg silver jewelers and leatherworkers in the village of Terhazer, near Agadez, Niger, who are seeking new ways to make a living and support their families.
Tuareg artisans use income from craft production to supplement their subsistence farming and other jobs, as well as build and equip schools, pay for medicine, ensure safer births and build wells. Since 2002, Ten Thousand Villages has purchased UPAP products, which are infused with symbols of ancient ideas, tales and traditions of the nomadic people indigenous to the Sahara desert. To create a piece, the jewelers first create a wax mould, form clay around the mould and pour molten silver into the hardened clay. Using hand tools, they etch traditional designs and add ebony inlay or jewels to create the finished piece.
About one UPAP artisan: Illies Mouhmoud, a master silver artisan, reported that a Ten Thousand Villages order helped him and others provide for their families during a famine in Niger: "The artists were able to help their families in the most affected areas of Niger. And being able to support ourselves rather than simply receive aid builds our dignity."