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Meeting our Fair Trade Makers

We’re currently prepping for another visit to Bangladesh very soon and it’s prompted me to share our last trip with you. In May 2014 I visited many of our artisan partners over 10 days. As a Fair Trade business, it’s important for us to reconnect regularly with the people who handcraft our products.

Bangladesh is by far the most challenging place that I’ve travelled. The people are open and generous despite the ubiquitous poverty and I always bring home a renewed gratitude for the opportunities available in my own life. It also reinforces my commitment to Fair Trade and reminds me of the everyday impact we and you are making by purchasing our products. I gain so much knowledge and inspiration on each visit….here’s a snapshot…

My first stop was to the group who make our Hessian Sacks and Bucket Duo’s and Everything Pouches. I had the pleasure of celebrating World Fair Trade Day with them. Over eighty women gathered and we exchanged thoughts about why Fair Trade is important and the positive impacts it has had on their lives.

TheDharmaDoor_Screenprinting Artisan 1

I discovered this lovely woman in the midst of hand-printing our order of document folders for us to hand out at the next trade show. This artisan group also handprints our Wrapping Paper and swing tags.

TheDharmaDoor_Screenprinting Artisan 2

I love the colours and Islamic patterns in doorways, windows and tiles.

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Inspiration is everywhere. Natural fibres, textures…

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…and aged surfaces all weave their way into our collections.

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When I visit Bangladesh I take plenty of stickers, balloons and pencils to give to children in the artisan villages that we visit.  This is one my favourite moments and I love that it helps to create connections beyond a typical supplier/buyer relationship…the artisans often have bigger smiles than their children!

TheDharmaDoor_Shannon with school children

On my second day I visited a small rural village where our flagship Jute Baskets are made. The organisation that we partner with has developed an effective system where they build small buildings, which are schools in the morning and double as basket weaving spaces in the afternoon. This means all the women who make our baskets are guaranteed an education for their children. How adorable is this display of their shoes outside the classroom door?!

TheDharmaDoor_shoes outside classroom

I am always impressed by the amount of detailed work that goes into each jute basket.  Every artisan receives two years training to reach this level of skill and quality. Formerly a tobacco-growing and cigarette-rolling community, our jute basket artisans now have the opportunity to earn a fair wage and healthy work conditions.

TheDharmaDoor_jute basket artisan

Taking time out to visit a market is a great way to immerse in the local culture. Jute rope and twine in abundance….

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…and beautiful displays of seasonal produce are a feast for the eyes.

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Enormous baskets are used to transport chickens to and from the market on a cart.

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We headed into the villages where women make our Jute Macrame collection from their homes. I developed a true appreciation for their work and learned that each door curtain takes 20 days to complete!

The women are so happy to know that macrame is popular at the moment. For sustainable employment it is important that I design products that both utilise their skills and are functional. They also make our beautiful Macrame Baskets and a whole new collection that I designed with leather and macrame.

TheDharmaDoor_Shannon with macrame artisan

An exchange of mutual gratitude takes place with every artisan interaction. I show images of our products displayed in stores, on social media or featured in magazines and blogs. They laugh and point as they try to determine who made the product in the image. I also thank them for their work and for interpreting my designs so well. They share how making our products and being paid fairly has impacted their lives. As a result they have bought land for crops, rebuilt their houses, given their children higher education or contributed to a family business.

TheDharmaDoor_Shannon with macrame artisans

I’m really looking forward to our next visit in October!

Shannon xx

Textures, Natural Hues and Earthiness

There’s something about natural materials and fibres that draws me in…the textures, the grains, the hues, the earthiness and sometimes the smell.

I especially love to see them mixed with a contrasting colour (preferably white or charcoal!) or smooth surface….Wood and concrete. A textured basket in a white space. Driftwood with ceramic. A jute rug on a painted floor. Natural stone  against a smooth surface.

I’m always curious to know the story behind an aged piece of timber,  the source of natural stone,  the person behind a handwoven basket or rug  and  the seasons and farmers that helped to grow raw natural materials before they were harvested.

My personal decor style and Pinterest boards are all about this look! How do you like to decorate your home? Do you have a signature style?

Wood, stone, plaster and concrete

(photo by Michael Koronis, HOUSE by LIFE & STYLE. Image Courtesy of Liberis Publications, GREECE)…

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A textured basket in a white space (from The Dharma Door. Styling by Lyndel Miller. Photography by Elouise van Riet-Gray)…

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Driftwood with ceramic (by Linda Fahey)…

Porcelain:found driftwood spoons by Linda Fahey

A jute rug on a painted concrete floor (image by Jordi Canosa)…

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Handwoven Jute Door Curtain (by The Dharma Door)…

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Natural stone and smooth white plaster (image source unknown)…

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What is your personal style? Are you a lover of earthy textures too? Or do lean towards shiny, glossy and new? Maybe vintage patina’s are more your thing?

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