We are steadily approaching every lovebird’s favorite holiday! St. Valentine’s Day is Thursday and if you’re looking for a little more than your average bouquet of roses and box of chocolate, then stop by Ten Thousand Villages of Austin, where we specialize in unique gifts from the heart!
Speaking of hearts … we have PLENTY, and from all over the world!
Take these gorgeous hand-carved and painted stones from Kisac Fair Trade Ltd. in Kenya. Kisac is a member of the World Fair Trade Organization, and has been working with Ten Thousand Villages since 2010. They provide work for 1,200 artisans in Kenya. This stone is named for Kisii County, where it originates from in Southwest Kenya. This soft soapstone is not found anywhere else in the world! Luckily, there is about 22 billion tons of soapstone found in the Kisii hills. Men and women learn to carve, sand and decorate the stones from their families and the finished product is an incredibly smooth vibrant gift for your beloved!
These beautiful onyx hearts were made by artisan group Bunyaad, based in Lahore, Pakistan. Bunyaad means “foundation” in Urdu and provides work for 800 artisans in more than 100 villages. These artisans range in age from about 20 to 60 years old, with 60% women. Bunyaad emphasizes equality with equal pay and opportunity for men and women, and a peaceful environment for Muslims and Christians to work together. The company was formed over 30 years ago, and has accomplished some amazing things, such as focusing on bringing higher education to villages and a housing project for earthquake victims in 2008.
Beit Sahour, West Bank
Our olive wood hearts come from the El-Atrash Workshop in Beit Sahour. El-Atrash is a Palestinian family workshop with seven employees, founder George El-Atrash, his brothers and his sons. George began his olive wood carving business in Bethlehem in 1967, and moved to Beit Sahour in 1976; Ten Thousand Villages has been purchasing carved biblical figures, nativities and household items from him since 1978. Artisans do not cut down trees for wood; rather they prune young tree branches for their craft. An olive branch is widely regarded as a symbol of peace, so what could be better for your sweetheart than this peacefully loving heart from the Holy Land!
Leogane and Gressier, Haiti
Riverstone Hearts come from The Comité Artisanal Haitïen, a non-profit formed in 1973 to help provide stable income, equality and a safe workplace for Haitian artisans. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with a history of violence, dictatorship, the 7.0 magnitude earthquake of 2010 and subsequent cholera outbreaks. CAH employs over 200 artisans who meet fair trade standards and display a wide variety of resourcefulness, vibrancy and creativity. The riverstone is soaked in water, and then carved by hand with chisels and saws. After sanding these hearts, artisans apply beeswax for luster. Riverstone comes from a mountainous region of Haiti known for its stone carving. Master stone carvers working for CAH have even had their work displayed in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC!
If your loved one would rather wear her hearts than hold down paper with them, we have some very exciting up-cycled hearts for your eco-friendly Ellie, Emily, Ernie or Emanuel!
The “Love Me” Pin is made from recycled soda cans, wire and beads and is brought to you by Bombolulu Workshops in Kenya. One hundred thirteen artisans work for Bombolulu, including blind and physically disabled people who would have no chance of work otherwise. Bombolulu Workshops were established in 1969 and are a branch of the Association of the Physically Disabled of Kenya. They have a campus near Mombasa, Kenya’s second largest city, that includes housing for artisans, a clinic, social hall, nursery school and a guesthouse.
The “Double Your Love” earrings were crafted from recycled air freshener cans (!) by artisans working for KICK Trading Co. based out of Kisumu, Kenya. Kisumu suffers high unemployment and many residents have HIV/AIDS. The company began simply as KICK in 1994, and developed into a fair trade company and its current incarnation in 2005. KICK is an independent company, with artisans holding 20% of the shares. When artisans develop a design for a product, they receive a percentage from the sales, fostering design skills within their own pool of artisans. My favorite design of theirs would have to be these innovative “Double Your Love” earrings.
The eco-friendly parade doesn’t stop there, my friends!!! May we present …
The poo that eventually became this rose originated from elephants in Thailand. The process for this unorthodox paper-making is to extract the fiber from the poop, rinse and boil it, make a pulp, and then create rolls and sheets of paper to make hundreds of poo-tastic products! Functional and fun for your sweet Fannie, Fred or Frida, don’t you think?
Or, if you’re like me and prefer to celebrate Singles Appreciation Day on February 14th, why not make your way down to the store and treat yo’self to some of our delicious bars of Equal Exchange Chocolate (like CARAMEL CRUNCH WITH SEA SALT, mmm…) or some of our fabulous handmade fair trade jewelry!