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Fair Trade... and Shabby Chic

Updated on June 29, 2014

Incorporating Artisan Work from around the World

I was inspired to write this page when I came across a very delicate bit of butterfly wall art made from a recycled oil bin -- fashioned by a Haitian artisan.

Wow! It's ironic that those delicate, feminine designs that many of us love came into abundant existence during the Industrial Revolution. It's ironic, in a more poignant and positive way, that delicate lacey designs can be created out of an old oil bin, in a land where there's a lot of poverty. I wondered: What else is out there?

We often think of fair trade items as being brightly colored and having a particular look to them. No, there are so many cultures of crafters and so many artisans -- and you can find your share of neutrals and pastels among them. You can find environmentally-friendly items, made from materials that exist in abundance on this beautiful planet. It's not all baskets and cotton throws! Ah, no, you'd be surprised the look that even elephant dung can take on when it's approached with an artistic eye!

On this page, I'll introduce you to some of the lighter, airier designs, and some of the vendors who trade them. I'll also share my thoughts on using them to craft and design.

Note: The image here is from Amazon. If you are interested in taking the Beyond Borders butterfly home, look over to your right... It's on the sidebar.

Incorporating Metalwork into Furnishings

There are a number of beautiful metalwork pieces created from oil bins. I know what I'd like to do with a few of them.

The bed pictured is miniature -- I affixed metal jewelry findings to make it. If I had the money and space for something more than a day bed, I'd get some big old used wood furniture, attach the oil drum pieces in a similar fashion, and give it all a distressed ivory finish. (I'd keep some, too, as wall hangings in their original finish.)

Oil Bin Art: Bees

It's not just butterflies -- it's bees, too. You can use these Beyond Borders creations as part of a design, perhaps buzzing around those lush oil drum trees. These are more petite than some of the other oil bin art.

Salvaging Vintage Furniture in India

Ever scoured thrift stores looking for old furniture to remake and use in your decor? This man scours warehouses in India. Dharma Boutique is committed to sustainability: fair trading and responsible use of materials.

It would be nice to have some of that furniture -- and some recycled oil bin metalwork for accents.

For the Furniture Re-maker - Hand Painted Knobs

These hand painted knobs come from Connected Fair Trade Products. They come with a bolt that can be trimmed to size. It's a bit hard to see, but these are decorated with flowers. You can also find the knobs in blue and white -- a somewhat bolder, brighter look.

Alter -- or Leave as is?

This is an issue I can see people having different views on. Do we leave artisan work alone, out of respect for the artisan, no matter what the culture? Or do we feel free to build upon it or use it in out own vision (again, no matter what the culture)?

I'll share my thoughts through an anecdote: I have been looking for tiles for a project. At the thrift store, I sometimes see tiles that someone else hand painted. I am reluctant to paint over their loving work. But I often see frames or containers that I want to refinish. In these cases, the form or shape is a part of the beauty, and I feel like I am accenting it more than covering it up or obscuring it.

But I don't feel like it would be wrong per se to paint over the titles. It just seems sad, somehow.

Should artisan work be left as is, or incorporated into our own designs?

Fair Trade Finds

Fair Trade Quilt
Fair Trade Quilt

Blankets and Quilts from around the World

What do you think of when you think shabby chic bedding? I think of two separate things: light, airy blankets or duvets in whites and off-whites... and quilts, quilts, quilts. I went looking for delicate-looking blankets and quilts fair trade companies.

Crafting Pottery

Here we find women creating pottery for distribution through Common Ground. This is a short video, set to music.

Soft Dolls to Decorate with (and Improve Lives!)

Dolls aren't just for children! they make our homes cozy and our hearts warm. And women in communities around the world are bettering their lives making them.

Le Carpio dolls, made by Nicaraguan immigrants to Costa Rica, have beautiful butterflies on their costumes. I think they would look lovely on a day bed with pillows. Costa Rican bark angels, on the other hand, would look good for shelf display.

More Fair Trade Dolls and Plushies

One animal option is the Kenana Knitter Critters line. They are, as the name implies, knit. They come in a variety of colors, but all, as far as I know, are in neutral colors.

Note Box... from Elephant Dung - Comes with Note Paper

Here's a delicate little heart-shaped treasure, fashioned from genuine elephant dung. You can also find picture frames and stationary sets so pretty that they belong on the shelf. As the Mr. Ellie Pooh company notes, "Why post-it when you can com-post-it?"

Fair Trade Dog Dish

Yes, even the dog dish can have auspicious origins. This enamel dog dish has been given a cheerful floral treatment by artisans in India. It's available in four colors.

Your Thoughts - Things you would buy or create?

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    • BLemley profile image

      Beverly Lemley 

      6 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Very interesting! Boy, that was lovely pottery ~ Wow! I enjoyed taking a cultural cruise around the world, and so glad to see the improvements to lives through the use of nature materials, or things that are "trash' ~ that's a very impactful thing, knowing our world is heading in such a positive direction! SquidAngel blessed! B : )


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