Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday Subscription Box

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist

Those of you who have been following this blog for a while, will already have figured out by now just how much I love fair trade.  Really, I wish that there didn’t even have to be a term such as “fair trade” as the very wording implies that some people are not being paid fairly. Sadly, this is a reality for many people around the world, but it is so encouraging to see just how many fair trade groups there are all around the world who are ensuring people are being paid fairly for their work and helping them to escape the cycle of poverty that they live in.

I always love finding new fair trade groups. My go-to here in Canada is Ten Thousand Villages, as they offer a great variety of wares (mostly jewellery, scarves, housewares, etc), they have travelling fairs which come through all the small towns, and if I buy online I don’t have to worry about import/duties. I always love finding items that are both fun and unique (this is why I also love thrifting!), so if those fun and unique pieces are also fair trade, well, that’s just the icing on the cake.

Just this last week I learned about a new (to me) group called Fair Trade Friday. At my church’s final Ladies Bible Study, one of the ladies in the group surprised us all with a gift from Fair Trade Friday. Fair Trade Friday is a monthly subscription box based out of the USA, where each month you receive three to four handcrafted items such as jewellery, housewares, fashion accessories etc. which have been made by women all around the world.

It is a program which is run by Mercy House Global. Their aim is to help empower women who are living in impoverished conditions, struggling single mothers, and women who have escaped the sex trade (or other slavery and abuses) by helping them to obtain meaningful employment. They work with various fair-trade artisan groups around the world, who are dedicated to providing assistance to these women, not through charity and hand-outs, but rather by helping these women out of their situations, teaching them skills and providing employment for them to make a living wage and support themselves.

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Papillon Marketplace necklace

In each box, there is also information about the women who have made the items, which countries the items came from, and how many jobs were provided that month because of the box. Some of the items are signed, or have a tag including information about the woman who made the item, which is such a lovely personal connection. Additionally, some of the artisans’ websites also have information about their teams, and give background information to the women who are making the items.

You can buy individual boxes, or sign up for a monthly subscription, which you can cancel at any time. They also have a “Bracelet of the Month” and “Earrings of the Month” offer, and they also sell individual items in their shop. And the best part is that 100% of the money from the purchases goes towards the workers.

I think that the unique part of subscribing to Fair Trade Friday is not only do you receive a fun surprise package in the mail, but you can also consider it to be a donation to help their ministry. And, if you decide that you don’t want to keep the items for yourself you can always give them to others, just as the lady in our group did. She was originally going to choose an item for each of us, but then decided to instead let us each choose our own item. Here is what we (my Mom, my sister and I) chose from the box!

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Batik Boutique Jewelry Roll 1

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Batik Boutique Jewelry Roll 2

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Batik Boutique Jewelry Roll 3

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Batik Boutique Jewelry Roll 4

I, amusingly enough, picked out the exact item that she was going to give me! I guess she knows me well 🙂 I chose this hand dyed cotton Batik and leather jewellery roll by Batik Boutique. This artisan group is based in Malaysia and employs over 50 people. The women who work for the Batik Boutique set their own wages and hours which gives them the flexibility to be able to support their families monetarily, while still being able to care for them. The income they earn making these items is helping their families to escape poverty. They offer a small selection of Batik items such as other jewellery rolls in different patterns (this one is not available anymore), place mats, scarves, and various bags.

I am so excited to use this jewellery roll the next time I travel, as the last time I threw all my jewellery into a zippered pouch and ended up with a bent earring and a lot of tangled necklaces 🙁 This will be much nicer for organizing, and it’s just really pretty too!

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Have Hope Necklace 2

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Have Hope Necklace

The gift that my Mom chose is this beaded necklace from Kenya. It is made of gold beads interspersed with lacquered rolled paper beads and was made by a lady named Rose, who works for a group called Have Hope. This group started up with help from Mercy House Global and consists of housewives who had no income because their husbands were unemployed. Originally the women were meeting for a Bible Study, but with the help of Mercy House Global they were also able to start making jewellery for Fair Trade Friday. The women now have a steady source of income, are able to feed their children, are moving out of the slums, and are even starting their own businesses. I don’t believe that this group has their own website, as I couldn’t find any, but they do sell through the Fair Trade Friday shop and the subscription boxes.

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Village Artisans Journal 3

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Village Artisans Journal 2

My sister chose two items (as there were some extra gifts left over at the end). The first is this beautiful leather journal with recycled cotton pages made in northern India by the talented workers of Village Artisan. Village Artisan has been around for sixteen years now, and provides fair employment for over 100 artisans as well as being an eco-friendly company. They sell other eco paper products, recycled sari scarves and bags, jewellery and other items. I am a stationery hoarder, so I am eyeing up all those beautiful card sets 🙂 Also, a bonus for me and my fellow Canadians is that orders over $50 USD receive free shipping to Canada!

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Papillon Marketplace necklace 2

This bead and pottery necklace is from Haiti by the group called Papillon Marketplace. Papillon Marketplace trains women who have had no education in order to give them marketable and useful skills. They use as many local products as possible to benefit the Haitian economy and pay their workers a living wage which is three times higher than the country’s minimum wage. They make pottery, tote bags, jewellery and t-shirts.

It is so exciting to see these beautiful handmade items, but also to know the story behind them- who made them, where they came from and how these women’s lives have been changed because of it. One thing that really stood out to me, too, is how so many of the companies’ prices are not much higher than, or are equal to, the prices you would see for similar items at a retailer. I often have a misconception that because items are fair trade they are going to be a lot more expensive, but really most of them have not much for markup and the majority of the money is going directly to the workers themselves.

I looked into buying a subscription box for myself, but because the program is out of the USA, with shipping, dollar exchange and duties, sadly it ended up being too expensive for me per month. I also wondered, because I do dress in a very defined vintage style, if many of the pieces would end up not fitting with my “look”. (With just my luck, the subscription box would include a t-shirt, coffee, a fabric headband and scented soap. Hint- none of these items are things that would work for me!)

However, I did look at some of the sites of the artisan groups who sell to Fair Trade Friday. The majority of these companies sell jewellery, scarves, pouches and bags and other small items like that. They sell lots of things which I think would make great gifts, even if you don’t need them for yourself.

The company JOYN in India, sells both leather and vegan leather and canvas purses and bags. They have a really lovely brown satchel, which is kind of a modern take on the classic 40’s style bag.

The group Purpose Jewelry sells jewellery and they have a collection of simple and graphic pendants and chains. Their main focus is on providing employment opportunities for young women who have been rescued from sex trafficking. (hence their name “Purpose Jewelry”)

Vi Bella has centres in Haiti, Mexico, the USA, and also partners with workers in India and Ecuador to create jewellery. They have some more “global” pieces of jewellery made out of products like horn and clay, as well as more delicate pieces made of metal and polished stones.

Have you ever heard of Fair Trade Friday? Have you ever purchased a subscription box of any kind? What are your favourite fair trade companies to buy from?

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Village Artisans Journal

A Spring in My Step

spring in my step, feature, the artyologist

This may not look like it to some of you who are living in significantly balmier climes, but Spring is in the air! The pussy willows are out and the tulips and crocuses, and even our peonies are starting to poke their brave little heads up out of the dirt. The day we took these photos didn’t really feel like spring; in truth it did feel more like a crisp fall day, because it was overcast and rather chilly, and everything is still brown, but nevertheless I know that it is indeed spring. And that knowledge is indeed cheerful, after the many months of winter! I love my winter clothes, but I am more than ready to ditch the tights and the wool and the scarves and the many layers.

I think we might be wearing some of the warmer pieces and layers for a while yet, but I have been attempting to lighten up my colour palette a bit the past couple of weeks. This outfit I wore last week looks a bit more fall inspired than spring inspired to me, now that I look at, though. Maybe it is because of the mustard yellow, which is a bit more of an earthy colour. Oh well! I felt a lot more seasonally appropriate than I have felt for a long while. Changing seasons can be a rather awkward time for ones wardrobe. . .

This week I am planning to rotate my wardrobe to more seasonally appropriate attire. Mainly that means just putting my thick wool skirts away, and moving my winter coats to the extra closet and switching out my winter hats for my straw hats. It is so nice to switch things up and revive for the season. Because even if it doesn’t quite look and feel like it, Spring is definitely here!

Do you switch out your wardrobe seasonally? How do you transition for the seasons in your dress?

Outfit Details:

Pinafore Skirt: Made by Me

Shirt: Thrifted

Sweater: Thrifted

Necklace: Gifted

Tights: HUE

Boots: Thrifted

a Spring In My Step, without sweater and branch, the artyologist

spring in my step, tree, the artyologist

crocuses-2, spring in my step, the artyologist

a spring in my step, the artyologist, pearls

branch-and-pussy-willows, the artyologist

shoes, spring in my step, the artyologist

walking and peony, spring in my step, the artyologist

crocuses-coming-up, spring in my step, the artyologist

walking away, a spring in my step, the artyologist

Life Lately: Changing Seasons

Life Lately: Changing Seasons, the artyologist, tree

Hello everyone! It’s just been one of those weeks, where you seem to be running the entire time, but when you get to Friday, you look back and are not really sure what you did, since nothing seems to be checked off of your list, and yet you know that you were occupied with something during that time. . . Here it is already Friday, and I haven’t even had a chance to get a blog post up until now!

The past couple of months have really seemed to be very busy for me, for some reason. My photos from the past couple of months, when I looked through them, are mainly of a few things: snapshots of my artwork in progress, photos where I was testing out new photography techniques and playing with my lenses, and lots and lots of photos documenting this changing of seasons from Winter to Spring.

It feels like I am going through a bit of a “change of seasons” right now in my life too. Lately it seems like I have been running around in circles, trying to do everything, but not getting much accomplished. I seem to have lost my rhythm somewhere along the way, and in pouring more of my energies towards my artwork, (and starting a creative business) I have in turn been neglecting other areas of my life, like this blog, and my sewing and other crafts, and even, dare I say it, fashion.

I am finding it difficult to balance my all of my interests and responsibilities. By focusing more of my time into my artwork, I have taken my focus away from other things, like reading blogs, sewing, and crafting. I have tons of ideas of things I want to do- blog posts, clothes to make, illustrations to paint, hats to create, work to do, and the list goes on, but- alas- there are only 24 hours in the day. Finding the balance between all the things I want to do, and all the things that I can realistically do is hard. I’ve never been good at multitasking! I think I need to take some time to refocus and narrow down what is really important: the personal things I should be prioritizing, like studying my Bible, focusing on my health, being a good employee at my paid job, and even taking time for simple things like reading books (remember those things???).

Maybe I’m just feeling this way because I am tired and it is 11:30 at night and I am trying to get this blog post published before the clock strikes 12! So, before I risk rambling on ad naseum, I will just end this now. 🙂

Do you have a difficult time balancing all the things you want to do and don’t have time for? How do you find a balance between prioritizing the important things, and yet still enjoying the less important things?

Life Lately: Changing Seasons, the artyologist, artwork

Spending time on some new artworks, and a happy sight: a brand new pack of pens!

Life Lately: Changing Seasons, the artyologist, teacup-and-stationery

Always make some time for some tea and letter writing.

Life Lately: Changing Seasons, the artyologist, spring-storm-and-growth

We got a Spring snowstorm, then a few days later saw these crocuses popping up at my Grandma’s house.

Life Lately: Changing Seasons, the artyologist, barbie-and-pencil-box

Testing out my 1.8 f/stop with a pencil box and Barbie. That blurred background is making me all heart eyes 🙂 ❤

Life Lately: Changing Seasons, the artyologist, spring-images

Traveling, and trees and muddy country lanes.

Vintage Vogue Covers: Vogue April 1, 1956, The Spring Bonnet

Vintage Vogue Covers, Spring Bonnet, Vogue April 1, 1956, the artyologist

In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it, You’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter Parade. . . 

With the awakening of Lady Spring, a floral covered bonnet will surely not be amiss in your seasonal wardrobe. A natural coloured straw lampshade hat, completely covered in multi-coloured blooms of all varieties is the perfect statement piece for the early days of this season leading up to Eastertide. The white outfit and pale pink earrings recede, allowing the playful blossoms to take centre stage. A flourish of bright and bold lipstick is the perfect final touch for an ensemble that so clearly heralds “Spring”.

Inspiration for this fashion look from the magazine cover of Vogue April 1, 1956.

Vogue cover, April 1, 1956inspiration image source