Watching her weave the baskets was mesmerizing. I could not believe how quickly her hands moved, so sure of the pattern she was creating, so effortless yet intense in her concentration. I smelled the sweet grassy smell of the completed baskets, laid out on a colorfully striped blanket stretched over the dry and dusty ground under the shade of a small tree. I paid the 20 pesos she asked for the small open basket, timidly saying, “Gracias” as I put it in my bookbag.
This was my first experience with purchasing something directly from an artisan. I was in the outskirts of Chihuahua City, Mexico, and I was 13 years old. I was on a mission’s trip and was trying to understand these people and their language and culture, and I found myself seeing for the first time just how hard they worked for such small wages. I ended up buying necklaces, more baskets, and a few blankets from the women under the trees. Eighteen years later and I still have these precious items.
In Ecuador two years ago, I was reminded again of the hard work of these artisans, being graciously gifted small baskets, tagua bead necklaces from the rainforest, miniature clay figures and a wooden plate, hand carved and burned with an image of a deer and Bible verse. I went to the Otavalo open-air market, shyly bargaining, as was the custom, to buy dolls, alpaca scarves and hats, and more jewelry for family and friends back home.
About this same time, I had just opened an Instagram account and began to find different fair trade and sustainable brands. I had known of only one company before and had purchased items from them in the past, but I did not realize how far the fair-trade concept reached. It went beyond the small gifts I purchased through this one company, and I quickly became educated on different resources, brands, and ways to shop in a way that the artisans were being paid fairly. This is when I saw a movement for #WhoMadeMyClothes and I began to think to myself, “Do I know who made my clothes?” Do I know the conditions where the employees worked, what they were paid, and how they lived? I could not give an answer.
This struck me as I am a person that loves clothes. More than clothes, I love shoes. This idea of knowing who made my clothes and shoes by name had not been something I had previously considered. I stared at my closet and thought ashamedly, “Nope, not a clue.” So, I began to educate myself on fast fashion, minimalism, sustainability, different processes of clothes making, anything that was remotely related to fair-trade and ethical businesses. A passion of mine has always been to help those who are victims of human trafficking, and so I began to support companies that help people get out of human trafficking, and I learned even more about clothes production and working conditions.
Then a random ad came across my Instagram: GlobeIn. Out of curiosity, I clicked on it and began to learn more about the company. The more I read, the more intrigued I became. GlobeIn works with other companies and directly with artisans to create fair wages and better working environments. I first fell in love with their popular mug and decided to give a 3 -month subscription a go. My first box arrived, and I was impressed with the craftsmanship, the booklet that described the artisans and where they are from, and how my purchases were making a difference. I appreciated the variety of items available, from the tableware to the coffee, the gifts and chocolate, and of course, the gorgeous hand-painted mugs. Each time a box arrived at my door, I knew I was helping artisans around the world have a better life, and I was educating myself on new resources of fair -trade products and artisans. Fast-forward almost a year and here I am, having this special opportunity to share my story with you on GlobeIn’s blog.
One thing I also like about GlobeIn and companies like them is that they make fair-trade products accessible to everyone. They create a community of consumers that are working toward making better choices that in turn make a greater impact on the global community. Empowering others to have a better life, access to more resources, and being able to provide for their own families is at the core of the fair-trade lifestyle. While I enjoy my hand-painted mug from Tunisia or wear my necklace from Ecuador, I can feel good in knowing that I know the face and story of the person who made the item and that their life is a little better because of my choice to shop fair-trade. More importantly, I can tell others about the products, share the artisans’ stories, and potentially create a chain reaction of others supporting these artisans.
The most important thing I have learned so far is that this fair-trade concept is not about me and what I can do- although education on my part is important- but rather about empowering others. Whenever there is a chance to help others, to lift them up, fight against poverty and push for ethical wages, I know I can do my part, no matter how small. Whether in my own town or half-way across the world, there is a chance to responsibly work toward the goal of helping others. Do I always shop fair trade? No. But when I have the means to do so for something that I am in need of (or want), I do what I can to buy fair trade. It is not just about buying a pretty plate or a nice dress, but knowing where these items are coming from, how they are made, and seeing the direct impact it has for others. Suddenly a mug is no longer just a mug, but food on the table for the artisan’s family; the basket becomes a person’s chance to take their child to the doctor for medical assistance, or the sari blanket continues to provide a safe place of employment for a woman in India who otherwise would be at risk (or has been a victim of) human trafficking. It enriches the story behind the things in my home, gives them more purpose than just another “thing,” and reminds me of how much more there is to learn and explore and grow from this world, including the people in it.
I may not be a perfect fair-trade shopper, but I can say with confidence that supporting GlobeIn and companies with a similar purpose gets me closer to that goal. Part of reaching that goal is continuing to educate myself, so please share in the comments some of your favorite fair-trade, ethical brands, or why you love GlobeIn too. Together, we can make a powerful impact on the lives of others. Together, we can make a difference.
Every month, the GlobeIn Artisan Box delivers a fresh collection of useful and enthralling items from around the world. As an Artisan Box Subscriber, you learn about the products and the people who made them while discovering simpler ways to live a more fulfilled lifestyle. By subscribing to the GlobeIn Artisan Box, you can feel good about the products you use, the people you support and how your choices contribute to a better world.
Written by Laura Beiler, GlobeIn Maven
Laura is a doctoral candidate and resident in counseling in the state of Virginia. She spends her free time blogging and baking desserts for her husband and four children.