October 27th, 2013 by Paul
My old friend, David Brown is a seasoned tabloid hack, who has escaped to Oman in the Middle-East to work for an oil company and help then run their in-house magazine. Journalism and PR are in his DNA (according to his CV)
Paul Wolfenden, Owner of THE FAIR TRADE STORE
Here he takes time out from his busy schedule (so he says) to interview me to give you a feel for the sort of person running THE FAIR TRADE STORE.
Find out if he`s been fair on me in the interview transcript below….
Name: Paul Wolfenden aka Wolfy (The nickname has stuck with me since I was five).
Age: 50 going on 73.
Appearance: Like a rock star. It’s a shame that rock star is Keith Richard/Meatloaf.
Hobbies: Making lists, dusting and talking about the need to exercise more.
Likes: Scotch eggs, real ale, chocolate (Fairtrade, of course!) and fresh air.
Dislikes: People who make lists, dust and talk about the need to exercise more.
What is the bravest thing you’ve ever done? Go the Hacienda nightclub in Manchester in the early 1990s.
Favourite film: I’m a huge fan of Werner Herzog. Also, It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002).
Who do you support, sports-wise? Warrington Wolves (Rugby League) Wolves (footy) Spot the trend here?
If you could invite three famous people (past or present) to a dinner party who would they be?
Stephen Fry (for the perceptive and amusing anecdotes), Martin Luther King (to debate non-violent civil disobedience) and Kerry Katona (to do the washing up).
At this point I terminated the interview for fear of further embarrassment.
Well, what can I say? Other than, “thank you, David”.
If you have enjoyed reading this character assassination, why not track down David, my ex-friend, on Twitter for his inciteful comment on politics, current affairs… and Shrewsbury Town Football Club.
His Twitter handle is @Davidb15
Cheers for reading – Paul (aka Wolfy)
October 19th, 2013 by Paul
Did you know?
1/ Thuya is a rare, shrubby conifer, indigenous to southern Morocco and especially the seaside town of Essaouira, in the foothills of the Atlas mountains, north west Africa.
Income here is generated either by fishing, or the sale of Thuya wood products and gifts.
2/ Thuya is pronounced…Tweeya.
3/ Thuya wood is commonly seen as a cross between walnut and maple, with similar burrs. It is prized for its` strength, smoothness and wonderful aroma.
4/ Also known as Citron and historically called Thyine wood.
5/ Interestingly. the wood is harvested from burrs where the tree has been cut at the base to make new growth and from surface roots – NOT from the trunk or branches of the tree.
6/ Trees are typically 70 years old before they are cut.
7/ A pine scented oil is extracted from the resin and is used in aromatherapy and homeopathy.
8/ The Thuya tree is one of few that can re-grow after being cut down to the trunk, thus maintaining sustainability and supported by a vigorous re-planting program.
9/ A Thuya wood box makes a truly unique gift as no two items are ever alike.
There you have it – a whistle-stop tour of Thuya wood and all it has to offer. Take a close look at one of the Thuya wood boxes in our range and see the fabulous burrs first hand.
Thanks for reading – Paul
Thuya wood box
October 16th, 2013 by Paul
If you’re in need of some inspiration for ethical Christmas gifts this year and looking for something that’s a little bit different, then take a look at our favourite selection of presents.
Picked by our team because they’re Fairly Traded, handmade, promote sustainable living and often created fom recycled materials - each product has a story to tell of the artisans in the developing world that are behind them.
Online shopping for ethical Christmas gifts made easy.
Shopping for ethical Christmas gifts online?
Have a great Christmas – Paul
October 2nd, 2013 by Paul
Fair Trade wooden earring stand
What gift do you give “the woman who has everything” for Christmas in 2013?
The answer is this wooden earring stand.
Not only is it an ethical choice, being Fair Trade, but it`s practical too and can hold up to 40 pairs of earrings for safe keeping on two tiers, with a dished base for studs and other small items.
Imagine how that could tidy things up at home?
With a round, flat base, it will sit on a dressing table, cabinet, shelf or any flat surface.
Supplied in 6 pieces for easy self-assembly – no screws, nails or glue required – takes seconds to build. Even I was able to build it quickly on my first attempt – and I`m a man!
Handmade from haldu wood by skilled artisans at a Fair Trade organisation in India called Asha, it has proved to be our absolute best seller over the past 4 and a half years of trading at THE FAIR TRADE STORE.
India, which is one of the largest handcraft-producing countries in the world, offers an almost unlimited range of crafts and products. Sadly, products can be produced in conditions of abject poverty, with craft workers in bondage to moneylenders, working long hours in very testing conditions.
However, you can be sure that by purchasing from us, the workers have been paid a fair wage and enjoy good working conditions and terms of trade.
See more of our Fair Trade products in this short YouTube video.
Thanks for reading my Blog post.
What other items might you give “the woman who has everything”?
Leave your suggestions in the comments section below – Paul
September 25th, 2013 by Paul
The Story Behind Kenyan Soapstone- etching a hippo
Kenyan Soapstone is becoming more and more popular in the UK as people travel and learn more about it.
But there is still confusion as to what it actually is.
This blog post hopes to explain just that – where it comes from, what it can be turned into and give you a little of the fascinating back story of the people that make beautiful Kenyan Soapstone products.
WHAT EXACTLY IS SOAPSTONE?
Soapstone is a metamorphic rock consisting mostly of the mineral talc. It is a relatively soft stone, a calcium carbonate.
There are 3 different kinds, white being the softest, peach pink and black being the hardest and rarest.
It is very tactile. Heavy, yet quite brittle.
As the talc in soapstone is soft to the touch, it gives you the smooth feeling of rubbing a piece of dry soap. Thus the name was derived as “soap” stone.
Just to be clear, however – no, you can’t wash with it and it won`t produce any soap suds!
WHERE IS IT FOUND?
Kisii in south western Kenya is where most of the world’s soapstone originates. A vibrant town of approximately 180,000 people located in the Nyanza region of the country.
The town is 192 miles to the west of Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi.
Soapstone quarrying takes place in the hills around Tabaka, south west of Kisii town.
Over many generations the local people have learned to carve beautiful artifacts from the stone and have come to rely on it as one of their major sources of income.
HOW IS IT MINED?
As most Kenyan soapstone is mined in the Kisii area, the stone is known specifically as “Kisii stone” – named after the Kisii tribe who use it domestically and more recently for handmade carvings for export and local trade..
Kisii stone is a specific type of soapstone that can range from 300 to 400 million years old.
The soapstone is mined by hand – no machinery is used. It can be particularly dangerous in the rainy season.The mining of these rocks is carried out using crude tools and is clearly labour intensive.
The raw quarry stones are excavated by hand and carried to workshops that are up to 8 miles away.
When the soapstone is mined, a big pit is dug in the ground (maybe 50-75 feet in diameter) using picks and shovels. The earth isn’t gouged by heavy machinery.
Interestingly, the local workers retain all of the fill, so when they have extracted the soapstone, they refill the pit. After 5-10 years the soapstone begins to re-form, and so new soapstone becomes available.
TURNING THE ROCKS INTO OBJECTS OF ART
Individual carvers usually specialise in 1 or 2 types of items, as it is a highly skilled job.
Key is the right size of stone being chosen by the carver.
The stones are first worked with a panga (machete), to break the stones into a manageable size and get the rough shape. Then a hammer and chisel and sometimes a knife are used.
When they have a rough outline, the soapstone is immersed into water so that it is easier to carve.
Once the stone is dry it will stay in its solid form.
Colour is used to give a brighter look and is added on to some of the carvings.
Sandpaper is used until the stone is completely smooth and there are no chisel marks left.
The paint used is a mixture of natural and man-made products.
Once the paint is dried, the stone is etched with a very fast and steady hand.
No outline is ever drawn.
A kisu (smaller knife) is then used for more detailed work. Finally, increasingly fine-grained sands are used to polish and finish the piece.
In general, the men do the mining, carving and painting and the women do the sanding, washing and packing.
The women’s part also involves polishing and washing the finished products as well as applying the shining wax cream popularly known as cobra wax.
The result may be a beautiful Kenyan Soapstone bowl, ornamental plates, paperweights or carved, decorative animals – all making perfect gifts for someone special.
THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE WORK
The local people who own the land actually live on it – their houses are next to the mining pits and they are paid by the kilo for the soapstone that is removed.
Their property is very valuable, so the houses stay within the families and the people are very motivated to keep the land in good condition.
The area is extremely poor. There are very few cars and no electricity apart from a few shops. Most of the children walk barefoot and the poverty is obvious when you visit. Everyone here lives a subsistence lifestyle.
Carving useful items from Kisii soapstone brings supplemental income to several families in the district
The Fair Trade producers we work with are being paid 25 – 50% above average local market price in Kenya.
At present, there are about 25 people working on orders with The Art Safi Self Help Group and I hope by boosting sales of Kenyan Soapstone products it will ensure them a sustainable future.
Have you purchased any Kenyan Soapstone?
If so, why not tell us about it in the comments section below?
Thanks for reading – Paul.
August 18th, 2013 by Paul
The Zuri Foundation
The Zuri Foundation is a UK-based charity that helps young people in Kenya break free from the cycle of poverty they are born into.
Working in partnership with small organisations, NGO`s, charities and workshops in and around the slums of the capital city, Nairobi, they are helping young people earn a living, get access to education and avoid or leave the life of crime that many are forced into purely for survival.
Life is tough in these slums – with access to basic needs we take for granted, such as food, shelter, clothing and water limited.
Crime rates can be rampant and unemployment can run at a rate of up to 80%.
Established in March 2011, The Zuri Foundation`s aim has been simple. To enable young people to work and earn a living for themselves and their families.
Through education and support to small grass root youth employment projects, they empower young people to change their future.
THE SUCCESS STORIES…
1/ Zakale Creations is a youth employment workshop based in Mathare slum and currently employs up to 20 young people, paying fair wages which enables them to move forward with their lives.
They specialise in creating beautiful Fair Trade jewellery using beads, waste bone and horn and recycled copper.
2/ KSEEEP is another project also based in Mathare slum that engages young people through dance, football, education and job skill training. The highly-talented and hard working Zakale Dance Troupe have emerged as a result.
AND DEVELOPMENTS IN 2013….
This year the Zuri Foundation has embarked on their biggest fundraiser yet, called “Walk Against Crime” which has helped to bring 10 young dancers and two community leaders from Mathare slum in Nairobi to the UK.
This happened in August and was the “trip of a lifetime” for talented young people who had never stepped foot outside their local environment before.
WHY NOT SHOW YOUR SUPPORT?
I am proud to support The Zuri Foundation and hope you will too. The first step is to visit their website by clicking on one of the links in this Blog post.
They can also be found on Facebook at The Zuri Foundation.
Thank you for reading – Paul
July 23rd, 2013 by Paul
What exactly is Mother of Pearl
A number of our products feature mother of pearl and we sometimes get asked what it is exactly.
So to help out, I`ve explained below how it is formed and what it is used for – together with a few tips on how to care for your precious items.
WHAT IS MOTHER of PEARL?
Also called nacre, mother of pearl is a hard, smooth, iridescent substance – mostly calcium carbonate – that forms the inner layer of the shells of certain molluscs, such as pearl oyster, freshwater pearl mussel and abalone shells.
In short, molluscs create mother of pearl to protect themselves from parasites and foreign objects and over time, many layers build up.
Incidentely, nacre is also what makes up the outer coating of pearls!
WHAT IS IT USED FOR?
As a result of these special characteristic, mother of pearl is used as an inlay or feature piece in jewellery.
It comes in several natural colours, but is often bleached and dyed for decorative use. The dye retains the shimmering layers which make the material so sought after.
The international trade in mother of pearl is governed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an agreement signed by more than 170 countries.
Like other substances found in nature, mother of pearl develops irregularities as it forms.
As a result, every piece of jewellery or inlay is slightly different – a fact that adds to its unique appeal.
Remember, nacre is a tough and resilient material, but it is relatively soft and easily scratched.
Mother of pearl items therefore should not be stored with anything that might scratch them.
They should be cleaned with mild soaps and water; harsher cleaning agents may react with the aragonite, especially if they are acidic.
So treasure your mother of pearl jewellery and take good care of it.
What`s your favourite piece of jewellery? Why not leave a comment below to tell us why you love it so much?
July 21st, 2013 by Paul
What is Traidcraft?
is a UK-based Fair Trade organisation fighting poverty through trade, helping people in developing countries to transform their lives and offering them hope for a better future.
It works with people of all faiths and none, to create opportunities for the poor to harness the benefits of trade.
The organisation has two components :-
1/ Traidcraft plc
Was launched in 1979 as a Christian response to poverty and is Traidcraft’s trading company.
It sources, imports and sells products from producers in over 30 developing countries including India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Philippines, Kenya, Malawi, Chile and Cuba.
Products include coffee, tea, fruit juice, sugar, wine, clothing, jewellery, paper and craft items.
Traidcraft plc aims to tackle poverty by creating a market for Fair Trade producers and to show the commercial viability of the Fair Trade business model.
2/ Traidcraft Exchange
Traidcraft’s charity, Traidcraft Exchange was established in 1986 and is the UK’s only development charity specialising in making trade work for the poor in Africa and Asia – to grow their businesses, find markets, and engage effectively in trade.
They campaign in the UK and internationally to bring about trade justice.
They are currently managing 14 major projects with a total value of about £5.5 million.
These projects are directly benefiting 350,000 people with a further 1.4 million indirectly benefiting and touching the lives of a another 24 million.
The Traidcraft Foundation holds a guardian share in the plc ensuring all parts of the organisation remain true to their foundation principles.
Did you also know?
Traidcraft has overseas offices in Nairobi, Kenya; Hyderabad, India and Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Traidcraft is a founder member of the European Fair Trade Association (EFTA).
They also helped establish the Fairtrade Foundation with CAFOD, Christian Aid, New Consumer, Oxfam and World Development Movement in 1992.
It was also instrumental in the establishment of Newcastle based company Shared Interest in 1990.
Shared Interest is a co-operative lending society that aims to reduce poverty in the world, by providing fair and just financial services.
Traidcraft has also been running trips to visit Fair Trade producers for over 20 years and now offers what it calls “Meet the People Tours“ – a chance to visit Fair Trade producers in developing countries, visiting workshops, workers’ homes as well as visiting sites of historic interest.
Traidcraft is an importer and wholesaler of Fair Trade products and THE FAIR TRADE STORE has been buying from them for over 4 years and selling-on their products via our website.
Fair Trade products available on our website include this beautiful sterling silver Andalusite stone ring, mirrored bangles and wooden earrings.
I hope this Blog post explains things clearly for you. If you have anything to add, please do so in the Comments section below – Paul
July 15th, 2013 by Paul
Can Batik be both an art and a craft?
Kenyan Batik Jewellery - Bracelet with Oval Beads, Giraffe Print
Well it`s certainly an art as I explain below. And it remains popular today amongst crafters making beautiful jewellery and items of clothing.
Batik is a dyeing method using wax to create patterns and designs.
This method makes use of a “resist technique”. That is, applying selected areas of an item with wax (a dye-resistant substance) to prevent them from absorbing colours when the remaining area is dyed.
The wax applied is also used to control colours from spreading out from a particular area to create a pattern if the dye is then painted.
The parts covered in wax resist the dye and remain the original colour. This process of waxing and dyeing can be repeated to create more elaborate and colourful designs.
After the final dyeing the wax is removed and the item is ready for wearing.
The art of decorating using wax and dye has been practised for centuries and is often part of an ancient tradition.
Evidence of early examples of batik have been found in the Far East, Middle East, Central Asia and India from over 2000 years ago.
The word batik originates from the Javanese tik and means “to dot”.
AND IN AFRICA…
In central Africa “resist dyeing” using cassava and rice paste has existed for centuries in the Yoruba tribe of Southern Nigeria and Senegal.
Kenyan bone artists use a batik wax dying method to convert discarded domesticated cow bones into truly striking jewellery.
By creating works of beauty for export to the world market from what many modern cultures would perceive as waste material, Kenyan artisans use elements of their heritage and assistance from UK-based Fair Trade importers to progress in a rapidly changing world.
You can see examples of Kenyan Batik Jewellery on THE FAIR TRADE STORE`s website.
SO WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED?
Batik is a traditional method where a design is applied using hot wax, then the object is dyed and the dried wax is removed to reveal a distinctive and unique silhouette of the wax seal.
Have you found this Blog post useful? Can you add anything for our readers?
Leave your comments below and thanks for reading – Paul
July 8th, 2013 by Paul
19 Fascinating Facts About Kenya
An amazing country and one not many people know much about, so I thought it a good idea to carry out some research into Kenya – one of Africa`s most fascinating areas.
Here`s what I found out!
1/ Full name: The Republic of Kenya.
2/ The Official name of Kenya in Swahili is Jamhuri y Kenya.
3/ Population: 42.7 million (UN 2012).
4/ Capital: Nairobi with 3.375 million people.
5/ Area: 582,646 sq km (224,961 sq miles).
6/ President: Uhuru Kenyatta (2013).
7/ Kenya is a Member of Commonwealth of Nations. It was a British colony between 1895 and 1963.
8/ Major languages: Swahili (National), English (Official), and numerous indigenous languages.
9/ Major religion: Christianity (Protestant 45%, Roman Catholic 33%, indigenous beliefs 10%, Islam 10%, others 2%.) Note however, that estimates can vary widely.
10/ Life expectancy: 57 years (men), 59 years (women) (UN).
11/ Monetary unit: 1 Kenya shilling = 100 cents.
12/ Main exports: Tea, coffee, horticultural products, petroleum products.
13/ After coffee, Kenya’s biggest income generator is tourism.
14/ For the Kenyans, however, coffee is considered an export product, not something for local consumption. The local favourites are tea and beer.
15/ Kenyan jewellery is increasingly valued in western markets and uses locally-sourced, sustainable materials such as waste cow bone, horn and soapstone.
16/ Before marriage, Kenyans still pay a dowry to the bride’s family, which starts at 10 cows.
17/ The men of Kenya are allowed to have more than one wife.
18/ Kenya only has only two seasons – one rainy season and one dry season.
19/ Jomo Kenyatta National Airport is the biggest airport in East Africa.
So there you have it, 19 fascinating facts about Kenya. Perhaps you could come up with the 20th one and leave it in the Comments section below?
Incidentally, you can see our new range of Kenyan Jewellery and discover more more about Kenya on THE FAIR TRADE STORE`S website – Paul.