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The Story of Kazuri Beads Jewellery, Kenya

KAZURI is a Swahili word which means “small and beautiful”.

Kazuri Beads, as a business, has an interesting backstory.

THE ORIGINS…

Founded by Lady Susan Wood, who was born in 1918 in a mud hut in a West African village.
Her parents were missionaries from England.
Lady Wood was sent back to England to be educated and married Michael Wood, a surgeon.
They came to East Africa in 1947.
Both dedicated to making a difference, they finally settled near the Karen Blixen estate, famous from the award winning movie “Out of Africa” at the foot of the Ngon’g Hills, 30 minutes from the bustling Nairobi city centre in Kenya and the spectacular Rift valley.
In 1975 she set up a fledging business making beads in a small shed in her back garden.
She hired two disadvantaged women, and quickly realized there were many more women who needed jobs and so Kazuri Beads was created.
This workshop, based in a place named Karen, is still in its original location today!
Lady Wood was a visionary and sadly passed away in 2006. She will be missed, but her legacy lives on…

GETTING UP TO DATE…


In 1988 Kazuri became a factory and expanded hugely with over 120 women and men, trained to produce these unique and beautiful beads and jewellery.
Now under new ownership, Kazuri has been able to expand whilst still retaining its philanthropic roots.

AND THE SUCCESS STORY TODAY….


Now a collective of 340 women  - many single mothers –  making and hand-painting a range of exquisite original ceramic beads, designed to convey the colours of Africa.

Kazuri Beads Jewellery, Kenya - the workshop

Kazuri Beads Jewellery, Kenya - the workshop

Kazuri Beads is a member of both the British Association for Fair Trade Shops & Suppliers (BAFTS) and the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO), and strives to achieve sustainable employment for disadvantaged Kenyans.

AND KAZURI`S VIEW…


“In an age of mass-produced goods, we believe Kazuri jewellery stands out as a little bit different.
As every piece of jewellery is handmade, every one is unique.
Indeed, many pieces take on the quirks and trademarks of the individual people who shape the beads, paint them or string them, giving them soul as well as beauty.
All Kazuri beads are shaped by hand from earthen clay and kiln fired. They are then painted and glazed by hand, before being kiln fired again and then finally strung.
Many Kazuri styles are named after areas, tribes and other features of the Kenyan landscape; evocative names that resonate with the organic nature of the clay that comes from its earth.”

AND FAIR TRADE TOO!


Like us, you will love the fact that Kazuri jewellery is Fair Trade – offering a contemporary western take on traditional African themes.

The range includes necklaces, bracelets and earrings.

You can read more about the awesome country where these beads are made in my Blog post 19 Fascinating Facts About Kenya.

Kazuri beads – your “small and beautiful” piece of Kenya!

How to Clean and Care for Felt.

This is a question I get asked often, because we sell lots of felt bags and purses.
The truth is, felt is simple to clean & care for.

HOW TO CLEAN FELT…
Wiping with a wet cloth will remove most stains.
If the item needs to be thoroughly cleaned, hand wash it in luke warm water with a plain soap (no perfumes or dyes), then wring it out and leave to dry.
Avoid placing felt items in the washer or dryer – felt is a relatively delicate material and is can be easily damaged by the agitation of the washing machine or the tumbling and heat of a dryer.

HOW TO CARE FOR FELT…
When felt is worn often, it tends to grow small “piles” of loose wool fibres (which) happens with all wool products.
Just pull them off the item, or on smaller, thinner items just cut them off.

HINTS & TIPS…
Felt actually becomes stronger with wear.
Steam or iron the felt to remove wrinkles. You could also do this if it is looking a bit sorry for itself.
Try to avoid over-handling the surface of felt items, as felt easily absorbs body oils.
Never leave your felt item in a hot car or around any sources of excessive heat as the item will be subject to shrinkage.
If your felt item gets wet, never place it in a dryer or use any other direct heat source (such as a hair dryer).
Instead, place it in a cool, dry location and allow it to air dry.

I hope this gives you some pointers on how to clean and care for your felt items.

If you have any other tips, please leave them in the Comments section below, for other readers of this Blog post to benefit from.

Felt Bag in Dark Red with Bobbles

Felt Bag in Dark Red with Bobbles

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Incidently, why not take a peek at our range of our Fair Trade felt bags and purses?
Thanks for reading.  See you soon – Paul

Paul Wolfenden, Owner of THE FAIR TRADE STORE.

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

Paul Wolfenden, Owner of THE FAIR TRADE STORE

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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)


What is Thuya Wood? 9 Facts to Help Explain…

Thuya Wood Box with Lemon Wood Inlay

Thuya Wood Box with Lemon Wood Inlay

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.

Thuya Wood Box

Thuya Wood Box

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


Shopping for Ethical Christmas Gifts Online?

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?

Shopping for ethical Christmas gifts online?

Have a great Christmas – Paul


Why this wooden earring stand should be one of your Fair Trade Christmas gifts “for her”.

Fair Trade wooden earring stand

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

 

 


The Story Behind Kenyan Soapstone

The Story Behind Kenyan Soapstone

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.


The Zuri Foundation and its work in Nairobi, Kenya

The Zuri Foundation

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.

THE SLUMS…
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%.

OBJECTIVES…
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


What exactly is Mother of Pearl?

What exactly is Mother of Pearl

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.

CARE…

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?


What is Traidcraft?

What is Traidcraft?

What is Traidcraft?

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.

And finally…..
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