Welcome to 2016! The first month of the year was named for Janus, the Roman god of transitions who looks to both past and future. So, in the spirit of January, here are Folk Ark's top picks from among both sale items and new arrivals from across the Directory. Don't forget to browse further as there's always more to find. For captions, galleries are best viewed on a laptop.
Rounding out the Folk Ark Holiday Gift Guide series for 2015 is a collection of the sweetest items for kids and for festive decoration. If you are viewing on a mobile, the captions may not be visible but you can still click through to the products. And remember that the majority of companies on the Folk Ark Directory offer gift cards in case you want to leave the choice up to your giftee.
Wishing you all the best for the holiday season, and hoping you choose to give many times over by opting for beautifully handcrafted, fairly traded gifts whose benefit will be felt by both maker and recipient.
DECORATIONS & WRAP
Following on from the Folk Ark Holiday Gift Guide for Home, this second instalment focuses on wearables and totables crafted using traditional methods and sourced through ethical trade. Remember to check out the rest of the guide, and if you're viewing on a mobile, that the image captions may not be visible; you will still be able to click through to the product.
SHAWLS, WRAPS AND PONCHOS
With only a few weeks to go before the gifting frenzy, it can be tempting to make a beeline for the mall and load the car up in one fell swoop. But, with a bit of forward planning and some judicious choices, you can offer your recipients beautiful and enduring gifts from all around the world, as well as the knowledge that your purchase has benefited the makers and their communities.
To that end, Folk Ark has taken some of the work out of finding traditionally made, ethically traded gifts with this series of Holiday Gift Guides, suggesting a range of goods from across the Folk Ark Directory grouped by product type. It was pretty hard (fun) work choosing only a few products from each company so consider what you see to be representative favourites, and don't forget to visit each site for more options.
Kitchen & DINING
BATHROOM & LAUNDRY
Textiles & Soft Furnishings
Happy Thanksgiving! After a day spent feeling grateful for the nonmaterial (and edible) things in life, don't the excesses of Black Friday feel a little... excessive? Still, if your credit card is jumping out of your wallet in anticipation, there is a happy medium: below are four great companies from the Folk Ark Directory offering a beautiful, handmade alternative to climbing over each other for a factory-made handbag, and which you can enjoy from the peace of your own home — while munching on leftovers. Or, in the case of Ibu Movement, surrounded by lovely people and quaffing champagne!
In addition to these Thanksgiving-related sales, many other companies across the Directory have ongoing sales and offer initial discounts when you sign up to receive newsletters etc, so have a good browse and savour quality over quantity this holiday weekend. Your credit card will thank you.
Proud Mary is joining the #goodkarmaisthenewblackfriday movement by taking 30% off across their webshop through Sunday 29th, using code 'goodkarma'. 10% of sales will go to the International Rescue Committee. (That's their gorgeous Rainbow Blanket Shawl in the banner.) SHOP PROUD MARY
ClothRoads is a comprehensive and broad-reaching resource — a 'Global Textile Marketplace' for products and stories from textile cultures around the world, from El Salvador to Estonia, Madagascar to Myanmar. The enterprise was established in 2011 by three women who combined their passions and professions to sate their love of textiles by giving back to the indigenous women who create them. ClothRoads works directly with artisans to source goods created in harmony with tradition, culture and environment while also appealing to the tastes of discerning modern consumers.
ClothRoads' range includes textile accessories such as scarves, bags and hats; home textiles; handwoven fabric by the yard; textile practitioner materials and other objects intended simply to delight.
In addition, ClothRoads is a great resource for traditional craft and textile enthusiasts and practitioners, offering a comprehensive blog highlighting different cultures and communities of indigenous makers as well as the techniques that create their work. There is a regularly updated schedule of Global Textile Events, information on natural dye suppliers, and recommendations for textile-related travel. Basically we should all feel very lucky that such a place exists — welcome to the Directory, ClothRoads!
Sydney-based native Colombian Celestina Lacombe started Malambo with the aim of celebrating the rich, vibrantly sensual culture of the Colombian Caribbean while connecting with the family and traditions she left behind there.
The result is an ethical collaboration with artisans ranging from the indigenous Wayuu and Mokana ethnic groups of northern Colombia, to the famed filigree jewellers of Santa Cruz de Mompox, to Celestina's own sister Ignacia and her team of paid apprentices.
The core of Malambo's range is its bright, easygoing mochila bags, woven traditionally by indigenous women of the matrilineal Wayuu culture of northern Colombia's Guajira Peninsula. Alongside these is light and colourful straw jewelry created by women of the indigenous Mokana ethnic group, whose culture was severely damaged by Spanish colonisation and is fighting to survive and reestablish into the 21st century. Celestina's sister Ignacia and her apprentices create crochet items and natural fibre bags and accessories, while Malambo's partnership with artisans in the famous goldsmithing town of Santa Cruz de Mompox brings a centuries-old tradition from its roots in Hispanic settlement into a modern context.
Celestina was inspired to create Malambo by the idea that the world has a story to tell, and her homeland's story is one of a 'faraway land, where the air is filled with music, guava scent and yellow butterflies...'. Welcome to the Directory Malambo!
Filigree is one of the oldest and most widespread jewelling techniques; in Sardinia, it has been practiced for thousands of years, kept a closely guarded secret from one generation to the next, and while it used to be a skill common to all jewellers, it has now become specialised, rendering family workshop KOKKU's use of traditional hand methods doubly rare. The company works with master craftsmen, employing traditional Sardinian styles and motifs as as both a foundation and a feature of their modern pieces.
The word 'filigree' is derived from the Latin word filum, meaning thread, for this is what forms the basis of the technique: extremely fine wire is twisted into a coiled thread which can then be shaped into various elements and soldered together to create a finished piece. The ring being made here is KOKKU's Fedele Quattro, symbolising love, commitment and fidelity.
Visit KOKKU's profile page for more information on their history and their stunning jewelry. This post is also available as a Steller story.
Today's addition to the Folk Ark Directory is the New York-based MINZUU, offering a beautifully curated selection of homewares and accessories from artisans worldwide. MINZUU describes itself as a 'hybrid online boutique and e-magazine' and indeed, when she's not bringing together some of the chicest examples of modern traditional crafts, founder Yilan Song publishes the quarterly e-journal T H E R E on the site, covering stories of artisans in the field, burgeoning brands and designers, exhibitions, art festivals, as well as other cultural events around the world.
MINZUU also offers an engaging series of insights into some of their artisan partners, here. Welcome to the Directory, MINZUU!
Indian online contemporary and folk art gallery Deccan Footprints was established in 2012 by Manvee Vaid with the aim of sharing the work of Indian contemporary and folk artists directly with the world, cutting out the need for physical gallery space. For Folk Ark's purposes, Manvee's collection of folk art works by Bhil, Gond, Madhubani, Patua and Warli people is of most interest, and is what you'll see on Deccan Footprints' profile page. From their website, some fascinating explanations of the locations and differing tribal traditions of these cultures are below. Welcome Deccan Footprints!
The Bhils are the second largest tribal community of India residing in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. Some of the Bhils trace their ancestry to Eklavya, who was more skilled as an archer than Arjuna, the hero of Mahabharata. Some scholars have said that Valmiki, who chronicled the Ramayana was actually a Bhil, Valia.
The rich cultural tradition of the Bhils are manifested in their rituals, their songs and dances, their community deities, tattoos, myths, community art and lore. Everything connected with the Bhil life is painted — the Sun, the Moon, the animals, trees, insects, rivers, fields, mythological figures, and their gods. The Bhils, like all adivasis, live close to nature.
The Gonds are the largest Adivasi Community in India and are Dravidians whose origins can be traced to the pre-Aryan era. They are mainly found in Madhya Pradesh and its surrounding States. The word Gond comes from Kond, which means green mountains in the Dravidian idiom. The Gond called themselves Koi or Koiture.Their language is related to Telegu and other Dravidian languages. About half of Gonds speak Gondi languages, while the rest speak Indo-Aryan languages including Hindi.
The Gonds traditionally painted on mud walls of their houses. Starting in the early 1980s, certain talented Pardhan Gonds who traditionally serve as professional bardic priests began transforming their ritual performing arts into a new tradition of figurative and narrative visual art: using a variety of modern media (including acrylic paintings on canvas, ink drawings on paper, silkscreen prints, and animated film) they have created unprecedented depictions of their natural and mythological worlds, traditional songs and oral histories.
Madhubani, which literal translates into Forest of Honey, is a small village in northern Bihar.The origins of Madhubani (or Mithila) art are shrouded in antiquity. Tradition states that this art style dates back to mythology of the Ramayana, when King Janak commissioned artists to do paintings at the time of marriage of his daughter, Sita, to Lord Ram. However the contemporary art of Mithila painting was born in the early 1960’s, following the terrible famine in Bihar. It was Baskar Kulkarni from the All India Handicraft Board in Delhi who recognized the commercial potential of this folk art form and urged the villagers to also paint on handmade paper to supplement their meager income and alleviate the poverty of the region. Over the past fifty years a wide range of styles of Mithila art have evolved, with styles differentiated by region and caste. There are mainly three schools: Kayastha, Brahmin, and Tattoo.
Religion plays an important role in the lifestyle and tradition of the people of Bihar which is reflected in their paintings of Hindu Mythology. It is the Mithila women who have kept the culture alive especially in painting. Women do most of the Madhubani paintings and their creativity can be experienced in their desire to please their gods and to develop their spirituality.
Women of upper castes mainly do the wall paintings of the Kohbar Ghar, Gosain Ghar and the Aripan Floor paintings. The use of colors would differentiate each from their work. Brahmins use colors like pink, green, yellow, lemon, blue and black. Kayastha painting consist of just black and deep red. Ganga Devi, Mahasundari Devi, Sita Devi and Bani Devi are some of the prominent women artists.
Patachitra scroll painting comes from the eastern part of India mainly from the state of West Bengal and Bihar. The Bengali scroll tradition is an ancient one, featuring single image paintings or long vertical multi paneled scrolls known as 'patas' (paintings) or 'jorana patas' (scroll paintings). Painted jorana patas of rural Bengal are one of the few genuine narrative pictorial forms of folk art linked with performance that have survived down to the present century.
In Bengali, "Pat" means "picture" and "Patua" or "Chitrakar" means "Painter". The Patua is a kind of minstrel, religious preachers who employ these paintings as a means to propagate their religion. It was also an important device through which both oral and written epics are narrated. He goes from village to village, carrying these scrolls from door to door, and depending on people’s request, particular stories would be narrated for a small fee, either in cash or kind. The scrolls are done with sheets of paper sewn together and sometimes stuck on canvas. Their width can go from 4 to 14 inches and their length, often 3 feet, can exceed 15 feet. The subjects painted by the Patuas in West Bengal are extremely varied. Their audience is mainly Hindu or Muslim, sometimes Catholic. The themes are inspired by the sacred texts of each of these religions.They also speak about political subjects which are given to them by the local authorities like the regrouping of the lands or family planning.
The Warli tribe settlements spread all over the Thane district of the state of Maharashtra. They are innate artists and their painting tradition is more than 1200 years old. The paintings on the walls of the their huts are traditionally done by the women of the tribe and are greatly influenced by the their surroundings and day to day life. These wall murals are done on red mud or cow dung layered walls and the figures are painted with a rice-flour mix, which could be washed off and re-painted every season. The traditional life of the Warli reflects their interaction, or more precisely, their co-existence with nature. The Warli believe that everything in this world interacts: the actions of humans and the harmony of space. The universal harmony is maintained by the implicit unique communication between humans and deities.
These extremely rudimentary wall paintings use a very basic graphic vocabulary: a circle, a triangle and a square. The circle and triangle come from their observation of nature, the circle representing the sun and the moon, the triangle derived from mountains and pointed trees. Only the square seems to obey a different logic and seems to be a human invention, indicating a sacred enclosure or a piece of land. Human and animal bodies are represented by two triangles joined at the tip; the upper triangle depicts the trunk and the lower triangle the pelvis. Their precarious equilibrium symbolizes the balance of the universe, and of the couple. These tribal art startle visually without the prop of color and with a remarkable economy of detail.
Yes, I've just added an events page/calendar to the site, which lists any and all events that orbit the site's central themes. These might include big industry fairs or craft markets; exhibitions; sales offered by Directory-listed companies; or tours to far-flung places to meet artisans and learn about their work first hand, as in the banner image from Thread Caravan's Hilo Colectivo tour. Of course, the listings are only as comprehensive as my research and my research only as comprehensive as I have time for, so please get in touch if ever there's an event you feel might have a place in the Folk Ark Calendar. Thanks!
This is a series in which three globally inspired interiors are matched as closely as possible to products available via the Folk Ark Directory; it is designed to steer home decorators towards the look they want, without sacrificing the quality and integrity we should all demand.
The internet is a wonderful thing, and has made many, many tasks easier — like decorating your house. Now you can pore over millions of inspirational images, search thousands of stores for the items you want, and have them sent right to your door.
So if your style corresponds exactly to that of a major online retailer then pop the champagne and wait for delivery. But for those of us who burn out after trawling the 300th online store or Google search result page for exactly that rug we saw in exactly that perfectly arranged Moroccan living room in World of Interiors but with a lighter price tag and assurance of authenticity, this series is for you. Because even if you do find that rug, where did it come from? Who made it and how, and was their pay commensurate to your enjoyment? It is hoped that such questions will one day be redundant, and to that end, Folk Ark has done the research so you have more time to relax in your perfectly arranged living room. Enjoy!
This post is also available as a Steller story:
The next welcome addition to the Folk Ark Directory is Colombian jeweller L. A. Cano, whose high quality reproductions of pre-Hispanic designs have been painstakingly researched over generations of the Cano family's fascination with the region's indigenous peoples and the artefacts they left behind.
Working L. A. Cano's designs in 24k gold-plated brass, 18k gold and .925 sterling silver are a team of skilled craftsmen utilising the same smithing methods as were employed in pre-Columbian times, including lost wax casting, hammering, bas-relief and high-relief. The resulting range pays homage not only to the aesthetic flair of indigenous Colombian cultures but to the ingenuity and skill of their craftsmen, and their belief in the supernatural properties of the materials with which they worked. This page of their website briefly describes some of the pre-Columbian cultures on whose original artefacts their pieces are based.
Today's new Directory listing is Indego Africa, whose extensive range of bright handcrafted goods is created in partnership with artisan cooperatives in Rwanda and Ghana. The company's emphasis is on female empowerment through employment and education, while also encouraging the perpetuation of traditional skills such as agaseke, a specialised fibre weaving technique once reserved for royalty. The company invests all profits back into programmes to train and educate their artisans in technique, business practice and general financial management. You can learn more about each cooperative and even shop for products made specifically by each here.
For the women artisans, the results of Indego Africa's structure are improved prospects for themselves and their children and, by extension, their entire community; for the consumer they are stylish, practical and fun things to wear, use and just admire. I'm particularly fond of their super colourful sweetgrass and sisal baskets, and elegant carved cow horn vases and tumblers. Welcome Indego Africa!
I'm very happy to welcome jeweller Ben-Zion David's Yemenite Art to the Folk Ark Directory! Ben-Zion's family has been perpetuating the ancient techniques of handmade silver filigree jewelry and Judaica in the Yemenite Jewish style for eight generations, and Ben-Zion himself still uses these same techniques, and tools bearing their Yemenite names, in his workshop in Old Jaffa near Tel Aviv in Israel. The video below gives a fascinating insight into the process that takes one of Ben-Zion's pieces from silver wires to jaw-dropping bracelet.
His pieces range from delicate, intricate pendants to large pieces for traditional ceremonial use, incorporating semi-precious stones, coral and even lava, as well as traditional symbols and motifs such as the pomegranate. The standard of Ben-Zion's work is internationally recognised and for the past six years he has exhibited at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market. See more of Ben-Zion's work and links to his online shop on Yemenite Art's profile page.
House of Wandering Silk has just released two styles of beautifully handcrafted Rabari-style kediya, and in the process inspired a closer look at this very elegant and increasingly visible garment.
The Rabari are tribal pastoralists, traditionally nomadic but now concentrated in the Kutch region of Gujarat and across northwest India. Beyond the deceptive simplicity of their herders' characteristic kediya — a lightweight cotton, gathered wrap overshirt or jacket — the Rabari are a stylish bunch, with a bewildering array of varied and intricate jewellery and embroidered garments; if you've ever heard tell of the richness of Kutch embroidery, it's the Rabari's doing.
In traditional usage, the kediya (or kedia) can range from a plain work garment — reminiscent of traditional European linen undergarments or smocks — to part of a highly ornate wedding outfit, heavily embroidered and made from costly materials. Its flattering silhouette, wearable construction and traditional origins mean it is increasingly entering into mainstream fashion, with brands such as Dosa refining the most basic form into a luxury piece while others embellish or extend the shape into something almost resembling a frock coat. While each traditional and modern permutation is striking in its own way, I find the herder's plain cotton style the most beautiful, accented with only a few pieces of silver jewellery — and a lot of dust.
In 1960, at the end of the Algerian War, photographer Marc Garanger was posted with the French Army in the small Kabylian settlement of Ain Terzine, one of the 'regroupment villages' into which mountain dwellers had been forced to keep members of the resistance from communicating. It was soon decided that these resettled people should carry mandatory identity cards as is the case in France; Garanger was tasked with photographing each of the 2,000 Berber and Muslim villagers over a period of ten days. The resulting portraits of the women in particular have formed a powerful record of that conflict.
The villagers had never come into contact with Europeans or, presumably, cameras. The women were forced to remove their veils for the photographs, exposing their hair and protective tattoos, and to sit on a stool in front of a whitewashed wall while a strange man standing only three feet away pointed a strange instrument at their faces. The looks they gave it are their own extraordinary account of their feelings and experiences.
Algeria gained independence on 5 July 1962.
Facial tattooing such as that visible in the images is an ancient practice among Berber people, which has waned with the influence of Islam but is now more commonly replicated using temporary means such as henna. The tattoos, each of which has a specific meaning, offer protection from the Evil Eye and from spirits who might possess the wearer, being placed at points on the body where they might otherwise enter.
Jewelry is traditionally a central element of Berber women's cultural identity and the large and numerous pieces worn feature a mixture of precious stones such as turquoise, amber and coral, glass beads, silver, coins and enamel. A noted contemporary Berber jeweller is Karim Oukid Ouksel, whose highly intricate filigree and enamel pieces reflect the motifs of typical Kabylian textiles and objects, as well as evoking their originating culture.
I don't know about where you are, but the banner image on this post is a pretty accurate representation of the view from my window right now. It seems autumn is once again reclaiming the northern hemisphere but if, like me, you're not yet ready (or cold enough) to admit defeat and go full coat, the following is a sampling of the fine transitional garments on offer from across the Folk Ark Directory. Whether in wool, alpaca, silk or cotton, these are pieces to be slung day or night over your late summer gear for an extra layer of warmth and elegance.
Click on the image to go to the product or on the company's name to read more about them.
Last of the summer posts... The chicest Instagram product shots from Folk Ark listed folks for August 2015. Click on company name to link to their profile page, on Instagram handle to go to their account, and on the product description to go shopping. And wait for September to show us what she's got...
I'm very pleased to announce that the Directory is live! After a long summer of preparation it kicks off with 20 fantastic companies and organisations listed, taking in a vast range of crafts and regions.
The internet has created connections between producers and consumers who would never otherwise have crossed paths. While this is a beautiful thing, as an online punter it can be difficult both to find producers of quality artisan crafts and to have confidence that your purchases are produced fairly, authentically and sustainably. The aim of the Directory is to help consumers to find and buy beautiful artisan-made goods with ease and confidence.
Folk Ark's emphasis is on enterprises offering products that find new applications for traditional folk craft and artisan skills, and of course trade these products fairly. Some companies listed are the originators of their goods, some work in partnership with artisans to design their range, while others source directly.
So, have a browse around the world! Companies will continue to be added so if you know of or run an enterprise you think is a good fit, please get in touch.