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Posts Tagged ‘artisan’

1011-ddp-turquoise-director-ledePhoto: Scott Peterson/Christian Science Monitor
Nathan Stroupe, Afghanistan country director for Turquoise Mountain, in the courtyard of one of the 112 buildings the British charity has restored so far to create an institute for Afghan artisans to revitalize their heritage.

Christian Science Monitor has great stories about people and organizations that make a difference. I loved this one on a UK nonprofit called Turquoise Mountain, which is reviving ancient crafts in Afghanistan and providing much-need work for craftsmen and -women. More than 500 artisans have graduated from Turquoise Mountain specializing in traditional crafts such as woodworking, jewelry-making and gem cutting, ceramics, and elaborate calligraphy.

Writes the Monitor, “What sounds like a lovely effort to revive traditional culture in a place where art had been almost stomped out by war is about more than making jewelry. As a former ambassador says: ‘It is about preserving the soul of the country.’

“When Turquoise Mountain took on the restoration of Murad Khani, one of Kabul’s poorest historical neighborhoods, its aim was to do more than clear away wartime debris. From the beginning, the British charity also sought to revive the disappearing arts of Afghan culture, among them jewelry-making, woodworking, and gem cutting.

“Rays of hope are rare in Afghanistan, but in the process of revitalizing Murad Khani, Turquoise Mountain has created a model now being applied in Myanmar (Burma) and Saudi Arabia, and soon in Jordan, with Syrian refugee artisans. A project that started by hiring 1,000 workers to remove deep layers of trash has so far renovated 112 buildings and created an art institute, primary school, and a clinic that sees 2,000 patients a month. The institute has produced 500 graduates, and their work has been exhibited at the Smithsonian. That helps change perceptions. …

“In her heart, Ramzia Sarwary-Khorami always wanted to make jewelry. But the path to success in Afghanistan is narrow, especially for a woman, no matter how intrepid or ambitious.

“Then on the radio a decade ago, she heard about a new urban reclamation project …

“Ms. Sarwary-Khorami signed up with Turquoise Mountain and learned soldering, sandpapering metals and stones, and the secrets of the six cultures of Afghan jewelry making.

“ ‘I found my dreams,’ says Sarwary-Khorami, who now works as a teacher and quality controller for the charity and sells her own creations through high-end jewelry designers in London – a pathway established by Turquoise Mountain for its graduate artisans.

“ ‘Every year we have more students, I tell them: “Come to Turquoise Mountain, we can support you,” ‘ she says.”

I will be talking to Suzanne about the jewelry. Maybe there would be a way for Luna & Stella to work with Turquoise Mountain. (And speaking of Luna & Stella, do check out the latest — antique lockets to complement the company’s contemporary birthstone jewelry. Think Christmas, Hanukah, weddings …)

More at the Christian Science Monitor, but it’s behind a firewall.

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The Nonprofit Quarterly recently published a short piece about how artisans are playing a critical role in West Virginia’s economic development strategy.

Ruth McCambridge reported, “In West Virginia, a state rich in artisans including fashion designers, leatherworkers, and furniture makers, the Tamarack Foundation for the Arts offers business help meant to bring that local work to a more national market.

“ ‘We get artists’ work into major markets outside the state,’ CEO Alissa Novolselick said. ‘We help them get in front of power buyers, big art institutions or really high volume galleries, or different sorts of market opportunities.’

“Success in this larger arena is completely possible, she says, pointing to Blenko Glass and Fiestaware as West Virginia–based businesses with a ‘hugely diversified portfolio.’ She calls this part of a strength-based community economic development strategy, rather than just support for artists: ‘We really believe that art as economic development can be part of the total answer to working on a more diversified economy for West Virginia.’ …

“Art can create more than a visual; it can create a place. And the richness goes both ways, says Novoselick, who contends that the rural nature of the settings of many of these centers of arts development informs the art. …

“A recent study of five hundred West Virginia art entrepreneurs found that they felt the low cost of living and doing business in the state helps lower the risk of what would otherwise be a chancy endeavor.” More here.

When I was working at the magazine, we had articles from a number of New England states about their version of a “creative economy.” The perennial worry, of course, is that once the artists have done their job and brought tourists and business to an area, they may be unable to pay the inevitable higher rents. Forward-looking locales explore ways to protect artists for the long term.

Photo: MountainMade WV Handmade Art
Blenko Glass

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The first booth I encountered at the Art and Artisan fair Saturday was promoting a charity called Vision of Hope Zambia.

Co-founder Meg O’Brien had been a student at Berklee College of Music when a missionary friend in Zambia asked her to lend her musical talent to uplifting girls who lived on the streets.

When she visited Africa, Meg must have been shocked by what she saw: young girls, often orphaned, often HIV positive, who had no place to get a meal or even take a shower. She flew into action, co-founding Vision of Hope Zambia with Chitalu Chishimba.

Meg’s mother and aunt also flew into action, creating a craft initiative that donates 100 percent of proceeds to the cause.

The two artisans not only sew with skill — baby bibs, changing blankets, aprons and the like — they also are good at selling, promoting Meg’s charity while highlighting various features of their products.

Meg’s aunt saw me talking to my grandchildren and immediately pointed out the colorful array of child-size aprons. In the end, though, I bought an adult-sized apron for myself.

From humble beginnings in 2009 (“weekly meetings in the backyard of the Girl Scouts building underneath a tree”), the organization is now able to provide housing and education for many girls as it continues to grow.

Photo: Vision of Hope Zambia
Girls at Vision of Hope proudly show off their hard work in rug making.

 

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Trade shows have been helpful to Suzanne’s birthstone-jewelry company, Luna & Stella, as it branches out from being strictly online to selling to retail outlets like Talulah Cooper Boutique in Providence.

A couple weeks ago, Suzanne took Luna & Stella to the trade show NewYorkNow (“the market for home, lifestyle + gift”). Today, she is making an impression at PlaytimeNewYork — while making friends with other relationship-oriented businesses, like Little Paisley People.

I love how the founder of Little Paisley People describes the origins of her business: “I spent the most memorable summers of my childhood in Amalsaad, a quaint village, in Gujarat, India. … I grew up watching my mom work with the local artisans to hand-make toys that would support the local community. Those are the toys you also see in the Little Paisley People line. And that’s the logo you see – the passing on of the thread over the generations. …

“We create handcrafted lifestyle products for children, never forgetting that kids need to be kids. The handmade nature of these products evoke an understated elegance but are always playful. Social responsibility, the people who make these products, and how they make them are very important to us.”

Here, she and her daughter model Luna & Stella’s mother-daughter heart rings. How nice that new businesses are emphasizing the importance of family and friend relationships!

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For architecture buffs everywhere, an article on a collaboration between Hariri Pontarini Architects and Gartner Steel and Glass that has led to an unusual place of worship in South America.

Lisa Rochon writes in Toronto’s Globe and Mail that starting last September “at the Gartner Steel and Glass testing facility in Bavaria, Germany, translucent panels of cast glass [were] mocked up. Artisans at Toronto’s Jeff Goodman Studio, working in close collaboration with Toronto’s Hariri Pontarini Architects, produced the thick, milky glass for a Baha’i temple on the edge of metropolitan Santiago, Chile.

“The protective embrace of the domed temple, to be defined by nine petals (or veils), will be fabricated of myriad shapes in cast glass, with 25 per cent of them noticeably curved. Luminous and white is what design lead Siamak Hariri had in mind; seen up close, they look like streams of milk frozen in place.

“It took years of testing and the rejection of hundreds of samples at the acclaimed Goodman Studio (which typically makes chandeliers or small-scale screens of glass) to arrive at the 32-millimetre-thick cast glass with matte finish. ‘That the design is finally being mocked up in Germany represents a major milestone,’ says Hariri. …

“The project is unique in the world, says Gartner’s managing director, Armin Franke, from his office in Germany. Hariri’s exacting specifications have presented many challenges. For one thing, the architects want only the most minimal silicon joints between the heavy cast-glass panels. The panels – made from countless glass rods laid on a sheet and baked at Goodman Studio – are stronger than stone, according to tests, to satisfy a Baha’i requirement that the building endure for 400 years, and to survive one of the most active earthquake zones in the world.”

I love how many players around the world are collaborating on the innovations behind this project.

Lots more on the project here and at the Baha’i website, here.

Photograph: Hariri Pontarini Architects. A computer-generated rendition of the Baha’i House of Worship under construction in Santiago, Chile.

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