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Posts Tagged ‘craft’

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 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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After a father’s death, the family tries to find homes for his perfect metal miniatures.

Isaac Feldberg writes at the Boston Globe, “On any gift-giving occasion in the Megerdichian household, the most exciting presents to unwrap were always both the smallest and, funnily enough, the heaviest.

“Some boxes held metal miniature re-creations — a brass violin with horse-hair strings and a latched case; an aluminum piano music box that played ‘Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.’ Others concealed stainless-steel jewelry, intricately detailed, immaculately formed. And others still contained children’s toys, like steel tractor-trailer sets to be nudged along the wooden floors of their Cambridge home.

“ ‘They were 14 ounces of love, 1 ounce of metal,’ says Robert Megerdichian, 63, of the tiniest pieces his late father, Abraham, bestowed upon the family throughout his lengthy career as a machinist. ‘He started off with a solid block of metal, brass, aluminum, copper, or stainless steel, and he gouged away, like a sculptor would, like an artist would, to create all of these objects.’

“Megerdichian’s description of his father as an artist has recently earned official validation, with museums across New England displaying an array of Abraham’s pieces. The Attleboro Area Museum of Industry, the Lynn Museum, and Boston’s Museum of Science all currently house some of his metal miniatures. Additional museum exhibits are set to open in the fall, including at Connecticut’s New Britain Industrial Museum. For more than half a century, however, Abraham’s creations were reserved for his loved ones. …

” ‘It was important to him to make things that made the people he cared for happy,’ ” said his son.

Read about Abraham’s history here. A great example of what the intersection of love and skill can give the world.

Photo: David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
Robert Megerdichian looks over a miniature Hoover vacuum cleaner crafted by his father.

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This is a sampling of the bloggers I follow.

First is Asakiyume, from whom I learned everything I know about blogging, including how to borrow a photo from another site in such a way that readers will go to that site. She is an editor and a novelist, and she blogs about a wide range of topics, from personal to global.

In this post she compares a chest of drawers in a local coffee shop to something she saw in the animated Japanese feature Spirited Away. She offers many inspiring social justice ruminations plus thoughtful literary criticism, especially of fantasy and science fiction: the interstitial world.

KerryCan is a retired English professor who is very serious about crafts, selling many of her own on Etsy. She is a chocolate maker, a weaver, a quilter — you name it. I like her description of studying and resurrecting a forgotten quilt art in a recent post on “redwork.”

“I have been using an inexpensive child’s lightbox to trace the redwork panels on to paper,” KerryCan writes, “so I can keep them. Then I trace from the paper version on to off-white cotton fabric. As I trace and then stitch, I enjoy the designs. There are flowers, lots and lots of flowers. And there are animals; some are the ones the maker would know from the farm and some are exotic, known only from books or dreams.

“My favorite blocks, though, are the ones with the people, and, especially, children. The children depicted are not the cute and pampered and romanticized children of modern America but are serious and, often, awkward-looking.” Check it out.

New England Nomad is a perfect blog for learning about hidden places that even natives don’t know. The Nomad takes lots of pictures and provides detailed information on directions, special features, parking and costs. You may have heard about the Newport Cliff Walk, and the Nomad covers it, but do you know the “gem of Rhode Island,” Colt State Park in Bristol? Read about it here.

A Musical Life on Planet Earth blogger doesn’t post often, but when he does, Wow. Not only is he a music teacher and singer, he is deeply knowledgeable about the American Songbook, Broadway in particular — Rodgers, Hart, Hammerstein, Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin … . He cleans out the local library when doing research for one of his featured-composer shows. Find everything you ever want to know about the great Jerome Kern at this post, and listen to Will sing.

I’ll be doing more of these blogger recognitions from time to time, but before I leave today, I have to say I’ve been riveted to relatives’ Burning Cloud Blog, detailing the ups and downs of five months in a sailboat. Most of the posts are written by the children in the family. Read the entry “I have operated a lock” here.

Photo: New England Nomad
Colt State Park, the “gem of Rhode Island.”

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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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You have heard of “slow food” and perhaps “slow money” (a loan with a long time to pay back) and other efforts designed to help us reduce the often meaningless haste of modern life. Well, Cousin Claire has been posting news on Facebook about another slow movement that is sure to intrigue you, Slow Textiles.

Says Slow Fiber Studios on its About page, “We are founded on a simple intention: to offer real-world insight into the multifaceted and holistic practice of textile-making. Slow Fiber Studios™ offers dynamic, hands-on field study programs in diverse areas of the world where textile culture runs deep — India, Mexico, Japan, France, Italy, and on. We believe the best way to understand a philosophy is to see it being lived.”

Here is a description of a 2012 offering: “Special opportunity to travel throughout India with Yoshiko, who has been exploring this country for over 30 years (lived in Ahmedabad in 1983/84 on an Education & Culture Fellowship and frequent 3-month residencies spanning 3 decades). Yoshiko will introduce her friends in India who are involved in welfare, community empowerment, and cultural sustainability projects.

“Tour Highlights: natural dyes, organic cotton cultivation, handloom weaving, khadi, biodynamic farming, architecture, local food and religion, contemporary art and design educational institutions, museums, solar energy development, hand spinning and weaving wild silks and Tibetan wool in Himalayan communities.” More here.

How well I remember the wistful feeling I got in reading the book Lark Rise to Candleford when the beautiful handmade lace was spurned as soon as the factory-made came in. There is something to be said for speed and efficiency, but also something to be said for craft.

Photos: Slow  Fiber Studios

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In John’s house, I am Grandma. In Suzanne’s house, I am Mormor. Mormor means mother’s mother in Swedish. My husband is Morfar (mother’s father). Erik’s mother is Farmor (father’s mother), but when she is with her daughter’s children, she is Mormor. Got it? There will be a quiz.

Mormor and Morfar have been hanging out with the new baby’s big brother, who has his own life to live. Yesterday we picked him up at his morning-only school. Here he is offering his monkey a snack. The monkey’s name is Kompis. It means friend.

Back at the house, I cut cardboard pieces in the shape of Christmas ornaments and punched holes in the tops for hooks. We had fun gluing seasonal cutouts from magazines on the ornament shapes. (Well, to be honest, the purple glue stick was what was fun. We lost interest by the time it came to hanging our creations on the tree.)

Today we ran errands with Papa. Here you see Elder Brother checking out bathroom fixtures with the level of intensity he brings to serious activities.

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