Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ethnic-looking, but not Fair Trade

A beaded fair-trade lizard from Crossroads Trade
I was in a Christmas Tree Shop recently, and saw some familiar things -- colorful metal geckos hanging on the walls, and beaded lizards walking across a table.

They looked familiar because I have carried both. The metal geckos I've carried are steel-drum art, hammered and shaped and painted by a  men's co-op in Haiti (recently back in business after the devastating earthquake). The beaded lizards are from a South African organization that provides school and support to children of AIDS victims.

But the geckos and lizards I was looking at were not quite right. They weren't striking. They had no vitality. I couldn't figure it out. They just didn't look jaunty, just lifeless.

Then I turned them over, and I saw a clue to their lifelessness. I also noticed that they wouldn't be providing any of the social and economic benefits of the ones I've carried. These were factory-made in China.

They were, of course, less expensive.  And everyone is on a budget. But when you spend your money on ethnic-looking home decor, think about where that money will go. Do you want the artisans to receive a fair living wage? Do  you want to support a region's economic recovery, and causes that rely on enterprise to fund their operations?

Think, too, whether you are supporting a vital artisanry or mechanical knock-offs. Those knock-offs lacked an artistic vitality because there were no vital artists at work.

Look for the country of origin when you shop. Or ask. Or buy your home decor from a member of the Fair Trade Federation. Like us!

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