Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Friendly Beasts

We carry so many animals in so many media from so many countries that "critters" is a category in our store database. This time of year, new shipments come every week. Here are the new arrivals.

This porcupine is a wonderful example of the many South African beaded animals we import. (This was part of a shipment that led a customs agent to leave a message, "We have your wire items from South Africa here." As Kate posted previously, getting items from artisan to the market is not always easy.)

From the same South African source we have a great collection of recycled-plastic dogs. These dogs are made with the discarded remains of parade floats.
The porcupine is made by Johannesburg wire artist, and the dog by one of several employment projects around Cape Town. As our supplier notes, "There is so much more to African crafts than African carvings and tribal objects!" Here we have artists using traditional media in new ways, discovering ways to use 21st-century media, and creating new African art forms.

If you go to East Africa without a pair of flip-flops (I learned), your hosts will make sure you have some. For many people, flip-flops are the only footwear they have. People with shoes need flip-flops when they come home and take off those dust-caked shoes. (In Kampala, for example, only the major roads are paved.) Everyone uses them in the bathroom (whether you have full plumbing or a latrine for a toilet and a basin for bathing). With many flip-flops come many flip-flop scraps; Kenyan artisans have turned these scraps into delightful hippos, elephants, and warthogs.

Artisans in the Philippines have transformed the fiber of the Buri palm tree into a delightful series of animals. The palm fibers are shreeded, twisted around a wire frame, and trimmed by hand to make the brush-like texture. Eyes and ears and other details are made from seed pods, carved wood, or rope. We have these critters as stand-alone animals (our possum mother and babies is about nine inches long) and as small ornaments.

These are just four of our critters, but they represent our commitment to recycled materials, to artisans exploring new forms, to employment projects all over the world, and to delight all our animals bring.

-- Lisa