Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happy New Year to all

Thank you, loyal customers and fair-trade fans, for your support in 2009. Your purchases made a difference in the lives of many.

 Lebanese embroiderers
We're looking forward to a new year, with new products and a new website. We're already working with prospective new suppliers on new textiles, home wares, dolls and holiday ornaments. Look for new basketry and wall art from Uganda, and for ornaments from Laos and Nepal.

These relationships take many months to come to fruition. First we discuss what we're looking for. The artisans then make samples. We look, they tweak, until we have the final product. We have to take into account seasonal issues (paint doesn't dry during the rainy season, some areas are cut off when roads wash out each year, snows make passes impassable, grasses are ready to harvest at specific times of year, etc). We also have to plan for shipping times and test the political winds for potential border closings. We're starting on Christmas stockings right now!

Peruvian weaver
One of our Bolivian suppliers has begun putting the amount of labor in creating each piece on the item tag. We'll be suggesting that to others as well. We hope this will help you, our customers, gain a deeper understanding of what goes into each item.

We welcome your ideas for products and your recommendations of fair-trade suppliers.

Kenyan beaders

Our 30%-off sale on ornaments and nativities begins next week, after the Jan. 7 Orthodox Christmas. Look for us at 271 Harvard St., in Brookline's Coolidge Corner, on our website, and our store on World of Good.

Happy New Year to all.

Kate Harris
Crossroads Trade

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Holiday news

Ever since October of last year, customers have come into the shop with anxious faces. “How are you doing?” they ask, worried that another unique business might be leaving Coolidge Corner.

We’re hanging in there. We have an obligation to our suppliers. Children still need school fees and mothers and fathers still need to sell their work, even in the unsteady times. And the items we’ve found this year demonstrate that creativity and courage still thrive even when the financial news is grim.

We’ve begun to carry new American Indian artisans from the Zuni, Hopi and Santo Domingo tribes. Some of the signature artists we’ve found include Mary Tafoya, a Santo Domingo Pueblo, whose work features cross-cut shells integrated into traditional mosaic work, and Ray Lalo, Hopi, maker of kachinas, who uses aguayo and paints them with pigments made from crushed rock, in a paint base of pine sap and honey. Also new is a Kenyan supplier, an organization of women who finance their daughters' education through their sales.

Colombian artisans have found new ways to cut tagua nuts, cutting production time in half and decreasing the price of the popular jewelry. Innovation continues in the use of fibers. We have bamboo scarves from Guatemala. From India we have new varieties of papers, made from roots and old clothing.

We’re brimming with textiles from the Shangaan tribe of South Africa’s Limpopo province. And we have gorgeous new scarves in rich, vibrant colors. Textures are outstanding, too, with artisans employing lots of new ways of crinkling, folding, and sewing.

Our jewelry selection continues to expand. Bracelets are the jewelry of the year. New cloth bracelets feature the hand embroidery of Santiago Atitlan, a Guatemalan village famed for its vibrant embroidered flowers and birds. We also have new beaded bracelets from India, Kenya, and South Africa, as well as shimmery beaded new necklaces. It was a wonderful year for finding new items made of recycled materials, such as our new earrings made of aluminum and brass cans.

Of course, we still carry many of the items Crossroads customers have come to expect. This is the time of year we set out our museum-quality selection of international nativities. New arrivals this year include lost-wax cast brass nativities from Ghana, sisal grass from Kenya, painted wood from Armenia, straw from Hungary, and ceramics from Peru.

Doll collectors will want to see the new arrivals from Tibet, in beautiful detailed tribal clothing, and the wonderful felt snow lions. Charming new Noah’s ark chivas, with giraffes sticking out the top, have arrived from Peru. We’ve got brightly carved wooden giraffes from Zimbabwe, and a menagerie of animals made of shredded palm fiber from the Philippines. The innovative use of recycled cans grows and grows – check out the vehicles, the earrings, the purses, the ornaments.

And we’ve got chocolate! Fairly traded, of course, from Equal Exchange. All our items are chosen with an eye to fair-trade practices and compensation. This way, parents are working with dignity and in safe conditions, earning enough so that children can eat, receive medical care, and go to school. We’re helping to provide financial stability in a world where it still can seem very rocky. And we know you’ll find delightful items here at Crossroads Trade to share with friends, relatives, and colleagues, bringing hope and joy this holiday season.