Fair trade isn’t all bananas, coffees and chocolate – although that’s what the words conjure up in most people’s minds. It’s about a better deal for all third world traders and producers. When it comes to furniture, there are many impoverished artisans from around the world; people whose crafts have been passed from generation to generation, but are now endanger of passing into obscurity. Fair trade companies like the ones below aim to revive the popularity of ancient crafts, using sustainable resources and ensuring a better life for these people and their families. It is how trade should be done.
With such a fantastic name, it’s no surprise that Peepultree are all about the people they work with. Set in the affluent Cheshire countryside, it’s a world away from the previous lives of some of the carpenters they employ over in India. Slowly but surely, however, they are making a huge difference to people’s lives: encouraging numeracy and literacy and training workers in financial and business management. Craft production is only second to agriculture as the main source of income for the Indian population. Furniture is made to an excellent standard by true artists.
The Fair Trade Furniture Company
The Fair Trade Furniture Company is a self-proclaimed ‘feel-good-furniture’ maker. The concept is that when you sit in one of the chairs produced by the company you should feel comfortable through the design, but also the fact the materials used come from sustainable sources and the labour used is on a fair-trade basis. There is a factory that employs locals, as well as an agency that hires ‘micro-small’ producers. The founders, married couple Hugh and Rachel Ross, teamed up with designer Tord Kjellstrom to make various ranges that are sold online and around the UK.
Myakka was founded in 1999 by Georgie and Sam in Somerset. They set about employing suppliers in India. They now use one manufacturer based in Jodhpur, India. They, with the factory, have embarked on a lot of charitable work in the region including local schools, vocational training centres and have passed on profits to their own local charity in Somerset. They use fast growing hardwoods, like Acacia, from sustainable plantations in India. The parent UK company is very hands-on with design and each piece is hand-made, and therefore unique.
Based in Switzerland, Behali was the brainchild of three young German men in 2010. They focused on South Asia, where conflict and remote locations have left the population feeling isolated and forgotten. Their craft was abandoned in favour of cheaper mass-produced plastic or metal furniture. And so their artisan skills were no longer needed and trade was made harder. ‘Behali’ means restoration in Urdu and aims to give these skilled workers a larger market – worldwide in fact! Their intricately carved furniture has regained popularity across the globe. The wood used is often recycled hardwoods locally found by the carpenter.
In association with National Geographic, Novica website brings together artists from impoverished areas all over the world. It’s impossible to pick out just one, but Nyoman Naranta, a mask carver from Bali, sums up the unjust hardship faced by these skilled craftsmen, “Relying on twice-yearly orders for my living was terrible. I would often have no sales for months at a time. Novica came into my life like a bright light.” By promoting their work online, their potential market expands beyond their wildest dreams. The products are ethically sourced and each piece is built to last.
Author: Article contributed by Sydney Michaelson, an outdoors enthusiast and writer for Design55Online.co.uk.