Buying handmade, a pretty sparkly elephant, and One Reason Why.

I’m not sure if I’ve told you this, Internet, but my husband has a crush on somebody else.
And that somebody is Ten Thousand Villages.

In truth, it’s a crush we both share, Ross and I.  Austin’s beloved fair trade store beckons to us with a life I think we both secretly want: To live in remote countries with artisans, making flatware sets out of discarded Coke cans and playing our handmade didgeridoos.  I heard this NPR segment recently where they were talking about the artist community in Haiti, and for a brief moment — right there in my temperature-controlled vehicle with comfy seats and yuppie coffee — I thought, “I wanna go there.”
And who knows?  Maybe we will someday.  Now that I’ve accepted hiking into my life, I’m up for all kinds of crazy adventure.
But back to our store crush.
Now a few months back, I went to The Austin Fair Trade Film Festival, hosted by Ten Thousand Villages.  PS, you probably know this already, but Ten Thousand Villages is an ALL fair trade store.  If you’ve never been inside, I encourage you too, because it’s filled with qurky handmade art and jewelry and musical instruments from 38 countries.  You’ll find my husband in the corner, whispering sweet nothings to African hand drums.

Anyway, at the film festival, I watched a highly disturbing Wal-Mart documentary (The High Cost of Low Price).  I’m so tempted to let this post devolve into Wal-Mart is A Hooved Devil! kind of a post, which is true, but instead I’ll just encourage you to go here and read up.

BOTTOM LINE: That was the film that 100% renewed my crush on Ten Thousand Villages, and fair trade in general.  Which for way too long was just a trendy, idealistic concept I latched onto in college, but now I actually spend my money on fair trade things.

I mean let’s get real here: Part of the fair trade impulse is (for me at least) a warm fuzzies one.  A little part of my brain goes, “you’re welcome, karma!” when I see the little white fair trade label on something I just bought.
But on a less self-congratulatory level, I think the IDEA of fair trade, while new and imperfect and applicable to only a tiny fraction of all traded goods, is an incredibly worthy one.  Aside from its explicit mission, to give artisans and workers in developing countries better wages, I think fair trade is good for Americans.  It makes someone like me, who despite all my preaching against Wal-Mart still has a hard time giving up Target, think about the whole backstory of my purchase.  (Which is always a bit invisible when you buy Isaac Mizrahi for Target shoes or whatever, no?)
One silver lining of the recession is that it’s created a handmade renaissance of sorts, encouraging us to learn how to do things ourselves — sew, plant a garden, cook — and to be more careful with our money.  I am NOT a perfect shopper by any means, but I think I have an easier time paying a bit more for something I really like, and buying less stuff in general.   
(Even though I’ve still got a Target habit in a bad way.)

All of these pictures are shots I took at Ten Thousand Villages last week, from the collection of art that will be on display at One Reason Why: A fundraiser for TTV’s Austin store, and their Artisan Special Needs Fund.

From TTV:

Ten Thousand Villages’ fair trade partnerships also provide long-term benefits to artisans’ children, who gain increased access to education, health care, safe and affordable housing, and clean water.

The event is on Thursday, 10/27 at Art on 5th Gallery (1501 W. 5th Street) at 7:00pm.  I’m going to try to go myself, so if you’re in Austin, maybe I’ll see you there!