Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Fibre with a Difference: Women's Multipurpose Co-op

Like the Tiwi Designs mat, this coiled paper hot mat is functional but beautiful enough to hang on the wall in my kitchen. The mat is made from recycled newspapers by skilled artisans who are part of the Women's Multipurpose Co-op in the Philippines. The women sort the paper according to colour and then using an umbrella spoke or broom bristle coil a single sheet of paper into a tightly rolled tube. Finally, the coiled paper products are coated with a starch solution that renders them resistant to water and heat. I bought this from a Ten Thousand Villages store and had difficulty choosing because each mat had its own seductive mix of colours. The recycled newspaper product-line made by artisans of the Women's Multipurpose Co-op includes placemats, jewellery, coasters, and picture frames. 

Ten Thousand Villages (TTV) is a nonprofit Fair Trade Organization (FTO) whose purpose is to benefit disadvantaged artisans, not to maximize profits. Stores generally hire one or two paid managers and the rest of the staff is made up of volunteers. The roots of TTV began 65 years ago when businesswoman Edna Byler began selling handcrafted products made in developing countries out of the trunk of her car. In the 1970s her organization became SELFHELP Crafts and in 1996 it became Ten Thousand Villages. At the moment TTV is a nonprofit program of Mennonite Central Committee, but I have heard whisperings that TTV will soon be independent of MCC. Off-and-on, I've volunteered with SELFHELP and TTV since I was a teenager. It's an especially fun place to volunteer during the Christmas season. If you are curious about Ten Thousand Villages products or volunteer opportunities, TTV has stores and festival sales throughout Canada and the US. Whether you are looking for home decor products, jewellery, fashion accessories, fair-trade coffee, tea, chocolate, and other food products, you'll find something that tickles your fancy and your purchase will help an artisan in a developing country feed and educate her children. It's all good.

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