Staying Connected April 13 2015, 0 Comments

My first blog of the new year and it's April already! That just goes to show what a few months I've had, with the Las Vegas Market in January, New York Now and San Francisco International Gift Show in February, and the Chicago International Home and Housewares Show in March for my work with Keena, plus life in between. It's been a busy few months, but then I wouldn't want to have it any other way. The challenge is to keep in touch with all my artisan connections for 12 Small Things. I had an idea to start an Artisan Salon for those of us in the Bay Area, to meet every few months, check in on one another's progress, and learn how we can help support each other. A number of us had met a couple years ago for a wonderful lunch, but had obviously had trouble scheduling a follow-up. 

  

We finally managed to meet again last month in San Francisco for lunch on the Embarcadero, which was close to people's day jobs, and had a great, intense, creative downloading of our latest projects. In attendance were Smita Paul from Indigo Handloom, Eszter Rabin from Sidai Designs, Katie Gaertner from Whistle, Julie Wagne from Petel Design, and artist and product designer Mimi Robinson. LauraLe Wulsh from Oxgut was stuck at work and artisan consultant Carol Macnulty got stuck in traffic. During lunch Smita asked the group to share our dreams of what we hoped for our businesses. She ventured first, sharing the news that she is working on designing a clothing collection, having previously concentrated on scarves and shawls with her artisan weavers in India. She actually bought an Airstream trailer and will be bringing her designs on the road to sell around the country.

  

I shared my interest in producing a television series showcasing all the amazing artisans we work with, and that I was hoping to find retailers who might help sponsor such a project. Eszter Rabin, who was sitting next to me, said she had the exact same idea years ago, and had a graphic design presentation all ready that I could use to help pitch the idea. That's why we need to stay connected! Eszter and I had apparently met last year when she stopped by my booth at a local street fair. We corresponded a couple times by email and then I saw her again in her booth at Artisans Resource at New York Now. Her simple beaded jewelry made by Maasai artisans in Tanzania, has both traditional tribal and contemporary elements, and was the star of the show. Some of my other favorites were the amazing pillow woman, Aissatta Namoko from Cooperative Djiguiyaso in Mali, and the women from Fibre Tibet, who I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time after buying and selling their beautiful cashmere shawls last year on 12 Small Things.

  

Back in San Francisco, I was happy to see my friend and very talented designer, Meredith Peck, showcasing her handmade jewelry she sells at events and on her website, Spark & Pepper. I bought a small gold bead and indigo thread bracelet that I've yet to take off. And I finally had a chance to shoot all the beautiful items I bought at the gift shows for 12 Small Things, with my good friend and ace photographer Mark Johann. With lovely models Erika and Wendi from Look Model Agency, and awesome help from photo assistant Mario, we got great shots of jewelry from Sidai Designs, new cotton shawls from Indigo Handloom, and our new dresses from Raven +Lily and Zardozi Designs, both made by Afghan and Pakistani artisans. We also shot some wonderful jute bags from The Dharma Door, located just a stone's throw away in Benicia. William and Kate do a great job bringing classic, well-designed, quality bags made by artisans in Bangladesh, to customers in the states and around the world. 

 

The months ahead will be full of us all continuing to balance the day jobs that support us, while we find new opportunities to support others. My friend Mimi Robinson had to miss our book club last week as she was preparing to leave for Haiti, where she is helping artisans with product design for exporting to broader markets. Speaking of books, Mimi's latest work of art, Local Color, has just been published by Chronicle Books and beautifully captures how Mimi sees the world around her. We're all getting a little closer to our dreams, and staying connected, to help others envision theirs.