Driving back from Davis after visiting our oldest daughter, Johanna, I was amazed to see that despite the lack of rain, the blossoms were still unfolding across the orchard trees in the distance, the grass lush green, the cows and calves grazing happily. Throughout dry spells and tsunami anniversaries and spiteful politics and warfare, the tree blossoms nevertheless, still appear every spring, as a kind of reassurance that life goes on. What are we going to do with this new year, already in our fourth month, to show our resilience and make it better than the one before?


In January I attended the International Gift Fair in New York for my day job as a sales representative with Keena, helping out at the Roost and Chilewich booths and learning more about the new products from our vendors. My last day in New York was reserved for 12 Small Things, where I saw my friends from By Hand Consulting, Karen Gibbs and Colvin English. They were hosting three groups of artisans from different countries, helping introduce them to the various buyers who come to shop the collection of handmade goods from around the world. I met the representative from Zardozi Markets for Afghan Artisan Women, who unable to work in public, are producing beautiful garments from their homes. I ordered these wonderful embroidered black sleeveless tunics with a playful long hem in the back, along with some sheer white shirts, perfect for summer beach bathing suit coverups.


Both Karen and Colvin are undertaking new responsibilities this spring, helping to introduce more international artisan producers to gift show venues, along with their ongoing consultant work, which is keeping them very busy. I really enjoyed partnering with them and Keith Recker from HAND/EYE Magazine on my collections for 12 Small Things last year and will always stay in touch, so appreciative of all the help they have given me. This year, however, I was back on my own in the handmade section of the Javitz Center, with only six hours to order goods before heading back to San Francisco.

I had a list of artisan representatives I wanted to see, and found a few more surprises that I just couldn’t pass up. First stop was Tribalinkswhere I ordered sea foam green recycled glass necklaces and bracelets from their founder Phyllis, plus these fabulous gold hammered earrings that are a staple this season. Moving just across the aisle to Bamboula I ordered  woven tote bags from owner Jasperdean, along with recycled glass chandeliers artisans are creating in Kenya in collaboration with Tribalinks. I also ordered linens from Ellen Dorsch of Creative Women. She works with women in Ethiopia to produce the most beautiful handwoven cotton towels, table linens and scarves. I bought table linens and hand towels in white with blue stripes that feel very classic French bistro, perfect for summer picnics.

Phyllis of Tribalinks     

Stopping by the Aid to Artisans booth is like returning home each time I visit. In addition to saying hi to Alden Smith and Colleen Pendleton, I saw my friend Patti Carpenter who has been working with women in Haiti to produce adorable baby doll cotton nighties for women as well as lovely linen aprons. Both products use this special “Passe Plat” flat stitch that renders the designs with detail and precision. Patti looked very stylish having just cut off her long hair and was so excited about Oprah’s fashion director wanting to feature her in their magazine. Not sure she made the final cut, but it was great to see her doing so well and producing such beautiful products.           

Another product that I am happy to offer is from theLeakey Collection founded by Phillip and Katy Leakey to help the Massai women of Kenya. The Leakeys created a jewelry business to help support their Kenyan community who were suffering from a 2001 draught that killed most of their livestock. Using the native grasses, the Massai women harvest, cut and dye grass beads into a wide spectrum of colors and then string them into necklaces and bracelets. I purchased their Earth Day bead collections that can be worn wrapped as multiple bracelets, or as loose strands for a necklace.


One of the last booths I visited before running out of time was Leslie Mittelberg’s Swahili Imports. I had been eyeing the wonderful large baskets she imports from Senegal. Leslie works with the Wolof women there who harvest cattail stalks and weave them with strips of white plastic recycled from worn prayer mats. I feel as if there’s some spiritual elements woven into these terrific looking pieces. I bought the large basket with handles which will look great with fresh summer fruit, a circular serving tray plus a great hamper that I’d like to keep for my bedroom.

I am so excited about this new collection launching this weekend of Passover and Easter; a very appropriate time for new beginnings. Two songs I heard this week on my new favorite radio station, The Loft on Sirus XM really hit home. The first was Joni Mitchell’s The Circle Game, sung by Tom Rush, tracing a child’s journeys through the seasons from boy to man. The second was Secret Gardens of the Heart sung by Judy Collins about aging and the passing of time. Both songs brought me back to the ages of my daughters now; “But most of all it is me who have changed and yet still I’m the same… I see myself through the eyes of the child that was me.” Happy Spring!  I hope you enjoy all it brings, with more opportunities to do better, give of oneself to others and stop and smell the blossoms, once again.

April 08, 2012 by staff 1