Friday, August 7, 2015

Global Business

During July and early August, I've been teaching an online class on International Human Rights.  As always, I've learned just as much if not more than my students.

Watching films like "Veiled Voices," "Half the Sky" and "A Path Appears," along with feature films (Beyond Borders, Hotel Rwanda) and doing lots of reading has been a good reminder for me that our world is very interconnected.

Lampwork drops from Canada -  Mandrel

In July, I sold six pieces of jewelry to a customer in Alaska.  As I wrote her a note about each piece, that's when I realized - I have a global business.  In those necklaces, there were components from all over the world.  A flower focal from India.  Lapis from Arizona (which probably came from somewhere else in the world).  Gemstones from all over the globe.
Rainforest Jasper - mined in the US and Africa
While my business runs out of my teeny-tiny house in Kalamazoo, Michigan, I do indeed have a global business.

One of my primary selling venues is Etsy.  Through Etsy, I've sold jewelry pieces to customers in Spain, France, the Netherlands, Canada, Germany, and South Africa.  I've also sold pieces all over the US.

Lampwork beads from Isreal - PearlyKarpel
As I work more and more with fibers and textiles, I'm really adding to the international trade.  The base of most of my nuno scarves is vintage saris.  I bought large bundles of old, used saris over the winter.  Some are pretty tattered (though still perfect for scarves).  A few have stains, which could be dirt, could be blood.

Sari bundles.  Twenty two pounds = about 30 full length saris.
The stains (which I cut out, then wash all of the saris) make me wonder about the women who used these fabrics.  What were their lives like?  Where did they live?  Was this sari one of many (or a few) and was it a favorite?  Did the wearer have children?  Endless questions.  Questions I can only imagine and never have the answers to.

Sari ribbon, which creates a really cool effect in nuno felt.
I'm connected to these women that I'll never know.  Just like I'm connected to the vendors and sellers in different countries.  Connected through trade, but also connected through the challenges experienced as a result of our shared gender.

Hand-sewn scrap embroidery from India.  I tear these apart and use in belts and necklaces.
I ask my students not to compare the standards of living in one culture with the standards in another culture.  Mostly because this only points out the differences as negatives.  But also because the difference works in favor of privileging the American way of life over every other culture.  And, let's be realistic, America is not without its serious faults and oftentimes has no place in setting policy for the behavior of other countries.

100% wool yarn - Noro Kureyon (Japanese for crayon)
I like the sense of connection I feel with having a global business.  Using products from all sorts of vendors, especially small, women-owned/operated businesses, makes me feel a part of the larger world.  As if I can have an impact on providing for women just like me.  Women that maybe live in a teeny-tiny house, making beautiful things, and want the wonder of women's work to be respected and appreciated and valued, whether they're the seller or the buyer.

Honestly, I think it's these tiny global businesses that make the biggest impact on the world.  As we connect through our products, through the stories we share with each other as we exchange goods, we build a strong network of women artisans, women moving the world forward.

If you're looking for international women's organizations to get involved with, I recommend these two:

No comments:

Post a Comment