ARTISAN MADE I HANDMADE IS HUMAN

We helped say goodbye to 2016 in the company of some of the greatest allies we have in the artisan movement – at the Handmade is Human meeting at the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise in Washington D.C. in December. The day’s agenda included content covering artisan story, finance and the role the sector can play in addressing the struggle of refugees around the world. As usual, the day was full of inspiration, ideation and the opportunity to recognize the work being done by so many organizations in so many countries, to elevate artisan goods.

Here's Nina Weissberg of the Weissberg Foundation sharing her "Big Idea" for the Artisan Sector.

 

Sasa Designs was thrilled to share our award-winning film with some of the newer members of the Alliance, and our President, Megan MacDonald, also participated in a panel about a major project underway to create a donor-advised fund for artisan financing. Megan will also be utilizing a tool created by the Alliance, in partnership with support from the US Department of State and Pricewaterhouse Coopers, to guide our artisan partners through an innovation workshop later this Spring. We can’t wait to offer our artisans exposure to the larger market they are part of, and help them understand more about the role they play in offering consumers ethical shopping and fashion choices.

Megan on the panel "UNLOCKING ECONOMIC VALUE IN THE ARTISAN SECTOR" alongside Mathew Gamser of the International Finance Corporation
Megan with Simone Cipriani of the Ethical Fashion Initiative

Participating in the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise has been a great opportunity for Sasa Designs, and we encourage all of our retail and wholesale partners and customers to explore the work they’re doing to help people #chooseartisan and recognize that #handmadeishuman!

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SASA STYLE I YOGA

Are you ready to breathe in some good?

We'd like to make a few suggestions for looking great in your strongest warrior pose starting with our new Shanzu Yoga Bag

A few blocks from the calm Kenyan coastline, an airy workshop is filled with a variety of physically and mentally challenged women - all of whom now have a future to look forward to. Shanzu Project trains these women to sew, utilizing Kenya's traditional Kikoy cloth to make exceptionally useful and charming products.

 We're loving these other great brands that share our ideals.

 

YOGASMOGA

Honoring the tenets of Yoga, YOGASMOGA aspires to create world-class products and shares our values of social responsibility, collaboration and a need for fair wages. Products are made in the USA, but YOGASMOGA recognizes textile production is typically done in the most challenged economic locations in the world. NAMASKÁR FOUNDATION has been created to give back.

The Namaskár Foundation seeks to provide micro loans to individuals in developing economies who have no access to banks. These micro loans provide an opportunity to individuals to jump-start small cottage industries that over time generate income. Read more here...

 

MINDFUL MATS

Four California girls, mentored by one empowered and mindful mama make up the creators of Mindful Mats. Mom, Janet Roberts, is a career abstract painter. Her beautiful images are now being turned into a meditation, prayer and yoga mats.

The mats are made from recyclable material, free of PVC, plastics and fumes. Each mat is 1/4" deep, 24" x 72" and made in California.

Check out Mindful Mats here...

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Season of Dreams

When something good happens, the deaf raise their hands and shake them in joy. It's an open and shared gesture that captures gratitude as hands reach high and a person's whole body engages. On our last trip to Kenya, there was much cause for celebration and sharing this practice of gratitude. Our deaf partners in Kenya have just moved into a new house with the support of Greater Good Wholesale, providing space and room to expand not just their production, but their dreams. And dream, they do.

As we explored the house and walked through each room discussing how they would use it and ideas for improvement, the ideas spilled forth. 
 
"Here we could have a garden and grow Spinach"
"Here we can store our finished products"
"Here we can welcome visitors"
 
With every corner we turned the hands went up, celebrating the fruits of their labor, and the opportunity to keep working. 
 
All of this, is because of you.
 
As the years pass it can be hard to find new ways to share why shopping responsibly is important. There aren't always words that do justice to the value of a full day's work in a safe, comfortable and empowering environment. But you must know that every dollar you spend with us, every order you place, and every piece that you wear adds more space in which our artisans can develop their dreams.

These are the dreams of the mothers who make our jewelry. We celebrate them, and they celebrate their children's future. Is there gratitude enough to share what this means? Truthfully, there is not. But this holiday season, we send you our heartfelt Asante Sana with our hands raised high over our heads in celebration of you, your patience, your encouragement and your willingness to spend your money in ways that build others up. 
 
From all of us at Sasa Designs, thank you.

 

 

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Hurricane Matthew and our Artisan Partners in Haiti

Hurricane Matthew has leveled parts of Haiti, destroying villages and claiming lives in its path.

The death toll is rising throughout Haiti, but we are thankful to report that no lost lives have been reported in Matenwa, and our artisan partners are safe. There is, however, widespread damage in their community, with 30 structures uninhabitable or destroyed, and hunger due to food losses already setting in. Emergency workers are increasingly worried about the potential for spikes in cholera and the effects of massive crop devastation.
 
Help us help Haiti by shopping our hand-painted silk scarf collection and donating to GreaterGood.org's fundraising efforts for emergency relief in our artisan community.
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A FRESH NEW LOOK FOR SASA DESIGNS

 

Along with our new site, we are making a few key improvements:

A shortened name = bigger impact:
As Sasa Designs, we are now partnering with disabled, economically and geographically isolated artisans in Kenya and beyond: in Haiti, Mexico and Zambia to start. By growing our product offerings and working with expert artisans who share our commitment to quality, we can ensure the ongoing operations of our original workshop, where our core team of deaf women continue to thrive.

More jewelry, more everything: 
Our best selling brass pieces from Kenya are in the process of being introduced in Sterling Silver and Copper variations - helping us support generations of metal workers in Taxco, Mexico along with the new training of women metal smiths in Ng'ombe, Zambia. We've also got a variety of scarves, bags and clothing in the works - some posted, some rolling out in the coming weeks and seasons.
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ARTISAN MADE I LOCAL SOURCING 101

Using local materials is an increasingly important part of the Sasa Designs model. As our artisans are beaders, we support expert crafts people locally who create bone, horn and metal pieces that we can use in our designs. This gives our artisans a lot of pride to know that their work supports local businesses, and Nancy, Dinah, Megan and Anna have all enjoyed the "adventure" of tracking down the very best supplies. As you can see, designing and purchasing our components is not like a typical trip to Michael's or Beverly's Craft store! Not even a little bit...

1) The walking journey to our bone carver's place after heavy rains 2) Quality! 3) A local carver creating bone beads  and Dinah, doing quality control on our custom order with our bone carver 4) Creative re-purposing of an old saw and piece of foam and bone beads after their first cut, before polishing and sanding 6) Driving to meet one of our newest partners at their workshop 7) Megan and Ken - our newest local sourcing partner. Ken studied International Relations in university but has found his art provided a more consistent source of income. We told him that by partnering with us he is supporting international trade, and is part of a much larger community growing the artisan arena. Groups like Sasa Designs and so many others are breaking down market and trade barriers every day to bring artisan goods to the larger market. His smile got even bigger as we talked about this - what a gift to work together.

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RETAIL SPOTLIGHT I BOUGHT BEAUTIFULLY

As we grow, so does our amazing group of Brick and Mortar shops around the globe. We're sitting down with the creative people behind the brands to ask a few questions. Here's our June chat with founder, Emily Betzle from...

Believes every person has the ability to thrive and strives to do their part to see every person has that opportunity. BB partners with producers around the globe who are providing life changing opportunities, like our talented Sasa Designs artisans in Kenya.

Why do you choose to carry Sasa? We carry Sasa products because we absolutely love the heart and the spirit behind your work. We love that Sasa doesn't just believe in developing products but also believes in developing people and communities! Your comprehensive program does more than simply provide employment, but sees the potential, talent, and beauty in each one of your employees. This is truly something special, and something we want to support in every way we can!

What keeps your customers buying Sasa? Our customers love Sasa products because they are beautiful, on trend, reasonably priced, high quality, and, most importantly, they absolutely love the story behind the product, and knowing and seeing (thanks to the cards you send) the person who hand-crafted their purchase!

What impact has our partnership had? Our partnership has been so wonderful for so many reasons, but I think the most important impact is how it allows us to be deeply and positively connected to our brothers and sisters in Kenya and around the globe! One small but specific example of this is that I live in a small community in Wyoming, and last year at our holiday gift market we sold enough Sasa products to support your payroll for an entire month! Realizing this was so poignant and powerful for our volunteers and community as it clearly demonstrated how our actions can have powerful and beautiful reactions half way around the world.

Photo courtesy of Bought Beautifully.

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