Archive for April, 2010

Furoshiki is a square piece of fabric that can be folded and knotted into a bag.  Versatility and sustainability combined!

It gained popularity during the Edo period of Japan, several hundred years that include the self-isolation of Japan.  The word ‘furoshiki’ is derived from two words: ‘bath’ and ‘spread’.  The square cloths were used to carry one’s clothing at the sentō, or public bath.  Eventually they were used to wrap all sort of goods for transport or as gifts.

Click on this chart to see more furoshiki wrapping methods.

Today, furoshiki has the potential to make a huge impact in the effort to slow the use of non-biodegradable and flimsy plastic bags.  While the fabric shopping bag is a good alternative to the plastic bag, furoshiki can be folded and used in many ways.  Not only can it carry your things, it can be a reusable gift-wrap or a lunch container that turns into a table cloth!

Etsy’s myfuroshiki, whose work is featured in this article, is the project of two sisters, Olivia & Michiko Yasue.  Michiko returned from a trip to Japan and introduced her sister to the concept of furoshiki.  Myfuroshiki was launched in January of 2009.

One sister based in the UK and the other in Australia, they screen print and collaborate on their collection of furoshiki that incorporates elements of traditional designs and fun modern patterns.  Their fabrics are %100 cotton, which they cut, edge and print with water based inks.  Instead of wrapping with paper and tape, all of which gets thrown away immediately after the gift is opened, wrap with a furoshiki!  It’s easier, it’s earth-friendlier, and extremely affordable.


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My favorite kinds of charities are the ones that work directly within the community they seek to help.  Change has to come within, I think, for it to really take hold within a society.  In this spirit, today I’d like to profile Project Have Hope.

In the Acholi Quarter of Uganda, you will find 100 women making paper beads to sell.  With the sales of the beads, this project has expanded to a system of micro-loans for the women to start their own small businesses,  child education sponsorship and even agricultural programs.  Some of the Project Have Hope women attend vocational school, all in an effort to better their future for themselves and their children.  This relatively small cooperative of women is creating a sustainable, positive impact on the community.

Bostonian Karen Sparacio first visited the women of the Acholi Quarter as a volunteer photographer.   Many of the women are victims of war.  Sparacio’s experience, she says, made her want to “help them create a better future in any way that [she] could.”  She bought a small bag of beads, sold it in the U.S., and decided to turn the small success into a large fund raising not-for-profit effort.

Thirst, by Karen Sparacio; prints available

Today, you can purchase jewelry or beads directly from the website.  Or, you could host a bead party, an event for your friend, family and community to buy the beads.  Project Have Hope’s site profiles many of the women and offers the opportunity for you to sponsor a specific child.   There are five pages of children on the site that need sponsorship.  Penina Lakica is one:

My name is Penina Lakica. I am 10 years old. I live with my aunt and uncle. My parents live in a camp in Kitgum. They had fear I would be abducted. I like reading and drawing and playing netball. I want to be a judge.

$510 per year will cover Penina’s tuition at St. Kizito Junior Boarding School in Kampala.

The website also features women who are looking for sponsorship.  Many of them, as I have said before, have experienced horrific events during the war.  Most of them are supporting several children, some who are not their own.  These women are looking for sponsorship to start or to expand a business.  Akot Alice is one of these women.

Meet Akot Alice . Alice is from the village of Pader and is 28 years old. She is married and has five children. Alice also cares for two non-biological children. One is the child of her husband’s co-wife, from whom he is now separated, and the other is her nephew. Alice has lived in the Acholi Quarter for 15 years. She came to the Quarter after experiencing horrific violence in the war. One such instance was when she witnessed a group of people, including her own father and stepfather, being lined up and then decapitated. The heads were then put on poles and cooked, and Alice and others were forced to eat the dead. To support their family, Alice makes paper beads and her husband works in the stone quarry. Alice also has a balcony garden and attends adult literacy classes through PHH. Akot Alice would like a $760 grant to set up a local produce store.

Project Have Hope has a summer volunteer trip to Uganda, which involves “6 days of volunteering in the Acholi Quarter and 4 days of excursions” on safari and to Kampala, the capital of Uganda.

I love the craft and the artistry of these recycled beads.  But what I love most is the positive effect they’re having on their community.

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The art of pysanky has long and celebrated roots in Ukrainian culture. In ancient times, as in many cultures, eggs represented the rebirth of the earth.  Unfortunately, since eggs tend to decompose well, only clay and stone versions have been excavated.  The traditions and patterns have been passed down from generation to generation.  Today, the eggs reflect nature patterns, Christian themes, and geometric shapes.  This batik art requires precision with a stylus, a steady hand, careful planning of colors, and several baths in dye.

Toronto-based artist Katya Trischuk is considered a master of this craft.  A native of Ukraine, she learned pysanky from her family.  Katya has been decorating eggs for years, and selling it commercially for twenty years, in stores across Canada and the US.  Now she can be found on Etsy, with her shop UkrainianEasterEggs.  She welcomes custom orders as well as requests for personalized messages!

Katya says she prefers using a large chicken egg because it’s easy to control in her hand.  But like any true artist, she loves pushing boundaries.  She took on an ostrich egg recently and the result is spectacular:

One of Katya’s unique designs is her line of Trypillian eggs.  The Trypillian culture was of a neolithic people in the Carpathian Mountain of today’s Ukraine, Moldova and Romania.  They are remembered today for their expertly fired and intricately designed pottery.  Katya draws upon their patterns as inspiration for her one-of-a-kind Trypillian eggs.  One of her Trypillian eggs can be seen below in the center.

Katya, an interior designer by trade, is always thinking dreaming up the next egg, its color combination and style.  She loves making bleached eggs, like the one seen above, on the right.  She starts with an egg that’s been dyed a certain color, and brings it back to white, a process she likens to developing photos in a dark room.

With Katya’s unmatchable color schemes and ability to push the limits of patterned illustration, her eggs make a beautiful addition to your pysanky collection, or the start of a new one!

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