Archive for the ‘Handmade with a Cause’ Category

Perhaps you’ve seen them in Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Woman’s Day magazine or while wandering around an Anthropologie store.  These seed bombs are actually made by VisuaLingual, a little design studio in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati.   With the popularization of guerrilla gardening in the spring of 2010, the bombs took off and Anthropologie ordered a few thousand.  VisuaLingual documented their initial adventure in mass-production on their blog, and you can read the article here.  It looks like an insane amount of work, since each bag is hand-screenprinted and then filled with instructions and five little clay and seed-packed balls.  I love the photo of Maya looking un-enthused about the whole finished ordeal. 

What are seed bombs? They are weapons of mass-beautification and interesting accessories in the world of guerrilla gardening.  Guerrilla gardening is sort of a quiet anarchy: cleaning public or unclaimed spaces and planting food or trees or flowers in the space.  Seed bombs lend themselves to a drive-by attack on disgusting landscapes.  VisuaLingual‘s seeds are packed in a clay mixture, and this disintegrates, effectively planting the seeds and nourishing them simultaneously.  So you can really just toss them out your car window and witness the effects a few weeks later.  There are many kinds of handmade seed bombs (filling eggs with soil and seed works) and I’ve even seen someone selling clay/seed compressed into the shape of a hand gun.

However, I appreciate VisuaLingual’s seed bombs because of their attention to the difference in climate and native wildflowers of each region of the U.S.  They also sell herb bombs and bombs that contain cat and dog friendly plants, such as catnip, wheat and rye.  I have tossed the bombs in my own garden to try them out and…they work great!  There were little clusters of New England wildflowers where the bombs had landed.  So, looking for an inexpensive way to beautify a neighborhood eyesore?  Or add a bit of spontaneity to your garden?  VisuaLingual‘s seed bombs are have been thoughtfully put together and are a moderately priced idea.  I am considering experimenting with my own seed bomb recipe, so look out for that to come in the coming months.

All photos in this article belong to VisuaLingual.


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Tomorrow, September 21st, is World Peace Day. I’d like to speak about something that relates to Japan’s Peace Day, August 6th.

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, by Eleanor Coerr, is a children’s book that is both heart breaking and important to read. Sadako Sasaki was a twelve year old Japanese girl that developed leukemia as a result of being exposed to radiation from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

The crane is a symbol of longevity in Japan, and it is popularly represented in origami form.  Legend says that the person who folds a thousand cranes will be granted a wish.  It was with this in mind that Sadako began folding cranes, in the hopes of getting well when she reached a thousand.  Sources disagree whether or not she made one thousand cranes, but Sadako eventually succumbed to her disease in 1955.

Today Sadako and her paper cranes are symbols of world peace.  Japan remembers August 6th, the anniversary of the bomb dropping, as Peace Day.

Folding a paper crane can be the beginning of your collection of a thousand, a thoughtful little gift, or a tribute to peace.

Here is a YouTube How To and below are some fine Etsy origami items:

Necklace by FlorenceGirl

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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 endangered Vancouver Island Marmot



Madagascar Fish Eagle

The latest charitable art project that has caught my eye is the Endangered Species Print Project.  Artists Jenny

Kendler and Molly Schafer have teamed together to bring awareness to the imminent disappearance of endangered species.


These two graduates of the Art Institute of Chicago make a print run that corresponds with the number of animals remaining.  So, for example, since there are an estimated 222 Madagascar Fish-Eagles  left, there will be 222 prints made.  There are several artist besides Schafer and Kendler who have contributed their artistic skills to the project.  On the ESPP website, you can buy the available prints as well as find information about each animal.  One hundred percent of each sale goes to the organizations that work to save the

Panamanian Golden Frog

particular animal.  Keep up your important work, ladies!

Additional Links:

Kendler and Schafer lend their art to the Center for Biological Diversity’s Endangered Species Condom Project:      http://endangeredspeciescondoms.com/

Learn more about Endangered Species at the WWF:      http://www.worldwildlife.org/species/

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Haiti Relief Benefit Concert

A flier I drew for it:

If you, dear reader, live near Amherst, Massachusetts, consider joining us on Thursday, January 28th, for a concert to benefit Haiti relief.  Bands Bella’s Bartok, Grex, and the Fine and Dandy Trio will be playing, starting at 7pm, in Earthfoods in the Student Union.

*** Last night was a complete success, with happy people dancing all over to the music and contributing over $600 to the UMass Haiti Relief Fund.

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As I mentioned before, Regretsy, the site that brings the “WTF to DIY“, coordinates drives for certain charities.  After reaching a certain amount of money, Regretsy hires an Etsy seller to contribute to the charity.  The latest charity the Regretsy community is raising money for is Project Linus.

I conducted my own drive for Project Linus in high school, so this project is close to my heart. The women in my community really came together, pulling out crocheting hooks and knitting needles, and contributing to my drive.  It was amazing to be the center of such a positive energy: I got to gather up all of the blankets, hard work and love, and deliver them to my local chapter.

Project Linus collects handmade (and handmade only!) blankets to distribute to ill children, traumatized children, and children otherwise in need.  The organization began in 1995 with one woman, who read an article about Laura, a little girl undergoing years of chemotherapy and getting through it with the help of her blankie.  The reader, Karen Loucks, decided to donate her handmade blankets to her local cancer hospital.

You can read a little more about Laura here.

Project Linus is organized by local chapters, so that each blanket and its maker (referred to as a “Blanketeer”) doesn’t have to travel far.  The blankets then are given to local area hospitals.  Find your local chapter: http://www.projectlinus.org/chapter.php

As an healthy, happy little girl, I absolutely loved my blankie.  I can’t even imagine how much one would mean to someone in need.

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Handmade:  Creating opportunity where the once was none.

Marketplace: Handwork of India is a non-profit that does just that.  Starting out from SHARE, a non-profit in Mumbai in 1980, the organizers realized that there was a market for handmade clothing in the US, and Marketplace was born in 1986. 

It’s not about turning a profit.  It’s about empowering women and giving them opportunity and financial independence.  On their website, Marketplace describes their “model of supported self-help, which involves the artisans directly at all levels of decision-making as they form and manage their own independent cooperatives.”

The motto sewn into each piece of clothing is: “Dignity, not Charity”.

Marketplace now works with over 480 artists, from 14 cooperatives. The clothing and home products are hand dyed, sewn and embroidered.  You can even find out about the specific dyers and their methods online under Artisan Profiles>Suppliers.

The cooperatives engage in what they call Global Dialogue.  This involves communication between the customers and artists, as well as whole cooperatives exploring social themes together, in personal reflections as well as discussion.

Memuna, from the WARE Cooperative, said:

“I always felt that there was a bird inside me which was caged for many years but today it wants to be free, to be allowed to fly from the cage and soar high. As my children are becoming independent, I am also beginning to feel free.”


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