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Crafts sale helps developing nations

Sarah Mayer | Thursday, November 20, 2008

If you’re looking to get ahead on your Christmas shopping and support a good cause in the process, stop by O’Shaughnessy Hall, where fairly traded crafts made by artisans in developing nations are being sold from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. today.

Ten Thousand Villages, a local fair trade store, works with 66,000 artisans from 36 different countries, said assistant manager Cheryl Schairer, creating a “long-term relationship” with artisans so that they can have a sustainable income to provide for their families.

Schairer said Ten Thousand Villages is unique in that they pay artisans fair wages before their products are sold, and then “it’s up to us to sell it.”

“Unlike most other companies that send money back if [the products] sell,” she said.

Ten Thousand Villages is selling its products in honor of International Student Week, including a tea light made by industrial design professor Ann-Marie Conrado.

Conrado designed her product – a small copper tea light shaped like a lotus flower – in 2003 in Nepal. It is designed to float in water, such as in a pool. Because it is made of copper, “you’ll have this wonderful greenish tint” that comes to resemble the flower the longer it stays in the water, Conrado said.

Conrado’s product alone has helped to revive the dying copper industry in Nepal and since the creation of her product, the employment in the copper industry in Tansen-Palpa, Nepal has increased dramatically, she said.

“It has quadrupled in size just based on the orders of that tealight,” Conrado said.

Conrado receives no profit, and said she does this because she wants to “use design to help support other people.”

In addition to Conrado’s tea light, the Ten Thousand Village stand in O’Shaughnessy Hall is selling an array of hand-made crafts, including chocolate and coffee made from fairly traded beans, teapots, soap, scarves, wooden sculptures, plates made of recycled magazines, and jewelry.

Jewelry has been one of the best sellers at Notre Dame, assistant manager Cheryl Schairer said.

Conrado said that another opportunity to buy fair trade products is coming up on Dec. 5 in Badin Hall.

“We’re going to be doing A Conscious Christmas. There will be products for sale there that were actually designed by ND students,” she said.