Editor's Letter

Aid to Artisans + February 2014 Editor’s Letter

by Grace Bonney

Last night while I was lying in bed, I was listening to the dueling sounds of two incredibly loud trucks clunking down our street, while somewhere in the distance a siren raced by. The more I focused on the sounds of the trucks, I more I settled into bed and I felt myself start to smile. As I became aware of my smile I suddenly became aware of what a huge change I’d undergone since my first night in New York City.

In August of 2003, my parents dropped me off at NYU and I spent the first night in my dorm crying myself to sleep. Not because I was home sick (though I was), but because I could not for the life of me manage to get a wink while sirens blared by, people yelled on Broadway and then- the kicker- recycling trucks came, their presence announced by the crashing of glass bottles and cans. I remember crying quietly under my covers, so tired, and wondering how anyone ever slept in this city.

But last night, after visiting a good friend in Philadelphia and being away from loud street noise, I was happier then even to hear the sound of trucks crashing and clunking down the street as the lulled me to bed. It hit me, that after 10 years of living here, this was now the noise- and place- that felt like home.

Change has been a huge part of my personal and professional life lately, so I thought about that a lot when choosing this month’s charity.

Over the past few years, there have been more and more groups reaching out to work with, educate and connect artists and artisans across the globe. Education is always at the core of these efforts and I’ve been so honored to meet many of the people who’ve been through artisan programs from other countries. The way they so quickly learn, adapt, grow and become more well-rounded business owners and artists (all while maintaining their existing jobs and work load) is endlessly inspiring to me. So this month I wanted to celebrate several organizations that are working in the sphere of educating, connecting and changing the lives of talented artists and artisans across the globe. We will be donating to these groups this month and I hope you’ll consider supporting them in some way if you’re able- they’re facilitating such great change (both personally and professionally) in the community we love and are a part of. xo, grace

Aid to Artisans is a wonderful non-profit group that is well known for working to create opportunities for low-income artisans around the world. Business and language training are key aspects of the process, but what I love most of all is the way they teach artists to create something that will support themselves and their families from their existing skills and handmade businesses. I think preserving that original passion and skill, rather than applying it to something totally different, is one of the things I love most about this group.

Anou: Anou is a relatively new group that educates and connects Moroccan artists and artisans with sellers across the globe. Wendy MacNaughton introduced me to Anou and I’ve watched with such interest the way it connects people who aren’t able to read and/or write sell their work using a platform they access on their cell phones. These artists are able to translate skills that have been learned and handed down through generations into goods they can sell directly through Anou’s phone program. They take a photo of their work and, using a primarily visual system to describe and upload what they’re selling, are able to sell instantly through Anou’s site. Rather than having their work change hands several times getting to an international market, they’re able to sell on Anou’s website and keep almost all of the profit themselves (rather than 1/10 or 1/20th, as often happens on international goods like this).

Nest: I first discovered Nest through Harper Poe at Proud Mary, who started her business working with Nest to find incredible artists and makers in South America. Nest helps connect designers with lower-income artisans across the globe and ensures fair wages for those artists. I admire the programs Nest creates to enable each local business to become not only profitable but to have a significant positive social impact on the community around it. The way this group works to build up not just the individual but the community (and create more work and learning opportunities) for everyone is wonderful.

Thank you to all of these groups (and many others like them) that work so hard to not only connect us with talented and inspiring people, but to really help these artists find their voices, build their businesses and create systems of support for not just the individual but the community.

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  • lovely post. I spent 10 minutes on the website of Anou and reached for my purse. I hope many people will do the same. thanks so much for sharing

  • Thank you for using your sphere of influence to share Anou. I’ve personally met some of the artisans, and they are truly amazing, hard-working, motivated people. They have the opportunity to run their own business, sans middleman, which is quite an accomplishment in itself, not to mention use the completely language-free platform to post and manage their products. Thanks again!