Monday, December 14, 2009

Calamarie Promotes Colombian Artisans

Fair trade products often conjure images of hemp bracelets and "hippy-fied" macabre purses made from artisans in remote villages in South America or Africa. However, that was yesterday. Today, buyers are creating a market for artisans using recycled materials from metals to plant seeds fashioned into modern accessories and apparel.

Catalina Lemaitre, founder of Calamarie, has returned to her native Colombia to promote eight artisans whose designs evolve from all things organic.

For instance, dried orange peels, watermelon seeds, silk cocoon, groundcoffee beans, and Bombona and tagua seeds - indigenous to Colombia - are ingredients for beautifully crafted necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. Weavers use woven hammock and fique fabric to create handbags and clutches embellished with flowers and/or dyed in bold hues, vegetable dye that is.

Calamarie's products are to be experienced.

"The items have a real tactile feel to them because they are made from materials you would normally eat," Lemaitre says. "Our designers use discarded coffeegrounds or other materials to make something really beautiful. And still smell good."

Lemaitre draws upon her experience in economic development and art to advise artisans on product development and marketing in addition to supporting financially through microloans. For the majority of artists, their craft is their sole income.

Changing the image of "fair trade" products starts with the relationship between the customer and the designer, according to Lemaitre.

"Art softens people," she says. "Calamarie is about making the connection between art and culture. And hopefully, people will want to support artisans when they understand their story, when they know a little something about where the item came from and what it means."

Calamarie products are sold online and available for local trunk shows priced affordably under $100.

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