Friday, June 30, 2017

Homemade Dog Biscuits & Fair Trade Lessons

This weekend I baked dog cookies for our Dobie mascots and their neighbor canine friends!  My goal was to bake these treats without going to the grocery store. Success! I slightly altered a recipe I found and made what clearly were very yummy "Tuna Treats."  Stetson & Ida have inhaled what I've allowed them. And our neighbor dogs - Charlie, Hedda and Monty seemed to like theirs quite well too.

Our little gift packages looked like this ---->

Want the recipe? Here you go. Makes about 2 dozen. And honestly, it was so easy and quick!

1 can tuna (in water) - the original recipe said oil, so I just added a bit more than what the original recipe called for.

2 cups cornmeal (I used a little less, because that's what I had.)
2 cups flour (Here I used a little more.)
3/4 cups water
2/3 cup vegetable oil (I used a bit more.)
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 350° F
2. The recipe says to drain can of oil. I did not drain my can of water.
3. Combine cornmeal, flour and salt in large bowl and mix. Add tuna, water and oil and mix thoroughly.
4. Roll dough onto lightly floured surface to about 1/2" thickness. (Mine were a bit thinner, I'm sure.)
5. Transfer to ungreased baking sheet
6. For larger biscuits 3" bake 30-35 minutes. (That's exactly what I did, with switching the trays half way through this time period.) Note: Smaller cookies are recommended at 15-25 minutes.
7. Transfer to rack for cooling. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.

And then I wondered, could I have baked these with fair trade ingredients or used possible substitutes.  The answer seems to be yes and no. By researching I've learned a few things. Here is what I learned.

Tuna.  Is there fair trade tuna? I didn't learn of anything online that would indicate there currently is. At least not in a can. Safeway and Fair Trade USA launched a plan in 2015 to introduce fair trade fish for the North American market.  They indicated they would begin with wild-capture tuna from small-scale fishermen in Indonesia. This program was to be the first of its kind to address both social and environmental responsibility in fishing communities across the globe. This is definitely a topic to research further.


(Wheat) Flour.  You can purchase organic wheat flour.  What I found online was 'fair trade coconut flour' - something I'd never heard of before. It might be fun to check this out and see how it can be used.  I'm not sure it would be an appropriate substitute for dog biscuits. Fair trade coconut flour is available form several sources including Tiana and Arrowhead Mills. Arrowhead Mills sells a lot of organic flour. It appears the Coconut flour is the only one certified fair trade.

Vegetable Oil.  There are many producers of nuts and seed-oils that produce fair trade products.  Fair Trade USA has partnerships developing with several suppliers. I'd like to make a call-out to one of our Fair Trade Federation member colleagues, Canaan Fair Trade. This company works diligently to fairly employ those in marginalized Palestinian rural communities and they offer several varieties of olive oil. Had I had fair trade olive oil in my pantry, I'm certain it would have been an appropriate substitute for the veggie oil I had on hand. The dobes would absolutely not complain.

We promise to post another dog cookie recipe soon.  In the meantime, try this one. Your Spot or Max will be so pleased. If you use some fair trade ingredients, please let us know. -ND

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Love Affair with Heirloom & Vintage Looks

I've always been crazy for vintage clothing and jewelry from an era past. It might come from years of fiddling with and adoring my mom and grandmother's old coats and jewelry. Some of those pieces are mine today - waiting to be handed down at the appropriate time to my nieces. Unfortunately, I don't wear these gems often. I figure while I'm busily sustaining our fair trade jewelry business, I must wear Dunitz & Company baubles.

It's for this reason when Accessories Magazine announced that they want to promote heirloom and vintage looks for an upcoming trend report, I was reminded how Dunitz & Company has often incorporated such doodads into many of our our looks.  This photo to the right, used as a pitch by Accessories features a stunning necklace with an old coin. It's not our necklace. It did however spark me to remind our customers that we use lots of old and collectible tidbits in many of our fair trade vintage jewelry designs.

Great things happen when you least expect it.  In order to stay ahead of the curve, one needs to continually be thinking of new designs and new looks. It seems forever ago, that I started purchasing vintage glass buttons from a friend of mine who was also a then button dealer.  Her beautiful Czech buttons combined with our bead-work created new looks that hadn't been seen before. Retailers responded. Sales were excellent. At one point, my friend suggested I purchase her excess stock at a deep discount. This has allowed Dunitz to offer so many other limited edition vintage styles in all sorts of colors. (Looking for buttons for your own project? We still have lots of stock.  Reach out. We may have just the thing you need.)

 And then it was time for our next brainstorm for expanding our heirloom styles. Steampunk looks were landing on shelves in many hipster stores.  The look was not quite my thing. However, I was enamored with some of the components. I found watch part vendors in the US and abroad willing to part with specifically watch faces of all sizes. I've had to pay a premium for the faces. And often faces arrive that are unusable driving our costs up.  Just the same, they're such cool components we have justified and figured this into our costs. We launched necklaces, bracelets and mis-matched earrings mostly in various earthy tones. The beauty of these pieces is no two are ever identical. The lucky person who purchases this piece or that piece will never ever find another just the same.

It seems almost crazy that the our designs using old coins came after those that use buttons and watch faces.  I say this because old coins are much more readily available.  So once again we launched several designs as part of our 'prosperity collection' using mostly retired coins from around the world.  The coins we're using have little value to serious coin collectors. They sure do look 'cool' as part of bracelets, necklaces and other stuff. Other stuff? Ponytail holders, rings and more mis-match earrings.  We also figured out a way to secure enough old Israeli lira and shekels allowing us to create perfect pieces for our Judaica customers. (I know, it sounds a bit sales pitchy. Perhaps a little so!)

And then there were three. Well, three types of components used on a few of our most recent fair trade vintage designs. We offer some nifty one-of-a-kind designs that use buttons, watch faces and coins. This one here ---> we call our Potpourri Necklace. Because we'll never find a duplicate button or watch face, each Potpourri Necklace is truly unique.  We suggest you be one-of-a-kind and shop our heirloom and vintage fair trade jewelry. -ND

Monday, June 19, 2017

Fair Trade Fashion Trend Finder

Each week I receive a pitch from Accessories magazine soliciting on-trend items for their 'trend finder' email blasts. And each time I read their emails, I think "Dunitz & Company has that!" We have the perfect fair trade fashion accessory for their fashion trend finder story.  So far, we have not paid to be part of their email blasts. I do wonder if it makes sense. (If you've read their blasts and use their recommendations for your wholesale purchasing, let us know!)

Next week, Accessories with blast about chokers with charms or pendants. An image of the newest Joanie M choker which will debut next month popped into my head. Here's a teaser pic. It looks like Dunitz & Company is right on trend. This new fair trade choker will be available in 12 colors. That's a suede adjusting band with a teardrop pendant. And, yes, you can always order earrings to coordinate.

Recently, Accessories was looking for images (and ad$) to share hipster pins and patches with their list. You know what clicked in my brain. Yes! Dunitz has fabulous fair trade pins. They're perfect for a lapel, a neckline or all over your jacket.We're all about being on target with trend finder. And our pins shown here----> are embroidered too. You guessed it. Accessories recently wanted embroidered accessories for another recent blast. Keep reading.

You already know it! Dunitz & Company features embroidery in many of our designs. Many of our artisans were raised with a needle in their hands. Embroidery is prominently featured in traditional clothing. We have always been inspired by and embrace the cultural identity of our workers. It only seems right to use their natural skills to create gorgeous fair trade accessories. This season we decided to create accessories and bracelets (shown here>>>) embroidered on denim.  Guess what? Accessories magazine wanted to blast about accessories made with denim. Gosh Dunitz is consistently on target! (Am I tooting our horn just a little too much?)

We're showing all sorts of designs embroidered on denim these days. For fall, we're going darker and more monochromatic. Here's a sneak peek of a necklace you can order for Fall.  Did you guess where this might be going? The green colors are reminiscent of camouflage and military colors, both trending for Accessories. Ooooo, this puzzle is quite fun. What is next?

For Fall 2017 we absolutely projected that military and camouflage colors would be "big"! To make sure you'll all be covered, we will be offering our entire beaded collection in a color combo that follows this trend. We don't want to show off all of our new intros for fall just yet. Here --> you can see some hoop earrings we successfully sold for the current season. They're coming back in army green. So, what is another trend Accessories pitched? Hoops! Yes! Hoop earrings.

Other trends. Metallics. Neutral Colors. Circular Shapes.  I'm sure I can find some stunners from our fair trade fashion to continue this fashion trend finder story. For now I'll stop and hope I've teased you enough to log into our wholesale or retail websites.  You can't lose. Thanks for reading. Thank you for being our customer. - ND

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Embracing Cultural Indentity with our Fair Trade Jewelry

One of the nine principles of fair trade (as defined by Fair Trade Federation) is "Respect Cultural Identity." I'd like to say Dunitz & Company absolutely embraces it!  Our fair trade jewelry often communicates the essence of the community in which we work.  When I first traveled to Guatemala in 1988, I was enthralled by the artistry of its citizens. Everywhere I turned artisans were painting, carving wood, weaving and embroidering. Bright colors were bursting everywhere. Although different in every village, the Mayan women dress in their own artistry. Traditional blouses (huipils) boast joy and nature. Check out this snippet from a Santiago Atitlan blouse, the community where our fair trade beaded jewelry is made. This one features dozens of various birds in an assortment of vibrant colors. Since this is an incredible skill many of our artisans possess, we embrace it. We encourage the women to put their traditional skills to task. And I'm sure many of you know what I mean. Dunitz & Company offers many fair trade jewelry designs that incorporate traditional Guatemalan embroidery.

Part of the joy of visiting our artisans is experiencing their customs and costume. The women that create our bead-work always come to work well dressed in their traditional clothing. Many of the people in the town where we work now wear western dress. Clothing imported from the USA (think Goodwill) is purchased very cheaply in the markets.  It's much cheaper to purchase these imports than to secure the handwoven and embroidered locally made clothing. By earning living wages, our (female) staff can continue to wear the traditional clothing they love so much. (Most of the younger men in Santiago Atitlan now choose to wear western clothing. Traditional clothing is reserved for special occasions. Think, weddings.)

In recent years we learned of an unfortunate situation. Many wholesalers of Guatemalan crafts actively sell hats, bags and anything you can think of made from what we were told were "recycled" skirts and traditional huipil blouses.  We also created some bracelets and pins from old huipils we purchased at the local market.  Ultimately we learned that poorer women were selling their traditional clothing years before they were worn out so they could earn enough money to feed their families. (Remember, western clothes can be purchased for pennies at the local markets.)  The demand for these colorful crafts resulted in more and more women selling their family heirlooms. What makes it worse, is poor women would sell their treasures to middlemen who would then earn any and all reasonable markup made at the markets. Once we understood this, Dunitz & Company stopped buying older huipils and we discontinued creating the few designs that used them as components.  We want to do everything we can to respect and protect cultural identity.

Creating images of stunning flowers, birds and butterflies come very naturally to the community in which we work. Colorful powder, bark, flower petals and you name it are components for carpets created to honor saints at various holidays. The carpet here was created for Easter Holy Week this year. How can you not embrace this? Yes, we respect cultural identity. And yes, we embrace it! We want these images as part of the jewelry we create.

Here's proof of the pudding. I'd like to say I design each and every piece in our collection. I'm proud to say that I often collaborate with our artisans and include their ideas and input in many of the pieces we offer to you, our customers. Here are a few designs from our current fair trade jewelry collection that include the very special images you see in traditional Guatemalan wares. By having artisans craft new embroideries and purchasing new loomed yardage to create many of our designs, we both provide work and preserve traditional techniques. We definitely respect cultural identity. We embrace it. -ND