Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Eco-Conscious Business Owners Make A Difference

I like to think I think about the environment when I'm making every-day choices in the Dunitz & Company office. I confess, I do have plastic zip-lock bags in the office.  I also use them over and over and over again for storing and organizing jewelry. Anything and everything I receive in parcels is re-used when I package the ones I send. (I sure hope some of my clients aren't offended by our use of some nasty boxes.) Recently I was thinking there must be other simple things I might do in my office that would reduce the Dunitz & Company carbon footprint.

I emailed my colleagues at Fair Trade Federation and other trade show neighbors. I sent a blast out to the Museum Store Association membership. I posted on our Facebook and Instagram accounts.

I asked: Do you make eco-conscious choices when running your day to day business operations? Is there something you do, that others could easily incorporate? I'd love to share your simple ideas in a blog I'm going to write. How can we make small changes that help our environment and reduce our carbon footprint. You don't need to write a lengthy response. It could be as simple as not buying packing peanuts, but sourcing them on Craigslist so they don't go to landfill. Or you only use cloth napkins in your office instead of buying paper towels. I'd love to hear from you.

Here are the responses I received. Some are simple. Some are WOW, this company really goes the mile. And you'll see, how some behaviors (ie. recycling packing materials) seem to repeat themselves from office to office.

Jenn Roberge, dZi Handmade: "At dZi, one of the many things we try to do is print on both sides of paper. If we do have a paper that has only been printed on one side, we recycle that paper for our co-worker, Sean to use for internal projects." 


Seema Bawa, Trovelore: " 90% of the boxes and packing material that comes into my home and office in any shape of form are re-used for shipping out Trovelore orders.  I rarely ever buy new packing materials. I always make sure that boxes are the right size. I hate it when I receive a small little something in a large box filled with excessive amounts of paper, bubble wrap or foam, even when the contents are not breakable.  I print all of my shipping labels on the clean side of used sheets of paper. I reuse all the paper from my kid's school projects where only one side of the paper has printing. Everyone knows to put paper in the "reuse" drawer. We don't print anything except for packing lists. We haven't printed a catalog since 2018. Our clients can see everything online."


Dave Debikey, Global Gifts, Bloomington: "We recycle as much as we can here at Global Gifts. What the recycling service doesn't take, I take home and put in my household recycling. Seriously! All of that plastic wrap and little bags that product comes packaged with is no longer accepted by the city or the district (Bloomington, IN) for recycling, so I take it all to the local Krogers, the only place collecting that plastic for recycling and repurposing. We also compost our coffee grounds and food waste. Compost collects in sealed jars and then goes into my compost bin at home for my garden.  Some years ago, we switched all our lighting to LED. It was a big upfront investment, but we're not constantly replacing light bulbs now or consuming as much electricity. With Covid, we were doing a lot more surface cleaning, multiple times a day. We began collecting rags for cleaning to avoid using a lot of paper towels. We source sanitizer from our local distillery, Cardinal Spirits. Finally, we recently decided to change our store supply sourcing for toilet paper and tissues. We now purchase from Who Gives A Crap. Their products are made from 100% bamboo and come without plastic packaging. They also give proceeds to provide toilets for people who need them."


Nina Moukova, Seeds to Sew: "We always use plates, glasses and silverware that we wash and always refuse the plastic stuff. We us cloth towels by the sink and wash them. We accept donations of jewelry boxes and have our volunteers rebrand them with our logo. We offer them as free gift boxes and our customers love them. Oh, and we haven't bought a shipping box or envelope in over a year. We accept donations of used shipping boxes and padded envelopes from everyone. If there is a label to be covered, our volunteers glue a piece of brown paper over it and they're good as new. Nobody has ever complained, actually quite the opposite."

Krista Bermeo, Krista Bermeo Studio: "I get most all of my bubble wrap from local buyers (retail stores) as it comes in from other vendors. It sure makes me wonder how many times the wrap has criss-crossed the country (or globe.)"


Karen Sparacio, Project Have Hope: "One way that we try to reduce our environmental impact is to reuse all shipping material, including boxes, cardboard inserts, paper stuffing and peanuts."


Joan Rasch, Sevya: "We've made lots of the eco-conscious choices we've made in our US and India office/warehouse. We use biodegradable plastic bags for our product packaging. We recycle all the paper we can for packaging orders and printing. Each staff person brings their own hand towels from home and launders them, rather than using paper towels. Reusable glasses and mugs are used for drinking water and other beverages including lots of  Chai tea!  And like so many other people, we recycle all of the cardboard boxes from our shipments that come in from India."


 Kelsey Neale, Latitudes Fair Trade: "We recycle all of the packaging that come in with the orders we receive. Our local UPS store even recycles packing materials. Sometimes if we have too much, instead of taking it to the recycle center, we will drive it down the road to the UPS store for them to re-use. We re-use sturdy paper and bubble wrap we receive in our orders when we are packing up fragile items for our customers. We get much more than we need and probably drop off 10-20 bags of paper and plastic packaging at the recycle center twice a month."


Anne Kelly, Mayan Hands: "We're really passionate about this. We ship a lot, packages of all different sizes. We are always scrounging for boxes to reuse - and laugh at how excited we get about finding really good ones. Our cars have boxes of all sizes and shapes in them. I guess others have noticed, since now our friends and neighbors drop off boxes. We always go to the 'odd box table' first before using a new box. Our shipments from Guatemala arrive wrapped in plastic to protect the contents and we reuse every scrap, along with any paper that they include. When we do have to purchase packaging, we seek packing materials with recycled content. We're glad to see there are more options for purchasing packaging materials with recycled content than even a few years ago. We're equally concerned about eco-conscious choices in the office and are eager to learn new ideas from others that will share your your blog post."


Jennifer Webster, Mayamam Weavers: "We try our best to be eco-conscious in our packaging - and we leave the plastic behind. For wholesale orders, we reuse boxes and packaging and add a recycle sticker on it. For retail orders, we line our boxes with one sheet of red tissue and a sticker and ship in a cardboard box. We don't include packing lists or paper receipts unless someone requests that since all the pertinent information has already been shared digitally. We try to find a balance between beautiful and avoiding waste. We want our products to arrive looking like a gift even to the person who purchased it themselves. If anyone orders gift wrapping, we wrap the shipping box in red paper and a ribbon, then slip it into a compostable shipping sleeve."


 Cael Chappell, Baskets of Africa"We do lots of things. We switched to all LED lighting. We participate in a wind energy program at our power company. We only use brown recycled boxes for shipping. (We never use bleached white ones which are quite toxic to produce.) We pay extra for the UPS Carbon Neutral shipping program. We recycle all paper and cardboard that can't be reused. We reuse any packing materials that come to us that we can. Believe it or not, our of our 7200 square foot warehouse/store/office, we product less than a bag of garbage per week. We buy compostable corn plastic utensils for when we can't use metal. And we recently quadrupled our insulation in our warehouse ceiling to conserve heating/cooling electric and water use.


Recycling Tips
It was a delight to hear from so many of my colleagues about what they do in their offices to help make ours a better world. Did I learn a few things that I will adopt as new behaviors at Dunitz & Company? One thing I definitely could do a better job at is saving and printing on reverse sides of used paper. I'm going to work on that. What changes will you make? -ND 

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Meet Elisha Chan, Fair Trader & Executive Director of Fair Trade Los Angeles

Elisha & Me at FTLA event
Dunitz & Company has been a member of Fair Trade Los Angeles for many years. And it is through this organization that I first met Elisha Chan. Elisha is a 'superwoman'. She operates her own business, Elisha C. working with artisans in Haiti. And she is the Executive Director at Fair Trade LA. I'm impressed that she can juggle all these responsibilities. I wanted to learn how she does it. She agreed to be interviewed by me. Keep reading to hear what she had to say. 




NANCY:  Can you tell me what inspired you to get involved with fair trade? Was there a pivotal event in your life that encouraged you to work with artisans in Haiti?

Haitian Artisan Products
ELISHA: I started going to Haiti the summer of my sophomore year at UCLA. But it wasn't until my seventh trip to a small village, Fond Doux, that I came back with a newfound passion to end poverty. I felt a sense of responsibility to do something about the extreme poverty I saw and the suffering of the Haitian people that soon became my family. I wanted to find a sustainable, lasting, long-term solution to break the cycle of poverty. I believe if I can bring economic stability to one family in one community, perhaps I can impact a whole nation. That is when I realized that job creation is the key to ending poverty. I took my first "business" trip while I was still a student and found beautiful handmade products, as well as award winning coffee that no one knew about. That is when I started my fair trade journey working with Haitian artisans to bring their products to the global marketplace.

NANCY: Tell me a little bit about the work you do in Haiti. Is there a type of product you specialize in?


Haitian Producers
When I first found my passion to end poverty through job creation, I had no idea what resources Haiti had or what they were producing there. I thought my role was to create a workshop in Haiti and work on product development myself.  But after discovering so many artisanal products, including coffee, chocolate, jewelry, home goods, leather goods, and more, I realized that the real need was to bring these products to the marketplace. The Haitian people were already creating beautiful products, but there was a gap in marketing and storytelling.  I couldn't pick one type of product to specialize in. I was so proud of their work that I wanted the world to know all about what Haitians were capable of producing. I now work with over ten different artisan partners and have created an online marketplace of a wide range of products. We offer something for everyone.

NANCY: This is a bit random. Can you tell me why you chose the name Elisha C. for your business?  (When I started my own business, I didn't know exactly what I would end up selling or specializing in. This is part of the reason I chose my name, as my business name. I've actually written a blog post about it.)

ELISHA: To be completely honest with you, I don't like coming up with names. It stresses me out. When I first came up with this business idea, I knew that I did not want this to be seen simply as a "cause" or a charity. I have seen great quality products made in Haiti that are marketed as a charity project due to the lack of marketing resources. I didn't want to do that. I wanted to create an ethical brand that elevated the products, told the stories of the makers, and showcased the quality, not just the cause. I chose to name the company, Elisha C. in hopes that it would change the perception from a cause business to an ethical brand. 

NANCY: Is there something you feel particularly good about when you think about your work in Haiti. An accomplishment? A life you changed?

ELISHA: Changed lives, that is what is really about.  I never want to lose touch with the people we are impacting, because they are the reason why I am doing what I do. Through my small business, we've been able to give back towards breaking the cycle of poverty. We've helped local families start their own small businesses. We've given out over 300 scholarships to send students to school in their small village. From preschool to university, I've seen students excel in school who wouldn't normally have the opportunity to even attend. We've sent students to the big cities and have given them a once in a lifetime opportunity to graduate from a university. This changes their lives forever. Nurses, teachers, principals, businessmen, we are rising up future leaders for Haiti and putting Haiti in the hands of Haitians.

NANCY: How did you learn of Fair Trade Los Angeles and get involved with this group? Can you tell me a bit about Fair Trade LA?

ELISHA: When you follow your passion, you never know where it will lead you.  As I launched out to navigate my new business idea, Nataly Garcia, a friend from UCLA told me about a nonprofit called Fair Trade Los Angeles. She recommended that I check out their meetings that were then held at USC (University of Southern California). So, I did. It was so encouraging, especially during my beginning stages (of my business) to find a community in Los Angeles that was passionate about the same things as me.  Fair Trade LA is an educational nonprofit that is educating consumers about Fair Trade as a solution to fighting labor trafficking by ensuring the makers behind everything we buy are paid a fair and living wage. Fair Trade is a way to bring about social justice through the way we shop every day. I thought if we wanted to support job creations for artisans, I also needed to inspire consumers to buy products that are making real life impact. I knew I wanted to get involved with Fair Trade LA because I wanted to take what I learned from my experiences in Haiti and also impact developing communities all around the world.

NANCY: You took over as Executive Director of Fair Trade LA in 2018.  Is there an accomplishment during your tenure you're most proud of? What are the most important missions of this group?

ELISHA: Fair Trade LA's mission is to educate and inspire consumers to embrace Fair Trade products so global farmers and artisans have the opportunity to earn a fair and sustainable living. Since I stepped into the role of Executive Director, my main goal was to grow the Fair Trade movement by increasing the accessibility to Fair Trade products and educating more consumers about the impact of Fair Trade. And we have definitely seen that happen! Now Fair Trade products can be found not just in specialty grocery stores but also in all the major grocery stores. Our biggest accomplishment actually happened during 2020. After many years of hard work and the sacrifice of many selfless individuals, Los Angeles officially became the largest Fair Trade City in the USA and North America. In fact, LA is now the fourth largest in the world. In August 2020, with the help of our champion, Council member Paul Koretz, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted to pass the Fair Trade Resolution declaring Los Angeles a Fair Trade City and declaring every second Saturday of May going forward "World Fair Trade Day."  Yet, our work has just begun. We much continue to our work because labor trafficking is still prevalent all around us.

NANCY: Do you have any pearls to share about time management? You must personally do the work of 3 people in order to operate your business and oversea the activities of Fair Trade LA. How do you juggle all that you do?

ELISHA: I am not sure I have the formula figured out. And the reality is, there probably is no perfect formula. When you are trying to make life better for people, you just do what it takes. I'll share two things I've learned on my journey. One, work never ends. I used to be a workaholic, working late nights with no boundaries, because I was passionate about what I do. And then I realized that work is endless, there will always be more work to do. Instead of chasing everything I think I need to do quickly, I've become better at prioritizing the things that seem most important. Two, I've learned that we need community. It is not possible to change the world by ourselves. We need each other. There is an old African proverb that says, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." I've learned to collaborate and work with others, even it it means going slower. When you can grow as a community, you definitely can go much further.

NANCY: Is there anything you'd like to add?

Elisha Chan
ELISHA: My hope is that my story will inspire someone else to step out into the unknowns and pursue their hearts desire to make this world a better place. No one person can change the world. We need everyone to do their part to actually see change. If you see a need in the world, maybe you are the one that is supposed to do something about it. One of my favorite quotes comes from Mother Teresa. "I alone cannot change this world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples." I hope this interview will give someone the courage to rise up and answer the call in their heart.

# end of interview #   


I hope you have been inspired by Elisha's story. You all know how passionate I am about fair trade and the work I do at Dunitz & Company. Through equitable production of our fair trade jewelry, we make a difference in lives. I've enjoyed getting to know Elisha a bit more, learning about her passion and how she has enacted change for so many artisans and producers in Haiti. And she sure does an awesome job managing the activities of Fair Trade LA. I am so appreciative of all she does. -ND

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Portrait Drawing | Fair Trade Jewelry | Seal's Facebook | Family & Friends

I've been drawing. And sometimes my portraits include pieces of Dunitz & Company fair trade jewelry. Other times they don't. Each subject has taken on a special meaning for me. The time spent with all of the pastel pencils I've amassed, feeds my soul. It took Covid-19 isolation to prompt me to embrace this new activity. The joy it has given me is immeasurable.

I wanted to share my recent drawing accomplishments. For this blog post, I'll start with my most recent, and work my way backwards. The stories behind some of the photos are extraordinary. If you want to see more details of any of my work, I suggest you follow my personal Instagram account. There I proudly share my artwork.

South African Mother

Serendipity. I tend to blare my music when I draw. Most recently I blast Seal's music. I adore his voice and sound. I actually follow him on Facebook. It is so random that I actually responded to a photo he posted recently. I definitely do not typically comment on celebrity profiles. In this case he mentioned 'music is the medicine of the soul.' I agreed and posted my recent drawing of a Guatemalan artisan. What I received was a handful of likes from Seal's followers and an message from a young woman in South Africa. She asked if  I could draw her mom and what would it cost? I learned that she and her extended family only had one blurry photo of her mom. Seriously. There was no question I wanted take a stab at drawing her mom who had passed away several years ago. I also knew that I'd be mailing this to her, a gift.


Young Girl

 I have friends and family that are very private and don't interact with social media. This always surprises me because it seems everyone is over-connected and over-sharing on social media. (Guilty!) These people don't want pics of their babies or children seen anywhere. Their view, and I get it, is those children when they are 18, they can decide what should be seen.  This drawing is my first portrait of a child. She will remain nameless until she decides you should know who I attempted to draw.

Basket Weaving Artist

If you are reading this, it means you might also read some of my other blog posts. One of my recent posts interviewed Fair Trade Federation designers who work in Guatemala. If you didn't read it, you can here. One of the designers, Anne Kelly works with Mayan Hands. She provided me a wonderful photograph of, Cecilia, a woman who creates woven baskets. This is the portrait I drew from that photo. This is the image I shared on Seal's Facebook feed...the one I commented about above.





Family is so important. And during Covid-19 isolation, I've been missing mine.  I'm sure you have been missing yours too, yes? I asked my sister-in-law to snap a pic of my brother and email it to me. And then I grabbed my pastel pencils and got to work. It actually looks a lot like him :)! Do you think he'll have it framed when I actually see him and give him this gift?


Self Portrait

I stood in the bathroom and snapped my photo in the mirror. There were so many shadows. And I thought, "Oh that will be a fun thing to attempt." I think it looks a lot like me. My hair which was quite short over a year ago is now very very long. My friends don't find this portrait an attractive rendition of me. This portrait wasn't about beauty. It was about drawing what I saw. 

I've known Ana since 1986. She cleans at my house. She cooks and plants chili in my garden. When she is at my home it's one of those 'my house is your house' kind of things. Her sons used to go on hikes with me when they were young. Now, they're grown men. Sometimes Ana comes to my office. And Ana organizes and cleans like I will never do for myself. She is family. With her permission recently, I snapped her photo and drew her. I gave her this drawing after I completed it. I know she was flattered I took time to create it.


My eldest niece Helen and I have the best time together. We can chat endlessly on the phone. She's a fine artist and loves to travel. In fact, the photo I used for inspiration was one I snapped when we were traveling in Laos together. She's a bit of an earth girl like her Auntie Nancy. Neither of us have pierced ears. (Don't ask.)  But for the purpose of this drawing, I decided she should be wearing a pair of Dunitz & Company fair trade glass stud earrings.

Alicia and her son

Alicia's son is now 15. My drawing was modeled after a photo I took in Guatemala many years ago. Alicia is the lead artist in our bead workshop. She manages the women who bead and teaches them new techniques and shows them how to create our designs. Every drawing presents new challenges. And this one certainly did.  A baby. A traditional blouse. I'm thrilled with each new challenge I take on.

Alexx models Dunitz jewelry

Pre-Covid I would meet up with lovely women and snap photos of them wearing Dunitz fair trade jewelry. The Hollywood Bowl is one of our favorite locations to do this.  It's amazing how I've learned to recycle model photographs from the last several years during these looooong coronavirus months and months.  Alexx Calise, a professional musician has modeled for me several times. Recently I took a stab at drawing a model photo I previously snapped. I think it resembles her. And she agreed. She's wearing one of our fused glass bib necklaces.

Surunda and I met back in the very early 1990's. She is one of two women who first taught Mayan women how to bead. We collaborated together soon after we met and created a collection of beaded jewelry for me to exhibit and wholesale to stores in the US. You can only imagine what a huge impact she's had on my life. And me hers. We've designed and orchestrated unique collections twice a year ever since. Can you imagine? 

Yes. That Joe.

I just had to see if I could do a quickie sketch from a magazine pic I discovered. I didn't spend much time with this one. I was relieved when just about everyone who saw it...knew who it was. Nuff said.

Laughing Jocelyn

While on Covid lock down, I asked my niece Jocelyn, who lives in Michigan, if she might take some pics wearing Dunitz & Company jewelry. She graciously agreed and recruited one of her sisters to join in on the fun. The pics they provided me proved they had some fun. My challenge here was to draw my niece laughing. I'd never drawn a toothy smile. BTW, she is wearing Dunitz & Company embroidered earrings.


This is from that same Michigan fashion shoot. Risa was wearing a pair of our eco-friendly Van Gogh Sunflower earrings. Out came the colored pencils, pastel pencils and charcoal. I rather love this drawing. When you don't have model shots, draw portraits. And then use them on social media feeds. And blog about it!

First Portrait, Early February

Early February 2021, I decided to draw. I'd been thinking about drawing for a really long time. In early 2020, I purchased a lot of pencils and various paper. An art easel that was purchased for me by my parents when I was young and was largely unused came out of storage. And then all of that sat in my guest bedroom until early February 2021. I took one of those fashion shoot photos my nieces snapped in Michigan and started to sketch. If you read this blog backwards, you'll see just how far my drawing has come. I think I've improved quite a bit for this first drawing of Jocelyn. If you really want to see what the earrings she is wearing look like, click here.

Day of the Dead Self Portrait

How it really started? In October 2019 I signed up for an intensive 5 day drawing class with artist, Isis Rodriguez in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Maestro Isis used to teach at the University of Kansas. And now, Mexico is her home. She teaches both drawing and painting. The session I signed up for was taught during Day of the Dead week. You can only imagine how fun that was in San Miguel. Decorations. Colors. Parades. In this case we watched a makeup demonstration and then painted ourselves. What do you think of my self portrait?

My very 1st Portrait

And this is where it all began. Prior to my workshop with Maestro Isis, I hadn't had any formal drawing instruction. During the first day of class in Isis Rodriguez's studio, we drew from this model. She was a beautiful indigenous woman wearing a Guatemalan huipil and a family heirloom headdress. The feedback was to keep going. Keep going. Isis helped with the skull on the headdress. That definitely wasn't perfected by me. The rest was drawn by me over most of two days. Seriously. Considering this is my very first portrait, I'm rather proud of it.

As I type this, it's May 12, 2021. I've experienced so much joy drawing these last few months, I wanted to share with the world that joy. I've enjoyed drawing people I know, and some I don't. When I can add a touch of Dunitz & Company, that makes me happy too. Making serendipitous connections through Facebook celebrity pages, that's a hoot. What's next? Maybe you. -ND

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

What Motivates You to be a Fair Trader? These Stories Answer that Question

Dunitz & Company Fair Trade
 Nancy (left) & colleagues
I know why I work in fair trade and why I established Dunitz & Company as a vehicle to sell beautiful handcrafted jewelry. I've traveled the world over. And too often I'd seen (and see) wonderful artisans who live in poverty with no access to sell their creations. I adore designing. I adore collaborating. And I wanted to find a market for artisan goods that would allow many to have a better life.  This is my story in a nutshell. I was curious what motivated other fair traders, so I decided to ask.

I reached out to several colleagues of mine who are always the most collaborative and supportive. This seemed a good place to start.  Several are Fair Trade Federation members. Others are not, but live by fair trade principles.  Here's are my questions and their answers.  I asked them to be concise in their responses and interpret my questions as they saw fit.

What motivates you to work in fair trade? Did you have a life experience that changed the way you see and work in the world?

Nina with artisans
Nina Moukova - Seeds To Sew International - It's the women and girls who participate in our programs, and knowing that by doing what I do, I can help create a lasting positive change in their lives. Every time I come across a customer who wants to hear about our artisans and is touched by the difference they can make in someone's life buy buying a product handmade by them, it touches my heart. It helps me realize that there are a lot of caring people out there and our work is meaningful - for both the artisans and the people who are happy to share with the less fortunate.

Julio at his store

Julio Zegarra-Ballon - Zee Bee Market - I was born in Peru and saw first-hand the lack of opportunity countless artisans face daily. I then built a career in retail working for large US corporations and realized I wanted to launch a Fair Trade business that would give market opportunities to talented artisans and makers the world over.






Rikki with Husband, Jim
Rikki Quintana - Hoon Arts Fair Trade - Art grabs people's attention. Through Fair Trade, I can use beautiful and unique Central Asian handicrafts to build long-term collaborative relationships and open the doorway to this unknown part of the world so that people in the West can see our common humanity and appreciate our beautiful diversity. It's my contribution to building a more peaceful, connected world.


Cael with artisans
Cael Chappell - Baskets of Africa - I suppose it's in my nature that I love helping people. So it's very rewarding for me to affect change in Africa by providing transformational opportunities for a person, family, community, or region...simply by treating them with respect and paying them a great price for their beautiful creations. I grew up very poor myself, sometimes homeless, and have lived without running water, indoor plumbing, electricity, or any modern amenities. When I first went to Africa almost 30 years ago, I realized that the majority of the continent lives in those difficult conditions and i wanted to do what I could to provide economic opportunities.

LeeAnne wears fair trade
LeeAnne McCoy - Change the World By How You Shop - Around 15 years ago, how I shopped was forever changed when I watched a video about Chinese pastors, imprisoned for their beliefs, forced to work 16 hours a day making Christmas lights. Though I initially changed my shopping habits to avoid exploitation, what motivates me now to support fair trade is the stories of how lives have been impacted in a positive way.

Karen with artisans
Karen Sparacio - Project Have Hope - Having traveled to Uganda in 2005, I saw the talented craftsmanship of a group of paper-bead making artisans. They had the skills; they just needed someone to help them bridge the gap to the marketplace. From day one, it was imperative to me that these artisans should have a voice as powerful as their talent.

Rosa with Peruvian colleagues
Rosa Chang - Blossom Inspirations - After living abroad from my home country of Peru - studying then working, I was looking for ways to reconnect with my home, our culture and traditions. I started bringing handicrafts fro my friends when visiting Peru, which eventally grew into a small business. Running the business under the tenets of fair trade was a way of giving back. Self-reflection made me realize that our humanity often gets overlooked in the profit & loss statements and that there are more stakeholders than those who hold shares in any given business.

Akhmim artisan
Hala Scandar - Dandarah  - Having grown up in Egypt, I have always appreciated Egyptian crafts and the highly talented artisans who create these treasures. Dandarah was born from a desire to empower marginalized artisans and help them sustain their age-old crafts. I so want to share their exquisite products beyond the boundaries of their home country and in a way that they are treated ethically.



Creating Opportunity in Haiti
Michele Adams - Village Country Store -  I strongly advocate ethical brand shopping, purveyors and supporters of fair trade who are working towards the good of us all.  I have met so many incredible people working in fair trade who little by little and piece by piece are making a difference. By launching my fair trade store, I'm able to spread social good, awareness, hope and help others less fortunate than me.





Designer, Kovida at work
Joan Rasch - Sevya  - Through this work, we are inspired each day to grow in our contentment and compassion. When we se the women artisans we work with blossom into their empowered selves, always giving of themselves with care and joy in their hearts, it motivates us to keep our hearts open and to give our ourselves without inhibition.


Caryn(right) & Sandra
Caryn Maxim - Mayamam Weavers - Volunteering with undocumented immigrants in my community of Morristown, NJ opened my eyes to the horrible realities that force so many people to migrate from their homes leaving family behind. I collaborated with a group of migrants from Guatemala that had organized themselves to look out for each other while in the US which lead me to apply my years of business experience to organize a weaving cooperative back in their community in Guatemala. By following the fair trade principles, the women of the cooperative are able to stay in their country, earn fair wages, support their families and reinvest in their community.


Anne with artisans

Anne Kelly - Mayan Hands - At its core, fair trade is about honoring shared connections. Nothing motivates me more than working alongside our artisan partners. I'm inspired by their creativity, strength, and their willingness to take on risks like learning new techniques or business skills. I believe the women are powerful agents for change, ad it's a joy to be there, through all the ups and downs, with our artisan partners as they work to create better futures for their families and communities.


Eldonna with artisans
Eldonna Fernandez - Baskets & Beads Kenya - As a military veteran who lived a life of service for 23 years, I have traveled the world and been to many different places and countries. I am motivated by the Air Force Core Value that still stays with me, Service Before Self.  I did have a life changing experience when I visited Kenya for the first time and met the women there. I knew working with them was the next "Service before Self" event for my life.




beaders in Guatemala
Nancy (that's me) with artisans
After reading my colleagues responses, it seems there is a common thread among us. Most of us have traveled the world or were born in a third world country. In those places we've spent meaning chunks of time, we've discovered and met countless artisans who need opportunities to sell their craft. And all of us live by the golden rule and expect that all workers should be treated with respect and earn living wages. I'm so happy to share these sound bites from my colleagues who live life in the same lane as me and Dunitz & Company. If you have a story from your experiences, I'd love to hear it. Please email me. -ND

Friday, February 26, 2021

Product Photography - Learning By Example

Dunitz Glass Earrings

I'm always thinking about how I can create enticing photography for Dunitz & Company's fair trade jewelry website and social feeds. I've mastered the "jewelry on white background" images. These are the types of images needed for 'clean' website viewing and required by most trade magazines for publication. How do I do it? With a light box and Photoshop. Here's the Photoshop trick I use, assuming you use this software. Image > Adjustment > Levels --- adjust & there you go.  I know others use various phone apps to manage the white backgrounds. For me, Photoshop is what works. But what about all those other sexy pics I see on Instagram? I think I do an admirable job with the Dunitz & Company photography. I also know that I can always do better.  Watching other photo feeds sometimes make for the best teachers. Here are a few Instagram accounts worth following. Perhaps they'll have a thing or two to teach you. And honestly, you may fall in love with their products too. Why not? 


Lucuma Designs

Lucuma Designs is a Fair Trade Federation colleague of ours. They work with artisans in Peru and their Instagram feed is yummy. I tend to linger on some of their photos more than ones from other feeds.  I love how many of their images show an item (a gourd perhaps) in complete focus. And everything around it is blurry. I know this has something to do with depth of field. But, heck, I don't know how to create that effect. If you're an expert with a camera and know how that is accomplished, please email me.


The Spiral Rock
The Spiral Rock offers up some really wonderful product pics on their Instagram feed. I love how they use so many angles and add cool looking measurement tools so you know what size everything actually is. The designer, Harriet, who I know from a couple of Facbook groups told me she often uses window ledges for her background. How cool is that? 

It appears that each and every photo I see from Fazl Socks makes me drool with envy. Their photography makes socks sexy. I think you'll be inspired by their excellent photography and you'll want to go out and buy yourself a pair of their ethically made socks. Fazlco is a screened member (like us, self-serving pitch) of Fair Trade Federation.

Flavour Design Studio
There is no way that Flavour Design Studio was NOT going to make this list. Elan, their founder and designer has an incredible eye. Everything from product design to photography, everything she touches has such style. Flavor Design was my neighbor many times at trade shows, and their booth always looked perfect. As far as photography goes, it's clear that Elan carefully plans each of her shots which really in turn express the mood she is after. It's a cold day. Oh that soup in her Buddha Bowl is steaming. Looking for good luck? Her bowls are filled with just the right Lucky Charm cereal. She's on my pedestal.

M.Lew Jewelry
Melissa Lew knows how to make her jewelry rock on Instagram. Her feed is really fun to follow and she has a great eye for combining lifestyle shots with great product photography. She is a Museum Store Association vendor colleague of mine. And she also happens to be one of the most collaborative and helpful people around. Without asking, she'll jump in and offer assistance whenever she knows she can. Definitely check out her jewelry and her photography! 

Awamaki Peru
Awamaki Peru sure draws me into their Instagram feed. They have some lovely product shots. And their images of their colorful artisans are dreamy.  After following along, you'll feel as if you KNOW their weavers, their community and their beautiful products. Dreaming of a new pair of winter gloves? This Fair Trade Federation member company could be the perfect resource.

Helen Gotlib
My niece, and a fabulous artist she is, Helen Gotlib earns a thumbs up for her Instagram feed. Her product is her wonderful artwork. And she does an amazing job showcasing it. You'll see many pics of her and her process in her studio. Including many videos. Drool. Drool. (Watching what she does with video might encourage you to do the same.) She manages to obtain and share lots of shots of her work in their final homes. And some of those homes are Architectural Digest worthy.

Mayamam Weavers
Perhaps you read my last blog post that included thoughts from Mayamam Weavers about their design process and working with artisans in Guatemala. Now, our Fair Trade Federation colleague deserves a shout-out for their fabulous photography. Yes, we follow them on Instagram. And I'm always amazed how they manage so many ways to show off their gorgeous textiles. What most impresses me is how they stage so many engaging shots. At a picnic. Baking cookies. Drinking martinis. Washing dishes. They're so clever!

Indigo Jones
Are you a foodie? Then you must follow my high school friend (yes, high school), Shari Hershon from Indigo Jones. You'll want to eat everything she bakes and cooks. Her photography is just that enticing. She also bakes to order, so if you need gluten-free eye candy, she's your person.  Go ahead. Start drooling.  She also lists some of her treats in her Etsy shop.

Kahiniwalla is an expert when it comes to baby toys and rattles. And they definitely have their photography down to a tee. I mean, who doesn't want to see an adorable photo of a child playing with a colorful toy? Their Instagram feed will fill you with smiles. Did I say that Kahiniwalla is also a Fair Trade Federation member? Their beautiful offerings are ethically made in Bangladesh.

Product Photography Ideas from Dunitz
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So now that I've shared some of my favorite Instagram feeds for photography inspiration, can you suggest some of your favorites to me?  Please email them to my attention and I promise I'll have a look.  My 2021 goal after reviewing these feeds for this post, is to take some extra time and create some staged photos. Maybe Dunitz fair trade jewelry on wrists, reading a book, with elbows on a table.





Dunitz fair trade bead jewelry
Dunitz & Company
For a closing thought, let me share a smokin' hot pic I like a lot from the Dunitz & Company Instagram feed. -ND