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Trip to Bali 2019 - Part 1: Smiling dog – growling tiger

Trip to Bali 2019 - Part 1: Smiling dog – growling tiger

The dog lies lazily in the entrance, smiling happily beneath the growling tiger.  Ten metres further on a carved figure of a man clutching a chicken stands beside another entrance. At a street corner in a village a stone deer peers out from the undergrowth beneath a temple. 

We are on a buying and information gathering trip in the most art and craft rich country I have ever visited. We are in Bali.

The word ‘art’ refers to a wide range of activities involving human imagination and creativity to create objects, performances or events that shape or change or reinforce the way humans view the world. In many countries the vast majority of people are consumers of art rather than producers. But not in Bali. Travel miles along Bali’s roads and you find that every second shop is packed with arts and crafts. Everywhere you look people are making things.

This art is not just for tourists; paintings, sculpture, carvings, hangings, music, fabrics, are valued by the local population. Every other front door is guarded by statues and shrines. Art is everywhere.

Shared Earth is privileged to pass through these front doors to meet the artisans in their workshops. We meet woodcarvers and glass blowers, painters and dreamcatcher makers. We witness how arts and crafts are integrated into the fabric of family and community life.

Today we are visiting the bird maker. We have been buying parrots and flamingos from the Wayan Dirga for a couple of years and are keen to see what new things he might produce. He shows us a new range of British Birds: sandpipers, owls, woodpeckers, robins, sparrows and blue tits, all carved and painted with the same eye for detail and the same exquisite brushstrokes.

Watching him paint the robin’s head I am surprised the bird doesn’t wriggle out and fly away. Wayan has been painting since primary school and it shows in the easy deftness of his strokes. Even his wife looks on admiringly.

Nearby another artisan is creating the birds’ feet, turning and painting the wires prior to nailing them to blocks of wood. The craft skills are impressive.

We think that the wren is a little too large and maybe a little bright. I show him a photo of a British wren. Wayan takes notes. ‘Yes, I can do that’ he smiles, and you know that in no time he will be cradling a tiny British wren in the palm of his hand. 

Do these skills matter in a world where a machine can be programme to mould a bird and paint it automatically? I know what I think.

Created On  8 Mar 2019 11:08  -  Permalink
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Shared Earth is 32!

Shared Earth is 32!

Dear friends and colleagues (you are friends because everyone who supports Shared Earth is a friend!)

This is a report on our progress, on the event of our 32nd Birthday. Shared Earth opened in York on 10 November, 1986, and grew quickly. By 2000 we had 5 shops and were importing Fair Trade products from about 15 countries. Then in 2008 came the financial crash; our shop in Birmingham made a huge loss and in 2010 we were forced to close all our shops except York and Liverpool. We struggled to survive.

So where are we now?

It took a while to get back on our feet after 2010, but we have done it. York and Liverpool were our busiest shops and their sales have continued to rise; and our wholesale sales have increased by over 20% each year for the last 5 years. This growth has allowed us not just to support our current Fair Trade suppliers with extra orders, but to take on many new suppliers.

Created On  10 Nov 2018 9:50  -  Permalink
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Getting rid of plastics

Getting rid of plastics
You know plastics are out of hand when your wooden shelves are plastic veneer, your "biodegradable" cup is packed with melamine, your supermarket vegetables sit in plastic straight jackets, your toothpaste oozes polyethylene microbeads, your sausages are cased in nylon, your favourite team plays on a polypropylene pitch, while you comb your polyester hair with a plastic comb paid for with a polymer £5 banknote.

Shared Earth is working hard to rid itself of plastics, both in its products we sell and in the packaging that those products are shipped in but isn’t easy and don’t let anyone fool you to believing that it is. While we all welcome the fact that even the right-wing press are now calling for an end to the plastic tide that floods our lives, the truth is that there that talk is cheap. Greenwashing is easy and everyone is at it.

For example, how can we rid ourselves of the billions of plastic bottles that gather in our bathrooms and lunch boxes? In my family’s bathroom there are 53 plastic bottles. Fifty-three! OK I have three daughters but let’s be honest, boys too are interested in grooming and smelling good.

Created On  9 Apr 2018 22:40  -  Permalink
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Trip to India 2018 - Part 5: Visit to the weavers of Chaksimultala village

Trip to India 2018 - Part 5: Visit to the weavers of Chaksimultala village

Moons ago I visited the tropical house at Kew in London and breathed the hot humid air that sticks to your shirt and I walked among plants that were so busy growing you felt that if you turned round quickly you could catch them at it, sprouting leaves and fruit like popcorn leaping out of a pan.

Ninety kilometres south west of Kolkata I have that same feeling as we pass turquoise houses, and tractors heaving four times their mass of sugar cane, as if balancing a sofa on a roller skate. 

Our guides stop repeatedly to ask the way. Onto smaller roads, we pass the busy sari shimmering haze of small towns, and squeeze through sun-hammered villages thick with lorries, shoppers, motorbikes, and shadows glimpsed through doorways. A canal appears alongside the road. I say canal appears but in truth no water is visible, only a long depression to our left into which someone has tossed an enormous and never ending salad of water lilies.

A slow gingerly shudder over a rickety wooden bridge and the driver cuts the engine. We have arrived.
Created On  2 Apr 2018 21:24  -  Permalink
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Trip to India 2018 - Part 4: Mud, colour, guns

Trip to India 2018 - Part 4: Mud, colour, guns
A lazy morning, it being Holi. Breakfast at 10am. Someone explains that all the food is vegetarian because hotels are owned by Jains. The same source assures us that all Jains are very rich because they eat no meat. This, plus the fact that they drive very large cars and either wear white clothes or no clothes at all, accounts for their stunning business acumen.

There is a kind of poetic justice about being filthy rich but condemned to walk around in your birthday suit, eating nothing but salad.

The taxi arrives. There are four of us: David and I, Febry and her friend Toby. We have booked for a large car. What arrives is probably the smallest car in Delhi, aside from Tuktuks.

Empty roads. The only people out on the streets belong to the species homo colourfulus. Red faces, yellow faces, multi-coloured faces … Quite a few are very definitely drunk. As convoys of motorbikes carrying multiple passengers kick up the dust around us I am reminded of a spaghetti western. A tuktuk lurches across a junction, four guys standing, leaning out, dancing and swinging their arms wildly in celebration. Struggling to keep the three-wheeler upright, the driver clings the handlebars with the grim look of a condemned man.
Created On  4 Mar 2018 21:55  -  Permalink
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Trip to India 2018 - Part 3: Birds, Butterflies & Punjabi Rap

Trip to India 2018 - Part 3: Birds, Butterflies & Punjabi Rap
Today we are visiting Karm Marg, an ashram 12 miles out of Delhi.

Enough traffic talk except to say that today is the first day of Holi Festival so actually there is comparatively little traffic on the roads. In next to no time we are in the countryside. The village of Kheri Kalan does deserve a special mention for the highest and nastiest sleeping policemen I have yet ‘enjoyed’. I lose count of how many times my head actually hits the roof of the car. We have almost arrived, according to the Ola map (a local variation on Uber), when we find our path blocked by a huge water or sewage pipe. The pipe is surrounded by villagers, male and female, who are busy digging and shifting earth. 

Having got advice from a stander-by we turn round. A big detour round the village takes us past a lake complete with ibis. Dozens of roadside cows chew lazily as we pass. Eventually we reach a narrow track leading to the open countryside and, last stop on the left, a colourful gate and the words "Karm Marg – Chritable Society”. (yes, it does read Chritable).
Created On  3 Mar 2018 22:19  -  Permalink
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Trip to India 2018 - Part 2: The day Taja 8 met a ghost

Trip to India 2018 - Part 2: The day Taja 8 met a ghost

Q. What do camels and elephants have in common?

A. You find both of them on the wrong side of the road walking in the fast lane on dual carriageways in India.  

Today we are spending a second day at Tara, Tara has been a Fair Trade company for over 40 years, even longer than Shared Earth has been around … They supply us with jewellery, stoneware, bike chain giftware and more.
Created On  1 Mar 2018 12:41  -  Permalink
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Trip to India 2018 - Part 1: Traffic and "Fork Handles"

Trip to India 2018 - Part 1: Traffic and
A first visit to a new country is always a mixture of excitement and trepidation. What will I experience? Will I get ill? This visit to meet our many suppliers in India is no exception. Five days into our journey I have a few moments to walk you through.

First of all, being ill. I can write this now because I feel much better, thank you. I had succumbed to Delhi Belly within twelve hours of arriving. Yes, I know, pathetic. You rush back and forth from what is politely called the washroom feeling stupid; your body has let you down and you cannot focus properly on the task in hand. Thankfully the world has invented Immodium and within six hours I was feeling better. 

So, my angry bowels out of the way, let’s talk about what David and I are doing in India.

Working with a Fair Trade company we are here to meet the producers and suppliers of a huge and varied range of craft products from across India. Every day starts with a car journey. There appear to be no useful maps of Delhi and only occasional pavements. There are tuktuks but only chain smokers would appreciate what tuktuks do to your lungs.
Created On  26 Feb 2018 21:08  -  Permalink
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My First Trip to India

My First Trip to India"Never again,” I said to Jeremy (Shared Earth MD) after our trip to Bali. "It’s too far, I can’t cope with the heat.” I was adamant that me and trips abroad were a one-off. An experience of a lifetime, not to be sullied by excessive time spent in airport departure lounges with swollen ankles, and yet, here I am sitting in my hotel room in New Delhi, with the air conditioning blasting out, eternally grateful to be granted this experience once again.

I have never been to India. I’ve seen it on TV, I’ve heard other people’s accounts, I’ve read all our producer stories and yet nothing was quite enough to prepare me for what I was seeing first hand; it really is a different world.

Created On  24 Apr 2017 13:58  -  Permalink
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Caitlin Moves to York!

Caitlin Moves to York!Hey I’m Caitliń-rose, you may recall my last post about Crystals.

Today I’m going to talk about a major life change I’ve undertaken… Moving to York!

I moved up from my hometown (the absolutely amazing Liverpool which I will always love) to the stunning city of York around the second week of September, my main reason for moving was to make the most of a brilliant opportunity offered to me by Shared Earth, to progress into a full time role, and also to satisfy my wanderlust, I adore travelling! Conveniently, the tenancy on my flat was coming to an end anyway so it seemed like it was just meant to be!

Created On  7 Apr 2017 13:25  -  Permalink
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