People often ask if we work with artisan groups in the US, which gives me a chance to explain that the primary aim of Ibu, from the beginning, has been to provide a market for women who otherwise would not have one. The women in rural Pakistan or South Sudan, for example, have remarkable skills but almost no acces to customers who could purchase their product; whereas women of Appalachia or even of the Geechee-Gullah corridor within which I live have unique skills but also have avenues to offer their product to a supportive customer base - at Craft shows, farmer's markets, and local boutiques. It's a question of prioritizing the greatest need.
But, there is one group native to this homeland that we are honored to support. On a remote Navajo reservation outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, women without access to markets come together under the leadership of Etkie founder, Sydney Alfonso, to create exquisite cuffs. Weaving the finest beads in designs of their own heritage, and lining them in the softest deer skin, these women work remotely on the reservation and join together once a week to conduct their growing business.
The work is impeccable. The love in each piece is palpable. These are amulets at the wrist (which one could use these days), to keep you safe from invisible forces. A long and storied history is carried in each one.
Many of us are obviously concerned about what is happening within our borders during this staggering shutdown. I wanted you to know about these strong women, always at six feet of separation on their open lands, and how they have found a way to come together while maintaining their independence at home. I thought you'd be interested in how they have grown from making 200 cuffs each year to 5000 last year. How they have successfully created a social enterprise on their native land, out of their own hands.
That is the hope of women around the globe. To do their finest work. To put that work before you - before interested, compassionate, discriminating buyers, Buyers who want meaning in what you buy, and want to buy more than a product - you want to buy with purpose, invest in promise, promote beauty. You want to bring hope to whose who work hard and work honestly and bring all of themselves to their task.
As Sydney said of the social enterprise she began: Our business model is fairly simple. We invest in women.
I'm so in. 100% in. Here on this native land, and in reaches far beyond. Proud to bring a market as savvy as you to women as remarkable as these.
Be well; entertain hope.
Susan Hull Walker