When I’m travelling, I love seeking out handicrafts from local artisans as souvenirs, because I get a unique and personal reminder of the place I’ve visited, and I know that I’m supporting the local economy. There are often loads of great organisations out there working with local artists to help them sell their work, and keep a fair percentage of the proceeds, like the argan oil cooperative I visited in Morocco – run by local women and sold on site to tourists.
But I’ve found a fantastic new website for those of us who want to support local artists without having to hop on a flight halfway around the world everytime we want to buy something! Discovered Marketplace is an online market that is similar to Etsy, with unique, handmade products which are mostly sustainable, all sold by artisans from emerging countries. Check the market out at Discovered.us, where you can browse artists’ profiles and pick up some wonderful, unique products – but first read on to see how you could be in with a chance of winning one of two €10 vouchers which I have to give away!
What is Discovered?
“Discovered is an online marketplace where artisans from upcoming markets sell their products directly to consumers worldwide by opening their own shops. ”
The artists can make a profile on the marketplace, tell us a little bit about their stories, and sell their products. So this way, not only do you buy a beautiful product as a treat for yourself or a great gift, but you also get a product with a story, and the satisfaction of knowing you’re really helping to make a difference. Discovered ensures via scouts that only good sellers and products come online, so you know that the stories are all true and you can really help out a community. Speaking of communities, that’s exactly what Discovered is: an online community of sellers, who have gained online visibility through the site, and buyers who can learn the unique stories behind their purchases, share their own travel stories, and connect with the artisans on the marketplace.
Meet the Artists
Discovered currently has six countries on the marketplace: India, Indonesia, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa and Mexico, and they aim to become available in all emerging markets. As a first step, they have local teams in 12 countries and have made 10,000 products available online. There are loads of artists to choose from already, and some have very touching or interesting stories.
Like the Khenifra Women’s Cooperative in Morocco, a group of women who used to make the hand-sewn jellaba buttons which are an essential part of traditional Moroccan clothing. These buttons used to be sold to seamstresses for very little pay in spite of the huge amount of talent required to make them, but a few years ago this group of women, with the help of US Peace Corps voluteers, set up a cooperative and began selling beautiful, colourful jewellery made from the jellaba buttons, which they now sell on Discovered and ship around the world.
I adore the jewellery range, the bright colours and swirling materials are just my style, and they really remind me of my visit to Morocco a few years ago.
Another seller that caught my eye is Maheya, a fairtrade company based in The Netherlands who sell handicrafts from my favourite country in the world, Colombia. Specifically they sell Mochilas (bags) which are hand crafted and weaved by the Wayuu tribe (pronounced “Wah-You”) in Colombia. Maheya’s partner company in Bucaramanga buy the bags directly from the Wayuu tribe and pay fair prices; as the company’s slogan says “Maheya brings fair trade and fashion lovers together”.
I love the funky colours and geometric patterns, which take me right back to Colombia, and in particular I have my eye on the Dolce Vita mochila (if anyone feels like buying me a Christmas present!).
One of the most inspiring stories I spotted is that of Il Ngwesi, from Timau in Kenya. They sell beaded jewellery and homeware, all handmade in the traditional style by Massai women. Il Ngwesi is a Maasai community living in Kenya’s high country to the north of Mount Kenya, called Laikipia North. The social position of women in the family and community has traditionally been low, and the community itself, a pastoral one in a country with 40% unemployment, was underdeveloped. But in 1996 Il Ngwesi put 80% of their land into conservation and built the first community safari lodge run by Maasai in Kenya – and so started their development. This has supported many local projects, including schools, water and health centres – and five years ago Il Ngwesi and VSO Jitolee started a project for the women in the area combining micro finance with training in beadwork. Now, around 500 women, all skilled bead-workers, are helping to support their families, pay school fees and start new business ventures including opening village shops.
So, want to win one of the two €10 vouchers I have to give away? That’s €10 to spend on any item on the Discovered.us marketplace – either as a fabulous, bespoke treat for yourself or a gorgeous gift for someone else. All you have to do is follow me on Twitter if you aren’t already, and tweet @em_luxton to tell us your favourite ever holiday souvenir, using the hashtag #travelsouvenir. On Friday 3rd of October, I’ll pick two winners at random and Discovered will send out the vouchers – so don’t forget to tweet me!