Artisans

Nest searches globally for artisan communities that alleviate poverty, empower women and promote peace. Learn about their stories and skills here.

  • Bolivia
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    Bolivia

    I was working for a knitting organization in Bolivia and spent all day knitting. When I met Anna, the owner of AHA Bolivia, I was nervous to work for a foreigner. But, we got along really well and I found we could work easily together. AHA Bolivia paid me fair, higher pay and also wanted me to become a group leader instead of working under someone else. I knew I had the ability, and so I accepted the position. Eventually, I was made the head quality controller because of my experience. Now, I work with all of the women and we are content. We go through ups and downs with production, but in the end we are doing well and I am thankful for the work and excited to be exporting my skills to customers around the world.

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  • Dominican Republic
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    Dominican Republic

    Marilin was 14 when she gave birth to her first daughter. At twenty-nine years old, Marilin was mother to six children, including infant twin boys, and her husband was bringing home the modest pay of a motoconcho (a motorcycle taxi). When Marilin attended a community meeting where Nest offered the opportunity to teach sewing skills and to start a cooperative of women that would work hours that supported their duties at home, her commitment was a no brainer. When the women of the cooperative were being trained, she often stayed long after the other women had left to improve her own sewing skills. Now, Marilin is 30 years old and takes pride in her membership in the Asociación de Mujeres de Costura de Villa Alemán (The Women’s Sewing Association of Villa Aleman).

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  • Guatemala
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    Guatemala

    In the 1980s civil war ravaged Guatemala. Unable to tell the peaceful from the rebels, the Guatemalan army tore through the highlands killing many innocent Mayan men. In this process, many women lost their husbands leaving them the primary breadwinners for their families. Rather then succumb to fear or desperation, the women started banding together to create craft cooperatives pooling resources and sharing the work. In the tiny village of Chuacruz, the women formed Waqxaqib (place of weaving). This cooperative has now been operating for over three decades passing work from grandmother to mother to daughter. From this heartbreaking beginning, these weavers are a symbol of how far the women have come and how much they have achieved as a group.

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  • India
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    India

    Sudha is a 22-year-old woman. She has lived in the same village her whole life, but her mother and grandmother’s generations lived highly nomadic lifestyles, travelling throughout India to craft and sell their tribe’s traditional mala (prayer) beads at Hindu temples. Their lives were unstable and unpredictable, not knowing when they would find work or their next meal. Sudha entered into an arranged marriage at the age of 13, and since that time has lived with her husband’s family in a tiny hut in southern India, giving birth to 3 children and undertaking the domestic chores for the extended family of 9. Sudha struggles to provide for her family and uses all her income to send her two sons to school, but she is determined to see her sons complete their education and break the cycle of poverty. To do this, Sudha is a hard-working member of her village’s artisan cooperative.

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  • Kenya
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    Kenya

    Anton is a talented jewelry maker living just outside of Nairobi. Anton has managed to build a successful jewelry business that uses recycled materials (including hand-turned cow bone from cattle carcasses used for food), and as a result, his team has grown from a small shop of four into a company of thirty craftsmen.

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  • Mexico
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    Mexico

    Margarita was the first girl born among a family of 11 children. Being the oldest girl, she had to help her mother with house chores. By the age of 10, she had to quit school to sell food that her mother prepared in the streets for extra income for her family. When she was 15, she was married against her will. She went to live with her new family and had to endure an alcoholic and violent husband. Wanting to leave that house, she found out she was pregnant. She asked her father for help but her father denied it saying it would be a shame on the family if she would leave her husband. Wanting to find both peace and employment, Margarita turned to her sister in law who would spend her afternoons doing embroideries. It is from her that Margarita learned how to weave and do embroideries. She began working with the organization Lu'um. When she was earning a steady wage, Margarita finally left her abusive husband and is now supporting herself and her family though her craft.

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  • Morocco
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    Morocco

    Hayat Ait Alla is a 25 year old woman with big dreams. She founded a carpet cooperative in the tiny town of Midelt at the base of the Atlas Mountains. She calls her cooperative Toudart Iwsta which means Life of Looms. Hayat’s father owns both an apple garden and also a carpet shop. However, his orchard is located quite a distance from Midelt where land is more fruitful, so he turned the carpet shop over to Hayat and her brother in order to support their family while he is gone. Hayat started the cooperative out of love of traditional carpets and her desire to help women in my community. In the shop, she saw the market for hand woven carpets and was also saddened to see the growing market of factory-produced knock-offs. She has turned her little cooperative into a success — preserving the ancient art of rug weaving and helping women like her provide income for their families. Hayat says that she will not specify patterns for the rugs no matter how large the order since rug-weaving is poetry for Moroccan weavers — each rug different and filled with story and meaning.

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  • Queens - NYC
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    Queens - NYC

    Offcially, the slave trade ended in 1863. Yet there are a greater number of human trafficking victims now than in the 18th century - when slavery was still legal. The slave routes of the past spanned the transatlantic. Today's routes span the globe. Thousands of women from Central America, Asia and Africa are trafficked into the US each year. And less than 5% get help. Ms. Y is one of these women. She came to the United States trusting the assurances of a trafficker who promised her a stable job as a tour guide. The trafficker and his accomplices prepared a false passport and smuggled Ms. Y across the border. However, upon her arrival, Ms. Y learned that the job awaiting her was not as a tour guide, but as a prostitute. When she resisted, she was physically abused. Without food, shelter or clothing of her own, Ms. Y found herself trapped in sexual slavery. During a police raid Ms. Y was arrested. Facing deportation, with nowhere to turn, Ms. Y came to Restore NYC: the first safe house for trafficked women in New York City. Through training and access to a local market, we're working together to reroute human trafficking. Each handcrafted product from the women at Restore NYC reroutes the modern day slave trade to a journey to safety, freedom and hope.

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  • Swaziland
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    Swaziland

    Swaziland is a tiny country in southern Africa. Because of the high rate of mortality from HIV/AIDS, many women find themselves as single mothers responsible for many dependants. As a result of early pregnancies or lack of funding, they are often unable to finish secondary education. Baobab Batik wanted to change these patterns. Offering training and market access for batik artisans throughout rural Swaizland, 32 artisans come together to create products. One of these women, Ms. B, was 22 years old when she met Baobob Batik. She had lost her whole family and was staying with a male relative who could not be trusted. There were signs of abuse and she lacked self-confidence. She was slow to learn the skill, but the other artisans knew her story and wanted to help. They were patient and she persevered and now she is the proud mother of her first infant and producing beautiful work.

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  • Togo
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    Togo

    Chantal Donvide was born into a family of artists, and has always known she would work in craft production. Chantal studied extensively for over 10 years in both seam stressing and batik work. She founded Aklala Batik with the goal of creating a product line that would combine modern style but preserve her the cultural artisan traditions in Togo. Her vision reaches far beyond bettering the life of her children and family - her goal is to provide economic opportunities to women who already have the skill sets but do not have fair access to markets, capital or financial knowledge to improve their own livelihoods. Through a growing batik business and an expanding apprenticeship program, Chantal is creating community-wide change through each hand-stamped batik.

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BoliviaDominican RepublicGuatemalaIndiaKenyaMexicoMoroccoQueens - NYCSwazilandTogo Refer an Artisan Share your stories of the artisans you meet around the world. »