Every person has a story: The story of Village Artisan is about empowering women, giving dignified work to men and delivering fashionable quality products to you, the discerning and socially conscious buyer.
Village Artisan is about creating stories of change and transformation in the lives of a growing number of families and communities in North India by training artisans, designing great products and connecting their work to the global market. Every person who is involved from around the world has a unique story - from the artisans who produce beautiful handcrafted products, to the consumers on the other side of the globe who enjoy, appreciate and share them.
Where did it all begin? That’s another story….
Dave and Natasha Cox set out from their native Canada in 1999, full of youthful enthusiasm and a spirit of adventure. Bound for the exotic sub-continent with two small kids in tow, they were driven by a dream to do something meaningful with their lives. They drank many cups of chai as they listened to the stories of locals who were hard working, loved their families yet were in dire poverty. Though many conversations it became clear, they were simply seeking a fair opportunity. Exploitation by employers meant that many men worked hard only to be enticed to work another month in hopes to be paid for the months gone by with out pay. Women and their children were undervalued simply without education or opportunity often leaving them vulnerable to being traded and mistreated. Profoundly moved, they developed a vision “to design great ethical products, train people in the skills to make them well and find a place for these treasures in the global market.” This was empowerment that would allow people to provide for their own families with dignity and prevent atrocities like human trafficking.
Village Artisan was born out of the passion to make a difference to struggling artisan communities in North India. Dave, with a savvy eye for systems that work and strong leadership development skills along side Tasha, an artist by trade, who could apply her creative talents to develop innovative designs and train artisans for the Western markets, together dreamed big dreams. The pair worked at the grassroots level, learning the local language, sourcing recycled materials wherever possible, and training men in their simple workshop and women in their homes. Sitting cross-legged on dirt floors and drinking chai, Tasha and Dave worked in tandem with the local men and women developing jewelry, scarves and purses all the while developing people; empowering them to work with dignity to see families and communities transformed.
The dream was so much bigger than the two of them could ever be. Village Artisan spreads hope and opportunity, drawing like a magnet those who want to be part of something bigger than themselves. Dave and Tasha’s vision and passion touches hearts and attracts many people wanting to be involved. It’s a tribe of diverse members – from the Western mums who proudly wear their hand-stitched sari scarves, to the village youths embracing responsibility and earning respect, to the core team working onsite in India in three locations who come from 3 countries and 4 Indian states.
A Company With a Conscience
Long before it was fashionable, Village Artisan pioneered the fair trade principles of putting people and sustainable development alongside sustainable profits. In the process, it has transformed the lives of individuals, families and whole communities.
Sixteen years since the birth of Village Artisan, over 100 artisans are earning a living wage through dignified work in a caring community. Once impoverished families now have access to proper food and education – for many it’s the first generation to go to school. Water pumps installed in homes provide cleaner water. Money a full time nurse for medical care saves lives once destroyed by diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria. Cement floors bring improved hygiene.
Village Artisan Values
Unique Quality Products
Putting people ahead of profits doesn’t mean that we compromise on our designs or quality. Quite the opposite - our designers work hand-in-hand with our artisans to create wearable art with global appeal. Great value is placed on preserving the local culture and history of previous generations – traditional crafts and methods are employed and most textile products are made of recycled saris. Hand-me-downs have never looked so gorgeous!
People Power Through Fair Trade and Development
Aid creates dependency; sustainable business based on fair trade, empowers and creates a future. With skills and education, Village Artisans build a sustainable future through their own work and talents. With on-the-job training and fair trade wages, Village Artisans hold their heads up high as they provide for their families by producing quality products.
The dream of transforming lives not only is happening at the individual level. Whole families now work and grow together, sharing responsibility and goals. At Village Artisan we’ve been amazed and humble by the examples of strength, growth and hope. Husbands and wives learn to jointly manage their money, adult siblings join together to support aging parents, and young women save for their dowries, thus removing the full burden from their parents.
The Village Artisan School Sponsorship Program
For most villagers in Northern India, education is an unaffordable luxury. Village Artisan recognized that without education for children, the future would always be limited. Hence the birth of the Village Artisan School Sponsorship Program. Says Tasha “You can’t imagine the pride that wells up when these parents see their kids report cards! They might not be able to read them, but they proudly stamp their thumbprint as their signature. The last generation to sign with out a pen or pencil, cause the next one is coming up educated and with big dreams! “ One artisan says, “ I had always hoped my kids would be able to go to school – it was never an option for me. It is a dream come true for me to see my kids get ready for school every day. Now I know they are going to be ok- the future is bright!”
Community Health Initiatives
Lack of education means more than missing out on reading and writing. Basic healthcare often suffers simply through ignorance. Recognizing this, Village Artisan employs a dedicated Community Health Nurse who works directly with each of our artisan families. She provides informal education in healthcare, hygiene, childcare and nutrition. It’s so rewarding to see girls who began with us as teenagers in our artisan training are now getting married, supporting their families with their artistic skills and providing proper emotional and physical care for their children.
Environmentally Friendly Methods and Materials
Village Artisan products are 100% eco-friendly and made from a range of natural and recycled materials.
- Our hand-made paper is 100% wood-free, made from the cotton throw-offs from the textile industry.
- All soaps are handcrafted using natural spices and dyes with no artificial additives or colorings.
- Our kantha scarves are a unique way to upcycle using reclaimed saris to create a timeless one-of-a-kind piece for your wardrobe.
- We believe in sustaining our environment and caring for the planet that we all share.
We are so thankful that you have joined us in this task of breaking the cycle of poverty and empowering people to overcome. Truly, together we are writing a global story of change.