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Monday, 29 September 2014

Souvenirs: the added benefits of buying local crafts wherever you are

As you read this you might have just returned from holiday or about to go in the next few weeks. If you are going to a foreign country, or indeed if you are staying in the UK, buy a souvenir made by local people, not the mass produced in a factory.

Since my early 20’s, when I first travelled to ‘Yugoslavia’ I have bought crafts made locally to take back with me, as presents or for myself.
30 years on and I am still enjoying my first kilim bought at a local market in Split. Every time I sit at the dining take it takes me back to that market square with my travel companions.

Nowadays, as well as buying for myself, I buy for Crafts of the World Online, and I still relish the thrill to find and support local craftsmen/women be this in China, Tunisia, Morocco, or wherever I happen to be at the time.
In Marrakech (Morocco) I now have my favourites:
A young man based in one of the souks, between the wool souk and the dyers one. He makes handbags, necklaces, slippers and hats with felt made with wool and sealing it together with the local ‘black soap’ and water. Layer by layer he creates a cloth, which he dyes with natural colours and creates unique pieces. I love his felt bags in bright colours and the ‘bubble necklaces’ which the females in his family embroider with colourful treads.
Bubble necklaces

In a nearby square I go for the raffia shopping bags in any size, shape and colour.  In the square, as well as tourists, you can find lots of locals doing their shopping. One time I found some nice grass plates as well as the rectangular little shopping baskets that are so popular. The old woman in charge spoke Berber and some accented French; she wore a thick veil over her face and understanding her was a little difficult. But her eyes were very expressive. In a while we had agreed a price we were both happy with. Suddenly a young lad appeared from nowhere, came over and tried to charge me much more than what the lady and I had agreed. Needless to say the lad was verbally chastised both by both of us and we had such a giggle after!!!
Raffia Bags

Don’t be afraid to buy from the single craftsman on a street corner or square. They are small entrepreneurs. The women, especially, supplement their husbands’ wages, and you often see them with their young kids in tow. Try talking to them; ask how and where they make their craft. It will make what you buy all the more valuable for the memories you will have with you for a long time, often it will be even cheaper than if you bought something similar in a shop.
If you didn’t have space in your luggage to bring back a souvenir from your holiday, have a look at my website. You can easily find something that will be a perfect present or memory for you.
From October we will have a big SALE with lots of special offers, just in time for the Christmas shopping. An open weekend for you to come and browse will happen during the same month
(17th and 18th), so look out for it. If you are interested in an invite to the open weekend, send Anna an email and I will let you know details of the event.

This Blog was also published as an Editorial on Village Life magazine in September 2014.

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