Crafting Light and Hope, One Lantern at a Time

Crafting Light and Hope, One Lantern at a Time

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting with Amy, one of the founders of an organization we partner with, Women of the Cloud Forest, established in 2001 and a member of the Fair Trade Federation.

I was excited to hear more about where and how our newest product, the beautiful handcrafted ceramic lanterns, were made and about the artisans that make them, and am very excited to share what I learned with you.

Our handcrafted ceramic lanterns come to us from the town of San Juan de Oriente, Nicaragua. A small town with no traffic lights and where you will still see oxen in the streets. This is a town of about 8000 people and approximately 80% of the population work out of their home doing some type of ceramics.

Amy shared with us that they work with Jose Lois, a one family workshop that craft the gorgeous lanterns we are so excited to be offering in our shop!

These ceramic lanterns are crafted from local clay and the production time for each piece is 21 days!  The clay is thrown on a non-electric kick wheel, worked by hand and then each design is cut into the clay by hand. The round loop on the top of each lantern is also attached by hand.

Next, the artisans have large beehive shaped wood fire kilns where the pieces are fired. It was fascinating to hear what a delicate process this is. The fire must be watched for 12 hours as the temperature has to be perfect or risk losing an entire kiln. 

The lanterns are then burnished which gives them an incredible smooth silky finish. I've read that this is a very time consuming process, but the result is beautiful. Personally speaking, the first lantern I held in my hand, I couldn't resist running my hand over it as it has such a lovely look and feel.

Lastly, even the roping has its own story and is a whole other process! The rope attached to each lantern is created from the natural plant fiber from the cabuya plant. There is a special process where the fibers are worked to create the roping. 

Not one detail of these gorgeous lanterns isn't touched by the skillful hands of the artisans who make them and it shows.

According to Amy, one of the largest challenges in San Juan de Oriente is just the saturation of the market where one in three are doing export work. However, it was exciting to hear how Women of The Cloud Forest is sought after and respected as they are the longest tenured fair trade group in Nicaragua and work side by side with their artisans, paying a living wage and getting their products to market which creates stable work.  

The goal of our partner organization is to provide long term sustainable relationships with their artisans and the communities they reside. A wonderful example of this is how Women of the Cloud Forest provides no interest micro loans and direct grants for workshop capacity building.  Additionally, they have been able to purchase a piece of land and are helping artisans buy a parcel of that land and aiding with funding house builds. Up to one half of the cost is covered by the organization and no interest micro loans are available to the artisans for the rest. Amy shared that one of the largest dreams of the artisans is to own a home to pass on to their children . . . and it's now becoming a reality!

Such amazing work being done, and while you may not realize it, just by shopping our new fair trade ceramic lanterns, YOU have a hand in making all of this happen!

Together, we are crafting light and hope, one lantern at a time. 

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