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Poppies from Peru and Other Inspiring Tales from Just Trade

July 26, 2015 / FairTrader

On Tuesday 21st July we were treated to a talk by Laura Cave of Just Trade about her travels, her background as a jeweller and Just Trade's amazing projects in Peru,  Ecuador and Tamil Nadu in Southern India.  Her words and pictures will linger, long after she's left the Holme Valley. Inspiring. Dynamic. Practical. Fun. Intrepid. A born communicator!

From 1997 onwards, Laura has been working with groups of people in far flung places, and together they have produced stunning jewellery. Each project has had a huge impact on the lives of the workers and their families. Each person's face told a different story, and Laura knew each one by name and brought their stories to life.  What they had in common was regular, fairly paid work and this transformed their lives.

Monies went on medical expenses for a sick child, school and university education, outings for a 90 year old grandma - and saving up for a flight to England to watch a Premier League match! In fact the one and only skill Laura didn't have was understanding the game of football and which teams had been relegated this season!!

We heard about the work of Lottie and Grace (both from Holmfirth) in Tamil Nadu with the women of the Flowering Desert Project. They developed beaten brass jewellery that is both beautiful and also isn't dependent on electricity for production. We heard how the guillotine that Laura took out in her luggage enabled them to work with thicker metal sheet! Beautiful and stunning. My favourite was the hare necklace - just like the one we saw on Choppards banks on the way home!

The best Hare maker

Laura introduces the maker of Hare necklaces

The artisan men in Ecuador work with a very different raw material - the Tagua nut. Also known as 'vegetable  ivory', this seed is harvested from the forest floor. The men are skilled at creating unusual shapes for necklaces - from polar bear designs to sea horses.  The superb crochet skills of the women of the shanty towns of Lima inspired Laura to work with them to create brooches and necklaces in cotton and also in silver thread.

Her very special way of working involves the men and women in developing designs that they feel proud of and that Laura knows are saleable in the UK. One day we see her using a table of fruit and veg as a catalyst for crocheted designs. Another day she is taking the women and children on a day trip to the zoo!

Big decisions

Browsing the Just Trade jewellery

In the UK, prestigious organisations (Tate Modern, Science Museum, Wellcome Trust) have recognised Just Trade - for the quality of workmanship, individuality of designs and, most importantly, for the impact of the projects on the everyday lives of men and women in India and South America. Others have placed commissions, such as St Paul's Cathedral (a bird based on some of their wood-carving) and the Imperial War Museum. (Crocheted poppies). The astounding success of the poppies saw 80 ordered in Year One and 13,000 in Year Two!

raffle winners

Laura with Geraldine and Michelle - the lucky raffle winners

At Fair Trader we are lucky to have local links with some of the designers involved in Just Trade. Laura's talk will inspire us to continue to promote and sell their jewellery - to play our part in the intertwined lives of the families of Lima, Ecuador and Tamil Nadu. If you missed the talk, you can see the jewellery in the Holmfirth Fair Trader shop, or browse a selection in our online shop.

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