Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Is your Nepal Felt product fairly traded?

Well good morning lovely makers and creators, today I a looking at the trials and tribulations of finding a fairly traded felted product.  Over the next few days I will be looking at Nepal's felt industry in order to raise awareness of fairly traded felt.

Pictured above is a very typical Nepal felt design, this particular bag I have sourced from a company that does not seem to offer any kind of documented evidence of entering into a fairly traded world.

We all really need to stop and ask where the incredibly cheap felted products are coming from. 

We need to be asking questions such as does the Nepalese selling company hold a fair trade certification or indeed a fair wages certificate.  Are these companies a member of any recognizable and regulatory body? 

Over the coming days we will look at these issues and some of the recognized bodies so that we can inform and arm ourselves with the right questions to ask the selling body. We will look at statements such as Child Labor Free with a lack of evidence to back this up and many more issues pertaining to the umbrella of fair trade.

I do know that there is one company in Nepal who can evidence their policies by the very bodies and organisations they are a part of.

However many of them cannot and many of these designs are similar across a number of companies, so how can we be sure that the Nepal crafted item we buy is fairly traded, well I will be covering this over the next few days.

But make no mistake having explored the ludicrously cheap wholesale prices and the retail mark up on this, there are questions that need to be answered.

More importantly we have to address the effect that Nepal Felt is having on our own industry here in the UK. When you can buy a Nepal felted bag for a mere £21.00 it raises an expectation, that this is what the craft is worth.  It is heavily devaluing the work we do here in the UK. For example I use only the finest wools, where I have had confirmation from my supplier that its ethically farmed and I use only the very best products within my felting process. Some of these items can take me several days and sometimes weeks to complete, so it begs the question how can we guarantee that Nepalese women are not being exploited?

Buyers need to be aware of the work that goes into a felted project. We also need to look at the type of wool that is going into these projects and the quality of the finished items.  PLEASE DON'T GET ME WRONG!! I am all for supporting women in remote rural places and women whom have been trafficked, but we must also be aware that many women may still be being exploited by not being paid their worth. 

Is a felted item from a charity a safe bet to buy? Well that very much depends on where the charity has purchased the item from and if they have witnessed conditions first had or if they can provide evidence that the company they buy from are fairly traded or registered.

In short Nepal Felt is having an extremely negative effect on the UK felt market, for example a mum and daughter visited my boutique a few weeks ago to browse the felt products on display.  The customer heavily procrastinated at the price of this particular item (£59.00), I advised the customer politely that all the items in the boutique were handmade and still there was procrastination.  It was only when the daughter asked if it was myself who made the item and had I confirmed yes that the procrastination stopped!  After another 10 minutes browsing the mum bought the item and was happy to pay the £59.00 as I had made the item.  Further more it was made clear to me that they assumed that all the felt was shipped in from Nepal and that I had put a ridiculous mark up on it. This particular item took me 2 days to complete, so you don't have to be a mathematical genius to work out my hourly rate!

We all seriously need to invest in our own felt and handcrafted market place supporting each other as artists, artisans and crafter's alike, as well as supporting our industry partners locally wherever possible. There is a need to educate and inform customers of the value of highly crafted item.

More on this coming soon.

Thank you for taking the time to visit Tigerlily Makes The Felt-making Blog Lisa X All content and design work, including text, photos, etc are © copyright 2010 Lisa Marie Olson owner of Tigerlily Makes (unless otherwise stated and named whereby copyright resides with said named person)and cannot be copied without prior permission from the copyright owner.

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