What do flip-flops, metal drums and discarded wire have in common? They are some of the many raw materials recycled by craft cooperatives in developing countries to make beautiful artworks. Sales of these artistic treasures are enabling artisans to support their families and break the cycle of poverty, while helping the environment. Steel oil drums found in Haiti's landfills are the raw materials for Haitian metal art. Artists draw patterns on the metal and then use chisels, dies and hammers to cut and shape the final design. My husband and I have several pieces hanging in our home and they are particularly inspiring to me as an artist, with their imaginative imagery, and rich symbolism. One source for Haitian metal art is Beyond Borders & It's Cactus. A member of the Fair Trade Federation, they promote fair living wages to producers in developing countries.
Because of the direction of ocean currents, trash from far and wide washes up on Kenya’s shores. Thousands of flip-flops can be found in the piles of debris. Ocean Sole recycles these flip-flops and produces a variety of products, including sculptures, household goods and fashion accessories. Julie Church founded the company after seeing children making toy boats out of the old shoes.
Made by the Zulu people of South Africa, vibrantly colored baskets crafted from telephone wire can be found at a Bridge for Africa Foundation, which provides fine contemporary crafts to the American market. Their mission is "to provide consistent work and a living wage for the skilled artisans with whom we partner, enabling them to shape their own lives and thereby advancing hope for future generations."