Oh, the sins I have to confess..

The fact is that I am a organisaholic.

There are nights where I gaze, hollow-eyed and sweaty-palmed, at sites containing glorious, wondrous products like this, this and even these. There’s evidence to suggest that on occasion, I dribble a tad. What in the name of [murgatroyd] is wrong with me?

[hominahominahomina]

The problem doesn’t stop there, oh no. I stare longingly at amazing stashes the world over, beautifully designed workspaces (thank you Unclutterer– some of the best ones here, here and here. Oh, and lots more here) and posts on how other people organise their stashes.

You’d think that the one positive outcome of all this would be that my own stash would be beautifully organised. Not on your nelly. I have some sort of a system for beads and stringing, and most of my yarn is between a large, clear storage box and a shoebox, but after that? It’s total chaos.

Something has got to be done. I can sense a blitz coming on..

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talk about timely!

October 23, 2008

Look at this! Just as soon as I finished the previous post, this popped up.. fair trade silver? I am there.

Lately I’ve been wondering about conducting an ethical audit for WaterMemory, somewhat inspired by this one, to see where I could improve.

An ethical audit would look at WaterMemory on the basis of labour, materials used, implementation of the three Rs (reduction/ re-use/ recycling), environmental impact overall and social/ ethical impact. This is part of one of many, I think- I am aware there are probably a good few aspects I’m missing out on in this effort.

Labour

As I am the only person involved in the design and creation of my wares, with access to as much tea as I can drink, it’s easy for me to say that on the labour front, I do fairly well. That said, on some pieces (particularly knitted bags) I cannot charge for the time used without the price going through the roof. That’s a trade-off I’m okay with, though. Maybe it sounds trite, but I’m far happier for my bags to be loved than for them to be ‘properly’ priced.

So: a happy workforce overall. Result!

Materials

Given the sheer amount of materials I use, across a few different crafts, this will be a difficult one. There are also a few ways to assess them- in terms of labour used to create those materials, their ecological impact, the practices involved in their creation etc.

In card-making, I frequently use ‘rescued’ papers- scraps that would otherwise be stuck in the green bin. Although they’d be recycled anyway, I still reckon that re-using them is slightly better. Paper can only be recycled a finite number of times, and this varies depending on the grade of paper.

Beading, my main love.. here is where things get interesting ethically, by which I mean difficult. I use Bali silver and Hill Tribe silver for my decorative touches. Both are community traded, meaning that the craftspeople are supported in their traditional craft with proper pay, but beyond that the details are somewhat foggy.

I use semi-precious gems, which raises another area of difficulty. Gems are often mined (an issue in itself) in the most appalling conditions- health risks include silicosis, caused by inhaling silica dust (more here). I try to buy from companies with better labour rights records, but the information I have is sketchy. I do not buy on a large enough scale to be able to work directly with the producers of these materials, so I buy on trust.

Overall, my strategies are to buy from companies and countries whose labour practices I trust, but this doesn’t *really* answer the question. As well as that, it’s a negative move, when I should really be looking for alternatives. It’s all very well to not wish my materials to be the product of exploitative or unethical labour, but wouldn’t it be better to actively seek out fair trade and community trade alternatives?

Pledges

I pledge to use more materials made by small-scale crafters and companies, whose overall practices I can stand over. As much as boycotting can achieve, I would be happy to also vote with my euro to support individuals and companies who are trying to do the right thing. (Etsy and Cow’s Lane, here I come!)

I also pledge to source and introduce more community-traded and fair trade materials to my work. It can only benefit my customers to know that indigenous communities are being supported and encouraged in their craftwork by being properly paid for their work.

I pledge to continue using recycled and reclaimed materials in my work and to expand my use of them.

I pledge to expand my contribution to charities through WaterMemory and also to come up with some creative ways to fundraise, using my work.

If there is anything I’m missing out on here, please feel free to drop me a line. If you’ve found a company that is doing the right thing, or a lobbying group that works on this issue, I’d love to know about them.

I was mooching around the Grauniad site, and stumbled upon their independent shopping directory again. Jeanette Winterson’s introduction to the directory did what really good pieces do- it took the words right out of one’s mouth. As I read the opening paragraph, it got me thinking about the absolutely irreplaceable places I love and have loved, in Ireland and abroad.

(Julie Burchill got a dig in, of course. Her obviously deeply-considered argument went along the following lines: “I love Tesco it has everything lalala la lala can’t hear you middle-class whiners laaaaaaa”. Wow, convincing. As someone who is decidedly not middle class meself, the argument that apparently I only like places like this (a) because I have the money to like them, (b) because I desperately seek affirmation or (c) because I automatically hate large enterprise really misses the mark. Any self-respecting lover of the one-of-a-kind nook will tell you that’s bunk, and get on with things. Ah well, let her at the aul’ straw men if that’s what makes her happy, eh?)

I have the option of sourcing all my beads, wools, habadashery and papercraft materials online without ever interacting with a soul, but I go into these shops wherever I find them, because it’s so inspiring to see what beads, findings and materials other people are drawn to- what their personal favourites and finds are, beyond the obvious. The staff and owners, who take pride in what they do- the lovely gent in that tiny crammed beadshop in the centre of Prague, who looked at every single bead I picked out to make sure they were just right, the very kind folks in This is Knit who have used every single yarn (or almost) they sell and can tell you exactly what you need for That Amazing Bag, M in Crown Jewels who has an amazing eye for colour and will never leave you stuck and the lovely team behind BDI, who are honest and generous to a fault with advice and help.

I’m not by habit a demoniser of chain stores or big operations, just because- I find the good and bad in both (the Art and Hobby Shop is consistently decent, and there is a nameless bead shop in Dublin I will never again buy from, thanks to the combination of rude staff and shoddy goods). But, as Winterson argues:

“It might be a tiny, butterfly-wing difference, but every pound you spend outside the global chain funds an alternative… A real little shop will give you more than you are paying for, because not everything that matters in this life can be bought.”