Creating sustainability: the handmade revolution

Sustainability is a way of life: Islanders make and use handmade banana-leaf baskets as an alternative to plastic bags.

Having just returned from a trip to New Caledonia and Vanuatu, I am feeling inspired to get creative again but I’m also feeling inspired to spread awareness about buying and creating handmade grassroots arts and craft. One thing I love about Support a work at home is the huge number of craft businesses we have featured on the facebook page and website on a weekly basis. Grassroots arts and craft businesses have become more prolific in the past few years. Some have put it down to the global financial crisis and maybe they’re right. I know that I took to the sewing machine with glee after it became apparent that retail shopping was going to send me broke. There is also a movement away from mass-produced products in a bid to support ethical trade, fair labour conditions and environmental sustainability. This was another big reason I stopped shopping retail every week. Supporting small, cottage-style businesses mean’t making a stand against consumerism, and supporting artisans who make bags, jewellery, clothes etc using second hand materials mean’t making a stand for sustainability as well. It wasn’t long before I caught the op-shopping and up-cycling (up-cycling: repurposing discarded, scrap or post-consumer materials) bug and now my living room floor is cluttered with piles of fabulous op-shop finds which gradually get turned into something new and beautiful. Unlike in Australia, in Vanuatu, there isn’t a loud movement of young artisans flying the flag for sustainability. But looking beyond the plethora of mass-produced carvings, shirts and sarongs lining the shore-side markets, there is a rich array of handmade artistry evident in the everyday items people use. And sustainability is just a part of life when your focus is on community, family and traditional whole foods as opposed to consumerism, fashion trends and technology. Our brief glimpse of pacific island culture was certainly food for thought. I almost felt embarrassed about making pretty things just for the sake of it! That said, I am proud to be a part of a worldwide movement promoting handmade and sustainable wares and my hope is that this movement will become so widespread that mass-produced and imported souvenirs will be outnumbered by locally handmade crafts everywhere. Until next time… Cas.