Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Fair Trade Story , One Cushion Cover

One Cushion Cover

The air is heavy and dusty in Kolkata. We commented one night when visiting artisans homes that there were no stars to be seen. Every night was the same. Because of the extreme pollutKolkata from the air showing pollutionion in Kolkata, there are never any stars to be seen. Kolkata is the pollution capital of India. Life expectancy is sixty due to the severe resultant health hazards. Apart from the pollution, we loved the evening times. Walking hand in hand with the artisans from the fair trade producer group Artisans Effort, swinging our arms like little children, laughing and giggling too. We felt so privileged being invited into the artisans one room homes. In an area that is probably on an average the size of one of our small bedrooms, is the area for a whole family to live. The family can range anywhere between three to ten family members. The basic kitchen pots sit on the shelves( no toasters or blenders here!!), a small cupboard with the saris neatly folded, maybe a treadle sewing machine if the ladies are working from home, maybe another small cupboard with some precious religious and family belongings and one very large bed!! The bed is high off the ground and I presume that more items are stored under the bed. However during the monsoon season, many of these homes have water pouring through them, so there would be need to place the items higher at these times.
Space certainly lacks but definitely not the hospitality. The fizzy drinks and food came out at every home. Shaista accompanied us at all times to ensure that what we drank and ate was safe. No water apart from the bottled water was to pass our lips.
Pam with some of the artisans at Artisans EffortManju Devi lives with her two daughters in one of the homes that we visited. Manju’s husband died three years previously in a truck accident. She has two beautiful daughters, both who are studying. Manju is the sole earner for the family.
Manju has been working with Artisans Effort since 2005 . Her need has become greater since she was widowed. Manju is skilled in both the textiles and weaving the recycled food packaging items. The night that we visited, the bed was covered with lots and lots of red cut out recycled material pieces. The individual different shapes and pieces of material had initially been cut out at Artisans Effort. Oh so vibrant ! Exotic textile art at its best! A red kuchi cushion cover was in the makinSewing the kuchi cushion coverg.
The journey for the making of the red kuchi cushion cover began long before what we were seeing at Manju’s home. The material originated in the Kutch District of Gujarat, a state in Western India. The material was originally worn by different women in the traditional elaborate dress for this area called Ghagra Choli. After Siham Craftlink submits orders for the kuchi cushion covers or wall hangings, Artisans Effort purchases some of this material directly from the Kutch District and if possible also from the local market.
As we gathered in Manju’s home, she quietly picked up one of the early stage cushion covers, sat on a small wooden stool about 30 cms tall , placed the cushion cover on the cement floor and started creating and hand stitching the patchwork mosaic design . We marvelled at her adeptness. Her right foot stood firmly on the many cut out pieces on the cushion cover, keeping them firmly intact whilst with the nimbleness of an expert sewer weaved the needle and thread in and out stitching each piece into place with the dori, the multiple stranded thread bordering .
It is not until I actually saw the cushion cover being made, did I appreciate the expertise , personal love and time that went into its making. We left Manju to continue working on her unique creations. The next morning when we visited the Artisans Effort unit, several of the ladies were also working on their own creations of kuchi cushion covers. Due to its popularity, this was an item we had sold out of in Australia. The ladies were working hard to complete our order so we could Cloce up of Manju working with the cushion coverbring them back in our luggage on our return trip to Australia.
After the unique “mosaic” design is completed, further skilful eyes and hands look over the completed piece to check that all is well and secure and there are no loose threads. The panels of completed kuchi patchwork are then handed over to the tailor who sews the backing of the cushion cover on with the trusty old treadle sewing machine. And not to mention that heavy iron! It almost seemed that the ladies were doing weights at the gym every time they picked up that ancient looking iron to finalize the perfectioMonita from Artisans Efotn.
The cushion covers are now ready for their final journey. They add a brilliant , exotic charming ambience and personal touch to any boutique. Not to mention the home decor enthusiasts who will purchase the exquisite cushion covers and have their own little touch of beautiful India in their own home or for exotic comforting display on verandahs and decks . For me it goes beyond the cushion cover. It also includes the beautiful people, the gentle souls, the warm embraces , the happy smiles, and personal love for every artisan who helped create the cushion covers. I am so privileged that so many glorious memories remain in my heart.
Pam McGann March 2012

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Siham Craftlink at Belle Bazaar Markets

 As the sun goes down, roll up, roll up to the
Belle Bazaar Twilight Market

Looking for a unique, family-friendly Saturday night out?

Are you looking for Unique and Designer Christmas Presents?

Belle Bazaar Twilight Market is on 3rd December 3pm - 8pm Mt Gravatt Showgrounds, Logan Rd, Mt Gravatt and SihamCraftlink Pty Ltd is excited to be a part of it.

Market organiser Jessica Low said her southside Twilight Market was born out of her love for similar European markets where visitors could enjoy the myriad food stalls, light entertainment and shopping, while delighting in the ambience of nightfall in Summer. She described the market as a truly ‘lifestyle community’ event encompassing something for all ages, from young children to parents and grandparents, with some 90 hand-selected stallholders taking part.

For the foodies, you’ll be able to indulge in Chinese, German, Italian and Middle Eastern fare, along with cupcakes, gourmet slices and other delicious sweets and in the festive spirit the Famous Lions Christmas Cakes will also be sold.

Our popular cupcake and cookie decorating classes are back showcasing Christmas themes for all ages.

For the Christmas shoppers, you’ll be able to scratch your retail-spending itch via offerings from the various invited boutiques and small businesses as well as other quality handmade products from talented local artisans.

For everyone else in between, there will be Iive music and Bollywood dancing and workshops, roving entertainers, face painting, also Santa will be making an appearance saying hello to all the good little boys and girls there will also be a host of barnyard babies at the travelling animal farm and also for the first time we will have the Queensland Fire Fighters selling their Hot 2012 Calendar.

We are really excited to be part of something so special and unique to South-East Queensland,” Siham Craftlink Pty Ltd, Director Pam Mcgann said. “It will be a great family night out.”

Ms Low said visitors to the Christmas-themed market will be asked to donate a gold coin on entry with all proceeds going to the Surf Life savers who’s Summer Appeal starts the same weekend. In her three previous Twilight Markets this year, Ms Low has been able to collect and donate thousands of dollars to reputable charities including Chicks in Pink, Ride to Conquer Cancer and RSPCA.

The next Belle Bazaar Twilight Market will be held on Saturday, December 3rd, at the Mt Gravatt Showgrounds, Logan Rd, Mt Gravatt.

The event will run from 3-8pm.

For more information, please contact Ms Low at or

drop into her store, Belle Bazaar Boutique, at 139 Lumley St, Upper Mt Gravatt.

For more information, please contact:

Siham Craftlink Pty Ltd
Unit 2, 18 Overlord Place
Acacia Ridge Brisbane
Ph 32760684

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"Hands of the World" Fair Trade Artisans Market

" Hands of the World " Fair Trade Artisans Market, Francis Rush Centre Elizabeth Street, Brisbane CBD. From Saturday October 29 to 1st November , 9 am to 5 pm . Free Entry.
Featuring  bowls , baskets, bags, boxes made from timber, ceramic, straw, textiles and glass.Hosted by the Cathedral of Stephen Art Group.
Ph 07 3870 9427 Email :

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A producer story from Shohojogita

John Gomes giving out gifts to the artisans.
This story was shared with me by John Gomes, the Director of Shohojogita, a Fair Trade Organization in Bangladesh.

" I want to self-establish in the society and educate my children it is my vow....I found the spark of hope and light to change my family."
These words were spoken by Kabita Mollick, jute producer of Shohojogita at Dhorjirpar, Agailjhora.

Kabita Mollick is 38 years old living with her old mother-in-law and father-in-law. She has one son(8) and one daughter(5). Four years ago,

her husband died of an unknown disease. Telling the story to me, her Mother-in-law was crying. I (John ) couldn't stop her crying.

Kabita's children are going to a primary school regularly. For five years, Kabita is making jute baskets and other jute products. She learnt
from her mother-in-law how to make a basket. When I was questioning her...she said that making this basket is hard but she is getting good price/wage for this. She was smiling because this time she is making nine jumbo baskets !! She wants continued orders then she can solve all the problems she faces.
This year Kabita received advanced payment for the purchase of the jute raw material as stock.


Jute is eco-friendly,

Jute is a vegetable fiber derived from the bark of an annual reed like plant grown mainly subtropical areas of Asia: Bangladesh, India, China and some other countries.
It is one of the great natural fibers in the world. The fiber from this plant is extremely versatile and has a wide variety of uses. Jute is bio-degradable and articles made from jute, unlike their synthetic counterparts, are easily decomposed. Thus, jute is the perfect ecological substitute for artificial fibers.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Presenting Christmas Collection 2011

B-YW-C17 Advent calendar spectacular

To see our wonderful Christmas 2011 handcrafted gifts please visit our web site  click on more information under the photos on our site to view more information about the gift and the fair trade artisans who produce it .

B-AT-C01b Gift Basket Christmas


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Holy Family School, Indooroopilly Shines !

Feet show the way to the Fair Trade Market

Siham Craftlink had the privilege of being invited to Holy Family School at Indooroopilly to showcase a wonderful collection of fair trade hand crafted items. This gave the students the opportunity to observe craft made by talented people from other cultures, the opportunity to purchase a special item ethically( the bamboo flutes were an enormous hit!), to learn about fair trade and justice in trading. We wish the school the very best in their competition participation with the theme "Shine". By purchasing fair trade goodies, the school community opened door ways for many of the poorest people in our world to "shine"- to have hope and dignity both now and  in the future. Thankyou Holy Family School, Indooroopilly.
Many feet created by the students led the way to the market.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Siham Craftlink at Paniyiri 2011

Crowds dancing the zorba at Paniyiri, Musgrave Park, Brisbane

Over the weekend Brisbane celebrated the Greek Festival called Paniyiri. It is estimated that about 50,000 people attended. Masses of delectable Greek food was eaten including the famous honey puffs and visitors embraced the culture by dancing the zorba to the beat of the lively music. Amongst the throng of people, Siham Craftlink was also there!! What a great way to end fair trade fortnight 2011. We exhibited a delightful mix of fair trade delights from Bangladesh, India, Thailand and Peru. Siham Craftlink was there to enthrall the masses!!

Pam McGann , Siham Craftlink

MMMM  smell that food cooking !