Crafted in Brazil was built on a simple idea — import amazing hand crafted goods from Brazil and pay the people making these goods a fair wage to do so.
It all started in 2013 when I took my first trip to Salvador, Brazil with my capoeira group (capoeira is a type of martial arts that comes from Brazil). I fell in love with the music and the dance (and eventually a musician, who I have since married). As I spent more and more time there I was overwhelmed by the beauty — the people, the nature, the music, the crafts.
I also have a bit of a jewelry habit – no matter where I go I find myself looking at earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. I just can’t help it. There has been more than one night when we have been out where I have accidentally spent our last $20 reais on earrings from a street vendor and then we have had to forego the taxi home and scrape together change for a bus that we hoped was still running late at night. Even now, when I buy, my husband asks me, “are these for you or for the business?” My typical answer: vamos ver (we’ll see).
After wearing many of my pieces in the US and being regularly stopped by people to ask where they came from, I realized that I could import and sell some of these one-(or few)-of-a-kind pieces, share the beauty of Brazil, and do some good.
You see, Brazil is a country with both extreme beauty and extreme poverty. While Brazil has some of the richest people in the world, incredible natural resources, and is one of the top 10 economies in the world, it also has an extremely poor overall population. 26% of Brazilians live below the poverty line — and Salvador, Bahia is one of the worst hit cities with millions living on less than $1 per day.
Yet somehow, in the midst of the poverty you will find incredible resilience, resourcefulness, and goodness. It is this that tugs at my heart every time I’m there and drives me to make this a success.
Brazilian Resilience & Resourcefulness
When I think of this resilience, there is one face, in particular, that comes to mind. I don’t know her name, but I know her face and I know her story.
She is out almost every night, late at night, at Praça de Dinho in Rio Vermelho where tourists come to drink beer and eat the best acarajé in the city. She is probably in her early teens, and I’ve seen here there for the past couple of years, always wearing short shorts and a crop top. With time she has evolved her look to add bright red lipstick and bright blue eye shadow, but her overall look has been the same.
She quietly circles the tables carrying a bucket of shelled peanuts and a stack of napkin – she takes a napkin-ful of peanuts and quietly puts it on your table – and then if the beer munchies take over and you eat them, you will pay her for them. (If you don’t them she comes back and collects them from your table and puts them back in the bucket. Ewwww!) Last spring I saw her, and at the time she was visibly pregnant – and then she disappeared for a while. One my most recent visits, I noticed that she has returned – back selling peanuts far too late at night for a young girl who should probably be in school and has an infant at home. But, this is the resilience many Brazilians are forced to develop – I’m guessing that this is a significant part of how her family earns enough to eat.
Not only are the Brazilians I meet incredibly resilient and resourceful, but they are also incredibly generous. I see empathetic souls that don’t have much themselves giving their spare change or a couple of reais (their currency) to someone on the street that needs it.
Leftovers from dinner? There is undoubtedly someone on the next street over who will happily take them.
How Does it Work?
I’m lucky enough that I get to give back.
I buy these stunning and unique pieces from the artists, at the price they ask. I don’t ask for a discount – I think what they are charging is more than fair (oftentimes I don’t think it’s enough).
You get a piece that is one (or few) of a kind that has been hand crafted in Brazil – and probably helping someone buy food for their family.
1) Find the Artisan
The artisan culture is alive and well in Brazil, so finding these incredible artisans isn’t difficult. The challenge is figuring out what will sell and choosing the right items to purchase.
2) Agree on a Fair Price
All artisans I work with need to be paid at a price that covers his or her cost plus their time at a fair wage. Since, as I mentioned above I don’t think they are charging enough, I don’t ask for a discount – I pay them exactly what they ask.
Yes, it’s really that simple. There are no factories, no contracts, no middlemen. I’m buying directly from the artisans right off the street.
Plans for the Future
I mentioned above that I don’t think that these artisans charge enough – I suspect they aren’t charging for their time. I would love to partner with an organization familiar with Brazil that can help teach these artisans how to better price their work and develop stronger business skills. If you know a great organization, please send them my way: firstname.lastname@example.org.