The newest endeavor from online marketplace NOVICA is fairly unique: Allow shoppers to get artisan-crafted, hand-made art from across the globe, and to do so by first choosing the cause they most wish to support.
It’s called the Impact Marketplace. It launched on April 1 and lets you begin your shopping journey through the lens of causes like caring for children, empowering women, enabling those with disabilities, enhancing education, and more.
"Our customers really enjoy it when we support causes," NOVICA CEO Roberto Milk told me when we touched base recently about the Impact launch. Now, NOVICA directly connects you to a cause before sending you off into the marketplace, where you can peruse products that are handmade by artisans the world over. The idea is enabling local artists with a channel into the marketability of Western nations (and their purchasing power).
"What's really cool is how the lives of artisans can be completely changed just by getting access to markets,” Milk told me. “We never imagined we'd be touching so many artists worldwide." How many exactly? This year, NOVICA turns 20 and according to Milk has had contact with more than 75,000 artisans across the globe, paying out nearly $91 million since 1999.
"Artists can be treated like second-class citizens in other countries. These are traditions that are disappearing all around the world. They're usually struggling to make a living,” Milk said. "At the same time, customers all over the world appreciate goods that are made by hand. People are so much less interested in factory-made stuff, preferring unique, one-of-a-kind, and artfully made products."
NOVICA counts among its partners the National Geographic, KIVA, and the Grassroots Business Fund — and aims to grow its marketplaces and connections to bring more artisans into the fold. With so many options already, the art in the marketplace is really astounding and very broad in covering various tastes. So I sifted through it to give you an idea of what you might find if you want to bring home art that’s actually artisan-made — and actually make an impact when you do so.
Hand-Made Footstool, "Bird of Paradise,” $288 on NOVICA: Abel Rios has been working with NOVICA for eight years. He makes tooled leather furniture and decor accents from where he lives in the Andes Mountains. It’s hard to say more about his arresting “Bird of Paradise” — part of the Working with Disabilities cause — but it would definitely trigger conversation at your next get together and remind you often both of the power of responsible markets and the beauty of hand-crafted goods. Formed around the notion of a vaulting horse, the stool’s soft leather seat is mounted on a frame of mohena wood, which is similar to mahogany.
Table Runner, "Sacred Quetzal," $115 on NOVICA: Mayra Leticia Hernandez’s specialty is hand-loomed textiles and has been working with NOVICA for a year. This handwoven Guatemalan cotton table runner was crafted on a backstrap loom and is accented with Quetzal Birds, significant birds in Guatemalan culture. The piece is part of the Confronting Adversity cause.
Cotton Zapotec Shawl, "Golden Sea Foam," $55 on NOVICA: Carmen Ruiz has been weaving shawls since she was a teenager and this cotton shawl is part of that journey. Made on a traditional handloom, the wide, blue shawl — part of the Empowering Women cause — is accented with golden yellow patterns at its edges. A hand-tied macramé fringe is a finishing touch on this wrap.
If you’ve been looking for original pieces to adorn your room or living space and want to both hang something unique and help an artist whose local reach isn’t often matched by that of factory-made goods, the NOVICA marketplace is worth checking out.
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