Despite a number of challenges during lockdown, Artizan International open their doors this week selling crafts made by differently abled people both in the UK and from Ecuador & Peru. Bringing a blaze of colour and culture to Harrogate, they hope to raise awareness of the challenges faced by many disabled people in both the UK and abroad, whilst transforming the lives of their makers.
Located on Oxford Street, Artizan International new premises boast a retail outlet on the ground floor, a craft training area on the first floor and their offices on the second floor. Donated to the charity by the Harrogate Hub and an anonymous donor, it has transformed the fortunes of the charity in what has been a very difficult year.
Having previously run weekly craft sessions for adults and children based in Bilton, this new central location is providing the charity with a new range of fundraising options with a great presence on the high street. Instead of just selling the crafts they make online, they are able to showcase their products directly to the public and raise more money to support people with disabilities living in poverty in the developing world.
Offering a fabulous array of jewellery, cushions, cards and many more beautiful products, all hand-made, the shop even stocks hand made lampshades created from a range of beautiful printed fabrics.
Juggling the new shop development along with their existing work has been a huge challenge over the last few months, but one that is finally paying off. After literally closing their doors during lockdown they had to find new ways of reaching out to the people who depended on their support.
MD Susie Hart MBE explains, ‘we had to swap from face to face craft sessions to video tutorials and zoom get togethers, sending out over 100 craft packs a month to keep people going. These packs have been a lifeline for some of the group members, many of whom really miss the camaraderie and friendship which developed as they worked on the beautiful creations. Of course, in addition to the packs, tutorials and get togethers, the team have also been hard at work refurbishing and renovating the new shop, which at times has proven challenging for the UK team. The result, however, is a calm and clean space which shows off the bright colours and beautiful textures of the products to perfection.
Of note is the range of jewellery, created by Jose from Tagua, a form of vegetable ivory which comes from the Tagua nut. It has the look and feel of ivory but is sustainable and of course no animals are harmed in the production of it. Production of this stunning Tagua jewellery allows Jose to support his family of six following a life altering road accident which left Jose in a wheelchair. Another member of the team creates intricate and beautifully coloured beaded jewellery. All of the items would finish an outfit beautifully, plus you would know you were supporting something truly important.
The teams out in Peru & Ecuador had to stop their craft production during their lockdowns, resulting in them having no income. This also presented us with another problem needing the goods they make for the new shop. Thankfully the local community have pulled together with groups like the Harrogate Scrubbers sewing for them. Susie pointed out that "It really has been an overwhelming experience. Not only are we on track to open the shop this week, but by doing so will be able to start generating an income for our teams who are struggling so badly abroad..’
Whilst initially just a retail outlet, the charity plans to open a café as part of the shop in the new year, staffed by people with hearing disabilities. With beautiful tiling in keeping with the theme, I understand that this area will serve Peruvian hot chocolate. Apparently, Peruvian hot chocolate is a world away from our bedtime cocoa, being described by Susie as "like liquid chocolate a mug". I'll be awaiting the opening of this cafe area with a certain degree of impatience, and will certainly be calling in for a chocolate and a look around the stunning products.
Their goal is to change the perception of people with disabilities and prove that they can make important contributions to society, helping them gain their own independence. I have no doubt that Susie and the team will achieve their aim and I for one am very much looking forward to shopping at, and supporting, this fabulous local charity.
Do pop along and check out the products. There are some great options for the home, and of course with Christmas coming up, plenty of gift ideas to choose from.
For more information, please go to https://www.artizaninternational.org/