Updated: Apr 29
I used to buy my home decor items from a big box store, usually with a 20% coupon in hand. I’ve never fussed much over decor, so this worked fine and it helped fill our walls and shelves. At one point I had the same dining room print of giant fruit as three other people I knew, which seemed odd. But it was a great price and I’m a lazy shopper, so there it stayed. Then we started traveling, and it was great to pick up things here and there to replace the items purchased with the coupons. Away went the big box decor, and now many of these items are in storage for the apartments we will help our college kids furnish when they are out on their own. Although I somehow think both kids would prefer a blank wall to giant fruit.
So now, we have original paintings from China, Ethiopia, Azerbaijan. We have wall hangings from Russia and Colombia, vases from South Korea, carvings from Ghana, and an incredible painting above our fireplace from the U.S. – done by the artist C.S. Tomlin who also happened to be my kids’ art instructor in elementary school. We didn’t travel far for that one, but it’s my favorite.
I also used to purchase much of my jewelry and purses from a big box store. I’m not a designer bag person, so this was fine and there is nothing quite like the smell of imitation leather. Then, I began to receive pieces of jewelry that rendered my “costume” jewelry to the junk drawer: a butterfly necklace given to me by cousins in honor of my mother, a pair of earrings my best friend purchased on a trip to Peru, a necklace Kyle bought for me on Alison’s birthland trip to China. I decided that these pieces trumped anything purchased at Target, so I reduced my jewelry inventory. Every piece of jewelry I wear has meaning, and I like that.
So why should you care about my home decor, jewelry, and purses? Two reasons:
First, I sincerely believe that life is too short and we should spend far less time shopping. Okay, I come at that with a bias because I hate shopping. But I also know that I’ve spent too much money on things that had little meaning simply to fill up spaces, when it would have been better to have a few things with great meaning. I’m working on that. Recently I purged a lot of that crap I bought over the years and it felt wonderfully freeing. And I did it knowing that I would not replace these items. If I’m going to have things surround me, then I want those things to have beautiful stories behind them that can be shared and remembered. We have two paintings from China that we purchased in 2001 from an artist who kept all his work under a bed in his apartment. When we told him we were interested in buying a piece of art, his wife scurried to the adjoining room and got down on her hands and knees and began pulling out stacks of his paintings.
I look at those pieces every day and remember the province where my daughter was born. That’s meaningful.
The second reason I’m telling you about our house decor, jewelry, and purses, is because I have officially become a peddler of goods. Meaningful goods. Specifically, home decor, jewelry, and purses. Honestly, this is not my personality. I’m a horrible salesperson. I hate asking people to buy things because I know that I tend to run from people who ask me to buy things. I now notice those people who begin to back away from me when I start talking about how the Krobo bead bracelets help resource a school computer lab in Ghana, and the bags help support a seamstress apprentice in Ghana. They smile politely and I know what’s going through their mind: “Please don’t ask me to buy something from you.” So because we have this blog relationship-thing between us and you can click off this post at any moment during the sales pitch, you’re in the driver’s seat.
But here goes:
You can buy silk string art pieces that were created by a street artist in Kumasi, Ghana named Emmanuel Tettah. I know him. He’s a good guy and he’s going to give half of the proceeds to Africana Children’s Education Fund (click here to see what we do.) If you purchase a piece of string art, I can provide you with endless stories of life-change that is happening for women and children in Ghana, and you can look at your piece of art every day and know that it has meaning.
You can purchase Krobo bead bracelets with beads made in Ghana from recycled glass (bottles, jars). The creation of these beads is a long process and no two beads are exactly alike, which I love. Can’t find that in the big box store (or the jewelry store). Every penny of the purchase goes straight to help us continue building the computer lab for SDA School in Ankaase, Ghana. This village school had no access to computers, which does not prepare students for success. So we’re building a computer lab because receiving a quality education moves people up and out of poverty, in case you hadn’t heard. More about the lab here.
And the bags. Before I tell you about these amazing bags, you should know that we are sold out but we’ll be bringing more back in June. To get you excited about what’s coming, here’s the story: My college roommate and dear friend, Steffani, designed these bags. When we parted ways after college, she went on to Tulane University and got an M.F.A. in Costume Design, then she went to Hollywood and designed clothes for movie stars and television shows (big names like Debra Winger and Third Rock from the Sun). I brag about her because she’s brilliant and talented. She is the only person I’ve ever known who sat on the floor of a college dorm and stitched clothes on a sewing machine. When I asked her to design a bag for our seamstresses in Ghana to stitch, she did it in about three weeks and sent us a prototype bag, instructions, and a pattern to take with us to Ghana. Since it is an original pattern, she even let us name the bag.
I carry my Ankaase Bag every day and can’t imagine carrying anything else. When I look at it, I remember those apprentices at the seamstress shop on that red dirt village road, sitting outside with their hand crank sewing machines stitching these bags. I’ve never seen anything more amazing.
You can learn more about how these bags help our seamstress apprentices here.
So there it is, the peddler’s blog post. If I didn’t believe deeply in the meaning of these items, I wouldn’t have burdened you with 1,158 words about them (bless all of you who stuck with me to the end).
So here is where you can shop differently. And with meaning. So I give you permission to go shopping!