Wesley Harvey bio: Wesley is a full-time studio artist and part-time instructor in ceramics. Originally from Indiana, he has been living and working in Texas for the past four years.
Hosting the 2010 World Cup is a tremendous accomplishment for this complex region, hopefully the excitement of the moment will continue to inspire economic growth and social change. The growth of the handmade industry is also taking root, with traditional African artistry becoming globally relevant. Enock Mpofu is a fine artist who grew up in public housing in the slums of Zimbabwe, where he shared a tiny apartment with his seven family members. Now Mpofu is an internationally recognized artist whose fine beadwork results in these dazzling creatures, each animal reflects the beauty of its living inspiration. Each piece is signed by the artist and numbered.
Aid to Africans is an international non-profit organization that uses craft to spur economic development, and one of their artisans is the collective Feeling African. Based in Soweto, Feeling African produces wire furniture that has been nationally acclaimed (Elle Décor recently featured this table.) Furniture ranges from side tables, coffee tables, stools and bowls. Feeling African also creates custom made pieces.
Wola Nani was established in 1994 as a non-profit organization aiding people and communities impacted by HIV. Historically women bear the brunt of the global HIV pandemic. They have limited resources to help when this disease comes into their lives. Wola Nani is an art collective offering women a way to earn income, even in a time of crisis. In the Xhosa language, Wola Nani means “we embrace and develop one another”. These papier mache bowls are handmade by local women in South Africa who are dealing with HIV.
**If you happen to be visiting Johannesberg in August, you can stop by the South African Handmade Collection event taking place from the 5th-9th.
As anybody who has ever planned a visit to Old Town, Alexandria, VA, US knows, the Torpedo Factory is a must-see attraction. Even though it is a priority destination for the area’s thousands of tourists annually, somehow there are still people locally who have no idea about the treasure trove of original art available to them a mere metro stop away.
If you unknowingly came upon the building while wandering around Old Town’s charming restaurants and shops, you might not realize what you had found. It’s pale stone exterior doesn’t begin to hint at the variety of artistry and creativity at work inside its walls on a daily basis.
Believe it or not, the Torpedo Factory Art Center actually began it’s life as…a torpedo factory. Beginning in 1918, it was a critical component of the American war machine, including furious production of torpedoes of various types throughout World War II. After the war ended, the cavernous space was used merely as storage by the federal government, until the City of Alexandria purchased it in 1969.
Situated on the Potomac River waterfront, the building was huge and well-placed for a significant community improvement project, but no development took place until May 1974. By September of that year, the Torpedo Factory was open to the public as a newly renovated gallery and studio space for artists. Most of the studios had already been reserved from a long list of juried artists. Resident artists have always been enthusiastic about the space. Many suffered through the lack of decent heating or air conditioning in the seventies and early eighties, until a major renovation turned the art center into the modern space it is today.
The Art Center is now home to 165 artists in 82 studios, along with six galleries, two workshops, the Art League School, and the Alexandria Archeology Museum. My favorite feature of the Torpedo Factory, and the reason I love to visit, is that you can actually meet and talk to the artists. All resident artists hold open studio hours, during which you can visit with them, see them at work, chat with them about their creative process, as well as purchase original art. Visitors are actually encouraged to ask questions and to watch the artists at work. (Below, painter Caroline Emmet Heald prepares to start work.)
The Torpedo Factory is always looking for new artists! The annual jury process is about to begin, and all artists working in fine art and fine crafts are encouraged to apply, including work in fiber, jewelry, ceramics, glass, film, and more. The jury changes annually and is comprised of individuals not affiliated with the Torpedo Factory. The jurors are given absolutely no guidance or suggestions about what kind of art or artist to accept. They are themselves working artists, curators, professors, and gallery owners, and their decisions are final. Sometimes all applicants are accepted, sometimes none. Sometimes accepted artists all work in the same medium; sometimes they are all different. It is a major priority of the Torpedo Factory to keep the jury process completely fair and unbiased.
The Torpedo Factory is much more than just gallery and studio space for its resident artists. The Art League School (a separate organization that is housed within the Art Center building) offers a wide variety of art classes in multiple disciplines that serve more than 2,000 students per term. The independent galleries incorporate the works of hundreds of national and international artists, with an extensive schedule of juried and curated exhibits.
Finally, the Torpedo Factory hosts numerous events and collaborates with several community organizations and businesses to increase awareness and vitality of the arts in Alexandria. A new initiative in the works is called “Handcrafted Alexandria,” in which the Art Center is collaborating with several Alexandria area business that focus on handcrafted goods. Watch this space for details when that enterprise is launched!
The Torpedo Factory Art Center is open daily from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, and is open late on Thursdays. Artists’ studio hours vary. (105 N Union St, Alexandria VA)
It takes a lot of faith to try and earn a living by making things by hand. Just ask anyone who is trying to do it, myself included. As a concept, that’s nothing new. But there are some who take their faith a step further and use it as a call to action to help those, who without the skills and opportunity to sell their handmades, might be left with no hope for the future. That’s the goal of Global Handmade Hope, a Fair Trade shop in Park Ridge, Illinois that is dedicated to promoting and selling crafts and goods made by the world’s underprivileged. I caught up with founder Cynthia Glensgard to learn more about her mission and how she got involved with such an undertaking.
“It’s actually pretty funny since my background has nothing to do with retail or fair trade. I have an Bachelors and MBA in Marketing. Previously, I’d worked for Fortune 500 companies in sales and sales management. One of my girlfriends, and previous sales reps, left the corporate world and started a non-profit called True Vineyard Ministries. While I donated financially, I remember actually telling my friend that I never had any desire to go to Africa.
“Then, I began to feel as if God was asking me to become more involved with the T.V.M. mission in Rwanda. So, I gave her a call and next thing I knew, after a ton of inoculations, I was on a mission trip to Rwanda six weeks later. Of course, I thought that this trip would be my one and only trip to Africa but since June of 2009, I’ve actually been there four times. I thought I understood what it meant to be a third world country and all the paroles that go along with that distinction. What I discovered is that my knowledge really only scratched the surface.
“I found myself wanting to help as many people as possible be able to provide food and shelter for their families. I kept posing the question to myself, ‘What is the best way to help?’ And I kept coming back to the conclusion that I needed to open a Fair Trade store. Global Handmade Hope was formed in an effort to help other missions all over the world by offering them a place and opportunity to sell their goods.”
The store is bright and colorful, and well-stocked with handmade goods ranging from toys to home decor, from handbags, textiles, and jewelry, to personal care items and food. “The majority of the products carried in the store come from artisans that I have direct relationships with through my mission trips to Rwanda and Kenya. In fact, I am beginning to exhibit at national wholesale trade shows in an effort to help these East African artisans reach more markets. It is my goal for the groups to be able to employ more people, which will allow for them to send more children to school which will, in turn, help break the cycle of poverty.”
The poverty Cynthia speaks passionately about is extreme in nature. Statistics show that 20% of the world’s population is forced to live on less than $1.00 a day. It is a de-humanizing, and crushing cycle that taking measures such as buying from Fair Trade shops helps to minimize, and hopefully, one day eradicate. “Any time you can shop fair trade it’s great. You are voting for justice and equality with the dollar you are spending. By shopping outlets like Global Handmade Hope we are telling the world that it is not okay to force people to live in poverty, work in sweat shops, and use child labor. We are saying, yes it is important for a family to eat and a child to go to school, things that we take for granted as our right here in the U.S. but that often doesn’t happen in third world countries. It’s funny, I heard a statement the other day that actually put another twist on fair trade, ‘We get all upset about the lead in toys that our children are exposed to, (which by the way we should), but, what about the child that was forced to paint that toy, and hundreds others, with lead-based paint?'”
For Cynthia, it’s her faith, and that of the people of True Vineyard Ministries, that fuels the passion to help others. But the help and involvement of all people, regardless of the source of their passion, is needed to continue and grow the mission, and the local community has stepped up to learn more and get involved.
“I feel fortunate to have found a way that I can help people. My work is meant to glorify God. On the days when things are rough, I am inspired by Matthew 19:26: ‘with God all things are possible.’ Also, a quick reflection on what life is like in these developing countries helps put me back on track and keep motivated. I realize not all people are in the same place with their spirituality. All people with humanitarian goals are welcome.
“We opened mid-November 2009 and the community has been very receptive. I love that people who know about fair trade stop in, and I especially enjoy when I can introduce the concept to someone new. It is so much fun to have someone express how beautiful and unique the items in the store are and then to be able to tell them about fair trade.”
And, in case any of us feel a need to go the extra mile, Cynthia also has good suggestions for ways to get more involved. “We would love the opportunity to speak at organized events about our mission. People have hosted home parties where we’ve spoken and brought goods for purchase. We also take people with us on our mission trips, so we just ask that you prayerfully consider this before signing up. Our mission is in need of $60,000 to build an environmentally-friendly, bio-gas facility that will turn composted cow manure into fuel. The fuel will be used to bake bread to be sold at the local markets, and to boil water to dye yarn. Organizing Penny Drives are great ways to help with this need. We are open to utilizing peoples talents and ideas.”
“Each day brings new things, all of which are wonderful. I am so moved when people open their hearts and offer help to spread the word about the store, fair trade, and of course True Vine Ministries.” I couldn’t agree with you more, Cynthia. Hope is always a good word to spread.
Global Handmade Hope, 428 W. Touhy Ave., Park Ridge, Illinois, USA
On The Web: http://globalhandmadehope.com