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Even though my kitchen is quite small, it still functions as the nerve center of our home. Since size necessitates our table be in the living area, the kitchen is purely a place of action: nourish, caffinate, brew, wash, prep, cook, store. Being that it is so small, items that make the cut into the kitchen cabinets must be invaluable or do double duty. In addition, part of refreshing my apartment includes removing as much plastic as possible, especially from the kitchen. This is because there is a documented risk of leaching that occurs when plastics are heated, washed repeatedly, or store acidic or basic items—effectively anything you would do in the kitchen. While there is debate over accepted levels of exposure, it would be impossible for me to know when I reached that level and the ubiquitousness of plastic makes it difficult to avoid in many situations. Instead of plastic, I look for materials like glass, metal, and wood when purchasing kitchen items.
It’s also important to me to know where items are made and who made them. Home decor products are often not as traceable as clothing, but there are some companies that reveal their sourcing and production. One of these is Artisan Connect. They source from nonprofits, artisan collectives, and other organizations that provide fair wages to the artisans and social services geared to the needs of their communities. The beauty of their products is in the preservation and celebration of traditional crafts. This isn’t charity or pity shopping—the artisans learn new techniques, teach others, and grow their cultural and economic development with the support of Artisan Connect.
Below are items that facilitate the bustling activity in my kitchen. They are made from natural materials, do double duty, and support the fair wages of artisans.
Storage is of utmost concern in a small kitchen. But before items get to the kitchen, they have to be bought and this requires a big reusable bag. At home, my reusable bags hold other reusable bags as they await their next shopping trip and this market tote would be a beautiful way to store them. It’s made by the Sisal Sisters, a group of women in Kakuyuni, Kenya who create bags out of sisal. This craft is indigenous to their village and has been passed down for many generations. Larger bags like this one can take up to one month to produce.
The Fair Trade cooperative market and export facilitator, Mitra Bali, enables artisans to circumvent the near-monopoly of tourist shops and sell their work for a fair price. This bowl is carved of rich mahogany, inlaid with crushed white coconut shell decorating the exterior. I could use it to store fresh fruits, as a prep bowl, or to serve salad.
This wooden serving set is also made through Mitra Bali and complements the mahogany bowl. I would use them together and I also like to use wooden utensils when cooking grains like rice.
Items that nest are awesome for small spaces. This set of six olive wood nesting bowls is perfect for holding snacks, prepped ingredients, or anything really. They are crafted by Le Souk Ceramique, an artisan group in Tunisia that provides artisans with healthcare, social security, a living wage, and safe working conditions.
Once my apartment is refreshed and put back together, I’d love to have more get-togethers. However, I do need more party accoutrements. Artisan Connect really gets me with their line of recycled glassware. The recycled glass ice bucket and wine glasses are made by the craftsmen and women of Ngwenya Glass. People from all over Swaziland collect clear glass bottles and are paid per kilo for clean glass. Once collected, the glass is recycled and mouth blown into the finished product by these skilled artisans. When it wasn’t chilling wine, I would use the ice bucket to display flowers or store lemons or dishtowels.
This recycled glass carafe can be used to decant wine or is clearly perfect for holding fresh local flowers. Here again, waste glass is recycled into a beautiful new product by artisans, this time by Kirah Design in Bolivia. The indigenous artisans of Kirah Design are provided with economic opportunity by incorporating contemporary design while preserving ancestral techniques and minimizing ecological impact to create extraordinary pieces.
Find more items that support artisans with fair wages on Artisan Connect.
With a background in education, Elizabeth Stilwell produces engaging and actionable content as editor-in-chief of The Note Passer, where this article original appeared. The Note Passer is inspiration for a better, sustainable future; one that’s full of more meaning and less waste.