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HandCrafting Justice Wowed At NY Festival With Handmade Handbags From Recycled Materials

Thailand artisan woman. Photo by HandCrafting Justice.

Making people aware of the beauty of traditional artisan craftsmanship from around the world – often women from small, rural communities – HandCrafting Justice showed off at the NYC Green Festival last weekend with a collection of one-of-a-kind handbags made of recycled materials including telephone books, chip bags, and silk.

HandCrafting Justice is a nonprofit project of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd that markets over 1,000 different items through its website, wholesalers, and special events. Items sold include: handbags, clothing, jewelry, accessories, pottery, indigenous art, and toys.

HandCrafting Justice works with over 3,000 women in over 20 countries around the world, working within Fair Trade initiatives to make sure that they work in clean, safe environments and are paid fair living wages.

Featured at the festival were hand-woven handbags from recycled telephone books that were crafted by Filipino artisans from the Alay Kapwa Coop in Manila.

Recycled telephone handbags. Photo courtesy of HandCrafting Justice.

These unique handbags also featured bamboo handles and closed with wood bead latches. The bags were waterproof coated for stiffening and being safe in the rain.

The Alay Kapwa Coop was created in response to the huge poverty in slums around the Philippines – like the Leveriza slum in Manila, which is one of the world’s largest and poorest slums.

Recycled chips bag by HandCrafting Justice.

The NYC Green Festival also showcased another work from the Alay Kapwa Coop – a clutch made from recycled chip bags. This fun looking clutch closed with a zipper and also had a nice wrist strap for easy carrying. The clutches came in hues of green, blue, and red.

The Alay Kapwa Coop – founded in 1984 – now supports thousands in the Philippines who make products such as bags from recycled materials, candles, and jam preserves.

Also featured at the festival were recycled silk handbags from Thailand. They were very chic. These hand-woven silk patchwork tote bags sported multicolored hues and zipper closings.

These silk bags also had two interior pockets, quilted linings, and removable cardboard bases. They came in colors including: flamingo pink, fuchsia, coffee, lime, and sky blue.

These bags were made by the women of the Isan Weaving Group from the Nong Khai province of Thailand. The Isan region is located on the Khorat Plateau, bordering the Mekong River. The Isan region is one of the poorest places Thailand.

In 1983, the Good Shepherd Sisters established the Isan Weaving Group to give women in the area the opportunity to globally market their traditional skills of weaving cloth, creating intricate designs native to the region, and using natural dyes.

Besides handbags and purses, the Isan women also make other things like clothing and homeware.

Recycled silk tote bag. Photo courtesy of HandCrafting Justice.

The Good Shepherd Sisters have established skills and employment training projects around the world to help people, especially women, escape poverty. They work through an international network including HandCrafting Justice in the U.S., Sharing Fair in the UK and Canada, and the Good Shepherd Trading Circle in Australia and New Zealand.

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