We set the table on this page using items made by artisans, many from Third World countries, who will directly benefit from their purchase.
See the green vases in the middle? They’re from Hebron Glass, a family business in the historic West Bank that dates to 1890 and is known for glassblowing. About 60 artisans work with Hebron Glass, which tries to keep their artisans busy year-round, despite the challenges presented by violence in the region.
That cute little wool vicuna (it looks like a llama) was handmade by an artisan group called Manos Amigas, which means Hands Joined In Friendship, that began in 1991 in Lima, Peru. The group offers training to artisans in poorer areas of Lima and the Andean highlands, and participates in international trade fairs to gain new markets for them.
Crisil, a family-owned business in Cochabamba, Bolivia, created the Highlands goblets. Most of the company’s artisans live in a single neighborhood and have often struggled to find jobs. So Crisil created a supply chain by using recycled glass that small businesses collect from local garbage dumps. Teams of 12 artisans, each with its own master glassblower or coordinator, turn recycled pieces into beautiful glassware.
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The hand-blocked Holiday Joy tablecloth is from CRC Exports of Kolkata, India. It helps artisan groups become self-sustaining businesses by providing everything from raw materials and production coordination to marketing, finance and exporting assistance.
The white felt Christmas trees were made in Nepal from wool and finished with silver. The artisans who made the trees work for a business started with $150 by family in Katmandu. Today it’s a $3.5 million fair-trade company that supports more than 500 artisans.
Another way to dress your holiday table with a conscience is to avoid disposables and use dishes, flatware and glasses you own.
If you don’t have enough place settings, buy them at tag sales or thrift stores. Same goes for centerpiece items. I haven’t seen a thrift store yet that doesn’t have shelves full of candlesticks, votive candleholders and candelabras, often for a dollar or two each. Same goes for vases of every shape and size.
All of it is unusual, attractive and a form of recycling.