Tag Archives: shop

Every time you spend money, you cast a vote for the kind of society you want

27 Feb

Back in my late teens I spent a month of my gap year volunteering on a cocoa plantation in the Ecuadorian Amazon. It was there, harvesting fresh cacao pods alongside the locals, that I got to understand what fair trade really means for people in developing countries striving to support themselves and their families through stable and dignified work. Since then, I’ve built fair trade into the buying choices I make every day, usually by doing nothing more arduous than drinking a nice cup of tea and enjoying a bar of chocolate.

Fairtrade homewares from Decorator's Notebook shop (623x800)

But fair trade is about more than just bananas and coffee beans. Where food has led, other industries have followed and you can now decorate your home with fair trade products too. We are proud to say that, from the beginning, Decorator’s Notebook has supported fairtrade groups, co-operatives and social enterprises that help talented artisans in challenging circumstances work their way to a better life.

This Fairtrade Fortnight we thought it was about time we celebrated by bringing these lovingly-made products together into a proper Fairtrade Collection and introducing you to a few more of the wonderful organisations that craft them.

Fairtrade co operative making leather buckets for Decorator's Notebook (763x800)

Our Leather Bucket is made by members of a co-operative in Rajasthan, India. This community-run group has grown to support more than 40 families. The craftsmen and women use traditional skills to prepare the leather using natural bark and vegetable dyes before stitching each bucket by hand.
Leather storage / kindling bucket, £70, Decorator’s Notebook

Kantha bedspreads made by women's social enterprise for Decorator's Notebook (763x800)

These beautiful kantha bedspreads are handmade by the women of Basha, a social enterprise in Dhaka, Bangladesh, that helps victims of sex trafficking rebuild their lives. The women receive paid training and counselling before being offered a job when they are ready. As well as earning a generous wage the women receive free childcare, daily education classes and subsidised healthcare. Each bedspread is hand-stiched from vintage saris and embroidered with the name of the woman who made it.
Kantha bedspreads, £165, Decorator’s Notebook

Fairtrade pottery Decorator's Notebook (763x800)

Our Dipped Terracotta range of mugs, jugs and bowls is produced by a co-operative in Pondicherry, India. Established in 1985, the group employs both disabled and able-bodied artisans and focusses particularly on empowering women in the workplace. The pottery is handmade using age-old techniques and wood-fired to give the clay its lovely speckled finish.
Dipped terracotta tableware, from £12.95 – £14.95, Decorator’s Notebook

Do come and visit the shop to explore all the gorgeous accessories we’ve handpicked help you create a more unique and meaningful home. We love seeing our blog readers there best of all!

{Photographs Decorator’s Notebook / Nkuku / Basha}

Meet the Maker: Ciara McGarrity of Waffle Design

24 Feb

I first met Ciara McGarrity, the Irish designer behind Waffle Design, at HOME last year. The strong graphic quality of her grey and white cushions drew me to her stand and on closer inspection, I loved the intriguing combinations of woollen threads running through the textured cloth. Later, over tea at The Albion, we chatted about Ciara’s childhood in Ireland, a conversation which inspired her to design the Burren Waffle cushion exclusively for Decorator’s Notebook. I recently caught up with Ciara again to talk colour, fabrics and social responsibility.

Scroll down for a special free delivery offer only for blog readers.

Decorator's Notebook meets Waffle Design

Waffle design cushions

When did you first start working with fabrics?

Everything I’ve done has involved fabrics in some way, although I only started Waffle about a year ago. I studied Display Design at the Dublin Institute of Technology and then moved to London to create window displays for retail stores.

Then about 10 years ago I jumped into freelancing and set up my own company specialising in displays for shops, exhibitions and events; everything from windows for Liberty to visual merchandising at the Science Museum. Fabric nearly always played a part… although back then it was usually just fixed with a staple gun!

How did you make the transition from displays to making your own cushions?

I was asked to work on an event for the British Chamber of Commerce, which involved creating a Bedouin tent inside one of the rooms of a listed building on Belgrave Square. There I met a lady who adored the tent and approached me afterwards to recreate something similar in her garden. She became a kind of mentor to me, encouraging me to make curtains and drapes for her super house just around the corner from Harrods.

I taught myself to sew at first, but later went back to college at the Cass Faculty of Art in Whitechapel to learn how to make soft furnishings properly. I now combine making bespoke curtains with my new project, Waffle.

Waffle Design cushions at Decorator's Notebook (720x800)

Roll of fabric Waffle Design at Decorator's Notebook (719x800)

Why the name ‘Waffle’?

It comes from the woven waffle fabric that forms the basis of all my designs. It’s made from organic cotton and produced by a fairtrade community group in Kerala. Hand-weaving in India is a fading industry and I like that I can play a small part in keeping it going. The cushion designs came from playing around with the grey and the white fabrics and exploring the possibilities of the waffle weave.

 

Talk us through your design process when you start work on something new…

The inspiration can come from anywhere – an image or a place – but the design process always revolves around combining colour. I spread out lots of samples of fabric and try them with different combinations of yarn. Once I’ve chosen which colours work together I sketch out pattern ideas and embroider small samples. I can easily lose hours testing out colours this way!

Dyed fabric swatches Waffle Design at Decorator's Notebook (533x800)

Pegs with coloured yarn Waffle Design at Decorator's Notebook (748x571)

What colours are you drawn to?

I really enjoy clashing colours and unexpected combinations, but I think part of the appeal of Waffle is that they’re used in quite a restrained way. While I was back at college I worked in the furnishing fabrics department at Liberty for a couple of years. I saw that while people were naturally drawn towards bold colours, more often than not, they would opt for the safer options in the end.

I kept that in mind when creating Waffle – I let people have fun with a little splash of colour but on a neutral, adaptable background they feel comfortable with.

Exclusive Burren Waffle Cushion Decorator's Notebook

Burren Waffle Cushion exclusive to Decorator's Notebook

Tell us about your inspiration for the Burren Waffle cushion (above), which you designed exclusively for Decorator’s Notebook?

I grew up in Ireland and The Burren is somewhere we used to visit on school trips. It’s a vast rocky plateau in the West of Ireland and I remember stepping off the bus and feeling like I was on another planet. The slabs of rock are criss-crossed all over with cracks and all the kids would play jumping over the gaps.

From a distance the landscape looks rather bleak but, if you look more closely, you can see all sorts of rare wild flowers growing inside those cracks. The colours the flowers inspired the embroidery and there’s an echo of the texture and tone of the rock in the fabric.

How did you find wool in exactly the right colours?

I use tapestry wool, which gives me access to a fantastic range of colours. My supplier has just sent me a new shade card with more than 400 options so the colour combinations are almost endless!

Reclaimed carpet yarn Waffle Design at Decorator's Notebook (723x800)

{Photographs Yeshen Venema and Decorator’s Notebook}

What’s your next creative milestone?

I’ve recently started experimenting with other materials for the embroidery, like coarser reclaimed carpet yarn and thin strips of leather. Because the waffle fabric is so versatile there are lots of exciting things I’d like to try. I’ve also begun working with a social enterprise in East London to outsource some of the simpler edge sewing, although I’ll always do the embroidery myself. They employ people suffering from anxiety and depression and help them build their independence by providing non-pressured working environment. It’s hard to let go of any element of what I do, but working with them is going to make it easier for me to grow and keep doing what I love best.

Thank you Ciara for the lovely insight into your designs. You can find Ciara’s Burren Waffle cushion (£60) in the Decorator’s Notebook shop and blog readers can order one with FREE UK DELIVERY* using the code BURREN at the checkout.

* Free Standard UK Delivery (£4.95 discount) when you purchase a Burren Waffle cushion at Decorator’s Notebook. This code must be used at the time of ordering and cannot be used in conjunction with other offers or applied to other products. Usual terms apply – please visit our website.

Thoughts on love and home

14 Feb

Decorator's Notebook - always with love

{Decorator’s Notebook}

Homewares made with love make lovelier homes… the simple philosophy that makes Decorator’s Notebook what it is and all we hope it can become.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone xxx

Meet the maker: Basha kantha blankets

10 Dec

The stories our makers share are always inspiring, but the story of Basha – the organisation that makes our beautiful new Kantha Bedspreads – is so powerful that it actually took my breath away. Last week I interviewed Robin Seyfert, Basha’s founder, to find out more about the lives of the women she employs and the change that investing in one of their blankets can bring.

Kanthas handmade in Bangladesh Decorator's Notebook

What is Basha and how did you come to found it?

Basha is a social enterprise based in Bangladesh which provides long term employment to women at risk and survivors of trafficking. I came here in 2006 with the Mennonite Central Committee to promote HIV awareness and met many women working as prostitutes. I was shocked at how the overwhelming majority had been sold, coerced, or forced into sex work. You hear so much about cross-border trafficking but here it was happening right in the heart of their own community.  They were so painfully ashamed of their lives and desperate for options.

We started a job training program which provided women with a stipend to stay out of prostitution and to develop work skills for one year. We accepted 26 women, expecting half to drop out, but all 26 completed and went on to work for MCC projects. However, while it became clear that candidates were without limit, appropriate employment opportunities at the end of their training were sparse.  When I finished my MCC contract, I spent six months preparing to open Basha in May 2011 with 15 women and now employ 50.

kantha stitching blanket Basha Decorator's Notebook

Can you share some of the stories you hear from women you work with?

Vulnerability is the common theme – being poor, widowed, orphaned, abandoned – followed by someone stepping in to ‘help’ who leads them into lives with deep shame and little hope of redemption. In Bangladesh, once someone’s reputation is compromised, she is considered ‘ruined’ in the eyes of society and it is very difficult to be accepted again.  Here are a couple examples [names have been changed]:

“Madiha” was abused in her village when she was about 13 years old and after an aborted pregnancy, followed a neighbour to Dhaka to work in a garment factory.  After three months work, yet receiving no salary, she went to the Mazar (a religious site where many vulnerable people go for refuge) where she was approached and offered domestic work. Instead, was taken to brothel and sold. She was there for five months until a client helped her escape over the wall, but her family rejected her. Alone in Dhaka, she became a floating sex worker until she was imprisoned in a vagrants home for two years. Now Madiha is just completing her training and recently started to sew at Basha.

“Joya” married when she was young and gave birth to a son, but two years later her husband died. She married again but her second husband beat her and didn’t support her family. Joya started cooking at a house where several men lived, but the men there abused her and she was eventually led into prostitution. Joya’s son drowned when he was six years old but she continues to work hard to improve life for her two daughters. Joya wants her to get a good education so that she can support herself even if she marries a poor man. She would like to move to Basha’s new office with her youngest daughter when it opens next year.

handmade kantha blankets from Decorator's Notebook by Basha uk

How do women make the transition from the streets to a job at Basha?

Basha partners with two training programs that provide a year or more of rehabilitation and training. Pobitra primarily targets women in street based prostitution and the Children’s Uplift Programme works with mothers living on the streets. Both programmes provide financial support which allows the women to find suitable housing and walk away from their pimps or brokers. They receive counselling, literacy training, life skill development, and support to get their children into education. Once their lives have stabilised they are interviewed by Basha and begin work here for a few hours each week, until they eventually become full time.

Employing women recovering from such difficult lives must present challenges day-to-day?

It’s difficult to find a balance between being sensitive to the women who are still recovering and continue to face huge challenges, and yet also helping them rise above their past. Some women face abuse from their husbands and come to work in pain, while others struggle with depression or angry outbursts. We try to instill in them a sense of ownership in Basha and encourage them into leadership roles, so they aspire to new heights, for themselves and their children.

How do the women feel about making such a dramatic change?

One of my favourite responses is when they reach out to help others out of bad situations. We brought a woman off the streets once who had suffered a mental breakdown. She kicked her colleagues, spat on them, interrupted their work, but they stuck by her until she recovered. They continue to bring in others to the training programmes and have they found several who were in the process of being trafficked, taking women and children into their homes until they could get help. One of my biggest dreams is for them to be lights in their communities, so when I see these things, I’m most proud of them.

Kantha blankets from Decorator's Notebook made by women from Basha

Describe a typical day at Basha…

The women drop their children off at daycare and start the morning with a prayer. Everyone then gets busy with their work until they have snacks around 10am.  They have classes between 11-12am where they continue their Bangla literacy training, learn basic English, life skills, health education, and other topics. They go to the daycare and feed their children at lunchtime and there’s another break in the afternoon to do some stretching exercises. The day finishes at 5pm and they can do some work at home as well to increase their income.

child attending Basha daycare

How does the working environment at Basha differ from other places women might be employed in Dhaka?

Basha’s aim is to run more like a cooperative, so from the first day they arrive, women are told that Basha is our business; not the shareholders’ or directors’. Each person is responsible for making it work and we all have our part to play. We keep managers’ salaries at a reasonable ratio to those in production and pay a day rate for attendance plus a piece rate for each kantha they make. As women learn to work faster, they receive higher wages and almost all the earn well over the local minimum wage: some earn as much as a manager would in a garment factory. Last year we made a profit for the first time and all the women working in production received a share.

While the women are working we provide full-time daycare for all their children, support their schooling and provide food supplements throughout the day. We pay 75% of their medical expenses and in a few cases, provide psychiatric care too. Women are paid to participate in classes and counselling so they are not stressed about lost wages as they take part. The women here never have to worry about working in a dangerous place, being mistreated, not receiving their pay or working abusive hours, which are all too common in the local garments industry.

Kantha blankets made by Basha at Decorator's Notebook uk

Tell us a little about the kantha tradition and why you chose this product to make at Basha?

Kantha is a long tradition of stitching layers of discarded sari cloth together to create a blanket. Bangladeshis use these to wrap newborns, to cover a bed, to provide warmth in the winter, and so many other uses. It’s such a humble item of day-to-day life here, most Bangladeshis are surprised by the broad appeal internationally. We also realised it was a good product for our employees to make as it is familiar to them, even though they probably hadn’t made them to our standards and specifications before coming to Basha. The picture of something beautiful being created from something previously discarded also symbolises the change we see in women’s lives so perfectly.

How is a kantha blanket made?

Saris are purchased, washed, and matched with a coordinating sari.  A double kantha, such as Decorator’s Notebook sells, takes about 47 hours to make by hand. The cloth is cut and machine stitched side by side, then layered and held tautly with bricks on the corners. The edges are basted by hand while they are still stretched by the bricks. The women then start stitching the neat careful rows, also all by hand and finally they attach a label embroidered with their name. They are really proud of the work they do and that the products they make are going all over the world.

Kantha blankets uk Decorator's Notebook

What are your hopes for the future?

Basha currently has a steady stream of new women joining us from two training programs in two areas of Bangladesh. In a country of 162,000,000 people, we know there are thousands of women trapped in lives they are deeply ashamed of. Basha wants to be a brand that is respected and known as selling beautiful high quality products, so we can continue to grow to provide more jobs, freedom and dignity to thousands of women.

Thank you for this wonderful insight Robin… we are so proud to be the only UK stockist of Kantha bedspreads handmade by the brave women at Basha. Each one is unique and costs £165 (with free UK delivery) from the Decorator’s Notebook shop. We hope you love them as much as we do!

employee at Basha

{Photographs courtesy of Basha / Decorator’s Notebook}

New arrivals in the shop!

6 Dec

We’ve been busy bees adding more beautiful items to our virtual shelves… what do you think of the things we’ve picked? Enamel billy can from Decorator's Notebook First up is our classic Enamel Billy Can, guaranteed to make you feel like your favourite member of the Famous Five whether you’re camping, hiking or on the allotment. A bargain at £15 and ergonomically designed to slip into a stocking! Shoreline plates from Decorator's Notebook I picked these Shoreline Plates because they’re just so effortlessly stylish. They’re made from fine moulded clay and have a lovely rippled surface that’s really organic and tactile. Green Glass Bottle Vases from Decorator's Notebook These Green Glass Bottles are the newest addition to our range of fairtrade products. They’re all individually blown using age old techniques by artisans in India, and each one has a unique pattern of bubbles and natural impurities in the glass. They’re just £7.95 each and the two shapes look lovely as a pair or group. Tiny hanging picture frames from Decorator's Notebook Obviously I love everything in our Collection but these Tiny Hanging Picture Frames are one of my favourites. They’re an exact miniature of our popular Double Sided Picture Frames with a sari hanging ribbon that makes them perfect as personalised tree decorations, placenames or wedding favours. They’re just so cute! ribbons and twine from Decorator's Notebook Finally there are some lovely new arrivals in our Styling Toolkit range to help you put the finishing touches to your Christmas gift wrapping, including luxury Sari Ribbon (£12.95), Braided Cord (£12.95) and a Coloured Twine Trio (£9.95) all wound on reusable vintage wood bobbins. And of course, they’ll all go brilliantly with our free printable gift tags!

You’ll find all these and so many more lovely gift ideas in the Decorator’s Notebook shop – we’re looking forward to seeing you!

Decorator's Notebook Shop www decoratorsnotebook.co.uk

15% off at Decorator’s Notebook ends tomorrow!

9 Nov

dipped terracotta discount

Simply click this link to LIKE US ON FACEBOOK and CLAIM YOUR DISCOUNT

Happy shopping! www.decoratorsnotebook.co.uk

A big announcement (and an introduction)

15 Mar

So, you’ve probably noticed that it’s been rather quiet around here recently… I have a good excuse though. I’ve been working on something that’s been my dream for a long time and with the support of you – my wonderful readers – I am finally able to take the plunge and announce the forthcoming launch of the…

Decorator's Notebook Shop announcement

The concept is simple. Later this summer the Decorator’s Notebook shop will open its virtual doors to reveal a more personal and beautiful way to buy home accessories online. We’ll be weaving handcrafted and vintage products together with the stories behind them, as well as offering the styling ideas and decorating inspiration you know and love. The blog will continue as usual, with the addition of some very exciting new photography visits to some of Britain’s most talented designer-makers who will be handpicked to share their products and workspaces with us.

Which brings me onto the introduction. Meet my amazingly talented brother Joe – photographer, video maker and the man with the purse strings of our new business tightly in his grasp. We’ll be working together on all things shop-related, as well as the wonderful original photography that’s going to make this blog even better.

Those of you in London can come and meet Joe and I at the Startup Showcase at Somerset House next weekend (23rd and 24th March) where we’ll have a sneak peek of the Decorator’s Notebook collection, including a very exciting collaboration with Double Merrick (more on that to come). If you’re about it would be so much fun to see you there.

And I guess there’s just one last introduction. Me. Bethan. Your no-longer anonymous author. I cannot even begin to tell you how wonderful it is to finally ‘meet’ you!

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