Guest Editor: Daniyal Mirza
Team TTM is excited to welcome Living Threads Co. as a Local Partner. Learn more about their mission and artisans from founder, Amanda Zehner below!
TTM: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. What was your inspiration for founding Living Threads Co.?
Amanda: My background is in international development. I volunteered in West Africa with the Peace Corps for two years. Following my Masters in International Development, I lived in Central American countries – Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras – for several years. While there, I got to know a variety of artisan cooperatives, the stories of the men and women who worked there, and the art and tradition behind their work. I also learned that the key challenges they faced were access to training, micro credit, and markets. The founding of Living Threads Co. was inspired by these artists. It was a way to bring about positive social change by investing in their businesses, supporting artisan traditions, and connecting socially conscious U.S. consumers with the artists’ creations.
TTM: How does Living Threads Co. identify new artisan partners? In what countries does Living Threads Co. currently have partners?
Amanda: We currently work in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Nepal, and India. We only work with groups we know really well. For example, I could tell you the name of every woman who creates products for us in Guatemala and Nicaragua. We have expanded in the same grassroots fashion. We have partnered with local non-profits, the Peace Corps, and volunteers who know the local artisan groups. We take care to work with groups who genuinely lack access.
TTM: Please tell us about the impact Living Threads Co. is having on the lives of people in its partner communities. Does any one particular story stand out in your mind?
Amanda: We conduct studies of our quantitative and qualitative impact on the cooperatives. One of the more memorable stories comes from Nicaragua, where we found that as a result of our work with our partner cooperative there, the income of individual weavers had tripled from 40 dollars a month to about 120 dollars a month. For the artisans, this is significant as it allows them access to healthcare, education and other basic necessities that they didn’t have before. Indeed, it can be life changing.
TTM: What can you tell us about Living Threads Co. Textiles? What are your favorite items for the summer?
Amanda: For the summer, my favorite items are the table top linens, placemats, and napkin sets. They are in bright and bold colors that are created with locally found plants, vegetables, and even bugs! They use a beautiful, traditional design and each set is unique.
TTM: How can our readers and customers become more involved in supporting artisan communities?
Amanda: I think understanding where products come from, how they are made, and the downstream impact of one’s purchase on the individual and communities that make them is important. As consumers, we have many options and supporting small artisans can have a massive impact, not just on the lives of those artisans, but on their communities in general, and help instigate long-term change.