An outlet for ‘Heart of Haiti’ artisan gifts

Creating on-going sustainable jobs in Haiti is a herculean task and necessary for an economic base so that people can live humane lives. In spite of almost no tourism in the past decade compounded by the devastation of January’s earthquake, more than 240 artisans in Haiti are selling their goods and experiencing a steady income stream.

Fairwinds Trading’s founder Willa Shalit believes in trade not aid and had been invited by the Clinton Foundation to help jump start the artisan sector in Haiti.

“The creativity in Haiti is widely powerful,” says Shalit who linked up with Brandaid, an organization working with artisans in Haiti.

Now with Macy’s as a partner and outlet, a wider public will have access to buy vibrantly decorated papier-mache vases and painted trays from Jacmel, metal worked picture frames, fruit bowls, and pendants from Croix des Bouquets, and quilted potholders, oven mitts and cosmetic bags from Citi Soleil women quilters.

“For $10, people can own something from Haiti and it can help support artists there.” Shalit said, “You don’t have to be a foundation, everybody can help Haiti, own a piece and connect.”

Recently, Macy’s launched their International Gifting Centers in New York and Miami, a gift corner in the home décor departments. By the end of October, 25 Macy’s stores will carry the Heart of Haiti line plus ‘Rwanda Path to Peace’ items.

Designer J. went to Haiti in May, met with the artisans, and developed samples—a collaboration of the indigenous vision and craft techniques, and a retail market. “It is totally from the Haitian aesthetic,” Shalit commented, “We suggested shapes and sizes. It’s like bringing the market to the product, what may appeal to a greater audience.”

Shipping began in mid-August.

Jacmel, two hours south of Port-au-Prince, is known for its fabulous carnival with creative costumes and papier-mache masks, and was heavily damaged by the earthquake. The artisans, using their craft techniques, are making vases, bowls, and other decorative items. They work outside, storing their creations in tents–the earthquake destroyed their studios and homes. Shalit suggests that hopefully, with the money from these orders they can get out of their tents. Brandaid received a grant from Clinton Bush Foundation to help rebuild the workshops.

Well-known metal artist from Croix des Bouquets Serge Jolimeau whose beautifully crafted metal items are for sale and Sister Angela, who works with the women quilters in Citi Soleil, attended the Manhattan launch. Haitian diva Emeline Michel sang with her musicians. Haitians and friends of Haiti celebrated the launch and were spotted buying their favorite gift items. The accompanying website is:

Opening in time for the holiday season, the Centers will continue as an on-going part of Macy’s. Fairwinds Trading is working on its spring line of items.

Shalit acknowledges that in times of crisis aid is necessary, but in countries where people live on just a few dollars a day, Fairwinds Trading helps establish a market for artisan products creating on-going income-producing jobs; she started with basket makers in Rwanda. Other partners in this sustainable business model of trade not aid are PQ2 Peacequilters and Gahaya Links.