By Gus Herrera
Ten Thousand Villages in Pasadena is re-defining gift giving. A non-profit retail store selling “handmade gifts, jewelry, home decor, art and sculpture, textiles, serve-ware, and personal accessories representing the diverse cultures of artisans in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East,” they are built upon the principles of fair trade. The company’s mission is to: “create opportunities for artisans in developing countries to earn income by bringing their products and stories to our markets through long-term, fair-trading relationships.” Ten Thousand Villages strives to even the playing field for under-employed and under-represented artisans throughout the world. This process begins by naming fair prices for their work and providing the cash advances necessary to obtain materials. Ten Thousand Villages guarantees to pay the artisans promptly and in-full upon completion of the orders. By selling their products to local consumers right here in Pasadena, Ten Thousand Villages effectively creates a consistent, reliable marketplace otherwise non-existent in the artisans’ communities or unavailable to them due to geo-political circumstances or hardships. In addition, long-term, symbiotic business relationships are formed. Ten Thousand Villages constantly collaborates with the artisans, suggesting design qualities that appeal to American clientele and educating them on sustainable and environmental-friendly practices.
The company’s retail success lies within their ability to connect the consumer to the artisan, “We are selling products, but we are also telling stories and connecting people to the mission of Ten Thousand Villages and the people we are working with all around the world,” says Sam Bills, store manager. If you make a purchase in-store, products come with informational cards telling you more about where they come from and the people who make them. If you make a purchase on their website, www.TenThousandVillages.com, each region Ten Thousand Villages operates in has a page where you can learn more about the artisans and their history. As everything is handmade, mostly using local, natural materials, you are many times, quite literally, receiving a piece of the land it came from. Furthermore, many of the processes used to make the items (i.e., basket-weaving, glass-blowing, etc.) are based on cultural traditions passed down through generations. The result is a unique and meaningful gift or addition to your home that you cannot find anywhere else.
Located at 567 S. Lake Ave. near a largely residential area of Pasadena, Ten Thousand Villages has nestled itself into the community since opening 10 years ago, hosting monthly workshops, informational movie screenings, and working with local non-profits and charitable organizations. Bills explains how the business was a natural fit for Pasadena: “Part of why I think it works here is because we are in a neighborhood. People are living, doing their grocery shopping, and picking up their dry-cleaning. They say, ‘I need to pick up a gift, I’m going to swing by 10 Thousand Villages.’ We put the store here hoping for that and it has been the source of our success.” The business thrives off of our American culture of gift giving which never ceases to give customers a reason to stop by, with birthdays each year; federal, cultural, and religious holidays; and a plethora of other circumstances that call for gifts such as house-warmings, baby-showers, and anniversaries (to name a few).
For more information visit Ten Thousand Villages online or call (626) 229-9892.