Do you ever buy something and wonder about the hands that touched it before yours? Whether it was mass-produced in a factory somewhere, or lovingly crafted by hand? Do you think about the thought and effort that went behind designing and creating it?
As someone who loves artistic things but has really no creativity at all myself, it’s always amazing to see the incredible talent that so many artisans of handcrafted goods have. We live in a consumer-driven society, and I have to admit that I usually haven’t put much thought into where the items that I buy come from. Even when I see the ‘made by hand’ label, I never really thought much about who the hands belonged to or where they live, what their life is like. Until I visited the NOVICA website for the first time and found myself looking more at the information about the person behind the items shown there than the actual items themselves.
What it is:
NOVICA is one of the leading fair trade artisan websites – and they work with National Geographic to, “offer talented artisans around the world a place to express their artistic talents online and provide access to the world market”. What they do is to not only provide a forum for these artisans to sell their goods worldwide, but also to connect people together to improve lives and help preserve traditional arts and crafts in other countries. Here’s a description from the site:
We want to give artists and artisans around the world a global platform to express their true artistic talents and to spur their creativity. And, we want to provide you with access to unique, hard-to-find items at great values that only the Internet infrastructure can allow.
At the deepest essence of our philosophy, we want to create a bridge between you and the many talented artisans across the globe.
We want you to know about who you’re buying from. We want you to feel that attachment to the product and to the hands that created it.
In the spirit of the Internet, let us bring you together.
NOVICA. The World is Your Market.
The site offers many kinds of products – everything from necklaces and other jewelry to paintings, masks, furniture and home decor items. You can search by category or you can use one of their specialized searches like the ones for “Gifts for Mom” or “Gifts for Dad” (very useful with Father’s Day coming up!). They also offer suggestions for “Spring” gifts, “Spiritual & Inspirational” gifts or ones that are eco-friendly.
Along with American Dollars, you can choose to view prices in several other currencies and there’s a shipping calculator which will determine the cost of shipment to wherever in the world you are located. As you purchase from NOVICA, you earn points (3% on every order) that you can redeem later toward future purchases on the site.
When you view the lists and photos of items available to purchase, you also see the name of the artisan or crafter right there too, along with what country they are from. And in the information for each specific item is that person’s photo and their story, even with a quote in his or her own words. When you register for a (free) myNOVICA account, you can save specific products – or artists – to your ‘Favorites’. Plus you can also enter a photo, description and other general information about yourself, so the artisans can find out more about who is purchasing their products too – you can even upload photos of the products you’ve purchased and how you use them in your everyday life.
Whether exploring by artist or region, you choose your preferred mode of exploration into the wealth of handcrafted treasures that NOVICA has to offer. In addition to our vast selection, also enjoy such conveniences as your personal wishlist, updates on new arrivals from your favorite artists and regions and much more. Get everything you want in one convenient place. Welcome to myNOVICA!
NOVICA has also recently launched its unique microfinance program which helps artisans around the world to enhance their craft and expand their market by offering them 0% interest loans. The program is works in a simple manner, and you can find out more information and answers to specific questions at http://microfinance.novica.com/list/.
You can browse and view individual artisan funding requests within our Artisan Loans section. When a specific loan request is completely filled, we’ll release the funds to the artisan through our local office. The artisan repays the loan based on the repayment terms and at the end of the loan period the lenders receive their funds back.
Courtesy of NOVICA, I received a $75 gift certificate to purchase items from the site to try out and review.
Here’s my take on it:
When I first went onto the NOVICA website, I was very impressed with the varied selections of items – and with the prices. I initially looked through the “Gifts Under $30” section and found quite a few things that I liked. So not only are there beautiful and unique handcrafted items, but they are definitely affordable too. I was able to purchase 3 thing with my gift certificate – I went a little bit over the $75 so used my own money to cover the remaining balance. In total, shipping for all 3 items (from Thailand) cost $6.95 all together – very reasonable, and in fact less than I’ve paid for shipping just within the US from other sites.
Here are the 3 things that I bought – two are bags and one is a necklace that I fell in love with when I saw it. All 3 artisans are from Thailand – I wasn’t specifically searching for Thai artists, but it just worked out that way. I spent a lot of time on the site reading through the artisan’s stories – one of whom touched me quite deeply – I think because she’s a geography student at the local university, and I was a geography major when I was in college too. I bought a hemp shoulder bag called “Earth Miracle” from her – all of her bags are truly beautiful, but I loved this particular one the moment I saw it. Here’s the bag as shown on the site, and what it looks like in person:
The bag is padded and I can tell that it’s good quality and will last for a very long time. Plus – it’s gorgeous, and I know that nobody else has one like it. It’s the perfect size to carry my wallet, keys and such on a daily basis. There’s one large main compartment plus two zippered ones (one beneath the embroidered flap on the front), so I know that my things are safely stowed inside. I do think that I may end up needing to find a way to blunt the point on the little wooden part that hangs down though since it’s quite sharp – not a great thing with kids running around.
The other bag I purchased is a cotton handbag, called “Dream Night”. It’s also embroidered – the amount of detail in the embroidery on these bags is incredible. It’s a large tote bag with a zippered main compartment and 3 smaller inner ones. It’s a great size to take on a day trip somewhere or keep the girls’ things together when we go out as a family. Here’s a photo from the site and of the actual bag that I received:
The last item I purchased is a piece of jewelry – a natural orchid gold-plated long flower necklace called “Aqua Perfection”. Other than the colors (which I love) and the fact that the chain is plated in 24k gold (so that I can wear it – I’m horribly allergic to anything other than ‘real’ gold or silver), I was really intrigued by the adjustable chain. The ends hang down in front and you slide the pendant up or down on them to make the loop larger or smaller around your neck. It’s really a unique piece that I’m very proud to wear. Again, here are the site and ‘real life’ photos:
I think what struck me as much as the quality of the actual products themselves is just how much care went into wrapping and shipping them. Every item came with a card telling me details about the artisan and her life. And each one came wrapped in a gorgeous natural-fiber paper and tissue paper (you can see in the first photo above), with a ribbon. Care and use instructions are included on NOVICA cards inside along with each item too. I saved the wrapping and tissue papers to use later – I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away or recycle them, they are just too beautiful.
The purchase process and checkout were very easy – really the only difficulty was in waiting for my items to arrive. It did take over a week, but considering that they were coming from overseas, that’s very reasonable. I was kept updated both on my myNOVICA page and via e-mail. When the package came, I did have to sign for it, but was able to leave the FedEx slip on the door with a signature so that I didn’t have to be home to sign it directly. All in all, I was very satisfied with the experience of shopping through NOVICA – and having my items here is definitely worth it!
The bottom line:
NOVICA not only offers gorgeously handcrafted products from artisans around the world, but also looks to help connect people together so that consumers and artisans can learn more about each other. The selection of products is varied and unique and also priced very reasonably. I know that I will always treasure these items that I’ve purchased there and that I will also be looking to NOVICA when it comes to my own gift shopping in the future. Being able to learn about and help support the artisans I’ve read and learned about makes the whole purchase process seem much more personal – as if I were buying something from a friend. In fact that’s kind of what NOVICA does – allows you to buy from a whole world of friends.
Where can you find it?:
The site is located at http://www.novica.com. You can order directly online or by phone at 1-877-266-8422. You can pay with a credit card, money order or cashier’s check – or you can checkout through Paypal or Amazon. Right now, you can save $10 off of a purchase of $40 or more by using the code ‘NOVICA243’ at checkout if you are a first-time customer. You can also keep up to date with information by via their Facebook page or by following them on Twitter.
Would you like to try it?:
I have a second $75 gift certificate to NOVICA to give away to a lucky reader! This will cover your final total up to $75 – any remaining balance over that would be your own responsibility. If you would like to shop for yourself or someone else – and support these amazing artisans while you’re at it, here are the rules:
- Enter by visiting the NOVICA site and leaving a comment here to let me know what one of your favorite products is – and something you learned about the artisan who makes it. This is required – please don’t just say anything like ‘choose me’, or your entry will be discarded.
- The contest will run until Friday, June 4th at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be selected through random drawing, contacted by e-mail, listed on this post and also submitted to PRIZEY. This giveaway is open to anyone worldwide – just please realize that shipping to some areas may take up a good portion of the gift certificate, so please remember to check shipping costs as you shop.
- Please leave a valid e-mail address or other way to contact you! If the winner hasn’t responded within 3 days, an alternate winner will be chosen by random drawing.
- If you’d like extra entries, you can:
- Subscribe to my RSS feed (click on the orange icon in the upper right sidebar) or subscribe via e-mail – leave me a separate comment to let me know.
- Mention this contest on your blog with a link back to this post, and leave a separate comment with the link to your post so I can find it.
- Either Twitter about, ‘Digg’ or ‘Kirtsy’ this post – leave me a separate comment with your username at whichever site(s) you chose (one extra entry per method).
- ‘Like’ this site on Facebook – there’s a link in the sidebar or you can click here. Leave an extra comment to let me know.
- ‘Like’ the NOVICA Facebook page – leave a comment here to let me know.
- Follow NOVICA on Twitter – leave an extra comment here to let me know.
So that’s a total of 9 comments/entries if you do all of the extra entry options.
THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED – and the winner is…
- Lynda Del. – Comment: I’m a subscriber via RSS Feed.
Congratulations, and I will e-mail you shortly to work out the details!
This post courtesy of: NOVICA, who provided the gift certificates for both review and giveaway purposes. No payment or compensation, other than product samples as described above, was received for this post. All opinions given here are solely my own or those of my family.