My Travel Loot #1| Project Ploughshare Women’s Pottery

I love to travel and experience new places and cultures.  Another thing I love to do is take home a piece of of that culture’s art.  I don’t mean cheesy refrigerator magnets, or touristy souvenirs that are made in China, with the place’s name prominently displayed.  If I were to show you my collection of travel artifacts, I would probably have to explain their origin to you.

When I can visit a program that helps disadvantaged people make a living by making that art, sign me up!  I highly recommend that when you travel to other countries, that you check if there is a handicraft center that provides jobs to the disadvantaged.  You just have to make sure the center has a good reputation and does not exploit it’s workers.

I found such a center in Gondar, Ethiopia named Project Ploughshare Women’s Pottery.  I rarely walk into a place like this without walking out with at least something.  It was the rainy season, so business was slow.  Everyone there was happy to see me and full of welcoming smiles.  Without further ado…

Here are the two items I chose. The handled piece of pottery is an incense burner. I particularly like the texture of it.

The incense is a form of resin that is burned along with a piece of charcoal. As you wander around the streets in Ethiopia, you can frequently smell the incense burned during a coffee ceremony.

The other item is a zebra patterned bead necklace. The small beads in between are the national colors of Ethiopia, green, yellow, and red.

I am keeping the burner for certain, but I may give the necklace as a gift. The incense burner was 400 birr, and the necklace with 200 birr, which is about $20US total. I thought it was a fair price, so I didn’t bother to haggle. I know it’s going to a good cause.

These two ladies were full of smiles when I came into their shop to watch them work. The woman on the left is creating beads by rolling clay into little balls and then puncturing them to accommodate a string. The woman on the right is making a traditional Ethiopian coffee pot called a Jebena (I bought one of these elsewhere). Behind them are drying racks full of pottery waiting to be fired in the kiln.

Some Jabenas wait in the kiln to be fired. This particular kiln was donated by the Japanese. Two other kilns nearby were not operational and were waiting for difficult to get parts.

A woman weaves some cloth on a traditional hand built loom. I was told she was weaving a traditional scarf like the one she is wearing.

This is their showroom, where you can purchase woven scarves, baskets, and pottery made every day by these industrious ladies.

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