Beauty will abound Saturday, when more than two dozen vendors representing global women artisans sell their clothing, jewelry, purses and more at the Minneapolis Farmers Market.
But nothing is quite as beautiful as the back story of how they all came together.
More than 40 years ago, a serendipitous meeting between Twin Cities teachers and their friends in Guatemala launched what has become an enduring and successful international fair trade collaboration.
Thanks to their volunteer efforts, women in countries from Peru to Ghana to Northern Ireland to Vietnam are supporting their families, escaping domestic violence and seeing their children attend college to become doctors, lawyers and teachers.
"It's sometimes hard for us in our privileged world to understand," said Joan Kreider, who will volunteer as a representative of Multicolores, a Guatemalan-based nonprofit supporting Maya women artists who produce luminous embroidery and rugs.
"Maya women in Guatemala face discrimination, but as artists they achieve self-sufficiency and a feeling of well-being and agency," said Kreider, whose daughter, Madeline Kreider Carlson, leads the nonprofit's creative and economic development program from Guatemala (multicolores.org).
"Multicolores offers fair and immediate pay, ongoing creative education opportunities and access to top-quality international markets," said Kreider, who also helped open a Ten Thousand Villages store in the Twin Cities in 1981.
These markets, she said, "create chances for talented women artisans to invest in family and community development, sending their children to school and imaging a better life."
Selling out of suitcases
Back in 1979, Minneapolis teachers Laurelle (Micky) Pearson and Jackie Williams were visiting friends in Guatemala. They were asked if they would take home some locally made fabrics to sell at a more fair price than what they garnered there which, at the time, was about $1.50 a week in salary.
"We took weavings home and started selling out of our suitcases," recalled Pearson, now retired. "At the beginning, we had weavings in our car, which we sold to friends, family, people at school."
Their first official sale that year raised $400. They used that money to buy more products "and kept a running account of everything we sold," Pearson said.
As word got out, their offerings expanded: Hmong stitchery, baskets, doll dresses, carvings, photography, even musical instruments. They formed a nonprofit called The World Jubilee and began hosting two big sales a year, in churches, at the YWCA, community centers and colleges (theworldjubilee.org).
Pre-pandemic, the group brought inasmuch as $40,000 per sale, with the lion's share of profits returned to women artisans across the globe.
The nonprofit's board president, Jane Willard, a former Peace Corps volunteer, pointed out how extraordinary this seemingly ordinary initiative was for the time.
"We didn't have the internet," said Willard, who has been involved with the nonprofit since 1991, working primarily with artisans in Afghanistan. "Communication with countries was by mail or by phone and was very expensive."
Kristin Doherty agrees that the founders were "very much pioneers. When they started this, they were innovators."
Much the same could be said for Doherty, founder of Minneapolis-based Global Mamas (globalmamas.org). Serving in the Peace Corps in Ghana in 1992, then-22-year-old Doherty met dozens of "super-talented, supersmart women who just needed encouragement."
Doherty offered them business development advice and peer support and, perhaps most important, access to markets for their batik fabrics, clothing, jewelry, ornaments and organic shea butter skin products. She founded Global Mamas in 2002.
"The Mamas had great ideas and I'd be like, 'Let's do it!' " said Doherty, who works out of a small warehouse in northeast Minneapolis. She represents nearly 400 producers in six communities across Ghana, most of whom are their families' primary providers.
"I feel so lucky every day," Doherty said. "I love working for these women."
So does Joy McBrien. The St. Paul native runs Fair Anita, which sells fair trade jewelry and other gifts. The name comes from her host mother in Peru years ago, when McBrien traveled there to help build a battered women's shelter.
"I learned so much from her about international development, women's rights, economic empowerment," said McBrien of Anita, who was a social worker. That connection spurred the creation of her public benefit corporation, (fairanita.com), which has grown to 800 stores around the U.S. and $1.7 million in regenerative income to its partners around the world.
The World Jubilee, McBrien said, was one of the first places she sold her products.
"It was fun to wander from booth to booth — like an around-the-world trip."
But an around-the-world trip with an altruistic mission.
"Sometimes the best form of charity," McBrien said, "can be a fair paying job."
World Jubilee Sale
Vendors and crafts from around the world to benefit artisans and community organizations abroad.
When: 3-7 p.m May 1 (rain or shine). Free parking, COVID-19 safety standards in place.
Where: Minneapolis Farmers Market, 312 East Lyndale Ave. N, Mpls.
Featuring fair trade organizations including: Global Mamas, Ten Thousand Villages, Fair Anita, Zatoun, Gifts for Change, PEN, Elevat, Blandine Wolesse, Tiny Tim & Friends, Twin Engine Coffee, Grandmother Circles, Our Saviors Lutheran Church, Mano a Mano and Global Ministries.