Sustainable Art Alliance Q&A
Q: What is the charitable mission and purpose of your program/project/organization? Please tell us what problem/challenge your project seeks to solve. Please also tell us what the expected positive influences of your project will be, including how many people will benefit as a result of your work or any other benefit to community/society/planet. *
In our rapidly changing world, mass-produced, machine-made items are making traditional handicrafts a thing of the past. The Sustainable Art Alliance seeks to provide indigenous Moroccan handicraft artisans and their families with fair wages, education, and technology training, thereby encouraging future generations to continue this rich tradition of creative expression.
By providing handicraft artisans with a viable platform to sell their products, the Sustainable Art Alliance will ensure artisans receive a fair price for their product, reinvesting in the artisan communities and providing training to give artisans the ability to independently sell their products to a worldwide market, thereby making them self-sustainable in the future.
About 2.3 million Moroccans work in the handicraft industry, nearly all of them indigenous Amazigh (Berber), with about 80% of those women. Many of these artisans have little education beyond the 8th grade, often even less. Despite their incredible talents, their opportunities are very limited and their income unsustainable. Their working conditions are sub-standard, and health insurance non-existent.
By working with key players in traditional industries like jewelry-making, carpet weaving, basket weaving, leather work, embroidery, woodworking, brass and metal work, and pottery, the Sustainable Art Alliance can get funds directly to those most in need. Training centers can be established in these handicraft hubs, with computers and wi-fi access to teach the skills needed to succeed at e-commerce, as well as free basic English classes and other entrepreneurial training.
Once these handicraft industries are able to move their operations online and sell to a worldwide audience, their incomes will increase, which in turn will benefit their whole community. With computer and e-commerce training, they will in turn be able to train others, providing increased opportunities and long-term sustainable income for their village.
While this project will initially be focused on artisans of Morocco, it has the potential to scale to other artisan communities around the world, creating sustainable income and celebrating amazing indigenous art techniques that will otherwise be lost.
Q: How does your project seek to solve the challenge/problem? Please provide a list of current and/or proposed activities that your project will engage in. Please be specific, realistic and as thorough as possible.
A: The Sustainable Art Alliance will continue to provide a platform for indigenous artisans to sell their products on the established website, SilverSahara.com. We will set up a basic pilot learning center for qualified participants in the Zagora province of Morocco, where three to five trainees in the textile and woodworking industries will be selected, with heavy preference given to female members of artisan families. The learning center will be equipped with desktop computers, and will also have laptops and wifi hotspots to allow for a mobile workforce, as field work is often needed to examine the items for sale. Ongoing daily basic English classes will be provided, as well as basic e-marketing classes in French and English.
While concurrently selling products on the SilverSahara.com platform, artisans will learn how to sell independently on worldwide marketplaces like eBay, etsy, and other handicraft-appropriate venues. We will examine the various shipping options available, and explore shipping discounts for artisans in order to improve the Moroccan export potential. In addition, training will be provided on how to properly photograph, package and ship items, and source packing materials.
After the pilot program is completed, additional learning centers will be established: in Tiznit, three to five jewelry artisans will train; and in Essaouira, three to five basket-weavers and woodworkers will train, with potential for additional geographical areas in the future. The program will continue to provide subsidized desktops and laptops and wi-fi for all trainees, as well as continuing educational opportunities for achieving business success.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to tell us about your program/project/organization that you feel we should know or understand?
A: After traveling to Morocco in 2016, I became completely enraptured with the amazing Moroccan handicrafts I encountered. I recognized the work to be of great cultural importance, and deserving of a wider audience. To this end, I created Silver Sahara in 2017, an online store selling handmade, artisanal Moroccan handicrafts. I continue to operate the store with a longstanding business partner in Morocco. The company uses fair trade principles, with the majority of profits reinvested directly back into the company, providing ongoing income for the artisans. I travel to Morocco 2-3 times a year (pre-COVID), and maintain close contact with the artisans whose products I sell. In addition, I annually exhibit at the Cultural Survival Bazaar, a nonprofit event dedicated to promoting and educating the public about the importance of continuing and protecting indigenous art, language, and traditions.
My vision is to build a bridge for current and future generations of Indigenous artists in Morocco to better reach the worldwide audience who can appreciate and purchase their art and crafts, providing a viable means of income beyond the tourist industry. While the vast majority of Moroccan artisans have cell phones, they have little to no computer skills, nor knowledge of marketing or selling on the world stage. By providing this training, we can create unique opportunities for artisan communities to modernize their sales platform, while still honoring the traditional craft methods. We will also create jobs for younger generations, especially young women, in areas where there are few employment opportunities.
Q: This sounds like a great project! How can I help?
A: We are currently providing funding to the non-profit Morocccan Association COOPERATIVE SARTE to lay the foundation for the project. You can contribute financially here: https://www.paypal.com/biz/fund?id=HUG742RV8G44G