"When life gives you tea bags...make art!"

Here's another unique option for Christmas gift-giving, which contributes positively to the lives of the artists who create the products.

The quote above is the philosophy behind a company called T-Bag Designs, which was created by Jill Heyes, shown here, who moved to South Africa from England in 1996. Here's the way the company evolved:
"Seeing the poverty in the local 'informal settlement,' Imazamo Yethu, Jill wanted to help. She began teaching some local women crafts. They unsuccessfully attempted to sell paper mache and potato printing products, but they didn’t give up. Fortunately so, for in 2000, Original T-Bag Designs was created.

The original group of ladies have become skilled and talented artists. T-Bags now employs 15 permanent staff and a number of additional employees work part-time. In addition, 10 people with disabilities from within the community are employed to assist with sanding products. Their workshop is a tourist destination and they sell their products at the workshop, at Cape Town’s Waterfront Market, and in Europe and the United States.

Used tea bags are collected and dried in the African sun. Then they are emptied of leaves and carefully ironed. Finally, each tea bag is painstakingly painted." Products include mirrors, journals, tealight holders, art blocks, jewelry, coasters, note cards and sun catchers.
Prices range from $7.50 for bookmarks to $98.00 for art blocks composed completely of painted tea bags. Shown are some of my favorite designs from the website.

T-Bag Designs is a member of the Fair Trade Federation, whose purpose is to "create a just and sustainable economic system through fair trade." There is a secure shopping cart on the T-Bag Designs site, and opportunities for wholesale purchasing as well.

Happy fair trade shopping.