One of our favourite states in Mexico is Nayarit, which stretches from the coastal resort of Puerto Vallarta up to the borders of Sinaloa and Mazatlan. It takes in amazing hidden beaches, jungle thick with wild animals and exotic fruit, and vast expanses of open desert. It's probably the place in Mexico we've spent most time in and where we feel most at home. It also has a mysterious, almost spiritual air, perfectly exemplified by the Huichol people who call Nayarit their home.
The Huichol are a proud, extraordinary people with an incredible heritage and history. They also produce some quite stunning pieces of art, inspired by the visions they experience having eaten peyote, a type of hallucinogenic cactus. This is not a kind of "turn on, tune in, drop out" vibe, however - the Huichol see taking peyote as an intrinsic part of their cultural and religious identities. It is not something they do lightly.
The results are staggering. We visited the Tanana Huichol Gallery in Sayulita, a fair trade organisation that supports a school and permaculture projects in the Huichol homelands. The range of incredible jewellery was a joy to see, though sadly due to exchange rates and the length of time it takes to make each piece, it wouldn't have been cost-effective for us to sell any in the shop.
When we got to Mexico City we were delighted to find a project inspired by the Huichol, giving their designs a modern twist. Ulises works with people living with AIDS in Guanajuato who ould otherwise struggle to find work. The designs are contemporary takes on Huichol designs (without the drugs). They use delica beads and Swarovski crystals to achieve the results, which we loved. The first capsule collection is available online now and we hope to be able to showcase more Huichol Harmony designs during the year.
Valentine's Day - an opportunity to show the one you love how much you care, or just another "Hallmark Holiday" designed to keep the tills ringing after Christmas? It's easy to be cynical. After all, many of us will be opening some unwelcome credit card bills at the moment and the thought of splashing out on more gifts may harden the softest of hearts.
If you live in Hay on Wye there are a number of options open to you to show the one you love you care without breaking the bank. Of course Hay is famous for books and our shop is opposite one of the amazing "honesty bookshops" around town. For anyone who hasn't seen these, they are covered shelving displays which are open to the public and unstaffed. If you see a book you like you simply pop the amount to pay in an honesty box on the wall. At 50p for paperbacks and £1 for hardbacks it's a real bargain.
As you'd imagine there is a lot of chaff to wade through to get to the literary wheat, but if you have half an hour to spare you can find some incredible titles. A beautiful book of poetry published in 1871 for example - the idea of who might have owned this book, read it, perhaps given it as a gift themselves, is romantic enough. At a quid I think it would make a thoughtful and thought provoking gift for any young lovebirds.
Here are a few lines to give you a flavour (I've put it back now so if you're quick you may be able to snap it up).
Of course if your budget stretches a little further we have some lovely gift ideas here at Eighteen Rabbit, from our incredible Cambodian jewellery to cool tee shirts to handmade scented candles. You don't have to spend a lot to show you care, and when you buy items which have been fairly traded you're ensuring that the love spreads beyond the gift you give to the people and families you are supporting.
It's a bit chilly at the moment up at Hay Castle, so don't forget we currently have up to a third off all our knitwear. There may be snow on the way so stay warm out there! We're taking the opportunity during the quieter weeks at the start of the year to look for loads more interesting and unusual items to stock in time for Spring. We've already got some really beautiful new mango wood pieces which we'll have up on the website soon. Also on the way we have...
...more incredible jewellery from Cambodia, as well as more of our ever popular Elephant Cement accessories;
...more stock from our friends in Mexico - rugs, mirrors, and our spooky yet stylish black clay skulls!
...more clothes including a range of womenswear which will be perfect for the summer;
...Nepalese arts and crafts including some incredible copper pieces;
...some kids toys and playthings to keep our younger ethical superheroes contented.
We hope to add all of these items online as soon as we get them. And we'll have more offers and discounts for customers, so if you haven't signed up to our mailing list yet, why not join us? Or if you're more socially minded you can like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/18RabbitShop.
We’re delighted to be the first UK stockists of Craftworks
Cambodia’s products. They’re an innovative group who produce bags and
accessories from recycled sacks and inner tubes, and jewellery made from bomb
casings and bullets recovered from the war in the 1970s. Pretty amazing stuff! We've been chatting regularly by email and getting a real insight into the group. They’ve sent us
information and photos of the individual artisans, many of whom are suffering with HIV/AIDS or disabilities due to mines.
We’ve just received our first instalment of jewellery which is now available here.
Unfortunately the artisan who produces the jewellery is currently unwell, but
he should be back on his feet soon and we’ll have some additions to the range.
Hope you like their products and, remember, every purchase goes towards helping these talented
people live a more comfortable and sustainable life.