Rio beach paradise creates embroidery tradition

An hour’s walk through the jungle from the small Rio de Janeiro coastal town of Paraty, an amazingly beautiful and peaceful beach only shared with a few locals and surfers can be found. Far from everything and close to paradise, the Praia do Sono (Sleep Beach, in Portuguese) is home to less than 70 families, including many women who are now working to establish a tradition in embroidery. Supported by Sebrae, the Brazilian service of support for small enterprises, the group “Bordadeiras da Praia do Sono” (“The Embroiderers from Sleep Beach”, in a literal Portuguese translation) made their first foray into embroidery in 2007 with the intention of supplementing the income of their partners, mainly fishermen or builders working in the region. Since then, the embroidery work from this tiny village is now gaining popularity across Brazil for its rustic and original themes, which represent the everyday lives of coastal

Enabling digital inclusion in Brazil with craft

Digital inclusion is a topic really close to our heart at Gift Brazil. We believe that our project is not just about helping artisans to sell their products to the world, it also helps these people in remote locations to learn about the value that the Internet can introduce into their life. These people can enter the digitally included society with our help, but there are some strange things taking place in the digital world in Brazil at present. On Wednesday this week, the President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, signed a new bill into law that guarantees online privacy and equal access rights for Brazilian Internet users. Called the Marco Civil da Internet, (also known  as the country’s “Internet Constitution”) this bill goes further, but is effectively a bill of rights for the public, setting out the way Internet Service Providers must behave and explicitly addressing questions around spying – this is

Brazil promotes local craft during World Cup

Brazilian artisans will have the opportunity to showcase their products at World Cup venues and cultural spaces during the sporting events. The project Vitrines Culturais (Cultural Shop Windows, in Portuguese) is led by the Ministry of Culture and will select 60,000 items to showcase Brazil’s handmade production to tourists visiting some of the host cities. “We’re looking for pieces representing the various regions of the country. We look for quality and diversity, beauty, creativity, which has the expression of our culture, our Brazil,” says Culture Minister Marta Suplicy. The minister made the point that foreigners may know Brazil from its beaches, carnival, beautiful women and good music, but that Brazil is “more than just that,” so the government wants to showcase the creativity of its craftspeople. Craft from around the country will be displayed in Fifa Fan Fest venues and cultural spaces between June 12 and July 13 in Manaus,

Uniting Brazilian craft and design

One of the trademark features of Brazilian design is the use of craft techniques in the production of items. The handmade and technology mix lends a unique Brazilian character to unusual decorative and utilitarian objects for the home, with designers Sérgio Matos, Nicole Tomazi, Paulo Biacchi and the Campana brothers being some of the main references of designers who currently invest in the style. But the proponents of this blend of techniques say that it is not an easy choice, as far as the local audience is concerned. That is because the mix craft with design is still underappreciated in Brazil and much more recognized and appreciated abroad. “Our work needs to get compliments in Milan so that Brazilians can appreciate our work. In Italy, there are excellent artisans working with leather, for example, who are very valued. Craft does not diminish the value of an item – it’s very

Cordel: craft and literature on the same page

Cordel literature is a popular literary expression characteristic of the Northeast. The verse-packed booklets to inform and entertain are illustrated with a handmade process and are the result of a tradition that is over a hundred years old. Brought to Brazil by Portuguese colonizers, cordel literature is massively popular in the Northeast of the country -particularly in the states of Pernambuco , Paraíba , Rio Grande do Norte and Ceará – and combines a unique literary expression with an equally singular type of craft.  These little books were traditionally displayed in street newsagents on a string (cordel), hence the name “cordel literature.” The first cordel brochures found in Brazil appeared in the the nineteenth century and became popular in the Northeast due to the lack of reliable print media. The essence of cordel is its narrative verse-based structure about themes of relevance to the population, printed in small booklets in newsprint

Should CSR be mandatory?

At Gift Brazil we are aware that our organization does a lot of good things. We help artisans in remote regions reach a new market. We help them to learn new IT skills. And of course, our work on the ground in Brazil means that the customers can be assured they are getting genuine art and craft from Brazil – not just ‘Brazilian’ gifts made in a factory in Asia. But of course the organization still needs to make a profit. Profit is often considered to be something obscene by protestors or those who consider that only governments or not-for-profit organizations can do any good. Detail of handbag by Studio Fredolina from Vitoriano Veloso, Minas Gerais Well we know that Gift Brazil is doing a good job because we hear it direct from the artisans all the time and we don’t charge the artisans a single cent for all the help we give

Taubaté artisan celebrates life and love in exhibition

Brazilian artisan and Gift Brazil collective member Decio de Carvalho is taking part in an exhibition in his hometown of Taubaté that is all about celebrating life and love. The event Arte & Vida (Art & Life, in Portuguese) is an initiative of the Instituto de Oncologia do Vale (IOV), a cancer institute based in the São Paulo state city of Taubaté, which aims at improving the quality of life of patients by showcasing the artworks at the hospital building. Carvalho is part of the famous Figureiros de Taubaté artisan group, as well as a teacher and activist in areas such as promoting inclusion of people with visual disabilities through art. The artisan’s collection of items for the exhibition includes various interpretations of the root of all of life’s emotions: love. Carvalho’s work in terracotta clay is inspired in his passions – folk characters and writers of the Paraíba Valley region in the south of

The colorful umbrellas of Pernambuco

Today we got up thinking about rain, more specifically about umbrellas. Umbrellas are actually one of the most recognizable elements of craft from the northeastern state of Pernambuco. But you might be wondering – why on Earth are they thinking and writing about umbrellas – because we don’t associate Brazil with rain, only sunshine, right? Well, kind of. It has actually been a very dry winter down south, in the state of São Paulo –  in had been nearly two months since it rained  here in the mountains. But today, we woke up to the gentle sound of raindrops. Then finally…the much-needed rain started to pour down. OK, that’s a long enough preamble! Back to the colorful umbrellas of the Brazilian northeast. The umbrellas in the primary colors of blue, red, green and yellow, almost omnipresent in Pernambuco in handmade items and souvenirs, come from its presence in the northeastern state’s trademark dance, frevo.

Craft hunting in Pará

As part of our Brazil Craft Tour, where we will be visiting each of the 27 Brazilian states looking for representatives of authentic handmade creations of each location, I am visiting the northern state of Pará, the “Gateway to the Amazon.” I had never been to this part of Brazil before, so I didn’t know what to expect other than the craft production hubs I had researched. But as soon as I got off the plane, it was clear that this was a completely different place to everywhere I had been to inside my own country. First, the weather. While temperatures continue to plunge in my native São Paulo, in Pará there is no winter. This time of the year is actually referred to as summer, so the sun is blazing and the nature is lush, providing artisans with a whole world of materials to work with. Nature is also the

The nature-inspired art and craft of Pará

If you love craft, it’s hard not to fall in love with Pará. In the state, which we visited recently as part of our Craft Tour of Brazil,  lush nature provides a perfect springboard for artisans to produce an array of craft items just about as vast as the collection of plants that can be spotted in the “gateway to the Amazon.” The state in the extreme north of Brazil is also quite big – larger than all of France – so the diversity of craft styles is equally huge. Main styles include toys made in the city of Abaetetuba out of the pulp of miriti, a type of palm native to the region. The calabash bowls of Santarém, in the west of the state, are also obtained from the fruits of another native tree and are embellished with itricate, unique artworks. Crafters across Pará often take advantage of straw, twigs