Fair Trade Capiz Shell: A Love Letter February 12 2015, 0 Comments

Almost everybody I know loves the beach. The sounds of waves crashing, searching for shells and the smell of sunscreen transport you to your happy place, a place of relaxation and no stress. Because not everybody is lucky enough to live on the coast, bringing pieces of the beach into your home is a lovely way to add a tropical feel to your space, minus the sand. At One World Fair Trade we carry a line of products made out the beautiful, translucent capiz shell that will achieve just that.

Capiz Shell is the inside lining of an oyster that is abundant in Southeast Asia, especially around the Philippines and Indonesia. So much so in the Philippines that there is a Province of Capiz and capiz shells were used as windows before glass was available there, hence the nickname “windowpane oyster”. Capiz shell is the traditional material used for the “parol”, a classic decoration at Christmas in the Philippines, a beautiful multi-dimensional star. The oysters inside the capiz shells are edible and rather than wasting the shells, they are made into household goods. All of the shells used for our products at One World Fair Trade are byproducts of a food source.

Capiz shells are naturally a translucent cream color but can be painted, dyed or smoked for color. Their ability to take dye makes them ideal for both home decor and jewelry. We see gorgeous necklaces and earrings made of capiz, either left the subtle natural shade or dyed a vibrant color. We have a lovely collection of capiz shell wind chimes, dyed every color in the rainbow. These pretty little shells catch the light so beautifully and make a peaceful sound when they chime.

We get our capiz items from artisan groups in two countries, Indonesia and the Philippines. Our friends in Indonesia make our beautiful wind chimes (among other products) and are part of a fair trade artisan cooperative in Bali that has strictly used recycled, ecologically sustainable or natural materials since 1992. Artisans are encouraged to utilize and support traditional and indigenous Indonesian art forms while making as little of an ecological impact as possible.  Artisans employed by this group are paid a living wage, receive health insurance, and have pension plans.

Our artisan friends in the Philippines work for a wonderful group called SAFFY, which stands for Social Action for Filipino Youth. Initially founded in the 1960s as a way for women and youths to earn a livelihood, SAFFY has expanded to serve any Filipino community in need.  SAFFY specializes in crafting capiz shells items and helps over 30 small artisan groups with marketing and designs. Artisans also have access to vocational training, financial and medical assistance, educational seminars, sustainable agriculture programs and health and nutrition programs. All of our capiz shell jewelry, among other items, come to us from SAFFY.

Whether you use capiz to adorn yourself or your home, I can ensure you will love the beachy look and peaceful nature of our favorite shells. And when you buy your capiz products, make sure it’s from a member of the Fair Trade Federation, like One World Fair Trade, or another fair trade organization so you can be sure your dollars go towards helping someone. Thank you for supporting fair trade.