We interviewed Sharon Vipond, founder of the artisan shop, Knots & Strokes. Sharon has degrees in library science, social studies and international development and is a life-long activist and passionate entrepreneur. We are proud to carry her products in Baby Hero's Rooster Collection.
Sharon on right with a Cambodian colleague
The name Knots & Strokes comes from two basic hand motions (techniques) used by the women in the creation of their unique products: knots (knotting threads/fibers) and strokes (a stroke of the pen, brush or carving tool for wood, leather, etc.,) are integral to the creation of nearly all of the artisanal products we sell.
Upon realizing it was the artistic women who often were the most able to pull disenfranchised communities out of poverty, I decided the biggest ripple effect would come from supporting them in the way it was most needed, widening their markets: increasing demand by “urbanizing” their products and placing them in the international market place. Hence, Knots & Strokes was founded to facilitate sustainability for these women’s cooperatives.
Measuring hand loomed cotton
I have four goals for Knots & Strokes:
I remember a gracious, generous and talented artisan in the Kutch district of India who, using only scraps of cotton and silk fabric, scissors and a needle and thread could execute the most delightful creations. Without patterns or pencil, using only her eyes, hand, and figures to check proportions and to stitch, she would skillfully and meticulously produce realistic artifacts in 3-D: dolls, elephants, camels and more. She had a talent for colour combinations and taught others in the community how to create dazzling embroidery squares for apparel, fashion accessories and home décor.
She was a refugee from Pakistan to India’s arid and saline desert region (Kutch) who was denied an education by her father. Being denied school was unforgiveable to her and, in the end, her biggest motivation was to become literate, earn sufficient income to school her daughters as well as sons and develop her artistic talents and skills to benefit not only her family, but also the other women in the community. Once her children were grown, she saved her money and attended an artisanal design academy in a nearby town and eventually mentored and taught other mothers fabric arts. Now she is a leader in the community, her daughter is educated and self-employed with her embroidery craft and, her young grandson is in school and, learning English.
I believe art nurtures the soul and the imagination. In one-way or another, I have always tried to support artists and their creative endeavors, irrespective of their background or socio-economic status. I believe that those who have creative talents should be given the opportunity to cultivate those talents. They offer new perspectives and insights to the world, some of us may not otherwise see.
I am inspired by ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Individuals who start transformative humanitarian organizations like Habitat for Humanity, KIVA, Médecins Sans Frontières, Grameen Foundation, GoodWeave.Org and, the women who started these: Dressember, the Malala Fund, Keep a Breast Foundation, and Women for Women International, to name a few.
My favourite kind of travel is the authentic kind - going beyond the tourist track and behind the façades. I have been leading volunteer project trips since 2002 and find it is the most rewarding way to travel. Not only does the mission give a purpose to your time but also it is the sure way to become acquainted with the local people and have an authentic cultural experience. After you have experienced this kind of travel, all else pales. My next trip is to Sri Lanka in July leading a Habitat for Humanity team to build a family home. We are so excited: luckily for us, it coincides with the oldest and most splendid of Buddhist festivals -- Esala Perahera -- the annual honoring and celebration of elephants.
Two destinations close to my heart are Costa Rica and Sri Lanka. Costa Rica as it where I lead my fist project team (and where my eldest son was married) and, Sri Lanka as it is where Knots & Strokes has many partnerships. As I return to these countries I always feel tremendously welcome.
Baby Hero is a well-founded and transparent social enterprise, with admirable goals and a quality product. Their newborn clothing is ideal for their mission: providing new parents with organic products whilst engaging this same audience in an easy and quick way to help decrease newborn mortality. As a fellow Canadian I am very proud of the empirical research and commitment of Dr. Shaun Morris of Sick Kids (Toronto) to aid families safeguard the lives of newborns through the provision of simple birthing toolkits to women living in the high-risk infant mortality regions of the world.
Supplying Baby Hero with these handmade 100% cotton chicks and roosters is the first of what I hope will be many ventures where Knots & Strokes and Baby Hero will partner to help decrease newborn mortality. I firmly believe, as does Baby Hero, that as businesswomen, working together, we can achieve sustainable benefits for all families.
Want to see how we've paired Knots & Strokes beautiful products with our organic, fair-trade baby clothes? Check out the gift sets here.
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