Behind the Scenes: Sisal Basket Collection

Handmade Sisal Baskets Mix Medium Size Wall Square

We are so excited to introduce our new collection of sisal baskets. New colours, patterns and sizes have just landed – sunny yellow, funky neon, cool blues and more natural tones. We worked closely with our partner artisan group, the Mulikyondo Weavers in Kenya and are really happy how the collection turned out.

Our goal was to offer you a collection which works the whole year and in many of your rooms. Whether you use them as laundry hampers, a cute way to store toys or to store kitchen utensils or stationery – we’ve got you covered with these stylish storage solutions.

Handmade Sisal Baskets Neon Yellow Pink Bench Sun

We started our partnership with the Mulikyondo Weavers in early 2019. Pelagona’s design process is in close collaboration with the weavers. The design comes from Austria, we then discuss with the weavers about the techniques, colours and feasibility. The first collection landed on pelagona.com last summer. We focussed on natural and earth tones, black, white and navy.

For the current collection, we decided to add a pop of colour while still keeping our best-selling natural tones. We already started production in early spring but due to the current challenges posed by Covid-19, our shipment was delayed for almost three months. Firstly, due to the lockdown, the weavers could not meet to finish the baskets. Secondly, closed borders and suspended air travel made it quite difficult to get the baskets to Europe.

Handmade Sisal Basket Medium Size Flowers Logo Landscape
Finishing touches before the products are being shipped.

But we have made it! Thanks to the amazing team in Kenya, the first batch of baskets has landed, and more are inbound. So don’t worry – if your basket is already sold out, more are on their way. You can also send us an email if you have any questions or if you want to know an estimate when your basket will be back in stock.

Handmade Sisal Basket White Blue Blocks Orange Rose Cat Smelling
At Pelagona, attention to detail is in our DNA. Every product is inspected – of course, our furry team member has a say too.

At Pelagona, you shop knowing that your purchase empowers the women who made your basket. It is more than charities. You contribute to a sustainable income for these business women. In times of Covid-19, sustainable income opportunities are even more important as many other streams of income were cut off.

Handmade Sisal Baskets Kenyan Weavers Group
The weaving team in Kenya

We hope you enjoy shopping for and using our baskets as much as we enjoyed making them!

You can shop the baskets here:

Handmade Sisal Basket Yellow Stripes Medium Size Flowers

Handmade Sisal Basket CollectionHandmade Sisal Basket Large Size Laundry Hamper Natural and White Block

 

What Does “Pelagona” Mean?

Pelargonium flowers pink birds view

Pelagona is inspired by the Austrian pronunciation of the pelargonium flower. This flower reminds our founder Liz of her childhood in Austria, where many gardens are home to this type of flower.

Even today, when you go for a walk in the Austrian villages, you can spot them in many gardens and houses. The flower boxes in front of the windows are filled with pelargonium flowers and other summer flowers in many different colours.

Austrian Alpine Village with Pelargonium Flower Boxes

You may have spotted this flower when you see footage of typical Austrian houses in the Alps.

The origin of “pelargonium” is the Greek word “pelargós” which means “stork”. This meaning fits perfectly to the mission of Pelagona: the stork travels long-distances but always comes back as well. Similarly, Liz spends a lot of time travelling and exploring other countries to find the most unique items for Pelagona.

The pelargonium flower is a very delicate plant which requires a lot of attention and needs to be treated carefully. These values are at the heart of Pelagona: all our products are hand-picked and carefully crafted. A lot of attention to detail goes into every step of chain from making the products until they reach your doorstep.Pelargonium flower white

flying beautiful & Pelagona for Wiener Frauenhäuser

Fundraiser Wiener Frauenhaeuser Domestic Violence

flying beautiful & Pelagona are teaming up in the fight against rising domestic violence during COVID-19 times. You may now ask why we picked a cause like this in times of a pandemic? For a simple reason: due to social distancing, victims are forced to stay at home with their abusers. There are very little or no chances to get out of the house. Hence, it is even more important to spread the word about the shelters and offer a safe space to which the victims can escape.

Please join us in our “women for women” fundraiser and donate via our gofundme.com campaign.All proceeds will go to Wiener Frauenhäuser (a shelter and organisation supporting female victims of domestic violence in Vienna, Austria). Wiener Frauenhäuser accept victims seeking refuge day and night. They also have a 24/7 emergency number and a number, if victims need advice. https://www.frauenhaeuser-wien.at

Need more motivation? We have a little thank you for your donation: We are giving away one package full of beautiful goodies from flying beautiful and Pelagona to a lucky winner. Plus, you will immediately receive a 5% coupon + free shipping for both our shops.

***How to participate in our donation giveaway:

  1. Donate 5 Euros (or more) via our gofundme.com campaign,
  2. tag 5 women who support you every day in the comments below, and
  3. send us a screenshot of your donation via PM or email to our emails. For this screenshot you will receive our 5% + free shipping coupon and register for our giveaway.

***What you can win:

A beautiful package filled with Pelagona’s signature “Fay” blanket, made of 100% cotton in white & dark blue and a MIMITIKA Summer Essentials Kit (Face Sunscreen SPF50, Body Spray SPF30 and Aftersun, all in travelsize) provided by flying beautiful.

Don’t forget to send us a screenshot of your donation in order to take part in the giveaway contest.

Deadline for the giveaway is the 15thMay 2020.

Help us spread the word and share this fundraiser.

Thank you so much for your support! We wish you all good luck.

With love,

Your flyingbeautiful and Pelagona teams

*****

DISCLAIMER:

GoFundMe’s fee is 5% from each donation you receive. The payment processor fee is 2.4% + €0.25 per donation. You can find more details on https://www.gofundme.com/pricing.

*****

Who Made the Rattan Trays and Baskets from Cambodia?

Handmade Rattan Trays Cambodia Star Pattern Natural Black

The Dara and Liha Trays and Baskets are handmade by Manava, a social enterprise working with female artisans in Cambodia. Their products are made from natural rattan. It takes one artisan about 3-4 days to finish one round large tray.

Handmade Round Rattan Tray Cambodia Star Pattern Female Reang WeaverA large number of Cambodian women living in villages are unemployed. Even if they have a job, their income is less than USD 2.50 per day. As most families have between 3-5 children, it makes it almost impossible for them to survive.

About 24 artisans work with the social enterprise. For them, it is more than a job – they are empowered by attending trainings in financial management, family planning, healthcare, domestic violence, positive parenting, women’s right and English.

​For the rattan products, a rattan palm material called “pdau” and willow grass called “la paek” are used. The palm and grass are fast growing and they are available throughout Cambodia. To ensure sustainable harvests, the amount which is reaped is limited to ensure growth for the next seasons. Futhermore, these plants grow in lakes and rivers and the material is softer than the thicker rattan grown in forests and mountains. Hence, it not only is more flexible but also grows back every year.

The beautiful trays are very versatile. Beachhouse feeling, Nordic Style or Natural Chic – our Dara Trays and Baskets and Liha Baskets in natural colours is the perfect match for all of them. The dark Dara version with the black “star”-pattern will definitely become an eye-catcher in your home. Use the trays to serve drinks or food, as a beautiful piece on your coffee table or in your hallway to organize your bits and bobs. Check the collection out here:

Handmade Round Rattan Tray Cambodia Natural Star Pattern Inside

Dara Rattan Tray Natural

Handmade Round Rattan Tray Cambodia Star Pattern Black

Dara Rattan Tray Black Pattern

Handmade Woven Rattan Rectangle Tray Cambodia Flowers and Milk Jug

Dara Rectangular Tray

Handmade Woven Rattan Baskets With Lid Set

Liha Basket with Lid

Handmade Woven Rattan Basket Star Pattern Cambodia Bread Basket

Dara Basket

Cambodia Dara Basket with Lid Staged Lemons

Dara Basket with Lid

Your purchase contributes to a sustainable income for these talented Cambodian artisans, empowers their creativity, educates them and offers them a safe working environment, where their views and opinions matter. Furthermore, you create awareness about the use of natural and sustainable materials.

Your Impact:

  • Empower female artisans
  • Support women in providing for their families
  • Preserve local arts, traditions and culture
  • Ensure prompt and fair payment of the weavers
  • Create awareness about the supply chain of your products, natural materials and our environment.

Handmade Round Rattan Tray Cambodia Star Pattern Female Weavers

Pictures of the weavers courtesy of Manava

Why Our Products Are not a “Bargain”

Pelagona Impact Overview

When you shop at Pelagona, you will notice that our products are in the premium price segment. While many other businesses in the luxury space still operate with a model of unfair wages and big margins, we want to be transparent. Hence, we are sharing some facts about why there is a reason for our prices to really be in the premium segment.

Highest Quality and Design

At Pelagona, we offer high-quality products made from the best local materials. “Handmade” is not just a label for us. Our products really are lovingly handmade by talented artisans.

Our products are designed in collaboration with the artisans. Pelagona comes up with the first design draft and then discusses the feasibility with the artisans who then bring the products to life. Pelagona aims to offer classic, long-lasting pieces with a modern twist based on the traditional knowledge of our artisans.

Because of the sourcing of the materials and the handmade approach, it takes time to make our products. Pelagona applies a slow production approach to ensure quality and an ethical and sustainable supply chain.

Products Empowering Artisans

You love our designs and product? That’s great. But the add-on is that you also make a difference with your purchase. Donations are great, but with a Pelagona-product you can have a long-term impact by contributing to long-term and fair incomes.

Behind each of our products, there is a person who created it. And they all have a story. We want to celebrate the artisans. They all are proud business owners with unique skills. The products are not made in sweatshops, where every person only focuses on a few steps of the production process. Pelagona offers these talented artisans a bigger platform to sell their products beyond their home countries. This platform then contributes to drawing attention to social justice and human rights.

Female Empowerment and Benefit of Their Community as a Whole

Even today, girls and women are in a worse position than their male counterparts when it comes to economic opportunities, health care and education. Many of them are forced into early marriages, suffer from sexual violence and discrimination. According to the United Nations, closing the gender gap adds half a percent to the country’s per capita gross national product – a benefit shared by women and men. Women are also more likely to invest back into their communities: they invest 90% of their income back into their families – compared with only 35% for men. Hence, by empowering women, the community as a whole will benefit.

Pelagona works with female artisans and initiatives to make the products. Therefore, Pelagona empowers women and their communities and, consequently, improves their quality of life.

Skills & Tradition

The skills of our artisans are impeccable. The knowledge about the production process, materials and techniques have been handed down by generations. Very often, these methods and processes are unique to the community. Your purchase helps to preserve this knowledge which may otherwise disappear.

Skills and knowledge have to be compensated accordingly. Pelagona’s mission is to improve self-sufficiency of our artisans, who are mainly women. We believe that every person has the right to not only fair wages but also a safe work environment. Your purchase will contribute to a sustainable and long-term income for the artisans.

Remote Areas

Many of our products are made in remote areas which are difficult to reach. It takes time, effort and capital to source the highest quality materials. Furthermore, the products then need to be shipped to the next bigger city and further on to Europe. It takes patience and capital to ensure that the products are securely shipped to their destination.

Please also note that once the products enter the European Union, they have to be declared at customs. We already cover the processes and cost.

If you have any further questions about our products or mission, please do not hesitate to contact us. We look forward to hearing from you!

What Is Indigo and How Is It Made?

Handwoven Natural Indigo Tablemats with Diamond Pattern Studio Naenna Chiang Mai Thailand Roses

What is Indigo?

Indigo is a dye for fabric to achieve a characteristic dark blue colour. It became famous when the indigo powder was traded from India to Europe. Even today, many of our clothes are dyed with indigo – from the traditional dirndl in Austria to the jeans we wear daily. Pelagonas Mai Table Runners are also dyed with natural indigo.

How is Indigo Made?

What Is Indigo and How Is It Made Indigo Leaves Fermented Foam
The indigo leaves started fermenting over night.

Indigo is made from a tropical plant. Its seed is planted in June. The harvest in Thailand is in September and October. The plants are bundled together and put into big buckets. These buckets are then filled up with water (around 12-16 litres per bucket). Heavy stones are put on top of the plants to help extract the colour. The leaves need to soak in the water over night, usually about 24 hours depending on the outside temperature.

Before noon the next day, the bundles can be drained and removed from the buckets which were closed with lids. After the soaking process, the colour has changed into a turquoise-greenish-blue tone depending on the plants. On the plants, some blue foam has built and you can also smell that some fermenting was going on. (I like to compare it to the smell of Kimchi or Sauerkraut.) The bundles are not thrown away, they are being used as fertiliser.

Builders lime is added to the water as enzymes. The water needs to be “beaten” for about 20 minutes: with the help of a bowl dipped into the water, the water is moved and oxidised. The colour of the water changes from the greenish-tone to an intense blue.

What Is Indigo and How Is It Made Indigo Vase
The yarns will be dipped in this liquid. The darker the shade of blue, the more dips are required.

The liquid sits overnight. The next day, the indigo paste can be collected from the bottom of the bucket. The liquid is removed and the paste is being sifted through a piece of cotton cloth to remove debris. The indigo paste can then be stored for about two years. In the West, the indigo powder is more known. This has a practical reason: powder is much lighter to transport than the wet paste.

Dying the Yarns

The paste is then mixed with ash water or fruit sugars to “feed the indigo” in what looks like a giant vase. This process of fermenting takes several days and is an art in itself. It requires a lot of practice, knowledge and finesse.

The yarn is dipped into the liquid. At first, it may look green and multiple dips may be required to achieve the blue colour. The yarn is then hung to dry in the sun and then died again. The darker the colour, the more dips are required. Once the yarns are dyed and dried, they can be used to weave beautiful products for your home.

Handwoven Natural Indigo Tablemats with Diamond Pattern Studio Naenna Chiang Mai Thailand Box
Learn more about our handdyed and handwoven indigo table runners.

The Artisans of Studio Naenna in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Indigo Handwoven Tablerunners Studio Naenna Slider

I am very glad to announce a new partnership of Pelagona. In June this year, I went to Studio Naenna in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand. This studio was founded in the 1980s by Patricia Cheesman and is now managed by her daughter Lamorna who grew up in Chiang Mai.

Studio Naenna makes fabrics such as natural silk, cotton and intricate weavings. They also focus on apparel and accessories. I would call their approach a “from farm to home”-concept: every step of the production process is done by the studio and its associated weavers. This involves planting and growing the plants, producing natural dyes, spinning and dying the yarns, weaving and bringing the products to the customer.

Lamorna and I agreed that I would come back to Chiang Mai in September and I ended up spending two days at their “Main Gallery” in the North of the city. Lamorna not only gave me a detailed insight into her family’s story and the studio but I also learned a lot about weaving and indigo. September is the main harvesting season of indigo and I got the chance to witness the production process of the indigo dye. Furthermore, I personally met the weavers who made the beautiful Mai Table Runners which are now available on Pelagona.

Handwoven Natural Indigo Table Runners with Diamond Pattern Studio Naenna Chiang Mai Thailand

Mai Handwoven Indigo Table Runner

The studio is also a specialist in producing indigo – a natural dye to achieve an intense dark blue colour (like the dye used for our beautiful table runners). The original, natural indigo is made from tropical plants and labour intensive and, therefore, expensive.

Studio Naenna Indigo Production Lamorna Cheesman and Weavers Beating Indigo
Lamorna Cheesman and the women working at Studio Naenna making the natural indigo dye.

When the region became interesting for mass production, it was impacted by the use of the cheaper synthetic indigo. The workers had not been educated about the use and disposal of synthetic dyes and their health risks. They assumed they could work with them just like with the natural indigo and disposed of the synthetic indigo by just pouring it on the ground. The dangerous substance then got into the drinking water, chicken ate them and passed the toxic substances to humans who ate the chicken and their eggs. Patricia Cheesman has always been an important expert in fabrics and dyes and acts as an intermediary between the stakeholders in fabric production. Together they committed to prioritising natural dyes. Therefore, until today, Studio Naenna’s mission in addition to the in-house production is educating the public with dying and weaving workshops.

By purchasing products by Studio Naenna, you help to preserve the local traditions and culture. Weaving has always been an important part of Northern Thai culture. One or two generations ago, traditional fabrics were woven to produce clothes for the family. However, when cheaper Western apparel reached the region, the labour-intensive intricate artwork became less and less attractive. Young people do not want to wear traditional clothes, they want to wear something modern. Furthermore, they move to the bigger cities and look for better paying jobs.

The most important learning for me was that Studio Naenna takes the weavers’ needs and lifestyles into account when they plan the production. Lamorna explained in her interview for my blog The Pink Lookbook:

First of all, […] weavers are mainly women. They are not just weavers – they are mothers, daughters, cleaners, cooks, community leaders, famers. They help each other with the harvesting. They support each other. There is so much more to their lives than just making money from weaving. They are able to make an income when they choose to, with in their own time. We have to accept that. If we are working on an order, it is our responsibility to plan that into the time schedule. It is not as easy as saying 80 metres will be woven within 80 days. We also communicate this to our customers. Furthermore, it is important for us to show the weavers that they are important and appreciated.”

It takes about one month to weave two of our Mai Table Runners. (This excludes the amount of time to produce the natural indigo dye which adds another four months.) They are handwoven by Peerada who works at Studio Naenna. Saeng, who is also a weaver of the studio, dyed the yarns. The weavers do not need any drawings or draft patterns for the traditional diamond pattern.

By shopping at Pelagona you will receive a beautiful addition to your home but you will also make a significant impact.

Your Impact:

  • Empower female artisans
  • Preserve local arts, traditions and culture
  • Support women in becoming independent and providing for their families
  • Ensure prompt and fair payment of the weavers
  • Create awareness about the supply chain of your products, natural materials and our environment.
Handwoven Natural Indigo Table Runners with Diamond Pattern Studio Naenna Chiang Mai Thailand Table Weaver with Indigo Dyed Yarns
Saeng, who has been working for Studio Naenna for years, dyed the yarns for Pelagona’s table runners with the natural indigo dye made at the studio.

Meet the Women Behind Our Sisal Baskets from Kenya

Meet the Women Behind Our Sisal Baskets from Kenya

As you may have discovered by now, my vision for Pelagona is to offer luxury items which are not only beautiful but also ethically and sustainably made. Ethical production and sustainability can sound abstract and it seems these buzzwords have become a marketing strategy: many stores who market their products by using these buzzwords but without giving any further information about who actually made them and how. My goal is to show you who made your products and what is your impact if you make a purchase with Pelagona.

Over the past months, I have started to get in touch with initiatives all over the world to source from them for the store. I am really excited to announce our latest partnership with the Mulikyondo Basket Weavers Initiative in Kenya.

All the items are handmade mostly by mothers and daughters following Pelagona’s design. Basket weaving has become an important way of income for the women as agriculture has been challenged by climate change. The income through the weaving allows the women financial freedom and, hence, less dependency on their husbands and/or extended communities or relatives. Furthermore, meeting for weaving reaffirms their social interactions and strengthens their community. It allows them to discuss the issues they face with other women and offer advice for each other.

These hand-woven baskets are pretty and versatile – I mix various colours, sizes and patterns and use them as laundry hampers or storage for blankets and pillows. You can also use it to store stuffed toys of your little ones. Check the collection out here:

Handmade Sisal Basket Natural and Black FlowersSisal Basket CollectionHandmade Sisal Laundry Hamper Basket Black Block Natural Towel

By shopping at Pelagona you will receive a beautiful addition to your home but you will also make a significant impact.

Your Impact:

  1. Empower female artisans
  2. Keep local arts alive
  3. Support the women in becoming independent

Handmade Sisal Baskets Kenyan Weavers Group

Picture courtesy of Mulikyondo Weaving Community

Welcome to Pelagona

Meet the Founder of Pelagona Liz Steiger

Welcome to Pelagona, where beautiful accessories, textiles and decorative wares are lovingly sourced from talented artisans across the globe. This is our first blog post and we would like to use it to introduce our mission.

Founded by Liz Steiger, Pelagona is built from her personal passion for travel, fashion, design, history and the beautiful things in life. Liz is a world traveller and fashionista who calls Europe and Asia her homes.

Liz has always loved fashion, luxury and design. But there was one thing she never appreciated about  most of the products she found: even if she spent a lot of money, she could never be sure if the items are ethically sourced, apply a sustainable approach and are not made by using modern slavery.

Pelagona did not come out of the blue. Liz had had the idea for it for quite some time. Whenever she travelled to a new place, she thought it would be great to bring her beautiful finds online.

In 2016 she read a book about three friends who founded a department store. The products were sourced from independent designers and women’s initiatives in foreign countries such as Jordan. This story of the three entrepreneurs was so similar to her idea and Liz could not stop thinking about it.  And with Pelagona, the idea finally came to life.

As you may have discovered by now, the vision for Pelagona is to offer luxury items which are not only beautiful but also ethically and sustainably made.

With your purchase, you will not only receive a beautiful and unique product. You will have an impact. You will contribute to empowering women, artisans and designers across the globe, offer livelihoods and prevent local arts from dying out.

All our products are unique and special, just like you. We deliver Liz’s hand-picked items from all over to world directly to your doorstep.

Follow Liz on Instagram to learn more about her mission and see behind the scenes of Pelagona.