Sometimes concepts like fair trade can be as tangible as the rug under your feet.
One World Goods, the Pittsford Plaza shop that sells an array of merchandise from artisans around the world, will host a three-day Oriental Rug Event next weekend designed to bring some beauty to homeowners and some economic balance to the artisans who practice their centuries-old craft.
More than 300 rugs will be available in six sizes ranging from 2-by-3 feet up to a room-size 9-by-12. That's a lot of added stock for the modestly sized Pittsford Plaza storefront to accommodate, event co-organizer Elaine Johnson acknowledges, but the results should more than justify the colorfully cramped conditions.
"Our store is one of the larger fair trade stores, and lots of them have (had) this event before," Johnson says. "We may have to empty out the middle of the store, but it will be worth it to see these piles of gorgeous Oriental rugs."
The rugs to be sold were handcrafted by a far-reaching community of some 850 families in northern Pakistan, all working under fair-trade conditions: no child labor practices, reasonable work schedules and a living wage.
To make a piece this way, as opposed to working under harsh conditions, takes longer — more than a year for some larger rugs, says Yousaf Chaman, director of the Oriental Rug Program at Ten Thousand Villages in Pennsylvania, which worked with One World Goods to bring the event here.
As a result, prices aren't necessarily cheaper, but there can be a difference.
"Fair trade opens the doors for men and women to come back to this art form," Chaman says. "There are only a few countries with the knowledge of how to make these rugs. It's important to preserve that tradition and treat the artisans fairly at the same time."
Besides, Chaman adds, these principles bring "a ripple effect." Paying the workers fairly allows funds to move through that economic system, benefiting the farming and ecological efforts necessary to produce the high-quality wool and natural dyes used in the rugs. "Fair trade isn't just a political mission," he adds.
Every year, Ten Thousand Villages helps 30 to 40 stores in the United States and Canada hold sales. This is the first for One World Goods, and Johnson — one of more than 90 volunteers who augment the store's small paid staff — says she's excited about the effort.
"I get goose bumps when I think about fair trade in general and especially in terms of how this (event) helps people's lives," she says.
By ERICH VAN DUSSEN
(Featured in the Rochester, NY D&C)