by Natasha Tauber
Farmers till the fields in Ethiopia, harvesting artillery shells and re-purposing the casings left from the African nation's civil war. Such is the inspiration for Entoto Beth Artisans, a fair-trade business helping transform destruction into beauty. Named for the Entoto Mountains set in central Ethiopia, a holy site that has attracted a community of HIV positive individuals in search of healing, Entoto Beth Artisans aims to promote the empowerment of women and the greater HIV-affected region through the established entrepreneurial program.
Each piece is made from repurposed local materials, including old tire treads, artillery shells and coffee beans. Hammered silver, plated nickel, copper and brass beads form elegant silhouettes. Abstract charms depict birds, leaves and traditional Ethiopian motifs add interest to pieces that range from demure strands to elaborate multi-tiered collars.
The use of bullets to eliminate poverty in a community battling HIV is the work of Entoto Beth Artisan founder, Bethlehem Berhane, who "had a big vision to work with women" and a personal conviction "to be the solution." Bethlehem's goal is not to employ women, or artisans, but inspire each towards entrepreneurship. To that end, each piece is named for the artisan who produced or designed it. "This is not about profit," Berhane says of the business—which currently pays a fair wage to nearly 150 artisans, in addition to funding local programs in healthcare and education. The beauty and positivity produced by Entoto Beth Artisan is not hers, says Berhane. "It is for the benefit of this nation and for the world. It is for this generation."
Entoto Beth Artisan pieces are sold by Raven and Lily, part of a new crop of socially conscious retailers whose commitment to effect positive change never sacrifices design.
Images courtesy of Raven and Lily