Most of my posts focus on the work we do with our artisan partners in Peru and what making crafts means to them. At a recent Billstown Blues music festival in Williamsport, PA, I met a fellow vendor who reminded that the crafts made by these artisans can also mean a lot to the people who buy them.
When Elle came into our booth, she immediately spotted our yellow Papilio butterfly ornament. I asked her about her attraction to this craft and learned an emotional backstory which she generously consented to let me share.
Elle got very close to her grandmother when she was a girl and continued to deepen this bond into her early 20's. Her grandmother loved nature and planted many butterfly bushes around her home to feed pollinating insects. She was particularly fond of yellow swallow-tail butterflies and yellow roses and started the Yellow Butterfly Project to channel donations to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital whose services had helped someone close to her. When she became ill from lung disease, she moved in with Elle and her mom and transplanted the butterfly bushes to their garden.
Elle’s grandmother’s health worsened and was finally told she had less than a year to live. When Elle came home from college to visit her, she encouraged Elle to pursue her dream of starting her own business, and they discussed the idea of Elle getting a special tattoo to remember her. Her grandmother also assured her that after she died, she would come back to visit her as a yellow butterfly.
Two weeks after her grandmother passed, Elle spent four hours having an artist create a yellow butterfly and rose tattoo on her left side. She also followed her grandmother’s encouragement to transform her love of crystals into her own Chaotic Crystal Chick Co. that sells crystals sourced from family-owned mines around the world. She is continuing her grandmother’s tradition of donating 20% of her profits to St. Jude’s.
After Elle sold a few crystals at the festival, she came back to our booth and bought two of our yellow butterfly ornaments. It seems like her grandmother’s promise to come back and visit her in this form had come true. She shared her story with me with a smile and a tear.
I always appreciate it when people tell me how much they appreciate the crafts they buy from us that came from a tree and the hands of a forest community artisan in Peru, but Elle’s story made this type of connection extra special.
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