The week after returning from a whirlwind, life-giving, life-changing trip to Vietnam has been interesting. I was there with Noonday Collection, with our founder and other Ambassadors who earned this opportunity. We got to meet the artisans who create the pieces we love to share, and thank them. We had adventures and great food. Busy times shopping the noisy streets of Hanoi, and calm times gazing out at Ha Long Bay from the beach of our gorgeous resort. We learned about crafting culture in Vietnam and belted out Katy Perry at karaoke, and so on in that fashion.
But my return has been interesting for two reasons.
#1: My time there included information - and inspiration - overload. I came home with a million ideas floating around in my head, unorganized, unruly. I finally tamed them into a blog post that will soon be shared on Noonday's blog, so I'll be sure to post here when that's up!
#2: Jet lag. It's a thing. A 12-hour time difference, and total travel times exceeding 24 hours each way, are NO JOKE Y'ALL.
But as I continue to process all I learned, and let my body return to CST, I can tell you this: this is a movement across the globe, and I want to bring you into it. And what better place to start than Noonday's iconic Calypso Earrings, made of ethically sourced, recycled water buffalo horn.
These earrings stole my heart the moment I laid eyes on them when I joined Noonday, and were one of the first samples I ordered. They've been top sellers for so many years: made with a natural material, bold but light, and inexpensive. What an honor it was to be part of the first group of Ambassadors to visit Lanh's workshop where the magic happens. You can read more about our impact in Vietnam, and Lanh's story, here.
After a bumpy, winding ride away from the heart of Hanoi, we walked to the place where the magic happens. This is in what's informally called the "horn village." Centuries ago, emperors established areas that would specialize in specific skills, to create beautiful crafts like what they saw in China. They brought in master craftsmen to establish artisan movements in Vietnam, and skills were handed down generation to generation, continuing today. As such, the horn village has been home to horn artisans for some 800 years.
For most of this history, horn was recycled into sculptures and serving tools for use in Buddhist pagodas. It's been a recent evolution to see other goods like jewelry, combs, trays, and salad tongs - all part of an effort to evolve the craft to reach a broader audience. Cultural preservation is a key principle of the Fair Trade Federation. And as we visited, I loved knowing that we've been invited into the story of preserving this ancient crafting tradition.
There are millions of water buffalo in Vietnam. They're not killed for their horn; in fact, they're quite valuable alive, as they're essential in rice farming. But when a buffalo dies, the Vietnamese - who have a stronger culture of recycling than we do - desire to use as much of the animal as they can. It's a way to be resourceful, to provide income to the farming family who lost their animal, and to honor the buffalo.
And so it is that Lanh and other artisan groups obtain their raw material. Behold the mighty horn:
The horn is cut in half length-wise.
Next, the horn is buffed and then dipped into hot oil and flattened between two metal plates.
An artisan reviews these flattened pieces and, based on their color, determines which item each piece will become. She traces from a template so that the correct raw shape can be cut.
Next comes the most mesmerizing part. Although the process includes so many manual steps, a CAD-programmed cutting machine intricately and consistently cuts out the lace-like design.
Artisans buff these for a final touch...
...and finally, a matchmaker performs a final inspection and creates a perfect pair to send on to you.
It was fitting to be in Vietnam leading up to Fashion Revolution Week, when activists are asking, who made my clothes? Who made my jewelry? After meeting Lanh and her employees, I can say that those who make our jewelry are part of a thriving crafting sector, thanks to Lanh's leadership and commitment to their well-being.
To see these and more designs from Vietnam, head here (and don't forget to choose your hostess at check-out if you're shopping a trunk show).
Want to travel with us next year? I never would have known, when I started with Noonday in September 2016, that a year later I would earn a trip around the world. And this movement has room for you - in fact, we need you. We need to send more orders so more communities can flourish. And through it you'll find a space of belonging with us, and a meaningful way to earn extra income as we and our partners around the globe grow our businesses together. Learn more here and let's chat.