Bazaar raises funds for artisans

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Every year, the basement of the Holy Name Catholic Church fills with the smell of the dried grasses used by African, Asian and South American women to make their baskets. As volunteers unpack boxes full of baskets, purses and small wooden carvings, a bridge is built between them and women thousands of miles away who will never know the wealth or the comforts of the Steamboat Springs lifestyle.

This is the seventh year for the Holy Name's Work of Human Hands Holiday Bazaar, organized to raise money for artisans from 70 developing nations.

This year, the group is focusing on baskets from around the world, volunteer Diane Anderson said. They will be selling baskets from India made in the Ikat weaving style.

The tradition dates back to the 12th century.

In Ikat weavings, cloth is tie-dyed before it is woven to create designs in the finished basket.

There also will be baskets from Uganda, which are hand woven with bright geometric patterns using palm leaves called raffia.

In the neighboring country of Kenya, women make traditional bags called Kiondos. They are hand woven from dyed sisal fibers

Sisal bags are similar to handbags but much bigger, Anderson said. "They are sturdy and practical; good for carrying groceries."

All the baskets and crafts come to Holy Name Catholic Church through the Human Hands Partnership, which was created in part by the Catholic Relief Services to support low-income artisans around the world.

The women who make the work are paid a fair wage for their time.

"The money we raise goes back to the people who made the products," Anderson said. "We are the middle man who provides a place for them to sell their stuff.

"This is a good place for people to get unique gifts for Christmas."

In addition to baskets, the women will be selling jewelry, coffee, chocolates, hand-made nativity scenes, ornaments and children's games.

"For the amount of work that goes into these things, I think the prices are more than reasonable," Anderson said. "Some women will spend a week on one item and if you're paying $15 for that basket, that's $15 for one week of work."

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