The long porch of the Grange Hall in West Tisbury is bustling with color and conversation on summer Mondays as four local charities sell handcrafted goods to help families in distant lands. Tables resplendent with jewelry, textiles, paintings, sculpture, housewares, and gifts of every description draw customers to browse, buy, and learn about the charitable endeavors.
The women who founded the four small-scale organizations that benefit from the sales were each inspired by visiting villages from Haiti to Africa, and learning about the struggles of daily life. Each resolved to find ways to help, turning to handicraft sales as one profitable step.
Marsha Winsryg of West Tisbury hatched the Island’s collaborative marketplace idea. Ms. Winsryg’s nonprofit, African Artists Community Development Project (AACDP), raises funds to assist disabled children, orphans, and women in Zambia. Since first visiting there in 1999, she has brought back handcrafts to sell on the Vineyard.
Holding solo sales at her home, the Agricultural Fair, and Grange season after season, Ms. Winsryg realized several groups together could create larger, more varied events, attract more customers, and provide mutual support.
She contacted Jeanne Staples of Edgartown, founder of PeaceQuilts for Haiti, another organization marketing unique handmade items. They planned the joint market, adding two more vendors with similar merchandise and causes.
World Market Mondays continue at the Grange through August 7, and run from 10 am to 5 pm, and for July 13 only, at the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury. Look for a World Market booth at the Ag Fair. Ms. Winsryg is delighted with the friendly collaboration, and trusts customers appreciate the abundance of vibrant, affordable handcrafts.
“It’s a great place to buy Christmas gifts,” Ms. Winsryg suggested with a smile. “Get it done in July. You’ll feel good, and you’ll help these people around the world who are suffering.”
Along with merchandise, each Monday features a talk about issues the groups work to address. At the first market day on June 26 and at a festive benefit that evening, Sister Immaculata Mulyei of Livingstone, Zambia, highlighted problems faced by village women and her efforts with them to produce sisal bags, a small but meaningful project providing employment and income.
The AACDP display is a treasure trove of artwork, textiles, jewelry, household items, and more. Shallow woven baskets hang above tables filled with carved wooden figures, bowls, ornate serving utensils, and maracas. Soft, bright-eyed cloth dolls in patterned garb are perfect for toddlers. Beautifully crafted Tuareg silver includes earrings, cuffs, even miniature jungle animals. Richly hued traditional patterns appear in cloth from Ghana, Zanzibar, and Congo, and in hangings, shawls, and other wearables.
Judy Lane, a lifelong Aquinnah summer resident, fell in love with Tanzania decades ago, visiting the remote Ngorongoro Conservation Area as a student. Returning with her husband years later, she realized that love remained strong. “I don’t want to leave and not do something here,” she thought.
Her passion lead her to establish Maasai Partners, a foundation helping fund projects for education, accessible healthcare, and economic development in a small area of Tanzania. She has made countless trips to the area working with the Maasai people, with whom she feels warm kinship. Villagers brought handiwork to her, asking her to sell it back home.
Intricate beadwork is the signature of the traditional Maasai crafts displayed here. Tiny colored beads in geometric patterns adorn dangling earrings and wide cuff bracelets. There are miniature beaded baskets in every color combination, perfect to hold earrings, coins, or barrettes. Captivating wall hangings feature symbolic tribal designs are beaded onto soft goatskin panels.
Reflected light dances off the silver jewelry covering two tables inside the entryway. Dawn Moran of East Falmouth is the sole off-Island vendor, offering delicate earrings and necklaces handmade by young Indian women, victims of human trafficking now liberated and rebuilding their lives.
Ms. Moran, a researcher at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, connected with Her Future Coalition, an organization dedicated to freeing and rehabilitating women who have fallen prey to trafficking. She began the Invisible World Project, collaborating with women in Her Future’s metalworking program to use designs based on the plankton she studies.
“I want to give back; I have had so many opportunities myself,” she said.
Some pieces are the women’s own designs: tiny lotus blossoms dangling from a necklace, earrings patterned on roses, soaring birds. Others are more abstract, gossamer silver threads molded into graceful shapes, suggesting plankton to the knowledgeable observer.
She explained that like microscopic plankton not visible to the naked eye, human trafficking is hidden, not well known. Along with helping to support its victims, Ms. Moran wants to raise awareness. “It’s about bringing the invisible into the visible,” she said.
There’s no mistaking the glowing, rainbow-hued designs of the textile art displayed by PeaceQullts. The Vineyard-based organization begun in 2006 supports Haitian women through developing sewing cooperatives to create exquisite quilts and fiber crafts. Aiming to “build better lives through art,” the group markets on the Island, online, and elsewhere.
Though Haitian life is harsh, the country’s folk art radiates joy and vitality. Small art quilts portray images of village and farm life, lush gardens, birds, animals, happy families. Full-sized quilts in abstract patterns shimmer with iridescent colors.
Large tote bags are quilted or printed with nature designs. There are elegant cotton placemats, napkins, tablecloths, quilted oven mitts to brighten any kitchen, stuffed Christmas tree ornaments, necklaces and bracelets strung with fabric beads.
There are striking metal creations by village men, fashioned by hand in delicate detail from recycled oil drums. These wall art pieces feature traditional Haitian themes: the Tree of Life, birds, animals, and angels.
For more information about World Market Mondays, call organizers Jeanne Staples, 508-274-1104, or Marsha Winsryg, 508-560-2620, or visit worldmarketmondays.org.