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Looking for a gift which is truly exceptional and unique? Searching for something handcrafted from an exotic corner of the globe but wanting assurance that your money is going directly to the artisan who created it?

Travel is now the world’s largest industry, and as such, we as travelers have real power. We have the power to choose who we open our wallets to, and where we choose to travel has real economic and political significance. Using our power as consumers and economic leverage as travelers, we are able to support the most ethical destinations and organizations and send a message to the rest of the world in doing so.

In a world where there are so many mass produced products, with no record of who made them, organizations like UncommonGoods give us the choice to say no to sweatshops and child labor, and to vote with our wallets for a happier world. They connect local artisans to a global marketplace of socially conscious customers.

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In 1999, Dave Bolotsky visited a Smithsonian Museum craft show in Washington D.C. and was captivated by the variety of unique handmade goods and the talented people behind them. He saw there was a significant public demand for beautiful design. At the same time, he realized that the artists working to make those pieces were often traveling great distances in order to sell their wares at the show.

Inspired by his experience, Dave had a vision to create something that had never existed before—an online marketplace to connect makers and their creations with individuals looking for truly special goods, regardless of the physical distance between the maker and the shopper. Dave turned this idea into UncommonGoods.

UncommonGoods are about finding designs that serve a purpose, solve a problem, stun us with their beauty, or make us wonder why no one thought of it before. They offer products that are handmade with impeccable craftsmanship and that are made from interesting, unusual, reclaimed, or recycled materials.

The platform gives talented artisans around the world a place to express their artistic talents and provide access to the world market. They have thousands of top fair trade corporate gifts, accessories, jewelry and home decor items on their website, all hand crafted from artisans from regions like Thailand, Indonesia, India, and the United States.

Artisan

The fact is, artisans from around the world (many living in rural communities) don’t have the means to sell their work on the international market. Uncommon Goods gives them a free platform to do this, and reach customers on a global scale.

The following are our favorite products after a quick search through their online catalog.

Indian Sari Scarf

“Up-cycled” from vintage saris in India, this gorgeous scarf is a patchwork of rich, jewel-colored pieces of luxurious silk. To make the scarves, individual saris are cut into strips and hand stitched together with others to create a vibrant blend of color.

The scarf is then moistened, tightly twisted, and wound around a bamboo pole, creating a beautiful, rippling texture as it dries. Each scarf has unique variations in its pattern and colors, and can be worn wrapped around the shoulders or head. Handmade in India from 100% recycled materials.

View on UncommonGoods.

“Up-cycled” from vintage saris in India, this gorgeous scarf is a patchwork of rich, jewel-colored pieces of luxurious silk.

Latitude Longitude Pendant

If your sense of adventure is as daring as your style then this personalized keepsakes is exactly what you’ve been searching for! Remember your favorite place with this custom stamped pendant, featuring coordinates close to your heart.

Suspended from a sterling silver chain is a hand-forged, solid recycled sterling silver pendant. It pinpoints the place of your choosing with hand-stamped geographic coordinates in latitude and longitude. The reverse side of the pendant is impressed with the image of an elaborate, vintage-inspired compass rose, reminding you to always remain true to yourself. Comes with silver polishing cloth. Handmade in Seattle, Washington.

UncommonGoods also has a range of Latitude and Longitude bracelets and rings. Check out their selection of jewelry here.

Goto Venetian Wine Glasses

If you were afraid to travel home with Venetian glass on your last trip to Italy, you’re in luck! Italian artist Massimo Lunardon creates a colorful interpretation of the classic Venetian wine glass, or goto, with this set of six hand-blown glasses. Have these authentic glasses shipped directly to you so you don’t have to worry about anything breaking in your suitcase.

The undulating shape and confetti swirls on these unique tumblers bring fun and personality to any meal or gathering–adding a stylish design touch to a well-dressed table.

Venetian wine glass

Do Good Hammock

Doing good in the world has never been so comfortable. This ultra-cozy hammock-for-two helps to support the people who make it—members of the a small village of the endangered Mlabri people in northern Thailand.

The Mlabri were nearly wiped out in the mid 20th century, when the teak forests that were their home were cut down for decorative wood. But they have begun a slow resurgence by turning to their traditional weaving skills as a source of sustainable income for their community.

This hanging hideaway is hand woven from three miles of soft, acrylic cord–an intensive process which takes six to seven days to complete. Its rich color palette is inspired by volcanic lava flowing down into the ocean. A comfy retreat for a solo lounger, this hammock is woven extra wide so that two people can soak in the sun side by side. It is designed to support a combined weight up to 400 pounds, and comes with its own, handy tote bag made from repurposed nylon. Handmade in Thailand.

Bronze Custom Map Key Ring

Carry your keys on this ring that preserves a map clipping of your cherished locale of choice. No matter how many miles away you are, you can always carry a memento that’s spot on.

Take your favorite locale on the road with you with this handsome travel companion that preserves the memory of your most cherished sites while keeping your keys organized and accessible. Customized to the coordinates of your choosing, each map or chart swatch is immortalized in resin and mounted in bronze. International locations available, but maps may less detailed.

Handmade by John and Charlotte Guptill in the USA…these artists make a range of assorted map mementos too. This could be a great anniversary gift (view more anniversary gift ideas here).

John and Charlotte Guptill

Recycled Glass Elephants Nightlight

The soft glow of this painterly nightlight illuminates a sweet scene of a baby elephant tagging along with its parent for protection against the backdrop of night. When aglow, the luminescent glass mosaic fills a room with ambient colored light that is bright enough to illuminate obstacles, but soft enough to sleep through.

The colorful, textured glass is made from 100% post-consumer bottle glass, kiln formed by artisans Vawn and Mike Gray. Handmade in Cape Coral, Florida.

This is a great gift for kids, and a fantastic way to inspire a curiosity for travel, wildlife and the world. UncommonGoods has a great range of uncommon gifts for kids – browse here.

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Upcycled Indonesian Batik Bag

Whether you’re running to a hot yoga class, a day at the beach, or the farmer’s market, this bold and beautiful bag totes your essentials in style. Crafted from upcycled traditional batik cloth, each fair trade cotton bag has a unique patchwork design, lending one-of-a-kind appeal to your ensemble.

Handmade in Indonesia, this patchwork purse displays an ancient wax-resist dyeing technique applied by skilled Indonesian artisans.

Indonesian Batik Bag

INSPIRED? PIN THIS TO YOUR TRAVEL PINTEREST BOARDS ↓

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Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging since 2007, with the main aim of inspiring others to embark on their own worldwide adventure. Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

Follow their journey on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.

Photo credits: Featured photo by Flickr User Miradortigre. Pinterest Images by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – Tul Bahadur BK furniture making business by Jim Holmes for AusAID. Woman covering face with thatched fan by Connor Ashleigh for AusAID. Artisan carving wood by Rossana Ferreira

Post completed in collaboration with UncommonGoods. 

    20 Comments

    • They’re my favorites too! I’ll have to get one, though the biggest issue is going to be deciding which coordinates to have inscribed … I don’t know if I can pick a favorite destination haha :D!

    • Glad you think so too! Together we can all vote with our wallets for a more sustainable future 🙂

    • I need one of those bags in my life … scrolling through the goods on their website is addictive!! 😀

    • I could explore their site for hours being distracted by the gorgeous hand made gifts :D!

    • Birthday coming up perhaps? 🙂

    • I really do think that people are becoming more socially conscious of where they buy their goods from. The movement is really taking off, and the more and more people who come onboard the more impact we can have on changing the world by voting with our wallets 🙂

    • Wonderful! Glad to hear that Svet! I absolutely agree that the work of local artisans is so undervalued most of the time. There are so many incredibly talented people around the world who produce the most amazing products which are so much better than anything you can find mass produced.

  1. i love the Indian scarfs and I personally got tons of them for my friends here in the US. The richness in the local culture and the genuineness is unmatchable!

    • Fantastic to hear! And I agree 🙂 Happy travels!

  2. Such a wonderful idea, love all the products and definitely going to look into each more. Supporting locals is SO important, I try to do it as much as I can when traveling. Knowing something is handmade and you’re supporting a good cause, and hard working person, is really special. Great post!
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    • Thanks ALyssa! Happy to hear that you enjoyed the post, and are also part of the movement! We think that one person can’t change the world or make a difference, but the collective actions of each of us individually really do.

      I truly believe we can make a difference by voting with our wallets and make a global statement that supporting local economies is of the utmost importance.

      Happy travels!

    • Absolutely – there are some ridiculously talented artists out there across the globe who produce just the most amazing work, it’s such a shame that they go unnoticed in the shadow of mass produced products from factories.

      Generally, handmade work is far superior to anything made in mass.

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