It’s like a traveling United Nations of crafts when Nancy Spada and Roger Gee take their fair trade business, Singing Shaman Traders, on the road. Camel bone beads from Pakistan are strung next to paper beads made by people who live at the Guatemala City garbage dump. Wood carvings from Kenya are lined up next to silver jewelry from Mexico and shawls from Pakistan.
Friday and Saturday, Singing Shaman Traders will be at this year’s Jubilee International Marketplace at First Presbyterian Church.
Jubilee began as an Alternative Christmas Sale in 1988. Jubilee Committee member Mary Beth Baker writes in a short history about the sale that the congregation realized it was concerned for artisans struggling to make a living around the world.
“I think it’s probably the 10th time we are there,” Spada said. “They have it so well organized it makes it so easy for us.”
Spada and Gee have not always been in the fair trade business. She worked as a psychotherapist for many years and Gee was a journalist in North Idaho.
“In 2000, I bought some Mexican pottery at an auction not really knowing what I was doing,” Spada said. Intrigued by the pottery she did some research and found that it was made in the Mexican village of Mata Ortiz.
“I just fell in love with the village,” Spada said. “That’s really how it all got started.”
Soon they added traditional Huichol bead work – little animal figures, picture frames and tiny vessels.
“It’s amazing the craftsmanship that goes into this,” Gee said, showing a tiny bead-covered cup.
Gee and Spada just returned from Kenya, so they’ll be selling lots of African crafts at Jubilee.
The couple have also traveled to Vietnam and Southeast Asia.
“Wherever we go we find crafts,” Gee said. “We love Vietnam and we would love to spend more time exploring Southeast Asia.”
They live on the shores of Hauser Lake and spend winters on their boat in Guatemala.
While there they made contact with a group of people living in the Guatemala City garbage dump, making crafts out of stuff they scavenge.
“They make beads out of paper they pick up at the dump,” Spada said. She restrings some of the beads, combining them with clay beads from Kenya and camel bone beads from Pakistan.
“I make some of the jewelry and sometimes my friends come over and help me over a glass of wine,” Spada said.
Jubilee features more than 30 fair trade vendors from near and far, and shoppers can expect everything from Christmas ornaments to purses, jewelry to bowls.
The sale has made more than $750,000 for its merchants – some of which are local nonprofit organizations – since it began in 1988.
“We plan to continue to come back,” Gee said. “It’s a great sale.”