Jacques Eugene Croix des Bouquet Haiti

The Ingenuity of Repurposing Metal into Art

Two years ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to go to Haiti as part of a program to view Macy’s Heart of Haiti products and meet the artisans behind the beautiful art. It was an incredible trip in many ways as it opened my heart and mind to a different side of Haiti that is often not discussed in the press. Instead of seeing tragedy, hardship and destruction I saw amazing resilience, hope and creativity through the arts. While many challenges remain for the people of Haiti – it still is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere – there also lies opportunity and beauty especially through its vibrant, dynamic arts much that is made from repurposed materials that would otherwise send up in the trash.

One such community that is ingeniously using scraps of metal to create beautiful works of art is Croix-des-Bouquet a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Over 60 years ago, Georges Liautaud began a movement in creating metal art from recycled products that became the thriving metal artisan community of Croix-des-Bouquet.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Today, Croix-des-Bouquet has over 1,000 metal artisans making their fabulous metal art with over 60 different shops and studios creating social change and opportunity in this growing community in Port-au-Prince. Croix-des-Bouquet is where the most famous, accomplished metal artisans reside who have traveled the world with their art and have become instrumental within the community by creating apprenticeship opportunities for Haitians to learn their trade.

CULTURE Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY Weekly Photo Challenges
Jacmel Haiti

Last Minute Gifts that Give Back from Macy’s

Searching for that last minute holiday gift? Why not consider a beautiful gift that also gives back from Macy’s Heart of Haiti or Rwanda Path to Peace product line? Designed to improve and enrich lives, Macy’s extraordinary collection of handcrafted art makes change and hope possible in Haiti and Rwanda. Both programs were developed using a “trade-not-aid” model that connects Haitian and Rwandan artisans to the global marketplace, providing a sustainable income to reinvest in their families, health, education and lives.

I have written extensively about both initiatives before and even had the incredible opportunity to go to Haiti in February 2015 to meet the Heart of Haiti artisans in person. Haiti was a life-changing trip where I witnessed the deep love of the arts and creativity in a nation that had been hit by so many tragedies yet remains so incredibly resilient.

The situation in Haiti still remains dire. The devastating earthquake of January 2010 and the most recent hurricane in 2016, have made it virtually impossible for many Haitians to make a living. Out of a population of 10 million people, an estimated 400,000 Haitians are artisans who rely solely on their handcrafted goods as a source of income. Astonishingly, the arts is the largest sector of employment in Haiti. Haitians have a deep-rooted love and culture of many different forms of art ranging from metal work to sandstone carvings to paper-mache and painting.

Heart of Haiti was established after the 2010 earthquake as a way to help the Haitian artisan economy survive and access markets. The first collection of Heart of Haiti products was launched in the fall of 2010 by a partnership between the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund and humanitarian Willa Shalit, and the initiative has grown steadily ever since.

Today, Heart of Haiti employs 550 artisans providing a steady income that benefits an extended 4,500 family members. This means more people are able to repair their homes, pay school fees for their children, and feed and clothe their families. Steady income means better nutrition, improved education, and access to healthcare. Now entering its seventh year, the Macy’s Heart of Haiti program continues its goal of helping Haitian artisans achieve economic empowerment through the sale of their handcrafted goods. Artisans receive 22 percent of the retail price for each item in the collection.

This holiday season, why not consider purchasing a Heart of Haiti tree ornament?

 

Heart of Haiti Tree Ornament

Heart of Haiti Tree Ornament

Heart of Haiti tree ornament

Capture the true spirit of the holiday season with this fir-tree shaped ornament. Crafted with recycled metal and hand-painted by artisans from Haiti, this ornament can both decorate your Christmas Tree and help sustain fair trade opportunities for the communities that need it most. With a red organza ribbon attached for hanging, you can make your own unique winter wonderland. $13.00. To purchase this ornament, click here.

Other lovely products from Heart of Haiti include:

Heart of Haiti Soapstone Heart

Heart of Haiti Soapstone Heart

Heart of Haiti Soapstone Heart:

Shimmering in gold, the Soapstone heart can grace your home in a variety of different ways. This figurine, an unmistakable symbol of love, is covered with gold leaf on top. Each individual figurine is crafted with care by Haitian artisans who now have the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families. $16

 

I also really love the incredible metal art made out of recycled metal and the paper-mache. When I was in Haiti, I got to visit both metal artisans and paper-mache artists. It was amazing to see how they create such gorgeous works of art. Here are a few of my favorites below.

 

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD
Haitian metal art

How to Help Haiti after Hurricane Matthew

A year and a half ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to go to Haiti as part of a program to view Macy’s Heart of Haiti products and meet the artisans behind the beautiful art. It was an incredible trip in many ways as it opened my heart and mind to a different side of Haiti that is often not discussed in the press. Instead of seeing tragedy, hardship and destruction I saw amazing resilience, hope and creativity through the arts.

Carnaval 2015 Port-au-Prince

Our group, #Bloggers4Haiti

It was with a heavy heart that I followed the news of yet another tragedy in Haiti, the destruction and death from Hurricane Matthew. Hundreds more have died, thousands have lost their homes and their livelihoods once again, and the devastation left behind is just another setback in a country that seems to constantly take one step forward two steps back.

As the US and others rush in with aid to help Haiti, it is often asked how one can best help Haiti. Although humanitarian aid is absolutely necessary, tragically a lot of good intentions behind aid aren’t always fulfilled. Selecting the right kind of organization to donate to is even more important than ever.

Pétionville Haiti

The “Gingerbread” homes and slums that raise up the mountains behind luxurious Pétionville.

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD

The art of making Papier-mâché in Jacmel

Papier-mâché = French for “chewed paper”, is a composite material consisting of paper pieces or pulp, sometimes reinforced with textiles, bound with an adhesive, such as glue, starch, or wallpaper paste.

Papier-mâché is an extremely important form of art in Haiti and there is no other place where it is produced in such magnitude as Jacmel.  We visited this beautiful seaside town to meet some papier-mâché artisans who supply the colorful papier-mâché vases and serving trays to Macy’s Heart of Haiti program.

Papier-mâché has been made for centuries originating in China, the inventors of paper, back in the Han Dynasty (BC 202 – AD 220) and spreading to Japan, Persia and Egypt and eventually Europe in the mid 17th century.  In Haiti, papier-mâché has been made for generations as an important artistic and cultural part of Carnival and other celebrations.

Our group visited the studio of papier-mâché artisan Pierre Satyr where we received a live demonstration of how to make a vase out of papier-mâche by artisan Harry Sylvaince.

 studio of Papier-mâché artisan Pierre Satyr in Jacmel, Haiti

The studio of Papier-mâché artisan Pierre Satyr in Jacmel, Haiti

 studio of Papier-mâché artisan Pierre Satyr in Jacmel, Haiti

Inside the studio we met Paul Satyr and Harry Sylvaince, two papier-mâché artisans who have been working with Macy’s Heart of Haiti program, a trade not aid program that began after the earthquake to help Haiti’s artisans find a market for their products. Paul “Satyr”, a master painter whose friends call him Satyr, is President of the Jacmel Guild of Artists in Haiti, where he hopes to build a new artisans’ center. Patterns from his collection are inspired by patchwork and made from old rags.  When asked about his work, Satyr mused: “We are creating joy from remnants and are sending joy out into the world. We hope that people will smile and feel great happiness when they see and collect our work”. 

CULTURE Gifts that Give Back Global Non-Profit Organizations and Social Good Enterprises SOCIAL GOOD
Christelle Paul Horn and Bone Art Haiti

Meet Christelle Paul, Haitian Bone and Horn Artist

Before visiting Haiti, I never would have imagined that this tiny island nation has such an amazing artistic culture. The arts have not only survived poverty, earthquakes and other natural and political disasters, they have thrived and persevered just like the Haitian people.

What is the most astounding aspect of Haiti’s art community is the artisans’ unbelievable imagination and creativity to produce art from pretty much anything. Thrown out oil cans became the inspiration for a dynamic metal arts community. Old pieces of newspaper are striped, dyed and used to create papier-mâché masks, vases, floats, and other masterpieces. Even horns and bones from cattle that normally are thrown away, are dried and sanded to make gorgeous jewelry and furniture. The list is endless.

I had never heard of Horn and Bone art until I visited Haiti and met with Haitian Horn and Bone artist Christelle Paul, founder and chief designer at her workshop “Atelier Calla in Port-au-Prince.  Horn and Bone art began within the walls of Haiti’s prisons in the 1950s. To pass the time, the men in prison enjoyed playing games and they ingeniously discovered they could use old horns and bones to make pieces for card games. The art continued to evolve over the years being passed down from generation to generation.

Christelle Paul

Photo of Danica Kombol (Everywhere Agency) and Christelle Paul in Haiti.

Christelle has always been passionate about art yet she had pursed a career in banking. One day back in 2006 she was out shopping and noticed that there were a lot of products made out of horn and bone yet none that she really liked. This inspired her to start creating her own horn and bone jewelry based on the designs and ideas she desired. What began as a hobby suddenly grew into a passion. Yet the journey from being a full-time banker to full-time artist was a long one.

Christelle Paul Horn and Bone Art Haiti

Some of Christelle’s beautiful creations.

A series of setbacks such as the 2010 earthquake stopped Christelle from following her dreams yet after a meeting with famous designer Donna Karan, Christelle decided to quit her job and pursue her passion for Bone and Horn art full-time. Her workshop Atelier Calla was opened in October of 2011 and today her team employs 7 artisans within the community who were once unemployed. Her mission is to provide fair wages and work opportunities to help young, unemployed people find a fulfilling, sustainable career in the arts. She is a remarkable woman.

We visited Christelle’s studio to learn more about this unique kind of art and also hear how her studio and workshop have helped other Haitians pursue a career in art and provide for their family.

Artisans at work at Christelle's studio,

Artisans at work at Christelle Paul’s studio, Atelier Calla

Gifts that Give Back Global Non-Profit Organizations and Social Good Enterprises Haiti SOCIAL GOOD TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION
papier-mâché artisans Jacmel Haiti

Jacmel’s amazing papier-mâché

Besides being known as a beautiful, colonial beachside town, Jacmel is one of the leading producers of papier-mâché in all of Haiti. In fact, this dazzling town of about 40,000 residents is famous for its arts and has dozens of studios and shops where papier-mâché is made, sold and celebrated especially during Haiti’s Carnival.

Our team visited Jacmel to see firsthand how papier-mâché is made and to meet some of the different artisans who sell their art to Macy’s Heart of Haiti program and Artisan Business Network (ABN). ABN is the heart and soul of Macy’s Heart of Haiti program (a “trade not aid” initiative that began after the earthquake to help local Haitian artisans sell their products in the United States). Run by Nathalie Tancrede, an amazing Haitian American woman who left her home in New York after the earthquake to help, ABN works with a variety of Haitian artisans to assist with long-term economic development and training on design, marketing, packaging and exporting so they can expand internationally. ABN has made a huge impact on the artisan community of Haiti which was largely hurt after the earthquake. It was amazing to see some of their incredible work and it just so happened that we were in Jacmel a few days before Carnival.

Founded in 1698 by French colonists, Jacmel has the most creative and yet traditional Carnival in Haiti awash with brilliantly colorful papier-maché masks and marionettes, bands à pieds, and street theatre depictions of politics, religion and pop culture. As we entered town, we could see papier-mâché statues and masks everywhere.

Jacmel Haiti

Jacmel, Haiti

papier-mâché artisans Jacmel Haiti

Given Jacmel’s vibrant cultural and artistic scene, it wasn’t a surprise to see art being made en plein air right on the streets. It felt like the entire city was alive and was quite invigorating.

papier-mâché artisans Jacmel Haiti

papier-mâché artisans Jacmel Haiti

CULTURE Gifts that Give Back Global Non-Profit Organizations and Social Good Enterprises Haiti SOCIAL GOOD TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION
Jacmel, Haiti

Jacmel: The Artistic and Cultural Jewel of Haiti

Author’s note: This post is a continuation of my February trip to Haiti as part of a #Bloggers4Haiti trip on behalf of Heart of Haiti. To view all posts in this series, click here

One of the highlights of our trip to Haiti was a visit to the lovely oceanside town of Jacmel which is known as one of Haiti’s main cultural and artistic meccas. Founded by the French in 1698, Jacmel is a lovely laid-back town of about 40,000 people with beautiful colonial architecture, white sand beaches and lots of colorful art. Once a prominent economic hub producing coffee and sugar, today Jacmel has become a must-see place for tourists and Haitians alike, wanting to experience its beauty, culture and arts especially during Carnival time. Jacmel is on the list of becoming a World Heritage Site which gives all the more reason to visit this lovely place.

The drive to Jacmel from Port-au-Prince is not long – perhaps three hours or so depending on traffic leaving the capital. It is a gorgeous drive bringing you through Haiti’s tropical coast, up and over the mountains and rural villages and back down to the beautiful Carribean Sea.

Jacmel Haiti

Arriving into Jacmel

Jacmel, Haiti

Jacmel, Haiti

We went to Jacmel to see the incredible papier-mâché artisans who work around the clock to create products for Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, a “trade not aid program” developed by the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund and Willa Shalit in partnership with Macy’s to promote sustainable income in the arts for Haitians. Jacmel is known internationally for its vibrant arts and craft scene, including nearly 200 papier-mâché artisans, as well as a school of painting and a music and film school that is recognised among the best in Haiti.

Global Non-Profit Organizations and Social Good Enterprises Haiti SOCIAL GOOD TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION
Jean Baptiste Jean Joseph Studio Haiti

A look into the intricate beadwork of Jean Baptiste

Stepping into the Gallery Isidor in Haiti feels like stepping into a dream.  The scent of incense flavors the air and the walls are filled with a riot of colorful, imaginative voodoo flags intricately designed by world-famous bead artist and voodoo priest Jean Baptiste Jean Joseph. To be inside Jean Baptiste’s studio and to see his work, gives one a true sense of Haiti’s rich, intricate culture and religion.

Croix-des-Bouquet Haiti

Jean Baptiste Jean Joseph was born in 1967 in La Vallé Bainet and was raised in Croix-des-Bouquet, a community known for its metal artisans in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. At a young age Jean Baptiste became passionate for folk art and textiles. Following his dreams and passion for beadwork, he worked in a small factory where he honed his skills by sewing pearls and beads onto wedding dresses. Then in 1991, thanks to the receipt of a small loan from a friend, Jean Baptiste opened Isidor Gallery in Croix-des-Bouquet.

Fast forward two decades, and Jean Baptiste’s beadwork is world renown. Besides his famous voodoo flags, Jean Baptiste and his fellow artisans make purses, bags, voodoo dolls, and various other handicrafts. Like his fellow master artisans in Croix-des-Bouquets, Jean Baptiste has been instrumental in training new artisans in his field, helping the community prosper and ensuring this beautiful form of art does not die out.

Isidor Gallery Haiti

Haiti SOCIAL GOOD TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION
Jacques Eugene Croix des Bouquet Haiti

Haiti’s Metal Artisans of Croix-des-Bouquets

This post is part of a series on my recent trip to Haiti as part of Heart of Haiti’s #Bloggers4Haiti trip. To read more in this series, click here. 

After we landed in Port-au-Prince on a Thursday afternoon, our team of three bloggers, one daughter, and three representatives from Everywhere Agency (who sponsored our trip and works exclusively on the Heart of Haiti initiative for Macy’s) gathered in our van and drove to neighboring Croix-des-Bouquets,a famous artist community in Port-au-Prince known for its metal art.

We were thrilled to all be spending the next four days meeting with Macy’s Heart of Haiti artisans, and there couldn’t have been a better way to jump-start our trip than by visiting Croix-des-Bouquets and seeing for ourselves what Haiti is known for: Spectacular metal art.

In Croix-des-Bouquets, we were going to visit several metal artisans’ studios and get a real live demonstration on how the art is made. We also would learn a bit more about the history of Croix-des-Bouquets, a unique artist community that has grown into one of the largest, sustainable metal art communities in Haiti.

Croix-des-Bouquet

En route from Port-au-Prince we finally reach the famous Croix-des-Bouquets community.

Over 60 years ago, Georges Liautaud began a movement in creating metal art from recycled products that became the thriving metal artisan community of Croix-des-Bouquets. Today, Croix-des-Bouquets has over 1,000 metal artisans making their fabulous metal art with over 60 different shops and studios creating social change and opportunity in this growing community in Port-au-Prince. Croix-des-Bouquets is where the most famous, accomplished metal artisans reside who have traveled the world with their art and have become instrumental within the community by creating apprenticeship opportunities for Haitians to learn their trade.

CULTURE Gifts that Give Back Global Non-Profit Organizations and Social Good Enterprises SOCIAL GOOD TRAVEL BY REGION
Jacques Eugene Croix des Bouquet Haiti

Macy’s Heart of Haiti Creating Sustainable Income and Hope

This post is part of a series on my recent trip to Haiti as part of Heart of Haiti’s #Bloggers4Haiti trip. To read more in this series, click here. 

On January 12, 2010 the earth rumbled and shook. Although it only 30 seconds, the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti, devastated Port-au-Prince and killed an estimated 220,000 people. Already reeling from a series of natural, economic and political disasters, the earthquake was nearly catastrophic to the people, infrastructure and economy of Haiti. Although thousands of lives were lost, more were forever changed on that fateful day.

Pétionville Haiti

The “Gingerbread” homes and slums that raise up the mountains behind luxurious Pétionville.

As news poured into the United States and around the world, governments, aid organizations and humanitarians across the globe came together to help. One woman, American Willa Shalit, an artist, producer, writer and social conscious entrepreneur, came to the rescue. A pioneer in a growing social-entrepreneurial movement, Shalit’s company Fairwinds Trading joined forces with the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund and retailer, Macy’s. Together, they developed the mission of providing unique Haitian products to U.S. consumers while at the same time, creating sustainable wages for the Haitian artisans who make them.

Gifts that Give Back Global Issues Haiti SOCIAL GOOD TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION
Art in Port-au-Prince Haiti

Art on Wheels: The Tap Taps of Port-au-Prince

“Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder” – Plato

When I first told friends that I was going to Haiti I got a lot of negative responses. “I would never go there” scolded a doctor friend of mine. “It is way too dangerous” warned another. Sadly the media has not painted a pretty picture of Haiti. Over and over again we have seen images and read articles about the devastation, poverty, political instability and disease, that makes Haiti sound like some kind of backwater, scary place. People thought I was crazy to go there.

As a seasoned traveler who has been to some rough places, I made sure I did my research. I talked to friends who had been there before and all of them said I had to go. That it would change me. And it did.

Now I want to share with the world the good things about Haiti. The stuff the media doesn’t cover because they want to sell a story. I’m not going to talk about the tent communities, the lack of infrastructure and health services. That will come later. Instead, I’m going to tell you about the spectacular art I saw on my trip visiting the artisans who work with Heart of Haiti.

One thing I learned is that Haiti is a nation of artisans. With a population of a little over ten million people, some estimates report that almost half a million Haitians rely on the handicraft sector as their primary or secondary source of income. No other sector employs such a high percentage of people in Haiti. Furthermore, art is an enormous part of Haitian life and culture and can be found nearly everywhere even in surprising, unexpected places.

The devastating 2010 earthquake that tore apart Port-au-Prince significantly hurt the artisan trade. Per Nat Tancrede, Executive Director at ABN (Artisan Business Network), the once thriving handicraft sector was almost destroyed. Before the earthquake it was reported that around 40-50 containers of artisan produced goods left Haiti weekly to the United States during the peak years of 1980-1985. Yet, in 2010 after the earthquake only six containers were being shipped a week. For a nation that depends on the handicraft sector, it had strong implications for the economy and the lives of the artisans. Today, the handicraft sector is continuing to grow and provide more sustainable incomes to both women and men, and Nat foresees even more opportunity down the road.

For a culture that is so strongly connected to art, Haiti is an art lover’s dream yet it remains relatively undiscovered. Art truly is everywhere in Haiti. Along the walls and sides of buildings and even on the side of the street lies handmade metal art, statues, papier-mâché and paintings. It was something that really surprised and amazed me.

Art in Port-au-Prince Haiti

Haiti TRAVEL
Pétionville Haiti

“Dèyè mòn gen mòn”: Reflections on Haiti

“Dèyè mòn gen mòn” – Haitian proverb

When I arrived in Port-au-Prince last Thursday morning I had no idea what to expect. Danica, who leads the blogger trips for Heart of Haiti, handed each one of us a leather-bound journal with a personal note. My friend Leticia, A Heart of Haiti veteran brought along her eleven-year-old daughter Emily. Inside Emily’s journal was the Haitian proverb: “Dèyè mòn gen mòn” which means “beyond the mountains, more mountains.” Danica informed young Emily that her goal of the trip was to figure out what this proverb meant. She also said that it had not one but many meanings.

Hotel Montana memorial Haiti

Entering the memorial at the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince where 100 people died during the January 12, 2010 earthquake.

Global Non-Profit Organizations and Social Good Enterprises Haiti SOCIAL GOOD