Atelier Calla, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

A Visit with Haitian Bone and Horn Artist Christelle Paul

“Sonje lapli ki leve mayo ou” – Remember the rain that made your corn grow (Haitian proverb)

I had never heard of Horn and Bone art until I first visited Haiti two years ago and met with Haitian Horn and Bone artist Christelle Paul, founder and chief designer of 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 has always been passionate about art yet she pursed a career in business and worked in the banking industry for many years. 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.

A series of setbacks such as the devastating 2010 earthquake stopped Christelle from following her dreams. A inspiring meeting with world renown designer Donna Karan was the final push Christelle needed to leave banking 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 a handful of 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.

The last time I was in Haiti in 2015, I had 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 Horn and Bone art. Since my past visit two years ago, Christelle has moved to a new location in the center of Port-au-Prince in her mother’s home that was abandoned after the 2010 earthquake. Christelle is in the process of rebuilding the house as her studio and workshop. The roof fell down and walls have crumbled leaving a big part of the house in ruins. However, Christelle is determined to rebuild and get her new studio and workshop all fixed up. She has done it before seven years ago after the earthquake struck and she lost everything. She had to start all over again, working seven days a week while raising three young children yet succeeded. She attributes her strong resilience to simply being Haitian. The path is never easy but with hard work, perseverance and resilience I am certain Christelle will succeed.

Driving from our hotel to Christelle’s studio. Conditions in Port-au-Prince are still very difficult and the infrastructure throughout the country significantly needs to be improved. This is a challenge for entrepreneurs as it makes getting their products to the market difficult. 

Caribbean CULTURE Haiti
Playa Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

The Last Sunset in the Osa

“Everything that is made beautiful and fair and lovely is made for the eye of one who sees”. –  Rumi

As I walked along the beach, heavy water-laden clouds began rolling in, bringing the threat of rain. Despite the pleasurable relief that rain would bring, I prayed it would wait until after sunset. For it was my last night in the Osa Peninsula, and I could hardly wait to see one of nature’s greatest gifts.

Playa Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

I walked slowly, stopping often to pay attention to the changing of the clouds and light. Tiny beams of sunlight burst through the dark, thick clouds leaving glowing streaks of gold across the gray water. Despite the dark palette of grays, blues and creams the sunset had a calming effect on my soul. It was just what my spirit needed to end an adventurous week.

Playa Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Playa Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Playa Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

When I arrived at the end of the beach, I found the perfect spot on the sand to place my towel and sit. I saw a lovely family of five playing in the water and took that moment to capture them on film. They were so beautiful and radiant with happiness and joy. The scene could not have been more idyllic as it brought happy thoughts of my own family back home. They would be seeing this for themselves soon. Not the Osa Peninsula, but the beauty of Costa Rica.

Playa Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Playa Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Playa Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

I did nothing for the next hour but sit there and enjoy the unfolding of the show. As the sun dipped further and further below the horizon, I noticed the slight variations in cloud formations and light. I snapped away on my camera, trying to capture this moment in time.

I couldn’t resist putting slideshow of the small changes in light, color and clouds.

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I deeply wanted to stay down at the beach but it was starting to get dark and I was getting eaten alive by sandflies and mosquitos. Thankfully, the Bella Vista Lodge was perched at the opportune spot high above the beach for the grand finale. I got up the steep gravel road just in time to see the grayness come to life in a fit of color. Like nothing I’d ever seen before.

Playa Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
Playa Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Slowly it unfolded. From pink….to orange…to red.

Playa Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Playa Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa RicaPlaya Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Playa Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

And I couldn’t think of a more serendipitous send off from this incredibly magical place. But the good news is that I will be back. Tomorrow at this time, I will be in Costa Rica! Pura Vida!

Central America Costa Rica Osa Peninsula TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION
Seventh Generation

Toxin Freedom Fighters: Standing Up For Safer Chemicals

Disclaimer: This post is a part of a sponsored awareness program and campaign by Seventh Generation to raise awareness and demand change to the Toxic Substances Control Act by April 30, 2014. All the research for this post was provided by Seventh Generation but all the views below are my own. 

As a mom, advocate and someone who cares deeply about our planet, I have joined an exciting new campaign sponsored by Seventh Generation, a leading producer and distributor of environmentally-safe household products, to raise awareness about the hundreds of toxic chemicals in our products that are hurting our families and our world.

Toxic chemicals are a great concern of mine. I take pride in the fact that I read product labels carefully and always try to buy environmentally friendly and safe products to use in my home. This applies to every product I by: Food, household products and toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner and soap.  I honestly thought I was doing a good job by keeping nasty, toxic chemicals out of my body, my families bodies and the environment.

Yet like most consumers, I was wrong. I was unaware that of the 85,000 synthetic chemicals introduced into the American market since the Toxic Substances Control Act was passed in 1976, only a mere 10% of them have required testing by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). Therefore, that means thousands of synthetic chemicals are currently being used in our products that we have no idea whether or not they are safe to our bodies and our planet.

Child Labor, Marriage, Education and Survival Conservation/Environment Global Issues SOCIAL GOOD