How Do Other Cultures Celebrate Winter?

The Northern Hemisphere marks the first day of winter and happens between December 21st and 23rd at which time religious holidays such as Christmas and Hanukkah are celebrated in addition to cultural celebrations of the sun returning. The first day of winter is the longest night of the year, after which point the days grow longer and the nights are shorter. Because so many cultures base celebrations and festivities around the suns' energy, we had fun researching a few lesser-known celebrations to share with you. So grab some cocoa and learn something new with us! 

The Winter Solstice is when the sun is farthest away from the North Pole and is relevant in December to the Northern Hemisphere. (At the same time, it's the Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere). Because of this, there are many celebrations for the start of winter and a new season. 

Winter Solstice

Yule is a Pagan tradition rooted in pre-medieval Nordic times and is a festival of the sun. The Yule Log is actually an entire tree that is lit from the remains of the previous years' Yule Log, and over the twelve days of Christmas, the tree is fed into the fire to celebrate light during the coldest and darkest time of the year. Feasts, merrymaking, and sacrifices are all part of the Yule tradition. 

Yule Celebration

Yalda is a Persian celebration of winter on the longest and darkest night - the Winter Solstice. Friends and family gather to eat, drink, and read poetry together. Red fruits are consumed, like Watermelons and Pomegranates, as their red color signifies the crimson glow of new life ahead of them. 

Yalda

Inti Raymi is Quechua for "sun festival," and was the largest gathering of the year for the Incan Empire to celebrate the return of longer days, and specifically, the sun. Sacrifices, dances, and feasts were all part of celebrating Inti Raymi and a significant part of the festival was to light a new fire and extinguish all existing flames - including kitchen fires. Even though the Incan Empire has ended, the celebrations are still continued today. 

Inti Raymi

Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival celebration that began on December 17th and was celebrated through December 23rd in honor of the Roman god, Saturn. Celebrations and sacrifices took place at The Temple of Saturn, followed by gift-exchanges, feasts, and drinking. 

Saturnalia

Dongzhi Festival is a Chinese celebration, an literally translates to, "the arrival of winter."  The ancient philosophy of yin and yang play an important role in this tradition, as the beginning of longer days with more light is marked by the start of winter. Positive energy begins flowing again, and the natural balance of life takes place. Dumplings are traditionally eaten; family’s gather together, and some even make a pilgrimage to an ancient temple to worship. 

Dongzhi Festival

St. Lucia Day is a Norse holiday that celebrates the memory of St. Lucia who was a young girl, Lucy, that used to secretly bring food to persecuted people in Rome, and would wear candles on her head so she could carry everything. Fires are burned to ward off spirits during the longest night, and children continue the tradition of dressing up in white robes with a red sash around their waist. Crowns are made from Lingonberry branches, which are evergreen, to symbolize new life in winter and ginger cookies are handed out and carols are sung!

St. Lucia Day

We have just entered into winter, and many of these celebrations are currently taking place or have already happened.

How are you celebrating winter?

December 28, 2016 by Tribe Scribe

Shop Consciously: Support Brands Helping the Planet and People.

Shopping consciously is something that is incredibly important to us, not only as a brand but also as individuals. 

Even if you buy just one person a gift this year that is sustainability made, has a positive environmental impact, and well-being for others in mind, you are making a positive impact. Small changes matter! There is a shift happening in our world and as a collective species, humans are becoming more aware of their impact, and that is incredible! 

We've rounded up some brands and organizations we think are rad and also really hitting the nail on the head for being eco-friendly and conscious companies from the inside-out. 

Brands: 

1. Indosole is creating big waves by taking old and used tires and creating killer shoes and sandals. Providing Soles with Soul!

2. Teysha shares a similar vision to Ethnotek. They work with artisans in Guatemala that are creating beautiful textiles and applying them to their boots. Another cool thing: you can design your own!

Teysha

3. Brush with Bamboo is a great little company who makes eco-friendly toothbrushes from bamboo! 

Brush with Bamboo

4. Base Project is another wonderful company partnering with artisans beginning in Namibia and spreading across the globe, by employing them to create bracelets made out of discarded plastic pipe.

The Base Project

5. Bureo is fighting pollution and waste by using fishing nets pulled from the ocean to make skateboards and sunglasses! We had a great time pairing up with them in our Kickstarter campaign!

Bureo Skateboards

6. Ten Tree is doing amazing things with their business model by planting ten trees for every product sold. How amazing is that?! 

TenTree

7. Simply Straws is a glass straw company that provides a sustainable alternative to plastic in addition to donating a percentage of their profits to different organizations depending on which color straw you buy.

Simply Straws

8. Coala Tree helps limit their impact on the environment by using alternative and sustainable fibers in their clothing and gear and also actively donates a portion of their profits to different organizations. 

CoalaTree

9. Yellow Leaf Hammocks has created a business relationship with artisans around the world to weave their hammocks. Purchases of each product help to continue creating the demand for the art of weaving!  

Yellow Leaf Hammocks

10. Krochet Kids is doing their part to fight poverty in countries by employing artisans to weave their beautiful products. The best part is seeing their signature on the tags of every product they make!

Krochet Kids

Organizations:

1. 5 Gyres is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that empowers action against the global health crisis of plastic pollution through science, art, education, and adventure.

5 Gyres

2. 1% for the Planet builds, supports and activates an alliance of businesses financially committed to creating a healthy planet. By doing this, it also helps you discover which brands are giving back to the planet.

1% For the Planet

3. Plastic Pollution Coalition is a growing global alliance of organizations, businesses, and thought leaders working toward a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impact on humans, animals, and the environment.

Plastic Pollution Coalition

4. POW - Protect Our Winters is a passionate crew of diehards, professional athletes and industry brands mobilizing the outdoor sports community to lead the charge towards positive climate action. Specifically with regards to the impact on winter sports.

POW - Protect Our Winters

Have fun checking out these brands and organizations, and make sure to leave a comment with your own favorite conscious brands so we can learn more about them!

December 21, 2016 by Tribe Scribe

Limited Edition Artist Series Now Live

    An Interview with our featured Artist: Shay McAnally   

Can you tell us a bit about your background, where you draw inspiration from and how culture weaves into your work?

I am from far west Texas and I come from a family of cattleman, ranchers, and grew up horseback. Upon finding my first arrowhead in the sand hills as a child, I realized that there were people that lived here before me, and I found that amazing. Being so close to Mexico in the southwest, I was greatly influenced by the aesthetic of Mexican culture though never formally studying it.

It wasn’t until I checked out a book from the library about Mesoamerica and the Mayans that I could see the odd parallels between Mayan art and pictographs and my own personal artwork. It’s really almost as if just by living here, I was subconsciously influenced by something more. There is definitely an undertone of sci-fi and fantasy in my work. In particular, spaceships, or any other vessels of travel.

Can you describe your process?

My process is very straightforward; freehand pen and paper. As I become more subjective, I try to plan my attack a bit more, but usually just start doodling anyway. It really is all about the process as opposed to the finished piece, as most artists will tell you. You can get lost (or found) in the process. It’s kind of a soul cleanser, a meditation.

Can you talk about why you chose to collaborate with Ethnotek and share any closing thoughts?

I chose to collaborate with Ethnotek because I believe they are good people with great ideas, values and ideals that are definitely in line with my own. I believe in what they are doing and feel that we will see more and more of these types of businesses and collaborations.

The world is waking up to the fact that our passions and interests are much more fulfilling when they are shared in a common thread. So much more can be accomplished when the bottom line is love and respect.

The human tribe is at a rather pivotal crossroads right now. It is a time for deep cleansing of the mind and spirit. Doing away with the old archetypes that keep us from moving forward and embracing the light and truth we all have within ourselves is a start. Oh, and we gotta get outside more!

We hope you dig shay's work on our collaboration on this Limited Edition Artist series! And if any of you are artists or know anyone who might like to collaborate with us on our next Limited Edition reach out to content[at]ethnotekbags.com, we'd love to hear from you!

CLICK TO SHOP ARTIST SERIES
November 30, 2016 by Tribe Scribe

Mayan Gods & Spaceships in Texas: A Limited Edition Artist Series Collection is coming soon...

Hey Tribe!

We’ve got something exciting coming, just in time for the holidays!

If you remember in 2013, we partnered with Texas artist, Shay McAnally, and launched our first ever Artist Series Threads. 
.

We are immensely excited to announce that this year, we are doing the same thing! Shay has designed a fresh batch of Artist Series Threads, with a focus on the process of creativity, vibrant new colors, and ethereal themes.  Shay's work is inspired by southwest America and Mexican aesthetics as well as traditional Mayan and Mesoamerican folklore and art. You'll often times see undertones of sci-fi in Shay's work, particularity spaceships and other vessels of travel.

Just how “limited” is the collection? It will feature 6 unique Raja Packs plus their interchangeable front panels called Threads™, and only 20pcs of each will be available.

We will launch this Limited Edition line on December 1st, so be sure to sign up for our Inner Circle to be the first to know so you can snag a new Thread! We sold out in less than a week when we did this in 2013, so make sure you subscribe to be the first to know!

November 29, 2016 by Tribe Scribe

Viva con Agua!

 Water is one of the most important foundations for life on earth, that is why we’ve committed to doing our part to helping the Water Protectors in North Dakota and their work towards preserving clean water, and we are proud to announce that our Ethnotek team in Germany have joined forces with Viva con Agua to help bring water to those who need it most!

 Viva con Agua is a network of people and organizations committed to establishing access to clean drinking water and basic sanitation for all humans. Viva con Agua uses creative and joyful activities such as music and art festivals, to bring people together and raise awareness for the global issues involving water, sanitation and hygiene while simultaneously raise funds for water projects of their partner Welthungerhilfe (German Agro Action).

Ethnotek and Viva con Agua have collaborated on a collection of  backpacks, shoulder bags and Threads with hand-woven fabrics by master weaver Vankar Shamji and his family.

 

For each product of the Viva con Agua collection sold, Ethnotek donates 10% of the sales proceeds to help fund projects of Viva con Agua to help ensure people have clean drinking water.

Your Ethnotek purchases go above and beyond a single bag: you are helping to sustain the culture of our partnering artisans around the world while also aiding in the protection and right to have clean water for all!

Read more about Viva con Agua and their events

Check out the Viva con Agua collection on ethnotek.de.

November 19, 2016 by Tribe Scribe

#WaterisLife: Why Standing Rock Matters

Photo by Josue Rivas

By now you have probably heard about what’s happening at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota: an oil pipeline is being built over protected land and will also go under the MIssouri River, which is a source of water to over 18 million people, including the Native Americans who live on the Standing Rock Reservation. The construction also requires the desecration of sacred sites and burial grounds to the Sioux Tribe.

This is an incredibly important moment in the history and culture of Native Americans, the U.S. and the entire world. We have seen an incredible uprising in support and solidarity for the Standing Rock water protectors, not just in the U.S. but all around the world.

Over 200 Native American tribes have united together to oppose the pipeline in North Dakota. This is the first time since 1876 that Sioux Tribe leaders representing all Sioux groups have been present!

One of our tribe members, Shailene Woodley, has been actively supportive of Standing Rock from day one: she ran 2,000 miles with the Native American Youth to the Democratic National Convention back in August, has been able to share the voice and the mission of the Water Protectors, and has been brave enough to be at the front lines, which led to her arrest last month. Other notable figures like Robert Redford, Susan Sarandon, Josh Fox, Phoebe Dykstra, Nahko and Medicine for the People, Ben Affleck, Ray Fisher, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa and Ezra Miller, Leonardo Dicaprio, and Pharrell Williams have also joined the water protectors in North Dakota. Recently, the UN stepped in to ask the American Government to halt the pipeline and is also investigating human rights violations in the treatment of the water protectors.

Shailene Woodley at Standing Rock

Shailene Woodley with water protectors in August - and her Premji Pack! Photo: Josue Rivas

Tiffiny, our marketing manager, attended a solidarity walk last week through downtown Denver, CO with hundreds of water protectors, children, and people of all races who support clean water access and wanted to stand with Standing Rock.

Denver Stands with Standing Rock

Photo by Tiffiny Costello

Events like this are happening all across the nation, and people are joining together and standing with the water protectors.

So why should this matter to you?

  1. Clean water: the Missouri River is not just a watershed to the 9,000 souls living on the Standing Rock Reservation - it will affect 18 million people's’ drinking water if and when an inevitable oil leak occurs. This is a fight to provide clean water for generations to come.
  2. Cultural respect: the pipeline construction has required the desecration of sacred burial sites and ritual locations of the Sioux Tribe. How will the culture of the Native Americans in the U.S. continue if parts of their historical culture are being destroyed?
  3. It’s a chance for the U.S. to pivot towards renewable energy, rather than relying on fossil fuel exports.

If you are wanting to get involved but can’t make it to Standing Rock or don’t know how, we’ve outlined ways to help in our previous blog post and we will also be donating 25% of our sales to support the water protectors this month!

#WaterisLife #MniWiconi 

November 17, 2016 by Tribe Scribe

Sales for Solidarity

For the entire month of November, Ethnotek will donate 25% of net proceeds to the peaceful protectors of clean water at the Camp of Sacred Stones in North Dakota.

 A small Standing Rock Sioux site in North Dakota called the Sacred Stone Camp has been propelled into the national news narrative following their stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Due in part to independent media coverage of the ongoing standoff, the Sacred Stone camp has grown into a formidable opposition against the $3.8 billion, 1,200-mile long pipeline.

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe is leading the opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. They have been joined by the largest tribal coalition in over 100 years in their stand against the pipeline. The coalition is also comprised of activists, allies, and environmentalists, collectively known as “water protectors,” at the Sacred Stone Camp, an encampment close to the location where the pipeline is planned to cross the Missouri River in North Dakota. According to the Sacred Stone camp website, they are opposing the pipeline because “the Dakota Access threatens everything from farming and drinking water to entire ecosystems, wildlife and food sources surrounding the Missouri.”

Yes, there are many facets to what the good fight is all about, (covered in detail by The Atlantic HERE), and it is becoming increasingly difficult to decipher fact from fiction based on what's being covered in the media, but the one clear story here is that we must protect clean water for our loved ones and future generations to come. We are water and without it, we don't exist. Our planet and our brothers and sisters who fight for her, need our support and we're happy to head the call. Lets help them!

This months proceed-share will go toward purchasing supplies for the peaceful protestors at The Sacred Stone Camp site in North Dakota. The winter months are coming and those brave souls on the ground need supplies to sustain them during this gathering for peace and preservation.

Swooping up a bag that supports artisans around the globe combined with a donation to support the cause at Standing Rock is something you can feel really good about.

Stay tuned throughout this month for awesome deals on Ethnotek bags, as well as some interesting blog posts about DAPL featuring guest writers on the ground.

Share your solidarity with standing rock by using these tags: #WaterIsLife#IStandWithStandingRock#NoDAPL and #RezpectOurWater.



Don't want to buy a bag, but still want to help? Here are some other great opportunities to show your support...

  1. Donate to support the Standing Rock Sioux at http://standingrock.org/
  2. Donate items from the Sacred Stone Camp Supply List: http://sacredstonecamp.org/supply-list/
  3. Contribute to the Sacred Stone Camp gofundme account: https://www.gofundme.com/sacredstonecamp
  4. Support the youth-lead Rezpect Our Water group: http://rezpectourwater.com/

 

November 01, 2016 by Tribe Scribe

Copper, Wood, Wax, & Cotton

Since our artisans are the reason we do what we do, we’d love to take some time to give a bit of background on the processes that our partnering villages use. In total, we offer three textile techniques: batik, weaving and embroidery, so let’s not waste any time and dive right into the batik process!

Indonesia 6 Premji Pack with Tribe member, Jar, in Mui Ne, Vietnam.

Indonesia 6 Premji Pack with Tribe member, Jar, in Mui Ne, Vietnam.

 

The handmade fabric featured in the Indonesia 6 textiles come from the artisan's hands of Surakarta, Indonesia. In the form of batik dyed cotton, these cool-colored works of art are a modern take on some very traditional techniques, both in batik fabric design and classic East Asian architecture.


The Indonesia 6 motif is inspired by woven grass mats.

The Indonesia 6 motif is inspired by woven grass mats.

 

Woven reeds, palm leaves and wild grasses have been a multifunctional mainstay for most cultures from Peru to the Philippines. The design for the Indonesia 6 fabric came from this classic weaving style that is widely used in Indonesian architecture for roofs and walls, but mostly in floor mats called Tikan Pandan in Surakarta. These mats are rolled out every night at Warungs (small street-side cafe's) where people gather to eat late night snacks and drink tea. Let’s take a look at how they do batik, Surakarta style!

Batik copper stamps being made.

Step 1: Begins with a drawing, via pencil and parchment paper so there is some translucency, which is key for artists to trace their ancestor's designs allowing the copper stamp maker to then translate that into the tool.  

Step 2: Is taking copper scraps and magically bending them into form to match the artist's drawing. It's mind blowing how they do this! Copper strips manipulated with pliers, hammers, shears, picks and files, true craftsmanship!  

Step 3: The artist comes to do a quality control check to make sure the copper craftsman's tool matches his/her drawing.  

Step 4: The approved or adjusted tool makes its way onto the wax stamper's shelf.

Batik wax application and dying.

 

Step 5: Is all about reduction... The "batik chef" who knows the precise recipe for the batik wax, melts the wax so the stamper can apply the wax to the cotton fabric.

Step 6: The stamper then takes the artist's and coppersmith's tool, dips it in the chef's wax and ever-so carefully applies it to the virgin cotton fabric. Now that the wax has been applied and has seeped into the fibers of the cotton it is ready for the next step.

Step 7: The cotton fabric is then bathed in dye.

Step 8: Is the easiest of all, hang it out to dry!

Finishing steps - ordering, sewing and delivery.

 

Step 9: We gather Ethnotek customer orders and then place a bulk fabric order with the artisans.

Step 10: Once the fabric arrives at the ETK workshop in Vietnam, it is sewn into finished Ethnotek bags with tender love and care.

Step 11: These hot new items are ready to ship to you!

Step 12: The cycle is now complete! When you buy a bag with these fabrics, it supports artisan employment for the continued creation of them, which in turn, helps preserve the culture that is literally woven and stamped into every piece. You can then wear your bag with pride, knowing the story behind it and lovely people who made it by hand.

Ghana 20 Premji Pack with Tribe members, Andre and Miriam.

Did you know?! Our Ghana fabrics employ the same beautiful batik technique! The main difference is that instead of a copper block, they use wood.

A block of wood about the size of a human hand is shaved smooth by a machine so it has a perfectly flat surface. (Some blocks are left square on top and some have handles carved into them.) Then the intricately designed Ghanian motifs are carved into the block using chisels, knives, and files.

Hand carved wood blocks for stamped batik.

Both batik and tie-dye were introduced to Ghana from South East Asia in the 1960s. They grew popular from the middle 1960s to the late 1970s. The patronage of this fabric declined significantly in the 1980s due to various reasons some of which include a preference for a cheaper alternative import. It has however seen a revival in recent years.

Block stamping batik in Accra and coal heated iron for pressing after the textile is finished.

 

Early African tie-dye involved a lot of spots and specks on the designs. They tied as well as stitched the fabrics to achieve a look different from the rest of the world. Other techniques such as painting and splashing the wax onto the fabric before dying is unique to African batik.

Additional techniques are used in conjunction with block printing, such as painting and splashing wax on before dying.

Batik has been used as an industry to alleviate poverty in rural areas alongside other textile making art forms. Due to the fact that small startup capital is required to establish the business, many women have set up businesses from their homes producing very brilliant and colorful designs for the local and international markets. We couldn't be more proud to be a part of this process!

Ghana 17 Wayu Pack 

Our partnering artisans in Ghana make their textiles in 25 meter sections and we purchase them according to the amount of customer orders we get from our Tribe each season. The bigger the Tribe grows; the more chances the people of Ghana have to express their creativity!

---------------

So that's it folks! I hope you enjoyed this deep-dive and now know a bit more about the batik process than you did before. "If you have any questions about these processes, be sure to leave a comment!"

- The Ethnotek Team

September 13, 2016 by Tribe Scribe

Spirits in the Loom

From the desert to the mountains, seas to volcanoes, and camels to toucans, our woven textiles span a variety of different landscapes, have deep cultural roots and are as unique as the artisans creating them… It’s time to tell the story of the handloom weaving process!
September 13, 2016 by Tribe Scribe

Embroidered Pathways

Hey Tribe, Adina here! 

I’m the graphic designer and visual storyteller for Ethnotek and I'm here to dig a little deeper into our third artisan process - the art of embroidery. 

Through growing up as an artist in the remote fields and forests of the US and spending the past 5 years traveling, I’ve always valued and connected with open landscapes, dirt roads, raw culture, traditional techniques, handmade processes, and vibrant color. A place that captures it all and is one of my favorite areas, is Sapa, in the northern mountains of Vietnam. 

Highland view from Sapa, Vietnam

Nestled high up in the Hoàng Liên Son mountains of northwest Vietnam, overlooking the terraced rice fields of the Muong Hoa Valley, sits the tiny mountain town of Sapa, home to the Hmong, one of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic groups.

Hmong woman preparing hemp for embroidery. 

For centuries, Hmong women have been making clothes for their families by hand, often learning by the time they are six or seven years old. A Hmong woman will continue to weave and embroider her entire life, and a woman’s beauty and intelligence is gauged by her textile making skills.

With only one rice harvest a year, the women of Sapa and the surrounding villages spend their days immersed in crafts - chatting over tea while embroidering, dividing a roll of linen fiber at the market, or sitting with friends preparing their threads. If there is a fiber that runs through a Hmong woman’s identity, it is quite literally her textile craft.

Vietnam textile before being sewn into a Premji Pack.

The Hmong believe others of their same tribe can recognize them based on the fiber and embroidery style they are wearing. Their strong attachment to their craft even transcends into their spiritual beliefs. They believe that when they pass away, their children will dress them in their tribe’s corresponding fiber so their ancestors can recognize them in the afterlife.

In terms of expression, embroidery is revered as one of the highest forms of creativity in the region. There are countless stitches in use by embroiders all over the world, though they are all variations of three basic kinds - flat, knotted, linked, and looped. Some flat stitches, such as running, satin, and cross-stitch lie on the surface of the fabric. Knotted stitches have a raised or studded pattern on the surface. The classic example of a linked or looped stitch is a chain stitch where the first stitch is held in place by the subsequent stitch.

Vietnam 6 - cross-stitch detail.

The bright colors of the embroidery thread cross to create a complex array of symbols on a ‘story cloth’, called pajntaub, which often features a variety of themes based on mythology or nature. The most common motifs used are those found in everyday life including stylized representations of snails, mountains, chicken feet, ram’s horns, cucumber seeds, leaves, stars, rain and the sun. These are intricately threaded by hand to tell the maker’s personal story.

 

Women from the black Hmong tribe in the Cat Cat village.

Dao Mong and landscapes outside of Lai Cai.

So when you receive your a bag with a Thread or textile from Vietnam, think about the storybook land of Sapa, where every part of the fabric was cultivated, woven, dyed, sewn, batiked and embroidered completely by hand. 

This is why I believe in our work at Ethnotek and why I am so thankful to be a part of the process that is doing genuine good in the world, by keeping these traditions and cultures alive - traditions that inspire me on a personal level, as well as ones that mean so much to the artisans continuing them.

Love & vibes

- Adina 

September 13, 2016 by Tribe Scribe