Recently, I had the pleasure of talking to some of the women that Just Trade work with in Ecuador. These are the women who make the Curious Creatures, some of their newest products. These figurines are made with beautiful hand-embroidered fabric representing some of the nature and wildlife that are an integral part of the lives of the women who make them. For example, one might be covered with a field of flowers, another with high mountains and paths, and another with the neighbours and their pets. Each one is unique.
I spoke to Amada, one of the artisans who make these “Curious Creatures” and asked her about the story behind them. Known locally as “tombitos” (little tumblers), they were originally made for children to play with either as dolls or skittles. The children try to knock over the “tombito” with the face that best expresses the emotion they are feeling at the time, a smiley face if the child is happy, a sad face if the child is feeling sad, etc.
“Some children find it easier to express their feelings through the game than by saying how they feel out loud,” Amada explained. “And if they’re sad or stressed, the other children do what they can to cheer them up so by the end of the day they’re knocking over the figurines with the smiley faces.” Amada has 2 children, Josué and Sara Lisbet. “Both my children enjoy playing with them as skittles and my daughter also keeps one as her doll and plays with it with her friends. They’re very popular in my village, most families have at least one. Some people use them as decorations, some play with them, that what’s I love about them - they can be anything you want them to be, really!”
Amada works alongside 40 other women in the Simiatug Samai Development Association, three of whom are currently making the “tombitos” for Just Trade. They are able to work around family commitments. Amada used to sell her figurines in the neighbouring villages but that all came to a standstill during the pandemic.
“When the opportunity to work with Just Trade came up, we couldn’t have been happier. Working with them alongside so many incredible women here in Ecuador is such a blessing and to think that the things that we make with such love are travelling to the other side of the world is amazing.”
One thing I’ve noticed while interviewing all these incredible women that Just Trade work with in Ecuador and Peru is how happy they are to be creative and productive. Inspired by them, my new goal in life is to be more grateful.