This month at our Ten Thousand Villages store in Edmonton we will be featuring the Soapstone Carvers from India in our Valentines display. They have created some beautiful hearshaped boxes from soapstone that are inlayed with mother of pearl and other semi-precious stones. Pictured above is the rectangular shaped box that is similar to the heart shaped box.

Soapstone is a soft stone with a smooth soapy feel and the true colour isn’t visible until they carvers have finished and polished it off. One small box can take up to twelve hours to complete.

Many centuries ago, when the Taj Mahal was being built, many soapstone carvers were recruited from Persia to work on the intricate carving on the building. The descendnets of these people still live in India today where they continue the tradition of working with soapstone and creating intricate inlayed designs. Despite the beauty and detail of their work, soapstone carvers have been exploited and many of them live in poverty. Many of them live in conditions around open sewers and drains.

Tara Projects began to work with stonecarvers in the early 1990s and they pay these stone carvers a fair wage. They have created pension plans for the elderly, they provide much needed medical care, and they even fixed the drains and sewers. Tara projects provides work for about 250 stonecraft artisan families.

Tara Projects began working in New Delhi in the early 1970s. The project was established by social workers and University students to help the “untouchables” in their area. Ten Thousand Villages Literature describes how “This organization has become a leading voice opposing the use of child labour, and promoting the rights and status of women”. Some of the services they provide to their workers includes informal education for womena and children and training in health and environmental awareness.

Please check out the link on the left hand side of my website called the “TTV Mumbai Marathon Trip”. There is a group that has gone to India to visit the various artisan projects there. They should be going to visit Tara Projects later this week – so I’m sure they’ll have more pictures up from that soon. Their pics will definitely provide more insight than mine. Some of them also just did the Mumbai 1/2 marathon today to raise awareness for Ten Thousand Villages and Fair Trade!! Congratuations to all of them.