Devi Arts Collective supports artisans worldwide

To say Bayoush Mengesha is well-travelled would be an understatement.

The Lower Lonsdale resident has been to 18 different countries - so far - and her globe-trotting ways inspired her to found Devi Arts Collective in 2014.

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"While I was travelling, I discovered that there's so many talented and amazing artisans of all types," she says.

Devi Arts Collective is an ethical lifestyle brand that works with artisans from around the world, mostly women living in remote areas, and sells their textiles, gemstones, beads, jewelry, fashions and household items in the North American market.

"Our goal is to support and to collaborate with talented women and individuals who might not be able to have their art showcased on a global level otherwise," says Mengesha.

She currently works with individuals in Guatemala, Indonesia and India - all people and places she has visited personally. A selection of their products will be available at the annual Nifty for Fifty sale April 10 at Heritage Hall in Vancouver and everything sold will be ethical, fair trade and sustainable - a mandate of the social enterprise.

Devi Arts Collective includes weavers from Lake Atitlan, a Mayan village in the western highlands of Guatemala; Tanglad Village, located on a small island east of Bali, Indonesia; Kolompok Karya Sari Warna Ulam in the northeastern hills of Bali; and Klung Kung, also in Bali. From India, Mengesha sources ethically cut stones from a family of gem-cutters.

"There's no child labour and everyone works in safe working conditions."

She incorporates these gemstones into her own jewelry line, Bayoush Designs, which is part of the collective.

"My inspiration, I would say, is nature. Growing up on the West Coast, it's really easy to use that to draw from as your inspiration," Mengesha says of her jewelry, which is also influenced by her Ethiopian heritage and things she sees in her world travels.

"There's a little bit of everything that's important to me that goes into my jewelry design."

In addition to necklaces, earrings and custom creations, Mengesha also designs handbags that are sewn in Bali by a group of stay-at-home moms.

"The women who sew the bags work from home and they work in safe working conditions while they're able to support their families."

Another Lower Mainland jewelry designer, Shannon Wyatt, as well as Ibu Ayu, a Balinese woman who makes mala prayer bead necklaces, are also members of Devi Arts Collective.

Devi is the Sanskrit word for divine mother or goddess and the goal of the social enterprise is to support and empower creative women while connecting individuals and communities worldwide to produce ethical and sustainable things.

"I'm just trying to support individuals who have an amazing artistic ability so they can continue doing what they love as artists and allow them to have a living wage to be able to support their families and themselves day to day," Mengesha says.

Devi Arts Collective products are available at select retail stores in the Lower Mainland and Sea-to-Sky corridor as well as online at deviartscollective.com.

Mengesha will be selling Devi Arts goods at the ninth annual Nifty for Fifty sale this Sunday, April 10, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Heritage Hall, 3102 Main St., Vancouver. The event will feature 30 local designers selling accessories, clothing and trinkets for less than $50.

Fellow North Shore jewelry designers Adea Chung, of Billy Would Designs, and Trudy Wynans, of Toodlebunny Designs, are also participating. Admission is $2. Visit niftyforfiftysale.com for more information.

Meanwhile, Mengesha's personal jewelry line, Bayoush Designs, is currently on display in the Gift Box at CityScape Community Art Space, 335 Lonsdale Ave., North Vancouver. Visit nvartscouncil.ca for info.

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