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Simple, Beautiful, and Affordable: Everyday Wares from the Salvation Army Enterprise Others

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Simple, Beautiful, and Affordable: Everyday Wares from the Salvation Army Enterprise Others

January 29, 2024

Ever heard of the Salvation Army’s online shop Others? We hadn’t either. But the global social enterprise—offering quietly beautiful, artisan-made household objects—is now celebrating its 25th year. “Creating work for those with limited opportunities” is the group’s M.O.

“Our key goal is to create jobs and, in that way, contribute to empowerment and poverty alleviation,” explains Others’ general manager, Bo Christoffer Brekke. That includes “self-help groups focusing on women’s opportunities in Kenya; a production center in Bangladesh with our own sewing, handloom, and woodwork sections; and also partnerships with Salvation Army projects working with sex trafficking victims.”

In addition to applauding the ideas behind Others—including fair working conditions and wages, and the use of natural, sustainable materials—we admire the actual work being produced. A Scandinavian simplicity and notable sense of restraint runs through the home collection, which, we discovered, is no coincidence: All are created under the guidance of Oslo, Norway-based design director, Ellen Skaar, who says that minimalism appeals to the Salvation Army’s far-ranging markets.

“We usually start with the producer when designing: which production groups do we know need more work, what are their skillsets, and what are the available tools and materials?” Ellen tells us. “Some of our artisans come from a tradition of handicraft and are very experienced; some have just been trained to make a specific product. Our largest group are women who need to work from home. Small products requiring little equipment are perfect for this.”

Here are 10 of our favorite items from the Others USA online shop. Prices, you’ll notice, are very reasonable, and revenue gets funneled to the makers and to the nonprofit’s future projects.

all cotton dishcloths in natural and dusty green are \$\13 for the two. a simil 17
Above: All-cotton Dishcloths in Natural and Dusty Green are $13 for the two. A similar looking Knitted Green Potholder is $11.

The name Others comes from a telegram Salvation Army founder General William Booth sent to remind his officers of the reason for their work: it contained the single word “Others.”

striped aprons in blue and white or red and white, \$\18, are made of \100 perc 18
Above: Striped Aprons in blue and white or red and white, $18, are made of 100-percent cotton hand-woven on traditional looms in Jashore, Bangladesh. “We have a weaving unit; it’s a traditional craft for men as it is quite heavy,” says Ellen.

a blue children&#8\2\17;s apron is \$\13.\25. &#8\2\20;in bangladesh ,  19
Above: A Blue Children’s Apron is $13.25. “In Bangladesh [where the apron is made], we weave many of our fabrics ourselves, and also buy leftover materials from the garment industry,” says Ellen. “We are working to secure that our raw materials and dyes are all organic, to utilize waste material, and minimize our packaging.”

Oven mitts, $13 for large, $9 for small, are stitched from apron leftover scrap material.

hand carved wood cutlery in a bag is \$\23.50. 22
Above: Hand-carved Wood Cutlery in a Bag is $23.50.

Woven jute designs are made in Khulna, Bangladesh: Others artisans are “involved in all steps of the process from harvesting the fibers to washing, drying, and braiding the final product,” notes Ellen. Above L: Rectangular Jute Placemats are $16 each. Above R: Round Jute Placemats are $13 each.

Above: A Cotton Tablecloth with Hand-Embroidered Gray-Green Edges, 60-by-100 inches, is $46. “The fabric is hand-loomed at our workshop in Jashore, Bangladesh,” says Ellen, “and the embroidery is done my hand, usually in the homes of our artisans.”

sets of two hand embroidered cotton napkins are \$\16.\25 and available in whit 25
Above: Sets of two Hand-Embroidered Cotton Napkins are $16.25 and available in white with red or dusty green stitching, and a pinky beige with white stitching.
two piece wooden trivets come in sets of two for \$9. they&#8\2\17;re made  26
Above: Two-piece Wooden Trivets come in sets of two for $9. They’re made by skilled carpenters in the Salvation Army’s workshop in Jashore, Bangladesh. “We use sustainably sourced local wood called Gamari and Albizia Saman,” says Ellen. “It’s typically grown in yards and by roadsides, and sold when a family needs an extra source of income.”
all cotton gradient tea towels with hanging loops are \$\15.\25 for two. 27
Above: All cotton Gradient Tea Towels with hanging loops are $15.25 for two.

Last year, Bo reports, Others worked with approximately 800 artisans in Bangladesh and Kenya: “We see that most people use the income from production work to pay for their children’s education and to purchase livestock and equipment for establishing their own small businesses.”

Go to Others Trade for Hope to see the full line.

For Appalachian artistry, see Crafts and Kinship: Broom-Making, Weaving, and More at Berea College in Kentucky.

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