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.
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.”
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.”
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.