Monday, November 5, 2012

live. love. catch!

One of the really fun things about working in a Fair Trade shop, aside from helping artisans, telling people about Fair Trade for the first time, and the Visual Merchandising, is getting to see cool new Fair Trade products first-hand.  Last week found me tossing the newly discovered Pocket Disc around the office, flipping it up in the air, twirling it on my finger, and trying to convince one of the store volunteers to help me give it a thorough testing out on the sidewalk.  (No takers!  Apparently they were having too much fun unpacking a Christmas shipment.)
Sunburst Assortment

Created by Fair Trade Federation member, Phd Productions, the Pocket Disc was actually born from what most would consider a failed craft project.  According to Phd's website, "Savanna Groft, a third grader at the time, was assigned a project at school. Her teacher asked her to crochet a round placemat as part of her handwork studies. Savanna’s initial efforts yielded a round disk, but because she had not added enough stitches, the disc curled under forming a small lip. This placemat of sorts sat on a table for over a year until a family friend, Chris Larsen, came over, and threw it. The placemat sailed across the living room and the Pocket Disc was born."  Savanna is in good company with others who have miscalculated or made a mistake in design or invention that ultimately led to something much better.  (i.e. penicillin, fireworks, the microwave, and chocolate chip cookies)
Savanna Sports Edition

Co-founders Patrick Groft and Chris Larsen formed Phd Productions with the intention of creating more Pocket Discs, but the way they went about finding their labor force sets them apart as a truly remarkable company.  "Through a veteran importer, Phd Productions found cooperatives of Guatemalan women to produce Pocket Discs.  In return for the amazing artistry that these women add to the Pocket Disc, the women are paid fairly and work under good conditions. Phd Productions is a member of the Fair Trade Federation and follows the Federation’s guidelines to ensure proper treatment of its workers.
The money they make crocheting Pocket Discs and other hand-made products enables their children to go to school and helps keeps them out of poverty in a country in which 56% of people now live below the poverty level. The village of San Pablo, where many of our artisans live, has one of the highest rates of malnutrition in Guatemala, which as a country has the second highest rate of malnutrition in the western hemisphere, after Haiti."

Guatemalan Weaver
Phd Productions works with "Mayan women who are indigenous weavers in the highlands of Guatemala, Mexico and the Mexican Yucatan. Its mission is to support these local women, their weaving groups, and small family businesses, by providing consistent, fair income. The Pocket Discs produced by these women are made by crocheting, an ancient traditional craft which women can do at home while caring for their families.  In Guatemala more than half of the total population is poor, but almost three-quarters of the six million strong indigenous population is poor.  The company currently works with approximately 450 Mayan artisans primarily in Guatemala, as well as Southern Mexico and the Yucatan."
Rainbow Swirl

Stella Bluna

The story of Pocket Discs is an inspiring one, and the Discs themselves are just plain fun.  They range in price from $10-$17 with colorful patterns and fun design names like Flonkerton, Stella Bluna, and Mexican Radio.  I was excited to find these before Christmas.  They will be making my gift list, both to give and to receive.  Phd Productions also makes hackysacks, purses, hats, and other Fair Trade accessories.

Win a Pocket Disc!
As a continuing contest on their website, tell the folks at Pocket Disc what the P H D in Phd Productions means to you and you could win your very own Disc.

Pocket Discs are available online, and at select retailers, sporting goods stores, learning centers, and gift shops throughout the US and Canada.

*All photos and quotes courtesy of

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