One of the disadvantages of long-term travel is the inability to bring home a piece of treasured memorabilia along the way. While it may be possible to lug it along with your 75L backpack, it is impractical and most travelers (including myself) just rather skip it altogether, only to return home wishing that you had bought the antique bronze figurine in Jordan or that hand-made tribal mask in Tanzania.
When NOVICA approached me to do a review for their products, I was surprised to find such a refreshing collection of artisan work from around the world: from fertility masks made in Zambia to elaborate accessories from Mexico and hand-woven Peruvian Alpaca wool scarves. These are items that are rarely available in mainstream shops, not to mention, on the internet. Each of these artisan products is unique – none of them is identical to another and each represents the cultural heritage and background of the artist. With such easy access (just a click away), this also makes an excellent solution for long-term travelers who want to bring home memorabilia without the trouble of lugging them back.
NOVICA’s approach to helping local artists around the world is definitely worthy of support – it does not charge artists any fees for listing their items on the website and artists remain fully independent–they are free to raise their prices, lower their prices, or remove their items from the website. By cutting out the long strings of middlemen, it allows both consumers and artisans to get the most out of every transaction. By promoting locally-produced artisan work, NOVICA helps to keep these talented artists in business and motivate them to keep doing what they love.
According to NOVICA’s marketing personnel, Ricky, the organization’s mission is simple.
“We want to give artists and artisans around the world a global platform to express their true artistic talents and to spur their creativity. And we want to provide you with access to unique, hard-to-find items at great values that only the internet infrastructure can allow. At the deepest essence of our philosophy, we want to create a bridge between you and the many talented artisans across the globe.We want you to know about who you’re buying from. We want you to feel that attachment to the product and to the hands that created it.”
True enough, NOVICA not only includes details of the artist and his/her story, they also include videos of these artists – such personal touch is often missing from other online shops. You almost feel that you’re getting the same experience as physically walking into a shop and getting to know the artist himself. In Ricky’s words, “In the spirit of the internet, let us bring you together.”
My NOVICA experience
Looking through the NOVICA site, I was overwhelmed by the selection – after all, there are over thousands of products from eight countries. I wanted to purchase something that was close to my heart, from an artist I could identify with and whose work resonated with my travel philosophy. What I liked most about NOVICA’s website was being able to read about how each product was produced and the hard work put in by these artists. It was easy to tell that they were genuine labor of love. But on the other hand, I didn’t appreciate the high prices of the products – with the price of the products starting from $15 (for a pair of earrings).
After almost a whole month of scouring through the products, I decided on a 1570 leather world map made by an artist in Brazil ($129.95 + shipping). The leather world map is a replica of the original mappe monde produced in 1570 by Flemish cartographer Abraham Orelius and was regarded as the “first modern atlas”. This was a fascinating creation for a geography geek like me. Three days after I made my order online, it was delivered to my door step, with a special hand-written postcard that read,
“Olá Nellie, Obrigado por apoiar o artesanato brasileiro. Felicidade e Paz!” Hello Nellie, Thank you for supporting Brazilian handicraft. Happiness and Peace!
This simple yet from-the-heart message from the artist made me smile. It felt like I was receiving a gift from an old friend on the other side of the world. This was Francys’ story on NOVICA:
“I was born in the city of Caxias in the Northeast State of Maranhão. When I was seventeen I moved with my family to Rio de Janeiro. For some years, I worked in a beauty salon and become a good manicurist. When I married Adam, an artisan that was making wonderful leather maps and he taught me pyrograph techniques – the art of designing with fire. I learned it very quickly and we worked together for many years. Today I can say that my maps are of great quality. I am also thankful to Adam for all the research he did on antique maps. Thanks to my craftsmanship, I was able to raise my children, a couple of twins, on my own after divorcing my ex-husband few years ago. Thanks to the support of Novica customers, I am able to expand my production and improve the quality of my leather maps.”
Each purchase on NOVICA not only helps to sustain the lives of these artisans but also keeps the tradition of artisan production alive.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary product from NOVICA for this review, but all opinions expressed above are my own.