Unraveling the story of Kamibashi is as much fun as learning about their collection of whimsical String Dolls. The journey began when founders, Kristen Doherty Daniels and Chris Daniels, went abroad to teach English in Japan. When they left their hometown of Chicago to work in the city of Kyoto, they never imagined that their encounters with talented young Asian artisans would ultimately lead them to a new career, a new company, and life in the scenic mountains of North Carolina, but life is full of surprises! Unique Batik teamed up with Kamibashi at a 2011 trade show, and we’ve been carrying by the String Dolls ever since.
Kamibashi’s products range from cute to quirky, and all are packed with personality. Made by artisans living in the hill country outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand, the String Doll Gang is a lively collection of characters that also function as keychains. Each has an embroidered tag with its name and lucky “power.” Kristen and Chris discovered String Dolls when they first appeared in the markets of Thailand in 2004, and they have worked diligently with the Kamibashi artisans to create characters that appeal to customers all over the world. Each string doll is handmade using one continuous piece of string then embellished with a face and various accessories to give it its own unique personality. Whether you need Some French Guy to remind you that good food and wine feed the body and the soul or Astroneil to encourage you to take the first step, there’s a String Doll for everyone.
Kamibashi has worked with the same artisan group for eight years operating under the fair trade principles of fair wages, safe working conditions and environmentally sustainable business practices. Most of the artisans in the group work at crafting full time, although some sell their handicrafts to supplement their work at other jobs, such as sewing, cooking, or keeping a small shop. Working with Kamibashi making String Dolls means a reliable income and better standard of living for families. The group of 19 artisans is made up mostly of women, many of whom are also homemakers.
In addition to supporting artisans, sales of String Dolls labelled “Kamibashi CARES” support great causes. For example, when you buy a Susie Survivor doll, Kamibashi donates 50 cents to the Pretty in Pink Foundation, which provides support for breast cancer patients with limited financial means. Kamibashi CARES has raised thousands of dollars to support eleven terrific charities.
Good luck “powers,” sustainable incomes, philanthropy, and a big dose of personality are a lot for one little String Doll to hold. How they do it is a mystery you’ll have to unravel for yourself.