Unique Batik Blog

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Coins that adorn, coins that deliver a message

Thousands of years before Google’s or Facebook’s algorithms, there was the I Ching – a form of divination where coins are tossed like dice and the numbers that are thrown are read. But first, the numbers are organized into one of dozens of formations that, in turn, correspond to a section of the I Ching text. It is believed that your personal energy works through the metal in the I Ching coins to determine what numbers appear. Therefore, whatever section of the I Ching the coins point to is the message you need to hear.

Over the millennia, the I Ching has been manipulated to serve individual practitioner’s uses. Hard core I Ching practitioners are considered sages and the interpretations they deliver are considered divine wisdom. But, like tarot cards, the Ouija board and even fortune fish, many modern applications of the I Ching are for amusement.

IMG_0616The I Ching text itself offers moral messages that are widely applicable. Think horoscopes that offer broad messages that could apply to anyone, regardless of birth date and time. If you sought the skill of an I Ching practitioner in ancient China, you were likely to get an interpretation that corresponded to the wishes of the ruler of the time. If an army needed to be built and you were a young adult male, your message would probably encourage you to show your bravery and join your countrymen and fight.

Unique Batik’s iching bracelets and iching mini bracelets are among our best selling products. Who isn’t attracted to the idea that the I Ching coins on the bracelet you were drawn to might nudge you toward your destiny? Around the globe, customers are encouraged to touch bracelets made with I Ching (or similar) coins so their personal energy can connect with the coins that will best guide them.

Personal destiny is a theme that has been used throughout art and literature and – no surprise – on the Internet. Many people seem to have an innate need to discover their purpose on the planet and the Internet seems to be the new marketplace for the 21st century version on I Ching practitioners to set up shop.

IMG_0617There are I Ching interpretations that allow web surfers to click on a button to get a reading. More sophisticated online resources require the user to concentrate (Harder! You’re not concentrating enough! Give it everything you’ve got) before clicking in order to increase the likelihood that the I Ching coin buttons you chose to click were truly chosen through your personal energy.

Taking time to choose an iching bracelet or to hold I Ching coins in your hand to warm them with your inner spirit before you throw them, poses little harm. The concept that there is a greater purpose for our lives and we can reach our destiny through encouraging messages is not specific to just the I Ching. Whatever drives us to find meaning in our lives so we can more effectively play a larger role in the world is positive movement in the right direction.

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IMG_4568It’s the early 1970s and macramé class is officially on the schedule of middle schools across the United States as administrators try introducing trendy arts and crafts courses as a way to boost student engagement. The result was thousands of youngsters spending every cent of their allowances and babysitting salaries on beads and jute. Meanwhile, thousands of mothers of middle school students would find macramé gifts under their Christmas trees.

Sentimentality caused many loving moms to hang on to their handcrafted gifts for decades. But the current mania for all things mid-century modern means that it’s the dawn of finding 1970s treasures for cheap at garage sales and church bazaars. It’s a collectible phenomenon that sees the next trend (in this case, anything from the 1970s) available for pennies while prices for the current trend (in this case, anything you’d see on AMC’s Mad Men) blaze into the stratosphere.

So should you scoop up all things macramé available at thrift stores and even in a pile waiting for the next trash pickup? Only if you love it, say decorating experts. The spare details and clean lines of mid-century modern appeal to many people’s sense of style, which is why so many people desire it. Design features that can only be described as clunky mark items from the 1970s. If your IMG_3270heart skips a beat when it sees barrel chairs, swag lights or thick wood stained dark mahogany, then grab up the macramé planter for $1. But as far as an investment, macramé probably won’t give you much of an ROI (return on investment).

The reason is that there’s a surplus of macramé because it is incredibly easy to do. That’s why it was the craft taught to middle school students. With a basic over and under (or over and over if you want a twisted strand) you can very quickly create anything from jewelry to owl wall art to a hanging chair (it was one lucky mom who got that gift for Christmas!).

Macrame can be traced to the 13th century Middle East, brought to Europe by sailors who enjoyed the craft during their long hours at sea. As popular as macramé was in the 1970s, it was truly at its height during the Victorian era. It was a rare home indeed that didn’t have at least one intricate macramé curtain or fringed tablecloth.

IMG_3263Grunge hipsters brought back macramé jewelry in the early 1990s and it retains its popularity with the eco-/organic/green crowd of all ages. Artisans continue to sell macramé items during pre-show festivities at Phish, Dave Matthews Band and the various incarnations of the Grateful Dead concerts.

At Unique Batik, we feature a variety of bead embellished macramé bracelets and earrings. Most true to 1970s vibe is the Macrame Owl Earrings, the Wavy Macrame Earrings and the Wood Bead Macrame Earrings. The Coco Macrame, the Beaded Coco Macrame and the Coco Macrame Wide incorporate a cutout coconut shell into each bracelet’s design. The Beaded Macrame and the Macramé earrings take the glamour up a notch.

Whether or (k)not you’re a collector, macramé puts you on the cutting edge of the next design trend in a uniquely stylish way.

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Giving the Gift of Fair Trade

IMG_1267We’re always giving gifts to one another, and often searching for what will be the perfect present for any given occasion. Giving the gift of Fair Trade is a gift that gives twice, because not only are you giving to another person, you’re also providing for those who created that gift by hand. Fair Trade gives back to those that create these remarkable pieces of art and craft, so you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you’re not only giving to your friend, family member, or neighbor, you’re giving to the artisan as well.

There are so many wonderful options to choose from here at Unique Batik, from pottery to jewelry, clothing to objects d’art, so you can find something for everyone on your list. With the holidays approaching, buying Fair Trade is a wonderful way to give to those you love, while also providing for the communities across the globe that craft those gifts.

Recipients can enjoy their presents even more knowing that what they have received provides for more stable incomes and greater economic opportunity for thousands of artisans and small-scale farming families. When you select a Fair Trade gift, you are demonstrating that you care for both the person that your are giving to and for those that have produced them.

IMG_3260Have a wedding shower to go to? Consider one of our beautiful handwoven scarves from Guatemala. Perhaps you’re going to a child’s birthday party. We have a number of different wonderful gifts for children ranging from clothing to backpacks, and charming animal figures hand-beaded and in a dazzling array of colors. There are selections that are suitable for both men and women, and for people of all ages and backgrounds.

That one element that makes Fair Trade gifts stand out from the rest is hard to describe, but the best word to use is authentic. Anyone who has received a Fair Trade gift knows that it stands out as being special, because you can sense that it has been crafted by hand by an artisan that takes pride in what they do. Fair Trade items are distinguishable by their vibrant colors, unique designs, and wearability. Recipients enjoy displaying a Fair Gift with pride, because it’s always a unique creation that carries with it that special sense of being one of a kind.

As the holidays make their fast approach, you will no doubt get into the cheer – and stress – that comes from the season, so it’s smart to consider Fair Trade gifts for those in your family, for your colleagues, and for your friends. Giving the gift that gives twice holds value for both you and the recipient, and this value encompasses the very spirit of the holiday season.

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All that glitters is often more than gold

IMG_0656What is it about shiny, sparkling things that turn some of us into magpies? We can’t help but reach for the item (or click on it, as the case may be). Some of us go beyond magpie and become like Gollum, the character first introduced in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit that obsessively loved his “precious” gold ring. A special gemstone, precious or just semi-precious, can become very dear to us.

It’s rarity, purity and hardness that determine just how precious a gemstone is. Poor amethyst was once a precious gem. Then a huge mine of amethyst was discovered in South America, soon to be followed by several more mine discoveries and, just like that, what has been called “extravagance in violet,” was relegated to “semi-“ status.

Since ancient times, gemstones have been purported to possess mystical powers or to draw or deflect certain energies. In the case of amethyst, its name comes from the ancient Greek belief that it protected its owner from drunkenness. In Greek “a” means not and “methystos” means intoxicated.

IMG_4094Little research exists that explains why gemstones and crystals have meaning (like an amethyst keeping its owner from drunkenness). It’s likely that the power of suggestion played a significant role. Alchemists and mystical practitioners were quite often storytellers that understood an enthralling story often equaled higher revenues or even long term patronage. The very best storytellers could convince customers that a gemstone offered protection, brought good luck or even promoted fertility. Add in the law of attraction (touching and gazing at the stone while thinking of its supposed mystical properties) and self-fulfilling prophecy and before you know it, a stone has a reputation.

One of the shiny objects Unique Batik customers are attracted to is the Nepalese Bead Bracelet from Thailand. There are seven versions of the three-strand combination of brass beads, semi-precious stones and a large Nepalese cylinder or bicone bead.

FullSizeRenderOur Temple Bracelet, also from Thailand combines faceted semi-precious stones or glass beads with brass beads and a coin and loop closures. The Temple bracelet may feature amethyst, fluorite, jade, jasper, ruby in zoisite, onyx, turquoise, unakite or quartz.

Of the semi-precious stones found in the Temple Bracelet, ruby in zoisite is one of the most interesting. It’s what’s known as a combination crystal because it contains small ruby crystals in zoisite, which is known for hosting a variety of precious gem crystals. Ruby in zoisite is believed to prevent the person wearing it from over-reacting in challenging situations, to prevent mood swings and to convert negative energy into positive energy.

The Om Bracelet goes one step further than most jewelry. It combines semi-precious stones with a large Tibetan om bead – a bead featuring the om symbol. When spoken, om is considered one of the most sacred sounds. It is often called the god sound because it can be found in a variety of religions and beliefs.

The natural attraction to glitter doesn’t have to be denied. Whether mystical properties are embedded in a gem or not, the joy you feel when gazing at something attractive is real.

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Keeping elephants close

As elephants’ (and the humans that love them) fight for survival in the wild and struggle against inhumane treatment in ellie (2)captivity gains more attention, it’s not surprising that images of elephants are finding their way on more  and more products.

Descendents of the mastodons and wooly mammoths that once roamed almost the entire planet, elephants are playful and lively as children, rambunctious and rebellious as adolescents, caring mates, nurturing parents and wise elders. They’re among the most social animals and they mourn, they are humorous, they are protective and, under the best conditions, they can live to around 70 years old.

The novelty of the largest land mammal’s size and a trunk that serves in a similar capacity as a human’s hand offer an explanation why elephant images have been popular throughout human history. The most exalted elephant image of all, of course, is Ganesh, the Hindu elephant-headed god of wisdom and learning.

jippy elephantMost collectors of decorative elephants search for elephants with their trunks up, which is considered good luck. The idea is that the elephant’s trunk is showering you with good fortune. Go a little further into the concept of elephants and luck and you’ll find that an elephant figure or picture should face the door to welcome luck into the home. Another version of that custom has a door-facing elephant standing strong and firm against bad luck. In effect, the elephant guards the home against misfortune.

Elephants on jewelry, like our Jippy Elephant bracelet and our Ellie bangle, accessorize outfits with an exotic flair. Just as fun, but a little bigger and bolder is our striped elephant backpack that is perfectly sized for toddlers and preschoolers, but is also popular with teenagers and college students.

elephant charm1If you want to go beyond adorning yourself with elephant imagery, Chiang Mai, Thailand, is known for their elephant camps where visitors can interact with an elephant and its mahout, a human who devotes his or her life to a single elephant. Guidelines for finding the most ethical camps are easy to find online. Because elephants become severely depressed when they’re kept from other elephants and otherwise mistreated, elephant devotees should put forth the extra effort to find and patronize only the most ethical camps. The reward is a life-changing experience as you interact with content elephants that are controlled only with voice commands (not physical punishment) and that are not forced to perform physically harmful tricks for entertainment.

Elephants are also known for their empathy and the fact that female elephants have best friends. So the desire to wear or even spend time with actual elephants is seen as an offshoot of a natural need to connect with others. Keeping elephant decorations around your house is also a way to communicate a warm welcome to guests.

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10 Reasons Why You Should Buy Fair Trade

  1. We sometimes don’t take into account the wages and working conditions of farmers and producers in foreign countries, but buying fair trade products ensures that the goods that you are purchasing come from workers who are being taken care of. Fair trade products are guaranteed to come from healthy and safe working environments where farmers and artisans always receive a fair wage, and also have a voice in how their workplace operates. As a consumer, you gain peace of mind from knowing that your products are made with care, and in environments that are fair.
  1. Fair trade is hands-down better for our environment. That is because fair trade only supports sustainable practices that have less of a footprint on our environment. In an age where our planet is taking a serious beating, it’s good to know that the products that you buy do not in any way contribute to the damage.
  1. When you buy fair trade you can be guaranteed that you’re only getting high quality goods. This is because fair trade artisans take immense pride in their work, and all crafts are handmade. Because of the care in which each product is crafted, you will see that there is a great deal of attention payed to detail, and this leads to superior, higher-quality products that you can treasure. If you’re someone who is used to factory-made products, then switching to fair trade goods is going to be a great pleasure for you.
  1. Fair trade, of course, isn’t just for finely crafted jewelry, bags, and clothing. Fair trade foods are also available, and that means better tasting food. The fair trade farmers are involved and invested in the entire farming process. This means that crops are grown in smaller quantities, but the quality is superior. Give fair trade food and coffee a try for a fresher and tastier experience at your table.
  1. Fair trade is safe, and that means safer working environments, safer farms, and safer artistic expression. In terms of farming, systems are set up to improve soil fertility and therefore preserve the valuable ecosystem. This limits the use of harmful agrochemicals and therefore protects the safety of the farmers. The same goes for safer environments for crafters and artisans. When the workers are safe and protected, the products that they produce are higher in quality, and better for our planet.
  1. Fair trade is all about supporting local communities, and giving them the chance to thrive. By use of cooperative structures, artisans and small farmers are able to invest their fair trade earnings into their communities and villages, and this will ultimately improve housing, health care, and school systems. When fair trade workers know that their earnings are going directly to their families and communities in this way, it is incentive for them to work even better at crafting the products and food that they provide. This acts as a kind of cycle of quality, improvement, and creativity.
  1. Fair trade is dedicated to creating direct partnerships between buyers and producers. Because of this partnership, everyone involved knows that they are buying and selling quality products to people that they trust. This ultimately leads to a sustainable and reliable way for artisans, farmers, and their communities to improve their livelihood and produce products that they care about.
  1. Fair trade is a remarkable way to connect buyers with other cultures. The unique fair trade products on the market are specific to the places they came from and the people who made them. Artisans are involved in the entire process from start to finish, and their products reflect their people, and the cultures that they come from. Because of this authenticity, buyers are able to purchase unique products that have a story behind them. In fact, each piece of jewelry, clothing, accessory, or other fair trade item has a spirit and life that is being expressed by a specific cultural heritage.
  1. Fair trade fosters stable local economies. This is because fair trade gives farmers and artisans control over their own future; allowing them to build their own businesses instead of working with a middle man. Because the profits of their labors stay in their communities, they can also bring this profit back into their businesses, giving them the power to expand over time. Having this kind of control over their work is incredibly self-empowering, giving fair trade workers new hope for their personal financial wellbeing and the wellbeing of their communities.
  1. When you buy fair trade products, you know that what you’re buying really matters. Choosing fair trade means you’re accessing the highest quality products and also making a difference in the lives of others. Artisans and farmers are experiencing better lives by being in the fair trade program, and not only do you enjoy the fruits of their labor, you also know that your purchase contributes to the betterment of their lives and communities.

In conclusion, purchasing products that are fair trade certified can help to reduce poverty, safeguard humane working conditions, and encourage environmentally friendly production methods. When you purchase fair trade products here at Unique Batik, you can be guaranteed that all our producers adhere to fair trade standards, and we only supply our customers with the most unique, high-quality, and exquisite goods from around the world.

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Tying up the colors of autumn: Welcoming scarves back into the fashion mix

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From a practical perspective, scarves are warm. But from a fashion perspective scarves are still hotter than hot. If you doubt scarves’ fashionable favor visit Pinterest, YouTube, fashion collage website Polyvore or one of the hundreds of bloggers devoted to only scarves. As fall 2015 NYC Fashion Week was in full swing, hourly reports posted on the Web included comments about scarves as a “yummier and richer” (The Observer) key piece to move through fall and winter in style.

Designers used texture and intense color in their fall lines and Unique Batik’s Toto Scarf from Guatemala, San Antonio Mini Stripe and Windowpane Scarf all sport the same hues featured in almost every label’s fall line. For the eco-conscious, our natural dye scarves and natural dye shawls provide shoppers an extra layer of (inner) warmth.

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Also seen on the scene during Fashion Week was unisex application of scarves’ accessorize-ability. While The Art of Manliness doesn’t specifically promote fair trade, its blog does provide suggestions to men on how to pull off the scarf look. But for a serious tutorial on men’s scarves, Real Men Real Style is the hands down winner. RMRS’s scarf section includes an infographic with 11 ways to wear a scarf, a video explaining why a man should wear a scarf and even history lessons on men and scarves.

Women’s fashion still pulls in more attention, floor space and press, though, so it’s no surprise that the online resources devoted to women’s scarves are exhaustive. Where to start? Too many choices can be stressful, so for the scarf novice, YouTube can be a gentle entry to the online world of scarves. Don’t worry about quantity (“25 ways to tie a scarf,” “15 ways to tie a scarf”) or specificity (“How to wear a scarf like a vest,” “How to tie a Hermes scarf”). Just enter “Tying a scarf” in YouTube’s search box and click on the first entry. That’s the most viewed entry and it has not been reported as a bad or spam link.

toto scarf1

For those who have graduated to scarf master status, Pinterest is an excellent source that combines an avalanche of visual stimuli with links to websites that offer tips and tricks. Just type “scarves” in Pinterest’s search box and sit back and scroll away the hours.

Scarf bloggers are women and men who take the accessory even further than imaginable by writing about their devotion to specific brands and types of scarves, creating scarf-inspired outfits on Polyvore and adding the images to their blogs and showing off vintage and retro scarf collections. It’s scarf mania at its best.

Like so much of fashion, scarves can inspire over-consumption, which makes a great case for scarves like those featured on Unique Batik’s website. Despite what Mae West believed, too much of a good thing isn’t necessarily wonderful. Fair trade, natural dyes and ethical production processes are all important ways to make sure fashion stays friendly. Thrift shop finds and handcrafted treasures also keep fashion fun.

Winter is coming, wherever you may be. Cozy up to scarves to keep the season bright!