In 2000, a Colombian-based business named Sapia was founded in order to market practical and beautiful products crafted from recycled and natural materials. As a fair-trade association based in a country where there is no standard income, Sapia works with low-income female artisans and supports them in leading sustainable lives. Originally Sapia was created in 1955 by Ana Piedrahita, an innovative business woman who decided to design and market products made from eclectic materials such as dried orange peel. Registered as a business in 2000, Sapia, formerly under the name of Piel Acida, expanded their product market and is now a successful organisation.
Sapia offers a range of employment opportunities to local artisans, as it works alongside independent artisans, whilst also employing a full-time team of 32 craftspeople. As Colombia’s consumption of orange juice is amongst the highest per capita, Sapia also supports local juice vendors, as the business purchases the orange peels needed as material for their products. Not only does Sapia provide the vendors with additional income, but eliminates the costs spent on the waste collection of the peels. As Sapia has grown in success with their orange peel products, and worked to expand their range of materials, it is now capable of reaching out and employing an increased number of low-income Colombian artisans. Currently Sapia is using tagua, corn husk, cotton thread and other recycled materials as a part of their product range.
The tagua nut jewellery which Sapia produces has a natural aesthetic appeal as it is made from thin slices of the tagua nut, which is then dyed into orange and brown earthy tones. Tagua is grown on trees similar to the palm in South America, and has come to be known as ‘vegetable ivory’ due to its hardness and close grain. As a fair-trade business which strives to sustain the environment, the collection of these nuts remains a renewable and positive process, as the tagua simply drops off once mature. Once the artisans have skilfully hand-carved each nut, the slices are then overlapped and strung onto a beaded brown cord. Sapia uses the tagua nut in a strikingly contemporary and eye-catching way.
The ability for personal and financial growth within Sapia is displayed as a worker named Denise began as a cleaner, and after just five years, she has progressed to become the warehouse manager. She now earns double her initial wage, and has created for herself a more stable and enjoyable life. Sapia strives for both worker and customer satisfaction, and hopes that customers understand that their money is not charity, and more accurately, is used to support the creation of high quality and ethical products whilst supporting Colombian artisans to earn a living.