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Beyond Borders
Recycled Metal Oil Drum Art from Haiti

Hand-crafted from cast-off 55-gallon steel oil drums, artists in Haiti follow four generations of tradition in metal sculpture. The artist first visualizes the design, often taking inspiration from the culture and natural surroundings. Next, they use chalk to mark the design onto the flattened metal and then, using only a hammer and chisel gives it form and dimension.

One of Plowshare’s newest metal art vendors, Beyond Borders, currently buys from 74 different artists, many of whom in turn, have staffs of paid apprentices working for them. Your purchase is their sale. Literally, our artists in Haiti are able to feed their families, keep roofs over the heads, and send their children to school because of your choice to buy their work.

Guerlande Balan has broken time-honored tradition in Haitian metal sculpting, simply by being female. In a field dominated entirely by men, female sculptors are making headway and Guerlande is leading the charge. Born in 1985, she began to help out in the shop of her famous brother Julio at the age of 10. Like “the boys,” her first jobs were to burn out the barrels, sand the metal, and pound it flat. Julio saw that his little sister not only had desire to learn, she had an eye for style and hands eager to execute. With his encouragement, she began creating her own designs. Guerlande admits, though, that no matter how intense her passion for art is, or how deep her talent runs, her greatest creation by far, and the one that gives her enduring pride is her daughter, Ashley Jean Francois.


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African Market Baskets
Hand Woven Market Baskets
Bolgatanga is the largest town in the Upper East region of Ghana, about 20 miles South of the Burkina Faso border and very close to the edge of the Sahara Desert. The sun roasts the villages of northern Ghana year round, except during the 2-3 months of rainy season when it rains, rains, rains. The people living there are traditionally farmers and herdsman, but with its variable climate farming is very difficult. Local women supplement the family income by weaving the baskets we refer to as Bolga baskets which are hand-woven using locally-grown straw.

Basket weaving has helped bring much needed income to the villages surrounding Bolgatanga. The traditional skill which has been handed down from generation to generation provides employment to approximately 10,000 people, mostly women. An average of two baskets a week can be woven by a woman who also has household chores, firewood collection, water collection, washing and the care of her children to tend to each day.

African Market Baskets™ founder and CEO, Steve Karowe has been importing from Africa for 25 years. For the past 12 years he has worked directly with artisans in Bolgatanga and helps support over 1,000 weavers and their families.

“One of the greatest parts of importing from Africa is seeing the positive impact we have on artisans and their families,” Steve says.

Steve visits Africa regularly to meet with the weavers and hold town hall meetings where he solicits feedback and listens to concerns and needs.  He works with each weaver’s group to ensure that products are being made to the highest quality and design standards. And, he oversees Every Basket Helps™ goodwill projects with the goal of reducing poverty in the region.

Every Basket Helps

African Market Baskets™ founder and CEO, Steve Karowe formed Every Basket Helps™, a non-profit organization created to help manage humanitarian projects in the villages of Ghana.  African Market Baskets™ donates 10% of its profits to Every Basket Helps™.

Steve travels to Africa to meet with the weavers regularly and to oversee Every Basket Helps™ projects which include:

  • Providing basic school supplies for the weavers’ children annually

  • Organizing and funding health care for the weavers and their families annually

  • Funding and building a community weaving center that serves two villages and over 400 weavers (2009)

Thanks to all of you who help support the weavers by buying baskets from African Market Baskets™.


Minga Fair Trade Imports
Tagua Carvings & Jewelry

Minga Fair Trade Imports was founded by Christopher Keefe in 1997. It began during his time living in Ecuador from 1995-2004 with the goal of improving education in Ecuador, increasing public knowledge of fair trade in the United States, and supporting the concept of a sharing wage. This provides the artisan with enough money to pay for essential expenses, and enough to reinvest in their families and their communities. The business began with a humble start, working out of a friend's basement and has since grown to serve over 500 clients all over the country. Minga Fair Trade Imports works with retailers in more than 20 states, and many master artisans in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia.

One of the many products and materials that Minga features is Tagua. Tagua is also known as vegetable ivory since the dried and polished seeds are very similar to elephant ivory in appearance. The purchase of Tagua Seeds is an ecological incentive for preserving the rain forests. Tagua is a natural resource that can generate five times the income to an artisan than banana plantations or cattle ranches.



Andrés and Juanita currently live in the equatorial city north of Quito called Mitad del Mundo. For more than five years they have been working with Minga making beautiful jewelry with tagua, coconut, acaí and pambil seeds. Andrés learned his trade from his parents who also worked with tagua. They presently work with five families in Quito and six families on the coast who supply them with tagua and other materials. Andrés and Juanita then design and assemble the jewelry in their home.

Juanita says, “my goal was to buy a house,” which they have now done through the steady business and fair trade wages from Minga. In the future, she is looking to improve their house by building new bedrooms for their children.