Category Archives: Vietnam

An early Happy New Year

Some updates from Three Stone Steps for the end of the year and the decade:

Starting early next year, the 10th to be exact, I’ll be on the road to meet with our existing fair trade producers in Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. I’ll also be on the lookout for great new unique, functional, and eco-friendly accessories. Please stay tuned. I think there will be great new items in store.

During that time, we will not be processing orders, so if you have your heart set on something, best to order it as soon as possible. We’ll be back to processing orders by the third week in February.

If I’m not updating this blog, please follow me on Twitter, @threestonesteps, or on http://www.threestonesteps.com’s Facebook fan page.

We’re thinking of beginning a dedicated travel blog–ok. I realize that I have trouble keeping this one updated, so I can’t imagine how I’ll deal with two of ’em!– but will definitely let you know if that happens.

So, in the meantime, Happy New Year! I’ll be back here soon.

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Filed under Cambodia, eco-chic, fair trade, new products, new year, Philippines, Vietnam

Shooting in Outerspace. Booblehead Not Included.

I’m on the seemingly never ending journey of shooting my new products (many of which aren’t even here now, but I have samples. And, they should be here soon. Fingers crossed.)

Anyway, most of the photos are just suspended in outer space. You know, white background. A focus on the product. And, the photos end up looking like this:


Actually, these are lovely (and, in stock, although not on the Three Stone Steps site yet). I mean, who wouldn’t love a cute jacquard silk cosmetic bag and jewelry pouch set, fairly traded from Vietnam?

But, you know, shooting photos like this doesn’t exactly scratch one’s creative itch. (Ok. I did use my little light box outside, instead of inside with a lot of lamps. Chalk that up to my concern with my carbon footprint, my desire not to give our dastardly gas & electric company, BGE, one more cent, and wanting to be outside on a gorgeous day. And, that did provide some challenges, although not exactly of the creative kind.)

So, I moved on to shooting my very eco-chic bamboo earrings, which should be here Friday. At this point, I’m pretty much just testing. And, in a moment of incredible inspiration some weeks ago, I decided to name these the Let’s Go O’s earrings. (And, yes, they will be available in O’s orange.) And, what could be better than O’s earrings, than pairing them up with Cal Ripken?


I don’t really know if a photo like this will make it to the website, but, we’ll see. Bobblehead not included.

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Filed under Baltimore, bamboo, cosmetic bag, earrings, jewlery, jewlery rolls, silk, Vietnam

Photos with Backgrounds: A Little Test

While I’m waiting for my brand spankin’ new products to arrive, maybe tomorrow, from Vietnam, and the very great, very unique items from the Philippines sometime next week, I thought I’d experiment a bit with shooting the products with a bit more flair, and just not, as a friend described, floating out there.

I’ve done a little test with my lovely fake grass. I shot a sample of my new little purses, made with raw silk, and decorated with a mod flower. Here it is:

I can’t wait to get them. I’ll also have these amazingly cute and oh so affordable purses in black with gray flowers, and yellow with purple flowers, but thought I’d start my test with just one.

So, what do you think?

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Filed under Philippines, purse, silk, Vietnam

Silks and Threads

Greetings from Vietnam.

On Thursday, I was treated to an overview of the silk process when visiting the “silk village” not terribly far from Hanoi. The specialty of this villagers here –doesn’t the word “villagers” sound so wonderfully quaint?”–is the weaving and dying of silk. (Just so you know, other villages around Hanoi specialize in things as different as making ceramics, carving horn and bone, and brewing snake wine.) So, given the way the craft system is split up, the “silk village” didn’t really provide an entire overview in a soup to nuts type way, since silk worm raising is done in another village, and extracting the silk from the cocoon is done in yet another. So, by the time you get to the village I visited, all the real messy work has happened. Of course, once the villagers get finished with their part of the process, the silk goes hither and yon to be used for whatever….

Anyway, here’s the earliest part of the silk process I saw. Silk thread in a rawish state:

Sometimes the thread is woven in its natural color, and other time the thread is dyed before weaving. Silk is made into different thickness for threads, and here’s some silk that has been dyed and spooled out to use before weaving:

The workshop I visited had booth a loom to use by hand, and many machine looms. Below is a woman who did hand looming. She motioned for me to try it out. It wasn’t a great start. First, I hit my head getting in the loom contraption, and then, well, it was similar to teaching someone steps to a dance when once doesn’t speak the same language, so it was a series of pointing at one leg, my arm, another leg, my other arm. While it was funny in that universal way of watching someone mess up, I’m happy to leave silk weaving to the professionals.

A woman operating one of the many machine looms is just below. With all the looms going, it’s very loud, and I expected a Vietnamese Norma Rae to emerge at any moment. [Cue to clip of Sally Field standing on a table holding sign that reads UNION….]

Like the sheets used in a player piano, silk patterns come on rolls in a series of dots.

As said above, some silk thread is dyed before weaving, and some afterwards. Below is a photo of a heap o’ silk ready to be bathed in color.

And, here we have the dyer at work. The color was a gorgeous deep blue.

In my next post, I’ll show you some of the “painting” done with silk thread. Of course, that’s in another village.

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Filed under silk, Vietnam, weaving

Election Eve and Early International Women’s Day

Ahhh, exciting times we live in, especially this first week of March.

Tomorrow, in early celebration of International Women’s Day, I will be leading a chat that most fabulous, wonderful, stupendous boutique, Hoopla Traders, in the Adams Morgan section of DC, at 2314 18th Street NW, as part of the neighborhood’s First Tuesday celebration, and Hoopla’s Living Green Salon. Not only do I run out of great adjectives when describing this place, but I also am tickled by the fact that the boutique is a fellow member of Co-op America.

In keeping with the international nature of the day, I will be having a discussion regarding how fair trade has helped women in Cambodia. If I can figure out my new laptop, I will also have photos of some of the women workers.

(Just a note: although the photo above is not of women making fair trade products for Three Stone Steps’ customers, or even in Cambodia, it is my absolute favorite photo of women and one of my favorites from my many travels to Vietnam. Hope you enjoy it as I do.)

Please join me if you can. If you can’t and find yourself in ournationscapital, and want to shop, you honestly can’t do much better than stopping at Hoopla. It really is a warm, wonderful, and special boutique, and I’m not just saying that because they carry much of Three Stone Steps’ product line!

While my little chat at Hoopla will pale in comparison to the excitement of refreshing the computer over and over and over again as the election results come in from the Texas, Ohio, Vermont, and Rhode Island primaries and primacaucus on Tuesday night, the effect that this race has on women and the discussion its garnered in the feminist community cannot go without mention, especially in the context of International Women’s Day. Who really dreamed of a primary contest that didn’t include two middle-aged white men?

Honestly, I really never thought of the Democratic contest in terms of a white woman versus a black man thing, but many do, and I know that this has garnered much debate in the feminist community. I know that my late mother, who held consciousness raising and assertiveness training sessions in our paneled suburban club basement in the 70s, would be beside herself just knowing that a woman was running and actually did/does have a shot at becoming president. I know that I, too, would like to see a female president in my lifetime, although I’m unsure if it should be this female. But, I so don’t want to go there now.

Anyway, if the feminist aspects of this amazing primary contest interests you, I would strongly suggest reading a blog post by the Zaftig Redhead (really, how can anyone think a blog by that name could be anything other than interesting?) called Divisive Primary Hold Potential Fallout for Women’s Rights Community. And, despite my comment about just knowing that my mother would be out in force for Hillary, Zaftig Redhead’s analysis doesn’t just talk about the split in terms of generational differences, or first versus fifteenth wave feminism.

So, there you have it. Loads going on these days, and a few long nights waiting for results and next steps lie ahead.

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Filed under Cambodia, fair trade, hoopla traders, international women's day, politics, primary context, Vietnam