Living away from home, Malta, has meant that I’ve missed some pretty awesome artisan markets and events focusing on sustainable living and ethical practices. So I caught up with Zen, an entrepreneur and artisan who I met almost 6 years ago in Kathmandu, to get to know more about her business and the artisan landscape in Malta.
How do you view the current artisan landscape in Malta?
There is a lot of talent and innovation when it comes to modern handmade items in Malta. It is impressive. Every year it gets better and better as new artisans show up with new amazing products. I love attending the markets, there’s always a very nice energy that builds up at these events. Creative people possess interesting and colourful personalities, so it is always great fun!
In fact, I would like to see more events promoting artisans – and more appreciation towards their handicraft. People tend to underestimate the work involved in creating something by hand. An artisan is not only a maker, but also the supplier, the vendor… handles packaging, branding, stall display, accounts, advertising, marketing, taxes, vat and the list goes on. It can be overwhelming. That is the major reason I believe many artisans keep it as a hobby and rely on seasonal markets to sell some of what they make. According to research, it seems that most of them would like to do what they love on a full-time basis, and run a profitable business, but they find it too risky since they feel there aren’t enough opportunities for sales.
How are Maltese artisans adopting sustainable and ethical practices in their business and in their designs?
There is an evident increase in artisans who work primarily with recycling and up-cycling. People who create original pieces of art from what other people throw away are my absolute favourite. It requires imagination, creativity, and is a sustainable activity. It is an effort to avoid something going to the landfill, and instead give it a new life, a new meaning.
What I would like to see though is more artisans using sustainable materials in their packaging and ethical sourcing of raw materials. And at the same time, I would like to see more buyers choosing conscious consumerism. I believe people are willing to pay a bit more for a noble cause. Buying a product knowing that no one suffered, and nothing was damaged in the process adds incredible perceived value and offers the customer the opportunity, no matter how small, to make his or her own positive impact in the world.
Thrivers an ethical and sustainable artisan community, is committed to inspire and facilitate ethical and sustainable change in the local handmade scene. That is our core message.
What prompted you to set up Thrivers?
It kind of grew over the years at the back of my head, collecting pieces of ideas until it finally came together sensibly. I have been involved in event management for 20 years and have been creating stuff practically all my life. With Thrivers I am happy to combine all my passions in one project.
What are Thrivers Malta objectives?
Our aim is to empower local artisans primarily by creating a supportive community around them and provide them with tools, resources, training, events and opportunities to generate more sales and grow their business. But most importantly we encourage and facilitate them to make a positive social impact by using ethical and sustainable practices in their business.
As a social enterprise working solely in the interest of its beneficiaries, we want to see them (the artisans) thrive. Our vision is that of a growing community offering knowledge, support, encouragement and collaboration. As Steve Jobs said: “Great things in business are never done by one person; they are done by a team of people.”
As an artisan yourself, what are your favourite materials to work with? Why?
My preference goes towards organic materials, mainly feathers and seashells. For my packaging, I use hemp fabric, hemp string, compostable envelopes and bio-degradable stickers. I re-use and re-purpose all carton boxes, paper bags, envelopes and bubble wrap.
What is the one thing you would tell your younger self?
“Don’t listen to the neigh-sayers … everything seems impossible until it’s done.”
Get in touch with Zen if you want to learn more about Thrivers!
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