The beauty of handmade is enhanced when it reflects the story, culture and craft behind it. 2015 MRP alumni Mary Louise Marino is quick to recognize the pivotal role of global artisans and their handmade labor of love by bringing them to the forefront.

Having lived overseas and been fascinated by traditional crafted objects, Mary Louise is a messenger for the beauty in other cultures. “Handmade craft in particular offered a glimpse into ritual and daily life. Craft peaked my curiosity, as I wondered how it was made and about the artisan who made it. Letting my imagination wander, I could sense the energy expressed from her hands and heart as it was created” says Mary Louise.

Her vision of connecting artisans and sharing their creativity with the world came to fruition in her newly launched social enterprise, Indigo Lion Global Handmade. Carrying unique and meaningful textile accessories and home accents sourced ethically from Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, Mary Louise has her heart set on sharing the life, culture and stories of artisans, curating art and creating beautiful conversations that ensue when we hold handmade objects in our hands.

Indigo Lion’s crafts are made with local cotton and silk, hand-spun, natural hand-dyed and hand-woven textiles from traditional ethnic groups.  Indigo Lion follows fair trade principles and sustainable practices, environmentally conscious production, respect based on women’s empowerment and improving livelihoods while maintaining cultural integrity. “We learn and share about the artisans’ lives and stories, their village and culture and understand more about the materials and processes used in creating handmade products”, says Mary Louise.

In addition to sharing traditional creations, Mary Louise is intent on reviving dying art forms. One of this is her work with the artisans of Saoban Crafts, a fair trade social enterprise in Vientiane, Laos.  Saoban works with women from several ethnic groups to revive traditional silk and cotton weaving tradition while promoting economic empowerment and alleviating poverty.

Reminiscing about her trip to Laos, Mary Louise expresses her dream of promoting this textile art. “They are an intimate glimpse into Lao culture, both traditional and present, bringing me close to the life in a village, close to women, nature, and expression. Extraordinary textiles with motifs and patterns emerge out of unique weaving traditions. Indigenous plants and the soil underfoot yield subtle natural colors and textures”.

With many beautiful patterns and unique creations that are yet to be introduced to the U.S. market, ATA hopes Indigo Lion Global Handmade continues to connect artisans to global handmade from the East to the West, carrying with it, a part of their culture and creativity to inspire artisans and patrons worldwide.