Love Is in the Fair


By: Reese Randall


February 9, 2021

This Swing Tagua Necklace ($18.99) is handcrafted in Columbia using sustainably harvested tagua nuts by the artisans of Sapia.


The month of February ushers in celebratory events that should last all year round. Such as learning of the significant contributions made from our Black History; to the importance of setting our calendars to mark one day a year to share our hearts — which too, should be an everyday celebration. At Ten Thousand Villages, there are thousands of inspirational ways to show your love with meaningful and ethical, fair-trade finds.

“As a local non-profit fair-trade retailer, we focus on providing a market for fair-trade artisan groups from around the world,” says Matina Vassilaros, store manager at Ten Thousand Villages. Located on Forbes Avenue along the main business corridor of Squirrel Hill the store opened its doors twenty years ago. “It was a store brought to life from hard-working volunteers. The focus was bringing artisan-crafted products to market as an assurance to earn a fair wage for the artisan,” explains Vassilaros.

Staffed by more than 70 volunteers the store welcomes the dedication of their undertaking in checking orders, assisting with displays and interacting with customers.

Ten Thousand Villages features hand-crafted items from gifts to home décor that derive from almost 40 countries, more than 130 artisan groups and a network of over 390 retail outlets throughout the country that sells Ten Thousand Villages’ artisan wares. The organization has established trading for artisans who are under-or-unemployed to provide a source of income for their wares and crafts.


“We want to make sure that in earning a fair wage for the artisans we are not destroying the planet,” says Vassilaros. “That leads to reusable and upcycled material the artisans use, such as saris women collect that are no longer good for wearing and upcycle them into products that are beautiful.” Vassilaros goes on to say that fair-trade relates to sustainability and a great option for gift-giving.

For Valentine’s Day, the Linked Hearts Greeting Card, made of recycled sari fabric, glass beads and jute-and-water hyacinth papers is a pretty greeting card that can be attached to the Celebration Sari Gift Wrap made with upcycled saris. Vassilaros adds that tagua-based wares are a really cool gift idea, too. “The tagua nut has been used as a replacement for ivory, for example. When you shave the nut bald it looks like ivory. It holds dyes really well and can be carved by hand.”

The sustainability purchasing power extends to not only gift-giving, but partnerships offering a wide range of outreach programming that connects local organizations to artisans around the world. In addition, there are in-store events every month, with this month’s focus on Black History and championing justice and empowerment for all.

“During Black History Month, we are partnering with the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh who work for racial and gender equity in Pittsburgh,” says Vassilaros. “We'll be donating a dollar of every purchase made this month to efforts of the YWCA.”

Ten Thousand Villages, 5820 Forbes Avenue, Squirrel Hill; 412.421.2160, Valentine's Day offers a Buy-One-Get-One 50% Off Storewide Sale from February 11-13.

Handmade in Bangladesh, this Linked Hearts Greeting Card ($5.99) is made of recycled sari fabric, glass beads and jute-and-water hyacinth papers. A finishing touch, the Celebration Sari Gift Wrap ($12.99) comes in squares of colorful saris with instructions for four ways to tie and is reusable as a wearable accessory.


Reese Randall writes bi-weekly stories for The Green Voice. She's also the contributing restaurant editor for IN Community Magazines and food stylist for GNC. To see more food, fashion, photos and videos, go to