by J.J. McCoy
The Washington Post
Novica was founded in 1998 by a Peruvian American student at Stanford University, his Brazilian actress wife and her mother, a former United Nations human-rights officer on the team that won the 1981 Nobel Peace Prize for work on behalf of refugees. It offers more than 8,500 handmade crafts from artisans in seven countries: mango wood bowls from Thailand, candleholders from Venezuela, stools from the chief carver for the king of the Ashanti tribe in Ghana.
Prices range from $25 to $4,000. Novica.com maintains offices in seven countries but no warehouses: Each item comes straight from the artisan to the buyer’s doorstep – minimizing company costs and prices and maximizing artists’ commissions.
We’re creating a system where everyone benefits – us, the artisan and the countries in which we operate,” says company president Roberto Milk. “We serve as a way to promote their cultural integrity.”
Essays by the “Wander Woman” offer insight about the artists, countries and lifestyles. In the wake of recent devastating earthquakes, offices in India and El Salvador are participating in local relief efforts; 10 percent of the purchase price of items from those areas will be donated, as will 1 percent of purchases from other countries and 100 percent of earmarked contributions made over the Web site.
Photo: Embroidered cushion covers ($32) by Indian artisan Devi Singh Perihar, from the state of Gujarat, affected by an earthquake two weeks ago.