Department of Artisans Connects Consumers And Craftspeople
Carmen Tsang and Pawel Nowak founded Department of Artisans in 2016 as a way to bring customers closer to artisan communities around the world. The company sells unique, modern home decor products from a range of countries, from Ireland to Tunisia. Tsang and Nowak, both 29, had visited more than 50 countries combined and developed a passion for learning about the unique crafts of different cultures during their travels. Department of Artisans Connects Consumers And Craftspeople
“We started Department of Artisans as a way for consumers to connect with the products that surround them every day,” says Tsang, who met Nowak while both were attending the University of Calgary (Nowak has since left the company). “We both love the interior design world and felt there was a gap in the market for affordable, rich-in-culture home decor products. Our products are made with impact in mind, yet with a modern aesthetic.”
Department of Artisans Connects..
Department of Artisans carries the items you wish you found at local markets while traveling abroad: copper pendant lamps from Moroccan brand Dounia Home; hand-cut slate serveware by Slated in Ireland; and decorative model motorcycles made from upcycled metal by an artisan named Taten in Indonesia. The wares adhere to a modern bohemian aesthetic, with lots of woven textiles and geometric patterns.
Tsang says she’s currently obsessed with Jolie Laide’s handmade, vegetable-tanned leather bags and camera straps, made in Mexico. All of Department of Artisans’ items are handmade with local, sustainable materials.
Jolie Laide’s camera straps cost US$79 to US$99. The brand is based in Toronto, but the straps and bags are made by artisans in a small family-run community in Leon, Mexico, who are paid a fair, living wage. Department of Artisans Connects
Department of Artisans’ most expensive items are the pendant lamps from Dounia Home, a design company with a Moroccan influence, which run US$450 to US$900. The striking lamps make use of different metals like brass, nickel, and copper, as well as modern lines and patterns of negative space.
The most affordable items on the website are Urbana Sacs’ Creative Sacs—washable paper bags that function as catchalls around the house. Creative Sacs, made in the U.S., run US$15 for the smallest size to US$95 for a set of three.
Customers can learn more about the stories behind each item on the site’s Artisans section, which features artisans’ inspirations, brand responsibility, and information on their supply chain.
Tsang says the stories are a big part of the draw: “Our consumers really connect with the products they purchase and are proud to share these stories with their friends and family.”
Department of Artisans does extensive research before partnering with an artisan to make sure they are a good fit, Tsang says. “Sometimes, we reach out to non-for-profits who already have contacts in the region and understand what we’re looking for. Other times, it’s from traveling and meeting people firsthand.”
For Tsang, the exploration phase is one of the most rewarding parts of her job. “We love learning about new crafts that have so many generations of culture woven into them,” Tsang says. “Through understanding the craft, we’re able to bring our modern aesthetic and truly create something that is approachable.”
What’s The Good:
Department of Artisans vets all of its brands thoroughly. Tsang says the company has an internal process to make sure artisans are meeting its standards of sustainability and ethical business practices.
“We evaluate things like operations, materials used, equipment used, working conditions, and wages, to name a few,” she says.
Department of Artisans also splits profits with its partners. “We have an equal profit-sharing model with our partners. We only make as much as they do.” The company also has education programs in place to help artisans sharpen their business acumen and skill set.
Tsang says Department of Artisans is currently in the product development phase for upcoming items. She says the company will still focus on home decor, but is adding new artisan groups and expanding in more countries of origin.