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NC merchant acts on her passion for folk art

The Union StaffMartha Meredith
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

The first time Martha Meredith visited Guatemala was just for fun.

Her two other trips to the Central American country in a 10-month period have been a mission, so to speak.



During her first trip three years ago, Meredith traveled to Guatemala to study Spanish and attend an Easter celebration. The second time – last April – Meredith met with artisans interested in starting their own businesses. In mid-January of this year, Meredith returned for her third visit, this time to buy textiles from the artisans.




Meredith, who has a full-time job as the owner of J.J. Jackson’s in downtown Nevada City, has found a new passion: She wants to help craftswomen in developing countries.

This passion blossomed during her second trip to Guatemala, when she accompanied members from the nonprofit Global Partnerships. Meredith was introduced to the organization by her cousin, who is Global Partnerships’ director of development and communications.

Since 1994, Seattle-based Global Partnerships has linked potential donors in the U.S. with impoverished Latin Americans who hope to overcome poverty by starting small businesses. Global Partnerships lends startup money for businesses focused on producing woven handicrafts or raising livestock.

Most loan recipients are women whose businesses quickly earn enough money to support their families, Meredith noted.

“This has very much impacted my heart,” Meredith said a few weeks after her most recent trip. She understands the women’s wishes to own their own businesses.

Fourteen years ago, Meredith was a mother of a small child and opened J.J. Jackson’s, which carries folk art, furniture, jewelry, toys, books and body care products.

“I can relate to raising a child and running a business, and trying to balance everything from paying the bills to understanding how to run the business,” she said.

“About 98 percent of the Global Partnerships’ loans tend to be paid back in four-month cycles,” she said. “I’m very touched with the women.”

In the U.S., Meredith added, “We don’t have to think of having clean water or not having the money to buy pencils for our children. We don’t have to live on less than $2 a day, as most Guatemalans do.”

That Meredith is so supportive of Global Partnerships makes sense.

“I’ve had an affinity for folk art all my life,” she explained. She’s planning an April fund-raiser for the organization.

As a way to increase awareness of artisans in developing countries, Meredith will host a slide show and discussion Thursday by Paola Gianturco and Toby Tuttle, Bay Area authors of the book “In Her Hands: Craftswomen Changing the World.”

From the end of 1996 to the beginning of 1998, the authors interviewed and photographed more than 90 poor artisan women in 12 countries during six trips. The book shows how the women overcame tremendous financial hardships to adequately clothe, feed and educate their children.

The authors have traveled around the country with the slide show. A few of the textiles featured in the book have been sold at J.J. Jackson’s for about a year.

“All of the photographs in the slide show are of women who use traditional handicrafts to make a big difference in their community,” Tuttle said. “The first educated generation in the community makes such a difference. Education is just outside the budget in these communities. (Previously) if anyone goes to school, it was the first-born son.”

WHAT: Slide show-discussion by Paola Gianturco and Toby Tuttle

WHEN: Thursday at 7 p.m.

WHERE: J.J. Jackson’s, 244 Commercial St., Nevada City

ADMISSION: Free. Reservations requested

INFORMATION: 265-2644


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