Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Vegetable Ivory - Tagua #AtoZChallenge

Thinking in generations also means enabling our young to have a decent standard of living. 
-- Paul Tsongas

Tagua, sometimes called vegetable ivory for it's resemblance to elephant ivory, is a nut from the Tagua palm tree. The hard white inner nut can be carved and polished like ivory.

Artists carve it into jewelry, figurines, and many other products. My friend Marianne Fry in Puerto Lopez has been designing and exporting hand-carved Tagua products for 18 years through her company, Feel Good Exports.

Each piece is hand crafted by artisans living in remote areas. These products afford families an opportunity to make a decent life for themselves who could otherwise be living off the land or separated. Without this Tagua work, one parent may move to a different town or country to earn money. 
Hand-Carved Tagua Figurines
Baúl de Tesoros, Puerto Lopez, Ecuador

Hand-Carved Tagua Jewelry
Baúl de Tesoros, Puerto Lopez, Ecuador
Marianne and her husband, Abdullah, own the Baúl de Tesoros (Treasure Chest) gallery in Puerto Lopez. They feature Tagua as well as products from artists throughout Ecuador.
Wall hangings and purses made in Ecuador
Baúl de Tesoros, Puerto Lopez, Ecuador

Metal figurines made in Ecuador
Baúl de Tesoros, Puerto Lopez, Ecuador
Is there an export from your area that is relatively unknown?

If you are visiting from the #AtoZChallenge please include your blog link in a comment so I can check it out.

34 comments:

  1. Interesting, I never heard of this. Can you eat the nuts, too?

    http://sagecoveredhills.blogspot.com/2017/04/v-is-for-venus.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is a orangish thin layer surrounding the nut that is edible. I haven't tried it but it's supposed to be similar to coconut. The nut itself is too hard to eat.

      Delete
    2. That´s right and when the nut is green (recently harvested) it has a milky, sweet, liquid center which is also edible and this turns into the hard, white center after the nut is dried in the sun for 30 to 60 days. The Tagua nut has been classified as an organic gem and has had its hardness measured. . it measures a 4 to 4.5 on the MOH´s scale. From yours truly, Marianne Fry, Owner, Operator and Designer of Tagua of Feel Good Exports and Baúl de Tesoros in Puerto Lopez.

      Delete
  2. What a great alternative to ivory. It's always great to hear when people find a way to support themselves with what is around them and in such an artistic way is a bonus. Those little metal birds are so cute!

    We have several small stores that carry imported fair trade goods like these from far away places. I'll have to see if I can find anything similar next time I go there.
    Discarded Darlings - Jean Davis, Speculative Fiction Writer, A to Z: Editing Fiction

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am impressed by artisans like these. So creative to figure out how to turn natural products into a livelihood. It would be great if the small stores around you carried these products!

      Delete
    2. And what is most impressive is that after 18 years they keep getting better at it!

      Delete
  3. I love the little hummingbirds! Also, it is great that there is a natural substitute for ivory...

    The Multicolored Diary: WTF - Weird Things in Folktales

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are adorable! I agree, Zalka, a natural ivory substitute is great.

      Delete
  4. Never heard of this and don't remember seeing any of the carvings while I was there, but then I wasn't looking for stuff like that either.

    Let's see...an export from Los Angeles that is relatively unknown? How about intelligence? This city seems to get stupider every day.


    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do not see much Tagua for sale either, Arlee, around the rest of Ecuador. There are shops in Quito, the Galapagos and I'm not sure where else in country that sell her products. The rest are in Puerto Lopez and a few international partners. It is not well known around the world. I am hoping that changes because it is so beautiful and durable along with helping people who need the work.

      Delete
  5. Replies
    1. Thanks Shirley. They are beautiful.

      Delete
    2. Thank you so much for your lovely comments! Very much appreciated!

      Delete
  6. Such creativity! the finished products are just so awesome ,hard to imagine them to be plant products . Thanks for presenting these wonders so beautifully.
    Best wishes,
    Moon
    https://aslifehappens60.wordpress.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They do such a great job! The first time I held them, I could hardly believe I was holding a palm nut. Glad that you enjoyed them, Moon.

      Delete
  7. I saw some carvings from these nuts in our zoo gift shop. There were elephants and a really darling one of a hedgehog. Beautiful stuff.

    V is for Vaxxed, the movie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very cool Tamara! Which zoo? I would love to check out their website to see if they might show them in the gift shop section.

      Delete
  8. Great stuff! I'm always amazed by the skills that go into creating these hand-crafted pieces. Ornaments carved from nuts - I never heard of such a thing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I amazed by their skills, too, Nick. I had not heard of it either until I moved to Ecuador.

      Delete
  9. What a fantastic idea!! I love that the elephants are saved and there is still something so beautiful as an end result - I really want one of those hummingbirds!
    Leanne | cresting the hill

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those hummingbirds are beautiful, Leanne!

      Delete
    2. We do have hummingbirds in Tagua--several designs--2 styles of figurines and 2 styles of pendants and earrings. The hummingbirds you see in the photos are hand-made of ceramic and nicholized bronze and have been very popular with our clients.

      Delete
  10. Hi Emily - Vegetable Ivory .. I have a pair of salt and pepper shakers from South Africa made of vegetable ivory ... I hadn't realised the connection with the Tagua nut ... thanks - really interesting to see. Cheers Hilary

    http://positiveletters.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/w-is-for-whistlejacket.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Hilary, How interesting that you have a salt and pepper set made from Tagua! Now you know, as they say, the rest of the story :)

      Delete
  11. How beautiful! One thing my Ohio Valley USA region is known for is great advancements toward space travel. I only learned this quite recently at a small local center, The Mound Science and Energy Museum. Be well!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a cool thing to be known for, Darla!

      Delete
  12. These look beautiful. Another first for me on A to Z. Had no idea there is such a thing as vegetable ivory.
    V is for Ventriloquist

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you stopped by then, Arti! Always nice to learn something new.

      Delete
  13. Hi Emily, and my apologies for not getting here sooner. Here to catch up now.

    I am just blown away by this artform and natural alternative to ivory, which I didn't know about. I'll explain why :) A few weeks back there was a news item about China shutting down its ivory trade in an effort to stop elephant poaching in Africa. Which is of course laudable, no disputes with that. Only thing was I kept feeling dreadful about the actual artisans losing their livelihoods and also the eventual death of the artform itself - given the stunningly detailed work that the Chinese do on ivory, it would be a shame if those skills just die because of the lack of raw material. I hope they will switch to this natural material instead and both the growers and carvers can benefit. What an amazing win-win situation that would be!

    Thanks for an awesome interesting and heartwarming read!

    Best wishes,
    Nilanjana.
    Madly-in-Verse

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Nilanjana! There were Ecuadorian representatives in China recently discussing Tagua. I am not sure exactly who their audience was but I know that they are trying to introduce it there.

      Delete