Fish scale bags

….not really, they are made of pop tops from aluminium cans, but they are made by a partnership called Escama, which means fish scales in Portugese. The three partners are based in San Francisco and Brasilia, Brazil, and all have day jobs.

They apparently developed and market the bags that are made by Cia do Lacre and 100 Dimensáo, two women’s co-operatives located in economically depressed satellite cities of Brasília.

They describe the arrangement on their website:

The cooperatives offer women in the community a means to earn money through their handicrafts. It also serves as a support system for the group.

Prices for the handbags are set by the cooperatives and production decisions are in their hands. A fundamental component of ESCAMA’s partnership with the cooperatives is to promote the cooperatives and the individual artists behind the products.

Inside of each bag is a card with the name of the artist who crocheted the piece.

The women are all shown on the website with a short biographical statement. It is all delightfully human but there is also something slightly confronting about it – it is much easier to exploit the cheap labour of people you never see.

We first came across the bags at Stop Laughing This Is Serious Gallery.

The Escama bags are a more elegant variant of the bottle top bag marketed by Bottletop, a UK charity that funds HIV/AIDS education projects throughout the world but particularly in Africa. There is a great African tradition of bags made from recycled or adaptively reused materials, almost always bright and stylish but rarely are they as good as this,

the bottle top radio bag. It’s so popular that you have to go on a waiting list to buy one.

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