SURevolution Dinner Party

Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend a dinner party at the SURevolution showroom. Founder Marcella Echavarria has travelled all over the world and collected unique jewelry, bags, furniture, kitchenware and other sustainable goods from artisans in South America, Africa, India and more. Everything is handmade, and the beautiful showroom overlooking Little Italy was the perfect setting for our small gathering.

I first saw Tamara, the amazing interior designer who sits on our board, who I hadn’t seen in months. While we caught up, she told me all about a psychic she had been talking to, who had given her an interesting perspective on life, business and love. She mentioned how the psychic could feel the energy about the people around you and could tell just from reading your energy how they relate to you in a positive or negative way. As hesitant as I was to believe any of this, by the end of our conversation she had me taking down the psychic’s number and seriously considering calling her.

Then, we met a woman from Chile who drew portraits based on the psychic energy of a person.

Eventually, I was introduced to Anna, who is throwing a Yoga event next week. Anna is a wellness consultant who got her Yoga studio to agree to donate all proceeds of their upcoming health and wellness event to Nest.

I also met Katharine, who has her own line of beauty products that use Aragon oil from Morocco. She usually travels to Agadir to get the oil for her products, but after I tell her about Tim’s community in Tigmijou and the Aragon oil they produce, I suggest she start buying from them. She’s immediately interested, and I go home and introduce them via email, thrilled to make any excuse to reach out to Tim and feel a connection… to Morocco.

Rebecca makes a speech to all the guests and tells the story of Lolita, the loan recipient from India who fell prey to the loan shark after she broke her leg and couldn’t work to support her family following the death of her husband. Luckily, Nest was able to help her out of this situation and help Lolita create a new life for herself and her family.

As I was trying on some of Marcella’s beautiful gold plated leaf bracelets, I laughed as a woman from Columbia made fun of our board member Ian, joking that he looked just like Juanez, the Columbian pop star. Once again I found myself surrounded by fascinating people, amazing sustainable goods and the satisfaction of knowing we were all gathered together for a good cause.


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Morocco, Day 9 – Tigmijou

April 19 – It is a rough morning. We’re all feeling the effects of the night before, and Joya almost kills me when I open the window to light the room (to find the advil and antacids). We go upstairs to breakfast on the roof and scarf down croissants, yogurt, crepes and assorted pastries. Joya and Kate want to order five more rounds of coffee, but I need air. I go to stand at the railing where I’m looking out at the ocean. I spend about a half hour out there, enjoying the beauty of the scenery in front of me. I can’t remember when I last felt this peaceful. I try to etch this morning into my memory so I can revisit it for years to come.

I finally pull myself away from this scene to go with Rebecca, Kate, Joya and the boys to the souk to buy olives, fruits and nuts to give the women of TIgmijou – they want to serve us food when we visit, but they don’t have the means to provide enough food to our group of 14. I buy a package of bracelets to give out to the girls and young children of this village. We spend the rest of our morning walking on the beach, looking at the camels and horses around us, taking in a view of the “castle in the sand” Jimi Hendrix supposedly wrote the song after, Joya riding a horse on the beach and some seashell collecting, we sit down to an outdoor lunch of mixed salads and tea.

The road to Tigmijou is incredibly scenic, with rolling hills and wildflowers of red, yellow and purple. The village is small, with four little clusters of houses. Tim lives in a house on a hill, a little removed from the rest of the village. We see three teenage girls giggling at us as we walk up the path to his house. We can’t go inside because it seems as though his roof has fallen over in the week he’s been gone. We walk through a meadow to get to the house of the family we’re going to visit. Along the walk, we pass a stray donkey grazing in the meadow. We enter a hut, built in the same Moroccan style of homes and guest houses we’ve been seeing – a structure with an open courtyard in the middle. Upon peering into the home, we see two young children – a boy and a girl, giggling and laughing and running up to us, then bashfully running away when we wave and smile at them. We enter into the courtyard and introduce ourselves to the women, kissing them twice on each cheek. We peer into one dark room where a woman is sitting at her loom, already strung. She is rapidly weaving the water reeds through the loom. Hicham, Tim’s young artisan who we met at the craft fair, says hello to all of us and Tim explains that all these people are part of Hicham’s family. We peer into their bedroom, with no door and rugs laid out for them to sleep on. The next room is the storage room, filled with these magnificent, completed water reed bags. We sell them back in the U.S. as market bags. My mother will purchase four of these bags from Nest’s website after hearing this story.

We enter another room off the courtyard, removing our shoes first. We sit around a bench with cushions and the women bring us the olives and fruits we purchased in Essouria. They also bring us bread and olive oil. I’m on the far side of the room – most of the women are sitting at the other end of the room near Tim and Brian, the only Arabic speaking people in the group. One of the family members comes over and sits near me. She starts breaking the bread and motioning for me to eat. I take a bite and say “beneen,” one of the two Arabic words I’ve learned – meaning delicious. The little toddler girl walks into the room and bursts into giggles. Everyone is laughing and smiling at her. The woman next to me is also laughing, and we exchange a glance, which sends us into a whole new fit of laughter. She tells me to eat more and I obey. I point to a water reed bag sitting next to her and ask if she made it (using hand motions). She nods and smiles. A child’s laughter, food, art, these are all universally appreciated. I couldn’t verbally communicate with this woman, but we were able to carry out an entire conversation while eating in her home.

Tim goes around and tells us about each of the women, how they are all related, and explains that they have a wedding to go to that evening because one of the girls from their town is marrying a man from the next village. When we’re done, we all walk out of the room, slip back into our shoes, and the women lead us to another house with a loom in it. I give out bracelets as we pass little girls and teenagers on our walk through another field of wildflowers. We take a quick look at the loom, but our driver is getting angry that we’ve taken too long, and threatens to leave without us if we don’t get on the bus immediately. He actually begins removing our bags from the bus at one point. Moroccans make their own rules. We say goodbye to the women, apologizing for our abrupt departure, and as we pile onto the bus a group of small boys laugh and bully each other as they watch us. Again, behaviors that transcend languages and continents.



Morocco, Day 6 – Marrakesh Craft Fair

April 16th – We are in Marrakesh at the beautiful Eden Andalou Resort and Spa. There are European families everywhere and it feels a little like a Moroccan Kutsher’s – a Catskill Mountains family resort I used to go to on family vacations as a child. This is confirmed when we see the jazz club and buffet style dining room. Not to mention the French children running around the resort. Watch out for those rugs, kids. We spend a little time by the pool before heading to the craft fair.

At the fair, we see a huge variety of Moroccan artisan products from dolls to jewelry, bags and of course, rugs. The fair takes place in the Artisana building, a government owned building that houses shops for various artists. The shop owners are sharing their space today with these artisans that have traveled from all over Morocco in less than desirable conditions to try and sell their crafts to the tourists and locals that wander through this central area of Marrakesh. All three of the artisans we loan to in this country are showing their crafts here. First, there’s Hayat and Fatime with their rugs, bags, and pillowcases that arrived in Marrakesh via our bus. Second, we see Tim’s artisans showing their water reed bags. We’re going to visit his small village of Tigmijou in a few days. Third, there’s the Khenifra cooperative led by Naima, showing their cloth bead jewelry. I’m fascinated by these necklaces that are created from traditional Moroccan beads and woven together to create a beautifully patterned and incredibly unique necklace. We learn that it was actually the old Peace Corps volunteer who lived in their village that came up with this idea. I purchase about ten of these necklaces from Naima, unsure if I’ll be able to give some of them away as gifts when I return home.

Brian asks us to walk around and assess each booth, giving feedback on the products and presentation. I walk around with Rebecca, Kate and Joya, and while I give my opinions on what I’m seeing, this is mostly a lesson in product development for me. Everyone seems to have much more expertise on what looks presentable, what could be improved and how each product could be adjusted to be sold in the U.S. market. I’m amazed by Rebecca’s critical eye, and try to view these crafts through her lens. We return to Naima’s booth, and she shows us some samples she made for Rebecca to sell on the Nest website. She also shows us a few clusters of beads she’s sewn together, and positions it as a potential for creating a new necklace. I admire one of these bead clusters, and place it on my finger, demonstrating that it could also be worn as a colorful cocktail ring. Naima loves this idea, and taps the other woman from her cooperative to point out what I’ve done.

We return to Earth Café for lunch and once again meet Ben, the owner. We order another delicious assortment of salads, rice noodles, goat cheese filled pastillas and more. Ben invites us to his farm once again and we agree to go the next day.

After lunch, we go to the famous Jardin Majorelle, where the well known artist Majorelle spent his time and after he died in the 60’s, Yves St. Laurent moved in and took over caring for the property. He set up a trust so the gardens could be opened to the public and tended for years to come. We are blown away by the beauty of this place, with varieties of purples, blues, pinks and colors I’ve never seen in real life before – seen in grandiose trees to small plants coming up from the ground. There are also fountains and ponds and a vibrant blue and yellow building, which must have served as the home of those who lived on this property. I allow myself to imagine myself living here – it’s not a bad fantasy at all.