So much that’s good in life, I think, is arrived at after lots of eraser marks. Great ideas and efforts are rarely perfect out of the starting gate. But when they’re truly believed in, have a LUVly sense of purpose and commitment behind them, the people who were inspired to start them keep at it until they find the best way to make it happen.
I met Lynne Martin a few years ago as I was writing a column focusing on Locals for the Winter Park Maitland Observer. At that time she was part owner of Artistree Gifts in College Park, an artist cooperative that began with space in Infusion Tea on Edgewater Avenue. Artistree Co-op became Artistree Gifts and had just moved into a space all their own, begun including indigenous crafts from Honduras, a country much of her family had traveled to on mission trips.
Full-time retail at Artistree took a lot of time, and while that specific effort was folded, the intent and desire behind the effort remained, was destined to see another day.
“We’re not tied down by full-time retail,” Lynne, an Artist who works in clay, tells me now, speaking of their re-tooled effort, sitting beside sister Julie Lawson, an Artist who paints and designs jewelry. “We’re able to be more creative in how we approach the whole thing. But it’s still accomplishing – we feel like we’re accomplishing more actually – our goal.”
That new effort is focused on jewelry, an effort specifically providing opportunities to the women of Honduras. It is aptly called: For The Love.
“What we’ve found in Honduras is that 70% of the families which are poor, the head of the household is a woman,” explains sister Julie. “So if we can effect change with the women, we can change the country.” They’ve partnered with a Honduran-based group with the same mission; and, are now going about using their own Artistic talents and experiences to create opportunities for Honduran women. They now help train the women to develop jewelry making skills.
To most of us Honduras is a Central American country somewhere around the equator. We know it’s warm, tropical, many of us probably understand it’s part of that ‘third world’ group of nations we hear about, designated so to explain average living conditions, the general state of development throughout the country. For Lynne and Julie, though, it is much, much more.
Julie and her husband first traveled to Honduras on a mission trip in 1999. Much of what they did that trip was medical in nature, traveling to villages with a group performing minor surgeries, dealing, as Julie says, with anyone who complained of aches and pains. “On the last day of that trip we met a little girl waiting to be seen by the doctor in hopes of finding a cure for her heart defect,” says Julie. “She was twelve when we met her but she looked about 6.” The girl had been coming to see mission groups like their’s each year, as Julie says, “hoping for a miracle.”
Such conditions, she says, are often fixed at birth in the United States. “It’s honestly a medical mystery how she had lived to be twelve.” Julie talks about moving six weeks into the future and “miraculous happenings” which didn’t simply change the girl’s life, but actually gave it to her. Lynne injects that it was Julie’s efforts working the phone once she returned home, less miracle. Her efforts ensured “one of the best physicians in the country was willing to do his part for free,” as so much else.
“It was all just beautifully offered,” says Julie. “So the week before Thanksgiving she had open heart surgery and went from being a very blue little girl – I don’t mean emotionally blue, but physically blue – to being in great health. She is now 25, doing well.”
For Lynne, that early connection to Honduras came via her husband, Michael, who passed away in 2011. Her efforts with Artistree Gifts were largely inspired by his love for the country and its people, her desire to continue his efforts of helping them, “continue his mission dream, buy items there, support Artisans there. But we found we wanted to spend more time with the actual mission and less time in retail. This (For The Love) is more closely related to what his dream was in reality.”
For The Love will begin with approximately one hundred individual styles of jewelry being designed here in their Winter Park studio and made by the women trained in Honduras. The effort kicks off this coming Monday evening, with an introductory show at the Winter Park Farmer’s Market facility. The line will include necklaces, earrings, bracelets and cuffs, made of pewter, recycled glass, the native Honduran Lenca pottery beads. Prices range from $18 to $100.
While past efforts were focused on indigenous designs, “we wanted to offer more opportunity than just the seasonal tourist market,” explains Lynne. “Which the tourist market for them is actually the mission market, because you have short term missions which go in there in the summers and do everything from visit orphanages to building houses to putting in water systems. And we actually participate in that. We actually take groups in the summer and build houses, give people clean water, take food out to the very poorest of the poor communities. But we felt that this was a way we could make ongoing change. You know, we’re not just giving them fish, as the saying goes, we’re teaching them to fish.”
The line focuses on four groupings of jewelry: Fine Things, Natural things, Honduran things, and Trendy things and every penny raised goes into the program in Honduras. “As their skills progress, we then make our designs a little more difficult, to use those skills,” says Julie, who shows me numerous examples she is wearing.
The event will feature live music, food and wine. “It’s going to be a great shopping experience,” says Lynne. “It would be a great date night. It would be a great mom and daughter event, a great after work the girls come to shop. And it is right before Mother’s Day. And we have such a variety, there’s something for every Mom. It’s a great way to give a gift while also giving back.”