Travel Notebook

Making a Difference with Jewelry in Nepal

One of the greatest pleasures I derive from my global travels is the sense of community I get when meeting new faces and learning about local cultures. Nowhere is this more evident than when I travel to Nepal and visit with my dear friend Ange, who created Bottles to Beads, a beautiful initiative that trains and employs village women to produce beautiful glass beads and small glass items from recycled glass.

Individually hand-painted beads. 

The items they create – which are stunningly gorgeous – are made from discarded glass bottles that otherwise would litter the city and mountainside around Nepal, creating a hazard for both people and animals. Now, instead, the pieces are recycled into jewelry, key rings and candleholders, each individually painted in the unique style of each female artist. The products are available for purchase at Image Ark in Patan and have been a part of the new #MadeinNepal movement that was launched in conjunction with Kathmandu’s monthly Art Market

“What I love about Bottles to Beads is that it’s not simply a recycling effort,” says Marie Ange Sylvain-Holmgren, the founder. “It is about a transformation. From a polluted to a cleaner environment, from unskilled and unpaid women to empowered income earners, from broken glass to jewelry and from trash to cash.”

The pieces are so dear, with the charming imperfections of handmade products, that during my last FAM trip to Nepal, all the women I was traveling with purchased a little something to bring home – one woman even ordered more to be delivered to her upon her return to the States. I love knowing that each piece I wear from Bottles to Beads carries with it a unique story and a grain of the women who crafted it.