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co-creating change

during my recent eye-opening visit to ikea’s hometown of älmhult, i discovered their beautiful new limited edition collection eftertanke, produced in collaboration with doi tung development project, a social enterprise working to provide decent jobs, schools and healthcare to an entire community in northern thailand.

available exclusively in the uk at the lakeside, leeds, southampton, tottenham and wembley stores (as well as online), the collection is also on sale in the ikea museum store, where i first happened upon it.

i hadn’t realised that ikea and doi tung have worked together since 2012 to co-create handmade products with a social purpose. in the beginning 40 artisans from the project produced 8,000 pieces for the debut collection, but now there are 331 craftspeople – 74% of which are women – who have helped produce the 200,000 pieces for this latest limited edition line, which includes hand woven textiles, hand-formed and finished pottery and handmade paper products.

30 years ago life in the chiang rai region of northern thailand was perilous, and the hill tribe people living in the mountains spanning the borders of myanmar and laos had no citizenship. they relied upon slash-and-burn cultivation for basic subsistence, and growing poppies for illegal drug trade to earn a living. the doi tung development project was founded in 1998, to empower the local hill tribe people to become responsible for the forest and learn the skills they needed to become economically and sustainably self-sufficient.

the doi tung development project introduced ceramic handicraft to the region during the reforestation of the area, mixing local red clay with vetiver grass – a hardy species used to stabilise eroded soil – to create plant pots for the project’s nursery. this recipe for the clay has since been refined to withstand high firing temperatures, allowing the skilled artisans to create beautiful high-quality designs, alongside the traditional intricate weaving techniques for which the tribespeople are known.

in this collection, the imperfections were the most important thing. the ovens at doi tung dictate the design. the variations in temperature affect the glaze and give each product a unique surface texture. ~ karin gustavsson, creative leader, ikea

slight imperfections – some designed, some occurring organically – make each piece of pottery in the eftertanke collection unique, and these imperfections are viewed as a celebration of the human touch and skills of the artisans who created the collection. i wish i could have brought an entire tableware set home from my visit to älmhult but sadly cabin luggage restrictions meant i had to settle for a couple of the intricately woven, super soft cushion covers instead, which now have pride of place on my living room sofa.

earning an income opens up new opportunities for people who otherwise would have little or no access to decent jobs. supporting small-scale social enterprises focused on handicraft and livelihoods is a win-win for ikea, our customers, and the social enterprises that get access to a global market. ~ vaishali misra, business leader, ikea of sweden

the doi tong partnership is just one example of ikea’s collaborative approach to sustainability, and they currently have partnerships with small-scale social enterprises in india, thailand, sweden, denmark, holland, belgium, croatia, usa, canada, and jordan. in total, ikea contributes to the livelihoods of more than 10,500 people through their partnerships with social enterprises and businesses, including approximately 8,000 coffee farmers in uganda. of the nearly 2,500 people engaged in handicrafts, 80% are women, providing livelihoods for people who would otherwise have little access to employment and support. that’s pretty great, right?

have any pieces from eftertanke caught your eye? the range is still available to shop online if you’re quick..

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  1. What a gorgeous post! I genuinely believe if we knew more backstory about products, we’d be more inclined to buy them. Makes it so much easier to understand if a company has the same values as you

  2. Love that pottery! It’s nice to read stories like this. So many people believe Ikea is all about ‘mass produced’ goods but it’s not true. I’m a big fan and a bigger fan since visiting them in Sweden. x

  3. Loving those textiles, I feel an Ikea trip coming on. Thanks for sharing!

  4. This is incredible – I had no idea the story behind these when we saw them in the IKEA museum. What a positive impact it’s had on that community. So commendable and a brilliant post xx

  5. Oh. My GOODNESS. What a beautiful collection, I had no idea. AND Lakeside Ikea is only 40mins away from me so if you want me to pick something up? ;) So pleased to see a social enterprise organisation working with such a great global brand.

  6. Oh I love IKEA and my nearest is in Southampton so I might just have to pick up a couple of bowls next time I am there. They are SO lovely, and pretty patterning

  7. I was only in IKEA yesterday and this is such a nice post to read. I’m always amazed when people are so dismissive of IKEA. They make such brilliant things … I wish they’d share the stories behind their products more often.