Handmade Fair Trade Olive Wood Products by Artisan Simon Sway for Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative Society Palestine

Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative Society (HLHCS) is based in Beit Sahour, a town east of Bethlehem in the West Bank with a population of around 15,400. The fair-trade organization was founded in 1981 by an association of Palestinian artists and artisans. The aim is to preserve the traditional handicraft techniques of the area. Besides selling its products to local tourists, HLHCS has also gained additional market access through its cooperation with European fair-trade organizations. The company is a member of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) and bases its work on the 10 principles of fair trade.

The main focus of the artisans' work is olive wood carvings. The range includes very complex religious motifs as well as wooden products for the kitchen and everyday use. The wood for the carvings comes from local olive trees. The history of the use of olive wood in Palestine reaches back thousands of years. HLHCS also offers other handmade products made of mother-of-pearl and sheep's wool, ceramics, embroidery and jewellery.

For the wood carvings, the artisans would first give a piece of wood its rough, abstract shape. Afterwards, fine work is required: faces, bodies or other shapes are created; details are worked out. Finally, they are sandpapered smooth to remove potential unevenness and then coated with a special varnish.

One of the HLHCS artisans is Rimon Sway who works in his workshop alongside his son Elias. Here, as well as in the nearby workshop of his brother Nicola, the olive wood soap dishes that you find in our range are produced.