‘Bags of colour’ is acollection of eco friendly shopping bags made from hand dyed cotton andwoven on a traditional handloom machine, in bright and bold colours,made using minimal electricity and made in the homes of women in localareas, working towards providing jobs for skilled women and familieswho are in need of an income.

I am currently out in Sri Lankapursuing bags of colour; I had the idea while I was here at thebeginning of this year, whilst I was over doing voluntary work as aphotographer. The idea came to me just as I was leaving the country. Ihad become so inspired by the beautiful colours of Sri Lanka and fromthe wonderful brightly coloured handloom fabric that I discovered, andin light of the recent awareness of the damaging effects of over use ofplastic bags, I decided it was an idea I was willing to pursue. I alsowas overwhelmed by the poverty here and the desire the many people haveto change their lives, but there is a lack of opportunity for them tothat, so it seemed right to have the bags made by local skilled men andwomen in deprived communities and to provide them with an opportunity,and to bypass big companies and factories, but to give the people thechance to make them in their own homes when they want.

I havealways felt very passionate about recycling and have never understoodwhy so many bags are continually used, when there are alwaysalternatives. I thought that by making the bags wonderful bold coloursthat really make a statement and with information provided with eachbag about the woman who has made it, and how it is helping her and herfamily directly people may take more of an interest in usingalternatives to plastic bags. As I believe it is a cause worth takingseriously, to be proud to make a loud statement, and work towardscreating change.

At present I have one woman working with me onthe bags, she is the wife of a three wheeler driver in Colombo, who hashelped me a lot during my time spent here, and he is working with me onsourcing fabrics. We are working at the moment to produce our first lotof bags, and will then begin to look for other women to offer theopportunity to. I am also working with some local NGOs to find skilledwomen or men who can make the bags, and will be heading down to thesouth and south east of Sri Lanka to meet some people working ontextile projects with women affected by the 2004 tsunami.

I amalso working with a friend of mine who has set up a very inspiringproject here called Emerge which provides hope and opportunities forteenage rape survivors. I worked as a photographer for the charityearlier this year and have since used my photography based on thecolours of Sri Lanka to create a collection of greeting cards with apercentage going to Emerge. We are currently looking for shops to stockthe cards and possibly people to invest in the project to get itstarted.
www.emergeglobal.org

Iwill be here for a few more weeks getting things off the ground, tofind out more information or to order bags please visit my website at www.bethshepherd.com where you can also view my photography, collection of greeting cards and follow my story, with my photo journal and blog.

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