I want to tell you a peacebomb story. Close your eyes for a second and imagine Laos. Imagine all the most terrible images of poverty. And now I tell you – it is not the worst thing which happened to this country. It is THE MOST HEAVILY BOMBED COUNTRY IN HISTORY per capita. Between 1964 and 1973, against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, the Secret War was waged in neutral Laos. To contain the spread of communism, American B-52s dropped an average of ONE BOMB-LOAD EVERY EIGHT MINUTES, 24 hours a day, for NINE years. 80 million of the 250 million bombs dropped failed to detonate, leaving a deadly legacy that plagues the agrarian population today.
Here I told you a bit about the past. I want to tell now about the future. One day a New York native Elizabeth wanted to answer a simple question: “how and by whom are the goods we consume made?”
After two years in the Merchandising Department at Coach, she packed her bags and traveled to Laos. Upon arrival in Vientiane she began knocking on the doors of local women-based textile businesses. She was on a mission to understand how local, sustainable crafts made by women could be plugged into the global fashion market. Recognizing that market linkage and design are major constraints on artisans, she founded ARTICLE 22 when she met artisans in a rural village melting US bombs into spoons. Having studied History at Williams College and Oxford University, she was beguiled by her lack of awareness of the Secret War in Laos 1963-1974 which left a legacy of 80 million unexploded bombs. She created the Peacebomb bracelet with the idea of buying back the bombs.
Since, ARTICLE22 has developed into a global business, selling an evolving collection of jewelry and home goods to customers in 40 countries including thoughtful icons like model Angela Lindvall and actress Olivia Wilde.
Is it a story about sustainability? Yes, because it is a story about transforming war into peace.
Artisans of Naphia return to their bomb littered village in 1974 upon the close of the Vietnam War to find bombs, exploded and unexploded, and a crashed jet plan. One man learns to melt the war scrap into spoons. Since ARTICLE22 began working with the village in 2009, 12 families grew into 15 families, husbands and wives that make Peacebomb jewelry. They work part time and earn at least 5x the local hourly minimum wage, providing them with the disposable income for books, school, fuel,and medicine that their subsistence farming livelihoods cannot. Artisans are agents of change, healing their land, making it safe to play and grow rice.
I have a peacebomb for myself, but there is a wide choice of jewelry made from the bombs. And, you know, there is something magical, some energy around – it was meant to kill and then was transformed into beauty. It is such an embodiement of our skills and forces…the same can be used to destroy and to create!
You can shop the pieces online. The price range: bracelets – from $50, necklaces from $50. Luxury collection also available.