The Etsy Blog

Mardi Gras: Made in China

During Mardi Gras in 2007, I was standing on a balcony with Shelly, a fifty-year-old woman from Oklahoma City who described herself as a housewife and a grandmother. About every three minutes Shelly performed a typical routine that many women perform during Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street. “Hey you, up there! Show your tits!” one man yelled to Shelly. “Give me some beads! Big beads!” Shelly responded, emphasizing the word “big” and “beads” as she negotiated with anonymous members of the crowd, while they bargained with Shelly on which part of her body they wanted to see. “I want those beads,” Shelly declared, while pointing to a man wearing heart-shaped beads around his neck. “You want these? Then you gotta show me those,” the anonymous man playfully yelled, pointing to her breasts. “You like these?” Shelly exclaimed, pointing to her breasts as she slowly and playfully raised her shirt and then lifted her skirt for the crowd to see. Immediately hundreds of male revelers below let out a thunderous roar as they showered Shelly with Mardi Gras beads.

Every year revelers exchange millions of plastic beads for sex and nudity on Bourbon Street, but what happens when we follow those beads from the hands that exchange them to the hands that make them? Where does the actual manufacturing of these beads that provide so much pleasure to celebrants come from? While participants are using beads to get down and dirty for transgressive thrills, the majority of the world’s plastic bead production occurs in Chinese free-trade zones that were established in the late 1970s. I had an opportunity to stay for two months inside the largest bead factory in the world: The Tai Kuen Bead Factory in Fuzhou, China, owned by Roger Wong. Those two months form the basis for my film titled MARDI GRAS: MADE IN CHINA — an exploration in a commodity chain.


MARDI GRAS: MADE IN CHINA follows the story of four teenage workers who sew plastic beads together with needles and thread and also pull them from a machine. Each story provides insight into their economic realities, self-sacrifice, dreams of a better life, and the severe discipline imposed by living and working in a factory compound. I was eventually kicked out of China under the premise of not having a journalist visa, so I continued following the bead trail to New Orleans in an effort to visually personalize globalization. What I found, and presented in the documentary, is that Mardi Gras beads were hand-crafted and made from cut glass in Czechoslovakia up until the late 1960s. Glass beads were the most popular throws at that time, but a rise in costs, political conditions overseas, and a safety ordinance that cautioned against items that might cause eye injuries all contributed to the decline and ultimate elimination of glass beads and the rise in popularity of plastic ones.

The proliferation of plastic marks the emergence of a disposable culture. Following the plastic bead from China to the U.S. illustrates how the commodity chain is connected to different people along the alienated and seemingly disconnected route.

The raw material for the beads comes from polyethylene and polystyrene — oil based liquids supplied by Chevron (and coming out of Iraq). Here, the film comes full circle. After Mardi Gras ends in New Orleans, the beads are left on the ground where some people collect them and send them as care packages to U.S. soldiers in Iraq where they celebrate Mardi Gras by tossing beads into the streets! Hence, disposable culture is exported overseas as a cultural ritual. In other words, the beads go full circle from a liquid material in Iraq, to China, to New Orleans, and back to the streets of Baghdad where soldiers exchange them in a material form.
The DIY spirit of asking questions, making art, distributing the art, and then making a new film is, for me, exactly why Etsy exists. When I look through the growing membership of Etsy, it inspires me to keep producing socially and environmentally conscious work while listening to the community members who make this possible because of their love for handmade items.  Etsy connects the producer and consumer — as people — directly in a very personal way. And that is the intent of MARDI GRAS: MADE IN CHINA. If we connect the makers and buyers maybe a new economy based on fair wages and accountability is possible.

Carnivalesque Films was founded by Ashley Sabin (a.k.a. ashleysabi) and David Redmon and is currently located in Brooklyn, NY. The team brings together stories united by a raw, startling sensibility of disruption and celebration, where excess and transgression percolate in everyday life. For more information on MARDI GRAS: MADE IN CHINA and other titles from Carnivalesque Films, please visit Carnivalesque Films or check them out right here on Etsy.

  • adrienneaudrey

    adrienneaudrey says:

    wow, great read. Such an interesting topic I had never thought about before.

    5 years ago

  • CocoaBeans

    CocoaBeans says:

    Very interesting, i had never thought about that before either.

    5 years ago

  • sewlutionsbyamo

    sewlutionsbyamo says:

    !Wow! An eye opening and something to think about.

    5 years ago

  • somelikeitvintage

    somelikeitvintage says:

    It is amazing to follow the trail of a raw product to it's finished state. This is quite amazing regarding the beads...often we have no idea where the initial product began and perhaps to some it may come as a shock. As a seller of vintage clothing, I can easily identify with the trail of a garment. I have had the distinct pleasure of returning a few pieces to their original homes - but the travels of that piece in between can be quite a story! If only objects could talk!

    5 years ago

  • sewlutionsbyamo

    sewlutionsbyamo says:

    opener..

    5 years ago

  • spacejam

    spacejam says:

    very interesting.

    5 years ago

  • manvsgeorge

    manvsgeorge says:

    Thank you for sharing this story - and thank you for shedding light on this interesting and important subject. Fair wages and decent working conditions are too easy to take for granted.

    5 years ago

  • MothHouse

    MothHouse says:

    wow, great article!

    5 years ago

  • MothHouse

    MothHouse says:

    wow, great article!

    5 years ago

  • BambuEarth

    BambuEarth says:

    I love this story.

    5 years ago

  • corelladesign

    corelladesign says:

    Amazing Story! Thanks so much for sharing this:)

    5 years ago

  • VixVintage

    VixVintage says:

    Wow, thought provoking, don't think I will ever look at those beads the same way again! They are also tossed about at parade's, school dances, class parties etc. Thank-you.

    5 years ago

  • aisle3studio

    aisle3studio says:

    definitely different

    5 years ago

  • murandabarker

    murandabarker says:

    really great post! my hubby lived in new orleans while he was young...he'll find this very interesting!

    5 years ago

  • busterandboo

    busterandboo says:

    Wow. That's all I can say...wow.

    5 years ago

  • ThePurlMinx

    ThePurlMinx says:

    It is mindblowing to think of the contrasting origination and destination. Likewise, for one culture, they represent a means of survival & wages, and in another, they represent gluttony & waste. . .

    5 years ago

  • Frankenkitty

    Frankenkitty says:

    I saw that film and recommended it to others. It was quite eye opening, and heart breaking. Thank you for shedding light on their stories.

    5 years ago

  • poppyswickedgarden

    poppyswickedgarden says:

    Very interesting indeed! My mother Cinders from Akacinders spent a lot of time working with factories in China when she used to be a product designer. So I'm sure she has something to say about this one:) I know that she always said that the factory workers were very thankful for what they had because life is so different there. I do believe that is why most of us do make handmade though and upcycle, In hopes to make the world a better place:)

    5 years ago

  • VintageSurplus

    VintageSurplus says:

    Oh my gosh! One of your BEST and most important posts!! I wish the world outside of Etsy was made more aware. Thanks so much!!!

    5 years ago

  • ParadiseBodyShop

    ParadiseBodyShop says:

    It's amazing how some people complain that handmade artists on Etsy don't charge enough for their work. Imagine how much these workers are getting paid you can purchase 10 strings of beads at the dollar store so we can throw it away. Great article, and I'm glad I was able to learn something from it.

    5 years ago

  • cravejewelrydesign

    cravejewelrydesign says:

    What a great article!

    5 years ago

  • haveanicedaynow

    haveanicedaynow says:

    very interesting!

    5 years ago

  • GlitzGlitter

    GlitzGlitter says:

    What an amazing article. I am so glad you shared this with us.

    5 years ago

  • MintyFreshFusions

    MintyFreshFusions says:

    Awesome article, the new glass beads made in India can't have a much better background either :(

    5 years ago

  • LostAndFawned

    LostAndFawned says:

    Very informative article. Thanks for sharing. I would love to see more articles like this one in the future! It's great to see the bigger picture.

    5 years ago

  • Tefi

    Tefi says:

    I saw this documentary last year. Disgusting how wasteful the Mardi Gras plastic bead culture is. There are some great shops along Magazine Street in NOLA that sell handcrafted goods made with these discarded plastic beads - items like chandeliers and bowls that have been melted down. It's not a total loss.

    5 years ago

  • itsastitch

    itsastitch says:

    This was an awesome read, and now I really, really want to watch this Documentary!

    5 years ago

  • artkitten

    artkitten says:

    Great article. An important subject that gives one pause when we consider where our throwaway items come from and end up.

    5 years ago

  • SatinandBirch

    SatinandBirch says:

    A very important article. Accountability is something we and our lawmakers need to focus on.

    5 years ago

  • MintyFreshFusions

    MintyFreshFusions says:

    Also, the "Mardi Gras : Made in China" link throughout the post goes nowhere?!

    5 years ago

  • lavenderrabbit

    lavenderrabbit says:

    Wow, really. I wondered, but didn't realize the depth. Amazing photograph, really want to follow the story. Thanks for the story.

    5 years ago

  • blueberryshoes

    blueberryshoes says:

    sad interesting eye opening

    5 years ago

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage says:

    VERY THOUGHT PROVOKING ARTICLE.

    5 years ago

  • MithrilDreams

    MithrilDreams says:

    wow, this was one of the best articles I've read. I hadn't Because I must live under a rock, I didn't know that beads were given for being flashed....durrrrrrrrrrr

    5 years ago

  • adam Admin

    adam says:

    I've seen this film too. It's really eye-opening. Depending on how you look at it, it's either really depressing, or a call to action, an opportunity to change how things are done. Where to begin?

    5 years ago

  • LisaFerinDesigns

    LisaFerinDesigns says:

    Ashley, this was fascinating! Thank you for sharing your work with us!

    5 years ago

  • saintesmariesjewelry

    saintesmariesjewelry says:

    a good article, the girls hands broke my heart

    5 years ago

  • breadandroses2

    breadandroses2 says:

    I've been aware of this for a long time but thought the women earned 25¢/hr., not 10 cents. Where to begin, Adam? Don't allow all the Made in China Supplies, jewelry findings, etc., to be sold here on Etsy might be a start. But then, those supplies are probably a source of huge revenue for Etsy. Sellers, quit using those supplies as much as possible. This is not just directed at jewelers, either. It's hard to find affordable thread that's not made in China, too, but I do. Much of that is new old stock vintage and it's hard to come by & frequently costs more than new Chinese product. The quality is better & worth it.

    5 years ago

  • breadandroses2

    breadandroses2 says:

    sorry, meant to say above: 'being sold here on Etsy'.

    5 years ago

  • MPsen

    MPsen says:

    I am almost afraid to read this article after seeing the pictures. Will have to work up to this one...

    5 years ago

  • suzini

    suzini says:

    Bravo, wonderful article. What I love most about Etsy is that it is a vehicle to help people be more responsible consumers. I would love to see more article like this in the Storque, great job!!

    5 years ago

  • FerntreeStudio

    FerntreeStudio says:

    Interesting read. It's very disappointing that this disposable and debase behavior is what the rest of the world sees of us.

    5 years ago

  • louishaw

    louishaw says:

    I appreciate your drive to raise awareness about globalization not as something to be proud of, but rather, something that is scarily starting (or perhaps already has...) to take over our world. We have to continue to broadcast the message that this is an era when we need to be conscious of the world around us and how we are making it to operate because if we aren't, we will fall into the grips of our own destruction. Thank you for your ambition in this area. The world needs more of this.

    5 years ago

  • loopyboopy

    loopyboopy says:

    Excellent article, very thought provoking In an effort to save face for my beloved city..can I just say that you were definetly standing in the wrong spot on Mardi Gras day. Mardi Gras means much much more to this city than beads. I promise the people you were standing next to were NOT from New Orleans. But again, thanks for bringing this to our attentino, must see the film.

    5 years ago

  • BNCjewelry

    BNCjewelry says:

    I actually saw this film in class. It's a very sad situation and definitely goes unnoticed by too many people.

    5 years ago

  • lilcoop1

    lilcoop1 says:

    Great article. I never thought about how one set of beads can be related to so many countries. This was definitely an eye opener

    5 years ago

  • yohopee

    yohopee says:

    Thank you, this is an excellent article.

    5 years ago

  • shopKCQ

    shopKCQ says:

    I applaud the Etsy for bringing light to the issue of the hand we have in globalization and mass production, but the title of this article, while attention grabbing, reminds me of the forum thread "Hong Kong Haters??" which (let's face it) is quite loaded. Two months in China is simply not enough time to analyze something so complex like globalization and how it has affected the production market in China. I'm not denying any claims made - but after participating in the forum thread, I was quite disappointed in the prejudice and misguided perceptions of life in Hong Kong and China.

    5 years ago

  • zelaya

    zelaya says:

    Incredibly interesting article. This shows how important it is for us, who design, craft and sell our products to explore and follow the journey of the raw materials we use. To be aware of the environmental and social impact of the production and the disposal of what we sell, and make wise, sustainable decisions. It is important to note that when you buy something below its real market value, the earth and someone else in the world is paying for it through labor exploitation. I come from a tiny country in Central America, El Salvador, which has a long history of labor and environmental violations, mainly through the establishment of sweatshops. Seeing the negative impact of these violations left me no option but to make sure that what I produced was 100% biodegradable and followed fair trade values. This is by no means the real answer to the problem, but it does make a difference in my life and the lives of people I come in contact with.

    5 years ago

  • karenmeyers

    karenmeyers says:

    Definitely makes one think.

    5 years ago

  • vintagemaison

    vintagemaison says:

    I had absolutely no idea a) about throwing plastic beads at Mardi Gras and b) about the workers' lives. Very interesting article - totally different cultures from west of me and east of me (I'm in the middle!)

    5 years ago

  • Tina7383

    Tina7383 says:

    The picture of the prick marks and sores says SO MUCH. I havent even watched the clip yet but it was that single still photo that made me click and read. This is a wise writer that knows the real meaning of the expression a picture is worth a thousand words. I am a DIY bead nut and all beaders know that Chinese beads are very inexpensive and the quality is getting better all the time. I dont know if wanting answers is a common thread among crafters but is definate one of my strongest traits. Kudos to Ashley for her conscious efforts to create a fair trade enviroment and shine a light on our society and its ever growing; dispicable, disposable attitude.

    5 years ago

  • CountryByTheBumpkins

    CountryByTheBumpkins says:

    Great article! Thanks for sharing! It's a shame so much hard work go's to waste.

    5 years ago

  • Aquanetta

    Aquanetta says:

    omg that clip was incredible. dont feed into the machine, buy handmade.

    5 years ago

  • funkomavintage

    funkomavintage says:

    if we boycott the products that are made by exploited workers....That will change how workers are treated. That is the basis of the Unionization movement in America...and the reason why Europeans, on the whole, make a fair wage and enjoy weeks of vacation. Yes, it's hard being thoughtful, but worth the effort. Another angle on the problem.....http://www.timeday.org/. So much exploitation.....so much social awareness work to do. Thanks for putting up that clip etsy.....

    5 years ago

  • LuttrellStudio

    LuttrellStudio says:

    Wow. It breaks my heart to here they have more women employees because it's easier to control them. How awful.

    5 years ago

  • reinaldovalentin

    reinaldovalentin says:

    WOW eye opening!

    5 years ago

  • lifeofcolors

    lifeofcolors says:

    Thanks for making us think!

    5 years ago

  • meteor

    meteor says:

    Very interesting, eye opening article. I like Michael Moore films, surely I will like this documentary too.

    5 years ago

  • blainedesign

    blainedesign says:

    It's a problem so much bigger and more pervasive than these beads. I make chandeliers and several years ago when I started, there were only 2 wire manufacturers left in the U.S. Today there are NONE. Wire -- nothing is more basic to keeping things running. It's in our walls, in every appliance, our cars, our computers. And we don't even make it any more. It's made in China under terrible conditions, mixed increasingly with lead other poisonous materials. And every year the quality of the wire declines. It's a social justice issue, but so much more than that. We're so weak in our ability to make the things we need, it's truly a national security issue. That's just one of the many reasons I love Etsy so much!

    5 years ago

  • DownToTheWireDesigns

    DownToTheWireDesigns says:

    Interesting article. I would like to see supply shops have to label where things they sell come from.

    5 years ago

  • searchandrescue

    searchandrescue says:

    Wow, the fulfillment of 2 Timothy 3 is pretty disgusting. Thank you Etsy, for your awareness on this subject. Although not to that level, believe it or not, I've experienced similar treatment here in Canada. It's simply dehumanizing.

    5 years ago

  • WoollyWonka

    WoollyWonka says:

    Same thing with all these small, cheap, "disposable" toys, gadgets, clothes, jewelry... maybe if this country didn't feel the need to consume so much...

    5 years ago

  • recycledwares

    recycledwares says:

    not sure why the short clip made me sad. would love to see the whole film.

    5 years ago

  • greencouchdesign

    greencouchdesign says:

    Wow, eye opening and informative.

    5 years ago

  • brandyfisher

    brandyfisher says:

    This is a great article...wish more people would think about where the stuff they buy comes from.

    5 years ago

  • ArtisticIntentions

    ArtisticIntentions says:

    Great article. Thanks!

    5 years ago

  • girltuesdayjewelry

    girltuesdayjewelry says:

    Saw the clip and now have to see the whole movie. The photo of the factory worker's beat up hands speaks volumes. It is sad that we live in a largely disposable culture. Hopefully documentaries like this will bring more awareness to the impact our consumerism. Thank you!

    5 years ago

  • TeamRuster

    TeamRuster says:

    Incredibly eye opening. I agree with GirlTuesdayjewelry with the beat up hands speak volumes. I love to see this documentary go Indy!

    5 years ago

  • MagicMarkingsArt

    MagicMarkingsArt says:

    this is the reason why it is so important to support indie films and the handmade movement - people who really care, who want to be informed, and who are willing to make changes one person at a time.

    5 years ago

  • bomchelle

    bomchelle says:

    Such a great film! Check it out.

    5 years ago

  • bomchelle

    bomchelle says:

    It is a really great film, as are their others. Check out the site!

    5 years ago

  • ecoblingcouture

    ecoblingcouture says:

    Very interesting....

    5 years ago

  • katruong

    katruong says:

    I'm with WoolyWonka. Let's go for QUALITY, not QUANTITY.

    5 years ago

  • katruong

    katruong says:

    I'm with WoolyWonka. It's all about QUALITY not QUANTITY

    5 years ago

  • voleurdebijoux

    voleurdebijoux says:

    This is a wonderful article that makes a great point about how we view the world and what effects we have on each other. Thank you so much for your amazing work, Ashley and David!

    5 years ago

  • JDStar

    JDStar says:

    Wow. So many little things that we don't think about... Amazing!

    5 years ago

  • AnodynePress

    AnodynePress says:

    Awesome article, awesome film concept. This is the kind of thing that nags at me and I love the full story to go with my opinion. Thanks you!

    5 years ago

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat says:

    We should all try to be more aware about the supply chain of everything we buy, only by making informed choices can we put our consumer-power to good use.

    5 years ago

  • ZhongFuJewelryDesign

    ZhongFuJewelryDesign says:

    I watched that film on Link TV about a year ago. So fascinating yet sad. We all need to see more of this stuff. Here comes Valentine's Day - another one of those commercial holidays that probably completes the same kind of product circle as described in the movie. Keep on craftin'.

    5 years ago

  • wildwildthings

    wildwildthings says:

    It is sad to me that things have so little value in this day and age. =(

    5 years ago

  • Mimiandlola

    Mimiandlola says:

    Great story!

    5 years ago

  • halpal28

    halpal28 says:

    i actually just watched this movie! it's a great topic for a film. i think there are human rights documentaries that tell a more compelling story, (like walmart: the high cost of low prices,) but mardi gras: made in china was definitely interesting, and had some really great, intimate moments with the chinese women and their families.

    5 years ago

  • zoijioz

    zoijioz says:

    It's really great to see that so many people have read this article and will be sure not to buy Mardi Gras beads the next time they're shopping for a Chinese-made pair of shoes at Wal Mart... Come on, nobody is going to stop buying this stuff until it's more desirable to not buy it. If someone can figure out a way to make it so these factory workers have awesome working and living conditions and be paid lots of money while making the product cheap enough to fit into the American way, then do it! But I have a feeling that the reason these people work in factories is because they make more money doing that than what they were doing before or what they can do elsewhere. Ten cents an hour doesn't sound like a lot compared to your daily $5 cup of coffee, but it's obviously enough for those workers to keep working there. -Z

    5 years ago

  • cadreams

    cadreams says:

    Interesting article-Thanks!

    5 years ago

  • craftscafe

    craftscafe says:

    Dear Ashley & Etsy, I am very grateful for this article. I think etsy provides conscientious consumers a great alternative to the easiest choices which almost always come at great price, as described in this article. I’ve been trying to reconcile my love for crafting with consumerism in general and have been careful about the choices I make when purchasing or accessing supplies. Over the last eight years my full time jobs & volunteering have focused almost exclusively on social justice issues and often involved educating those around me about the impacts their personal purchases have on others and our planet. This article is great food for thought for all of us involved in the handmade community. Thank you & please more subject of this kind to Storque! (hmmm... maybe I have something to contribute towards that survey after all!)

    5 years ago

  • PainkillerStudios

    PainkillerStudios says:

    Wow... This is... I have no words. I'm surprised that it's hitting me this hard, but I'm rather speechless now. And the funny thing is... you can't even reuse those stupid necklaces. If the necklaces could be broken and the beads strung upon something else, they would have a lot more worth to me... I've *always* thought that.

    5 years ago

  • Sigmosaics

    Sigmosaics says:

    superb article and video. It highlights an area that most don't think about too much ... very thought provoking. People are aware of the problem but not enough is being done to halt this blatant use of human/child labour. I'd be guessing the mardi gras will continue with it's beads though .. which is pretty sad really. I do realise the tradition behind this, perhaps they could be persuaded to utilise something else that isn't made using this type of labour. Flowers? i suspect not.

    5 years ago

  • pelicularities

    pelicularities says:

    Thank you for this article. I watched Mardi Gras while helping to manage an independent documentary festival last year, and it's unforgettable. I especially love the bit where you show the Chinese girls a video of Mardi Gras, and they say something along the lines of "I can't believe people do that for plastic beads!" There's another documentary by Micha Peled called China Blue, about working conditions at a jeans factory. If you like Mardi Gras: Made in China, I'd recommend that film as well. zoijioz: you're right, and I agree with the facts of your post. However, as Micha points out in his interviews, the cost of making a pair of jeans is a pittance compared to what you actually pay at the store. Would you pay a few dollars more for a pair of jeans - $55 instead of $50 - if you knew it gave the person who made it a genuine shot at a proper livelihood? There's a space in the market for a company like that. Maybe the economics of this doesn't apply to beads, but it certainly does to many other items that are made in China.

    5 years ago

  • julssewcrazy

    julssewcrazy says:

    Cool. I never thought of Mardi Gras beads as "hand-made". It makes sense. And what an eye opener this article is. And yes, it would be nice if those necklaces could be re-used, maybe melted down again to make more beads? I have not seen the documentary, but enjoyed the article.

    5 years ago

  • bayousalvage

    bayousalvage says:

    tune in bacchus sunday to see krewedocraft, in new orleans, ride in the box of wine parade and throw unique handmade throws. most made of recycled objects. our theme this year is peewee's crafty adventure. and yes, we despise the plastic beads. let's join together to rid the world of them snd replace with handmade goodness

    5 years ago

  • birchbeerboutique

    birchbeerboutique says:

    Amazing article and responses! The good news is that Ashley S. is creating dialogue and inspiring people to change their ways of thinking. The bad news is that its all about trade-offs. For example, if we use that many flowers (think billions each year), the commercial cut flower industry creates an equally thorny environmental problem by converting deserts to flower farms and diverting whole rivers. If we use glass beads (which I do), we use 20 x the fuel that we would otherwise have expended on shipping plastic or flowers. Maybe local sellers have the best answer to this question of how to alleviate the stress we place on our planet and neighbors through our collective over-consumption.

    5 years ago

  • scrivenerferret

    scrivenerferret says:

    At least the beads don't go to waste. There are 27 years of beads in my mom's closet. But I think people should reuse them more than they are now. There is no real sense in buying a lot of plain beads new when everyone with a float in a parade has as many beads as my mom does. Maybe that will help this situation. No one is going to pay what handmade beads are actually worth only to give them away at a parade.

    5 years ago

  • scrivenerferret

    scrivenerferret says:

    I forgot to add that I am rather shocked that Etsy only found five Mardi Gras items for sale to include here when there are hundreds of well-photographed Mardi Gras items for sale right now.

    5 years ago

  • HazyDaisy

    HazyDaisy says:

    Thanks for a really fascinating article, it has opened my eyes.

    5 years ago

  • sharonclancydesigns

    sharonclancydesigns says:

    Thanks for shedding light on this. Very important and interesting article.

    5 years ago

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery says:

    I've never been to Mardi Gras I think as consumers its very difficult to make 'positive' choices. But that's only 50% of the story companies have to be willing to make the change too.

    5 years ago

  • dragonhouseofyuen

    dragonhouseofyuen says:

    well done! excellent article about our consumer society by focusing on a bead. Itself incontroversial but it's production isn't. imagine what people would reveal (to the 'etsy' world) if we focused on other items in the same light

    5 years ago

  • GlitterbirdGlamour

    GlitterbirdGlamour says:

    Great and timely topic!! Tha

    5 years ago

  • GlitterbirdGlamour

    GlitterbirdGlamour says:

    Thanks for doing the research.

    5 years ago

  • prillarguri1976

    prillarguri1976 says:

    I have been to China, I have seen first hand how aweful it is for these young girls. I truly feel for them. I try to do my part and not buy items made in China. I was approached by a young girl who offered a foot massage 1 hour $10. I said no thank you, tried to walk away, she yelled okay $2. I was so sad. She must have been 12 years old. I gave her $20 and told her to go home. It was Christmas day 2007. I bought a few keychains, they were handmade very pretty, again I felt bad for the boy selling them. I gave him the last of my money. They sell the same keychains here $5 each. I paid $.05 for each. There is no child labor laws, they say children must be at least 14 years old. They lie they have 5 year olds working in kitchens cleaning floors. These are not even school age kids. China is a wonderful country to visit. The people treat tourist very well. They treat their own like slaves. I can't look at certain things without getting sad. I refuse to pay 1000% mark up, knowing that the 10 years old who made it gets paid $1 a day. If they are lucky. Thank you for this story, maybe it will make an impact on the right person, and something will been done.

    5 years ago

  • TheCottageCheese

    TheCottageCheese says:

    I am so proud to see Etsy posting about this brilliant film. Everyone should be required to see this, EVERYONE! Perhaps it would teach people to really think about how our ridiculous spending on frivolous things affects the environment and the global economy. Women shouldn't be crammed into a dorm like sardines, making insultingly low wages so that some drunk can pay $100 for an all-night Bead peep-show on Bourbon Street. And ladies, have you no shame?

    5 years ago

  • KathysDesignsLLC

    KathysDesignsLLC says:

    Great Article/film. We should all be more aware of the conditions that other people live/work in. In this case it makes me appreicate my life here in the United States more. The changes we can/do make has a greater impact on the world than most of us realize.

    5 years ago

  • leighadactyl

    leighadactyl says:

    Thank you so much for this article! My husband is from Mobile where Mardi Gras is very big, but we've never talked about the human impact of all that excess. We're definitely going to watch this film!

    5 years ago

  • oyster

    oyster says:

    Not this article, but elsewhere...the pejorative comments levied at a whole country/ethnicity of people are un-Etsy-like... :(

    5 years ago

  • MaxsKloset

    MaxsKloset says:

    First, I can understand the plight of the young women who work in such substandard conditions for lack of better jobs, working conditions and wages. Until you change the Chinese government and their processes, you will never change anything for these young people. Second, I am a little put off by the very first paragraph in that the filmmaker would allow herself to be in the company of someone who would show themselves (sexually) just for a set of beads. This is clearly illegal and she is lucky her "friend" didn't wind up in jail. Third, Mardi Gras has been going on since the 1800's. I suggest if you don't like them buying plastic beads from China, open your own factory and manufacture a product that could be purchased locally. People want to complain and point fingers, but they never do anything to actually help the situation or the people in need. I happen to live near New Orleans. I was NOT raised to appreciate Mardi Gras, but our area has had enough bashing by Mother Nature, contractors that lie and cheat home owners out of their money, the masses of homeless...I could go on and on. I think you get the picture. We have our own to worry about in this country and I will worry about them and try to help them first. I am not going to worry about people using plastic beads when my own countrymen are starving and freezing to death in the streets!!!

    5 years ago

  • AntoinettesWhims

    AntoinettesWhims says:

    Yikes, that didn't put my item in a very good light now did it. Gee, my 31 year old Mardi Gras beads I found at an estate sale was spotlighted as part of all that is evil in this world without one thought about the Fact that if the people didn't work there they would have no job at all and no means to help feed their families and they would starve to death. Would that really be a better alternative? This is completely one sided, ask any of those folks what they would have done without the job. And now that you know will you even remember your new social consciousness when you purchase these same sort of beads for favors for your child's pirate or princess birthday parties. Are you going to tell your children no Barbies or Transformers for Christmas? Sheeesh!

    5 years ago

  • petitwovenplay

    petitwovenplay says:

    After the party is over, what happens to the necklaces? That's a lot of beads just trown away. If that is where they go. How about doing away with beads? It's hazardous to the environment and to the people of China.

    5 years ago

  • RageoftheAge

    RageoftheAge says:

    Articles like this are vitally important, and I believe it is the responsibility of all of us, starting at the top, to educate and inform ourselves about anything related to this business. It is becoming more and more clear that ignorance is not bliss because it allows this to go on. It is a travesty. Seeing those diseased hands is heart-breaking, absolutely heartbreaking. Thank you for bringing all this to light, and I hope to see many more articles that expose all of the information related to what is put out there for consumers and what we use to create our handmade, here at ETSY, and anywhere else. To me it is about exposure to substances that risk health. And I agree with MaxsCloset. We need to take a good, hard look at our own environments and all the dangerous chemicals, etc...that we are unknowingly exposed to. I thought that living in the country in middle America was safe. But one can be exposed to toxins in the unlikeliest of places. I know from personal experience of an exposure by a friend who was cleaning up the trash thrown out of by people from their car windows of a local creek, and his foot accidentally slipping into a small tributary of that creek. A beautiful place, that was deceiving. He developed a dermatitis rash on the foot that was in the water, had never had any foot issues ever before that. A dermatologist tried to treat his foot UNSUCCESSFULLY for a year. His own immunities finally cleared it up after A YEAR AND A HALF. He investigated on his own, and found that the stream had various toxic chemicals, and no one could seem to locate the origin of the toxic chemicals dumped into the little stream..thinking that it was probably from chemically treated lawns, or from a nearby farm. Now they are building a water pollution/treatment facility in that area. Imagine that. But one wonders, what damage has been done to that environment? Is it irreversible? Will it ever be a safe, healthy environment for kids to hike and play or for anyone to even live near? A recent example I heard about on the news was a company in Cave City, KY, that was KNOWINGLY dumping lethally toxic chemicals into the ground and water systems. They were only caught because of a 'whistle-blower'. Fined heavily. Put out of business. But the damage is done. And it makes me wonder at what scale this sort of thing goes on in this country. These issues are all interrelated. This is just a reminder that we ALL need to pay closer attention to many related issues.

    5 years ago

  • petitwovenplay

    petitwovenplay says:

    @AntoinetteWhims.....our children don't need cheap Barbies and Transformers? As socially conscious parents it's are responsiblity to educate our children on such matters as this article discusses so that they can make better judgements on there wants. We are in the business of making handmade items that are fair, sweatshop free, and lovingly made. So why not get them to understand that!

    5 years ago

  • yabettasupadont

    yabettasupadont says:

    I'm in a mardi gras krewe that makes handmade throws. the fact that THIS is the story you chose to write breaks my heart. Krewe Do Craft!

    5 years ago

  • yabettasupadont

    yabettasupadont says:

    I understand, I'm just sad...it's so hard to change culture, we're trying it one throw at a time... In NOLA? Come catch a handmade throw from Krewe Do Craft! We'll be marching in the Box of Wine parade Feb. 14th, Bacchus Sunday, along St Charles Ave, from (I think) Jackson to Clio St.

    5 years ago

  • millalove

    millalove says:

    Antionette, I'm afraid that I believe you're missing the point. It's quite a common response to points made about this issue, to say, "Well they will just be happy they have SOME money coming in, and if we stop buying they wont have a job!" If you look at the action in it's entirety you will understand that if sales are dropped as a direct result of people turning their backs on goods that people produce in horrendous conditions, then the people who wish to have more and more money, employers, will have to find an alternative way to treat their employees if they want to see that money. It's not always easy to see past the blatantly obvious, albeit, incorrect assumption. Especially if the alternative is making you think outside your comfort zone. To answer your question about Barbies and Transformers. I think you'll find here, many people who are willing, and infact do only buy eco-friendly, recycled (upcycled), and natural products for their children. So yes, for alot of Etsy children, no barbies for Christmas!

    5 years ago

  • avantegarb

    avantegarb says:

    Interesting and thought provoking article. I have lived for some time now, in New Orleans. I never really liked plastic anything, but the beads at first were an addiction...contrary to popular thought, you CAN get them without showing anyhting but a smile.....now I see them rather a nuisance, clogging our streets and homes....we jest that all the beads stored in New Orleans are making this city sink!! The weight of that plastic garbage is immense. I know some fellow crafters here who have started a Krewe that only throws hand made gizmos and gadgets, tshirts and bags.......upcycled stuff that people can actually use in thier daily lives. There are also organizations that collect them from donators post Mardi Gras and sell them back to Krewes(recycle them) and give the profits to charities. Also, glass beads...albeit, small ones are seen more often again at parades....a really nice trend that should help with all the waste, cuz those are actually wearable any day of the year. And actually most krewes are throwing more and more usable items at parades. A small, but growing faction of New Orleanians actually do care and are taking steps to get away from all the wasteful consumerism of buying beads new from China!

    5 years ago

  • zoijioz

    zoijioz says:

    @millalove Don't be afraid to believe! Seriously though, I think the "blatantly obvious" reaction is to say that these people are working in horrible conditions and they're slaves to capitalism and all that. I think it actually takes a lot more thought to look past the sensational images to see the perspective that if people in Asia and South America weren't working in factories they would have to revert to much harder work for much less pay, such as farming, mining, and even collecting firewood. If the money dried up for these factories nobody would decide to pay the people more to work in them. They couldn't. Even if they somehow did, chances are by that time the same product would be cheaper to buy from a different country, even the same country it's being sold in. So either way you look at it, the cheapness of the product is what's keeping these people employed. It's all relative. Take the fact that children work in these factories (which is far from a secret)- I know of one study that was done that showed when children weren't allowed to work in factories they were resorting to stealing and prostitution. Why? Because they have to have money. They don't have mommy and daddy able to buy them a car on their 16th birthday and give them a $100 a month allowance to go to the mall with their friends. The fact that they live in such a country that every member of a family needs to work as soon as they can walk is the sad part, not the fact that our need to buy things is putting food in their mouths. All of us should be sadder that their countries aren't able to do enough for them to keep them out of poverty and hope they change as more modern industrialized countries have (don't forget that America had child sweat shops too). In the meantime you might as well buy stuff made overseas because they need the money. -Z

    5 years ago

  • MandyBesek

    MandyBesek says:

    Thank you so much for getting my attention about this topic! It is so easy to get into the habit of using mass-produced items, especially during the holidays. This is why I'M PROUD TO BE AN ETSYIAN!

    5 years ago

  • AntoinettesWhims

    AntoinettesWhims says:

    millalove said Antionette, I'm afraid that I believe you're missing the point. No ~ I have not missed the point at all. I just choose to see this story for what it is, it has been blatantly sensationalized to get the gut wrenching response from it's readers and to anger them, but for all the wrong reasons. As you can see by this thread I did not have the common response as you say. Really, demonizing Mardi Gras for the throw away beads instead of for all the immorality that is going on during that time. I mean really, have a free for all then come Ash Wed go to the priest and have all your sins absolved, that is if anyone even does that anymore. Personally I dislike buying China made goods, especially the cheap ones, but China made goods are a fact of life. As crafters here on etsy, how many of you can honestly say the tools you use for your trade were not made in China. Seriously, look around your home, how many things just in the room you are sitting in were made in China. Are you wearing homemade shoes (I mean who can afford to buy fine Italian shoes anymore)? Is there a shoe company in America anymore? Perhaps look at it this way just as an example. I live in the northeast where there is a very high cost of living. Should I think people in the south and mid west need to make as much money when everything, housing, food, heating, and fuel cost so much less in these places? Back to China, yes they work in horrible conditions without as much safety for very little money. However a bag of rice does not cost as much there as it does here. The money brought into these villages by these factories does help the entire village. These folks have a chance to eat. The alternatives, starvation for one, or perhaps selling the daughters to sex traffickers as is a common practice, would you rather that kind of life for them? Anyways, when China calls us on our national debt to them, we will be the impoverished nation with the same problems they face now. Don't be so naive and think it can't happen here. They are raising a nation of boys, can we say the largest army in the world. I have been on mission trips to Haiti to help built water cisterns and schools. My heart is breaking for the country 1/2 my heart belongs to. You need to realize that for the majority of the people there, one meal a day is great, and it is an everyday struggle to get food and potable water. Women would walk up to ten miles a day with a back breaking five gallon bucket of water on their heads to bring home for their families with so little to eat. I imagine it is very similar in other 3 world countries. Where is your outrage for that? If you really want to make a difference, why not go to World Vision and sponsor a child. You will know the child is getting an education, at least a meal at school, and emergency medical care if need be. As you know education is what brings people out of poverty. Factories here in America were much the same way until we put a greater importance on education. And I still don't think it was right to use my listing in such a demonizing way and to be used as an outlet to vent the new found anger folks were made to feel. I'm new to etsy (less than a month) and was told it is an honor to have your item featured here in a story, however not in this case. Picked just because I found these vintage Mardi Gras beads at an estate sale, thought they were pretty cool and listed them here. The family I bought them from said it was the ladies favorite trip she ever took and she was well traveled. She lovingly saved and treasured them all these years, they were not a throw away item to her but rather quite meaningful. It's just a matter of perspective. I ask ~ Please don't hold my listing or my differing point of view against me.

    5 years ago

  • ellecgee

    ellecgee says:

    SUCH a great documentary. I live in South Louisiana and most people never realize that anything of the sort is going on. This film was actually featured at a small film festival called Cinema on the Bayou this past weekend in my town! What a coincidence! I highly recommend watching the whole documentary if you can.

    5 years ago

  • TheLittleRagamuffin

    TheLittleRagamuffin says:

    Thank you for sharing a bigger picture that is often left untold.

    5 years ago

  • rklegrand

    rklegrand says:

    This is an interesting documentary, but there's a LOT that it leaves out. Yes, the bottom line of the doc is that these items are being made in Chinese sweatshops. It points out that we need to think long and hard about where what we buy comes from and what kind of business culture we're supporting with our dollars. Having said that, the Mardi Gras bead/throw situation is MUCH more complex than the film makes it out to be. There's a lot more to it than showing boobs for beads that will be thrown away. First off, most beads are thrown from floats in parades that family-oriented or PG-rated at worst. Flesh for flash is such a small percentage of what goes on during Mardi Gras, it's almost negligible. Unfortunately, it is what grabs the headlines and the camera lens of people who make their living by sensationalizing it - whether it's Joe Francis or the folks who made this film. Secondly, although there is an unsupportable amount of waste associated with Mardi Gras, there are many, many folks who treasure and save their beads, particularly the nicer throws. There are also several local charities that collect massive quantities of unwanted beads. They sort and resell the beads, often fixing the broken ones. A lot of this labor is done by physically or mentally challenged individuals who are able to earn an income by doing this work. As mentioned by another poster, some beads get a second life, being recycled into art or craft. I wish the filmmakers would have delved into some of the alternatives to cheap Chinese throws, instead of just making Mardi Gras look like one huge waste-fest, thrown at the expense of young Chinese women. Yabettasupadont mentioned Krewe do Craft and their handmade throws. This group is amazing and provides clever alternatives to sweatshop beads. There are other groups - the Joan of Arc Krewe comes to mind - that forbid mass-produced throws in favor of a smaller number of handmade items. Krewe du Vieux's sub-krewes throw a higher percentage of locally-produced non-bead items than most, and there's a real opportunity there for a serious paradigm shift in what constitutes an acceptable but cool throw. I expect to see that change in the next few years. Finally, it bears mentioning that Mardi Gras is much more than parades and throws - it provides a whole social and charitable framework for the communities that celebrate it. It's a lot more rich and complicated a holiday than the filmmakers would have you believe. Change is slow to come to Mardi Gras, but there are hopeful signs that the groups that put on the parades and parties are becoming more aware of the environmental and human costs of their activities. Still in the baby-steps stage, but moving in the right direction.

    5 years ago

  • NouveauNiche

    NouveauNiche says:

    @ rklegrand- I agree that alternatives should be explored, and the organizations that do provide those should be recognized.

    5 years ago

  • craftpile

    craftpile says:

    I aprreciate you sharing and making me aware. Very sad.

    5 years ago

  • akaCINDERS

    akaCINDERS says:

    Yes I have worked with factories in China. I would never begrudge them their living to boost my own sales. The people are hard working an wonderful. Most young people (usually 16 and over, same as in the US) are working in the cities to send money to their families in the country. They live in dormatories that consist of a small room with one 2 to four people. They wash their clothes by hand and hang them on their balcony to dry (it is also their closet). I have a great deal of love and respect for my Chinese friends. The Chinese don't make as much as we do, because they don't want as much as we do. They work many hours and they are happy. If you want factories in China to make as much as we do here, are you willing to pay $20 for a box of bandages? Will you pay $10 for the batteries for your camera, or $100 for that ink cartridge for your printer? You may be undercut by mass produced items, but that is not what we sell on Etsy. And where do we get our supplies to make our product from? Where do you think?

    5 years ago

  • novella

    novella says:

    I've thoroughly enjoyed the vast points of view. Thank you to all for such an interesting thread.

    5 years ago

  • AmericanHandmade

    AmericanHandmade says:

    I've read through all these posts and heres my 2 cents worth. I'm old enough to remember when Made In Japan had the same connotation of cheap products because of cheap mostly women and kids labor. The next one was Korea, same story and on and on through the 3rd world countries. Now it's China. But lets not forget that exploiting one group of people by another group is as old as mankind itself. Any study of history shows this. I agree that exposing the ugliness of exploitation of the weak by the strong is necessary to bring about social change. As well as MANY good folks making a big enough fuss about it. Thats what changed it in England and America so many years ago. Unfortunately, exploitation is an ugly part of humanity. What usually happens is that people in impoverished countries go to work in factories under deplorable conditions and begin to make a little money. Keeping in mind that everything is relative, this money is used to help raise the standard of living for the family, who start spending it on things they could not afford before they found that horrible factory job. Because they are now spending their meager earnings, that helps raise the standard for the surrounding community. Eventually, the whole areas standard (and cost) of living rises to the point that it is no longer profitable enough for the exploiters and they move on to greener pastures. i.e. the next place they can find impoverished enough to welcome them. And make NO mistake about it, the Governments and many people of the areas do welcome them for the hope for a better future that work of any kind brings. We, who live in one of the richest countries of the world, are very sincere in our intentions of wanting to help others so much less fortunate. That is very commendable but what I have a problem with is all the hypocrisy of it. Every one who jumped on the BAD CHINA bandwagon, please look around your house and workplace and honestly tell me what you will give up in protest. Will you give up your computer if you find any part of it has a China connection? what about your printer? cell phone? clothes, shoes, jewelry, furniture, hairbrush, toothbrush, razor, tools, etc, etc, In the REAL world it is now almost impossible to buy 10 items and not have 9.5 of them NOT have a china connection. The reason so many us shop in stores with low prices is BECAUSE of the low prices. Most of us can't afford to NOT shop there. Greed is what the problem really is. We need to find a way to stop the greed and its constant companion, corruption. A renewed sense of morality would be a GREAT place to start. Lets try that bandwagon for a change. P.S. I notice the couple who made the documentary are also selling it and getting well known from it. How much of your profits are going to the factory workers.

    5 years ago

  • AntoinettesWhims

    AntoinettesWhims says:

    Americanhandmade ~ That was very well said. rklegrand ~ I'm so glad you shared that perspective.

    5 years ago

  • zadoodle

    zadoodle says:

    Food for thought... It is sad how expendable everything is anymore. Does nothing endure?

    5 years ago

  • danaseilhan

    danaseilhan says:

    Thank you so much for this piece. My family is Cajun on both sides and I've seen more than my share of Mardi Gras merchandise and it saddens me to see that with such a high unemployment rate in Louisiana (which existed even before the Great Recession), they can't even make a living creating their own festival trinkets. For what it's worth, Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Mardi Gras in the rest of the state are two different planets. Look into how it's celebrated out in the country sometime--there are lots of interesting stories there. It is very much a family-oriented celebration for the most part, with the possible exception of the drinking. :) Anyway. Y'all, before we get all sanctimonious about how the poor Chinese wouldn't have jobs if we didn't buy their plastic junk, you need to keep in mind that the only reason they can sell stuff to us so cheap is the Chinese government pegs Chinese currency to the U.S. dollar, and also, their tariff laws and our tariff laws are favorable to China. So this is not some natural state of things where we just buy stuff from their factories and they have jobs and everyone's happy. The Chinese government and the world economic system kind of have to cheat to make the situation what it is. In any case I recognize that the Chinese people are human beings and need to eat and have places to live like anyone does. However, it is not my job to keep *them* in jobs. That is *their* problem, not mine, and they could solve it if the laws and tariff system favored their efforts. That is up to *them* to change, not me. If we would just take care of our own instead of getting into everybody else's business we wouldn't even have to worry about China because their tinkering with money and markets wouldn't touch us here. It never ceases to amaze me that the people who shop at Wal-Mart the most look down on "welfare mamas" but could have contributed to there being more jobs in this country simply by changing where they shop and what they buy. Boycott and mindful shopping are powerful tools when enough people use them. Simply being frugal is a political statement too. "Fine, if you're not going to keep your factories in this country then I don't have to buy your crap. I figured out I could live without it anyway." AmericanHandmade: What exactly would be the point of giving up things we have already bought just because they are from China? Do you suppose that will unspend the money we have spent, too? I don't think so. Far more useful to pay attention to what we purchase in the future. We need to step back and take a good hard look at our spending and ask ourselves whether we really can't afford something that costs a little more, or whether we'd be able to afford it if we didn't buy so much junk. I include myself in this statement, which is why I'm saying "we." Morality includes economy, last I checked--and I don't mean the Fed or Wall Street, I mean personal economy with one's own money and goods. That's a use of the word that is quickly going out of fashion.

    5 years ago

  • JaniceCordeiro

    JaniceCordeiro says:

    The poignant photo of the damaged hands will be with me for quite awhile. A very interesting article.

    5 years ago

  • OpusMuse

    OpusMuse says:

    A thought provoking article. Something to think about especially when I'm in the jewelry making business.

    5 years ago

  • mustlovehomedecor

    mustlovehomedecor says:

    what a sad story. These kids should be getting an education, not working.

    5 years ago

  • mingtaphotography

    mingtaphotography says:

    This article reminds me 25 years ago when I was 9 years old, my whole family were making Christmas tree light bulbs and my hands were with red spots also!!! In asian countries " Christmas " is just a story from the news or the Hollywood movies! None care about " THE TREE " in NYC! I am " Made In Taiwan "!

    5 years ago

  • pasadenanolan

    pasadenanolan says:

    this is great information... i can't wait to read what you do next.

    5 years ago

  • laynestj

    laynestj says:

    As a life-long Louisiana resident, I've long been concerned about the human and environmental cost of Mardi Gras beads and other throws. I'm glad this filmmaker (and others) have begun to bring the sad stories associated with their manufacture to light. However, I also object to the image of the "show your breasts for beads" phenomenon being put forward as representative of Mardi Gras. Having attended New Orleans Mardi Gras celebrations from the age of 18, I can attest that this activity is relatively new, is carried on almost entirely by visitors from other places, and occurs in only a very tiny part of the city. Many New Orleans residents object vehemently, as to them, Mardi Gras is about families and community. "Breasts for beads" is probably about .01% of what takes place and most people never witness it -- yet again and again, it's used as the icon to represent the city, the citizens, and the celebration.

    5 years ago

  • Untiltomorrow

    Untiltomorrow says:

    10 cents an hour. Can you imagine sitting making those beads for that money. How sad. Now when I went to the Mardi Gras beads were made to wear not show body parts. When will Males and Females realize that doing what they do is cheap. No wonder there is so much crime there. Now I am not a prude but there are limits and using beads for that is not within the limits. It's an interesting town but things have sure changed.

    4 years ago

  • betweenpietyandesire

    betweenpietyandesire says:

    Just getting to this article -- because I was way too busy making handmade throws for parades with Krewe do Craft and using recycled beads to make stuff. These parades were all family-friendly and NOT ONE OF THEM was anywhere near Bourbon Street. Most of us who do small neighborhood or celebratory parades also recycle these beads, again and again. The good folks at St. Michael's, other local non-profits who sort and re-sell these beads as fundraisers, and our local stores which now have collection points for beads, all are doing their part to reduce, re-use and recycle. I would also point out that throws are only a part of what Mardi Gras is made of -- king cakes, the floats, most costumes, music, and marchers are made right here in the good old USA, and provide our local economy a giant boost. Underpaid workers here also get a boost -- hotel workers, restaurant and bar workers, sanitation workers, cops, tractor drivers, cab drivers, etc. Our art sector is also employed in substantial numbers for those months -- float painters and sculptors, mask and costume makers, face and body painters, papier mache artists, musicians, marching bands, dance troupes, flag makers, ballroom decorators, florists, fabric artists, seamstresses, jugglers, stiltwalkers, flame throwers, chefs and bartenders -- LOTS of us! Thanks to all who noted the highly slanted view of Mardi Gras that this film contributes to -- and special thanks to "Made in Taiwan" for pointing out the obvious -- everything made on the cheap in China is hazardous to someone, especially the workers. And if you think Mardi Gras is the biggest consumer of cheaply made hazardous junk -- I suggest you go to Walmart at Christmas, any church/school fair anywhere anytime, or any movie tie-in promotion at a fast food restaurant. I understand the intent of the film, and have seen it in its entirety -- it is regularly screened here in NOLA. We are aware of the problem, and whole hosts of us are working on alternatives. Also, as has been pointed out (thanks to those posters), this issue is immensely complex. It will not be solved by demonizing one aspect of one celebration of one US city. Certainly, it brings attention to the problem. Admittedly, it is a horrendous situation for the workers. But let us not forget that things we like to eat are also brought to us courtesy of underpaid, overworked workers. Have you ever shelled peas or crabs, picked berries or cotton, plucked chickens, or any other labor-intensive food harvesting? How about mining coal or uranium? Logging, pulping, paper mills -- tried those? Every one of those examples is currently health- or life-threatening. Unions are being busted left and right. Piecework rather than minimum wage has been an industry standard for sweatshops of all kinds, right here in this country. I've seen the hands of people who pick crabs and shell oysters. And trust me, these are not union-protected jobs, will use child and elderly labor, and pay next to nothing. All this is to say that while I very much appreciate the filmmakers' intent, I also think we should not stop there. There are plenty of opportunities to counter worker oppression anywhere in the world. Consciousness about the farm-to-table, raw materials-to-shelves streams is really important. It applies to everything. If you try to live a completely righteous life in these United States, without using or consuming anything that is the product of bad labor practices or cost-cutting measures, you will be hard pressed to do so. So don't make yourself crazy trying, just be as conscious as possible. And for goodness sakes, don't give up celebrating life, even Mardi Gras. It's not all made in China -- mostly it's made in New Orleans, by the spirit and labor of our people. Since 2005, it's taken on an even more important aspect -- gratitude that we are here to see another Carnival. We don't need to import that!

    4 years ago

  • mrkahuna

    mrkahuna says:

    Recycle your Mard Gras beads in New Orleans at The Arc of Greater New Orleans. An alternative to the landfill, creating jobs for people with disabilities.

    4 years ago

  • primpadmore

    primpadmore says:

    We saw this movie in my anthropology class today. I will never look at those trinkets that say "Made in China" the same way again. The first picture, with the man eying all of his women workers perfectly expresses the relationship the factory workers have with their boss. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Thank you for making such a powerful film!

    4 years ago

  • Amurana

    Amy says:

    This is an eye opening read. It's a shame that there are so many chinese factory resellers on etsy now. it's clogging out the good honest crafters.

    3 years ago

  • partsbync

    Amy D from PartsbyNC says:

    Very interesting...

    2 years ago

  • archaicdesign

    Susan from archaicdesign says:

    it opened my eyes! wow!

    2 years ago

  • MissKarina

    Katrina Brees from MissKarina says:

    I Heart Louisiana, LLC is currently supplying locally produced Carnival throws to Krewes. If you have an idea for a bead alternative that you want help selling to please drop contact us. You can check us out at www.iheartlouisiana(dot)com Our efforts are heavily inspired by this eye-opening documentary. Thank you Ashley and David for creating this film. Art clearly has the power to change the world around us.

    1 year ago

  • indicajewelry

    Robine Savert from IndicaJewelry says:

    And yet, resellers are still clogging up Etsy.. incredible..

    1 year ago

  • My Homepage says:

    ... [Trackback] [...] Informations on that Topic: blog.etsy.com/en/2010/mardi-gras-made-in-china/ [...]

    323 days ago