Discovering Craftspring: Q&A with Anne-Laure Py

Craftspring | Handmade in KyrgyzstanCraftspring | Handmade with a cause

You just want to hug them, right? The Craftspring universe is magical, like out of a story book. It evokes an older & calmer time. We are always inspired by Brooklyn entrepreneurs who make a difference in developing countries, and Craftspring is an outstanding example. They’re a Brooklyn brand with Kyrgyz roots, a socially responsible mission and an impeccable attention to the smallest details.

Each Craftspring piece has its own bit of poetry & adventure, and the potential to positively impact communities around the world. When most kids her age were dreaming of becoming pop stars or soccer players, founder Anne-Laure Py was imagining her future travels along the Silk Road. She turned her dreams into a reality, but didn’t stop with just a visit. With the launch of Craftspring she sparked the imagination of young kids around the world — all while helping artisans in Kyrgyzstan improve their lives with a job they love.

Catch up with Anne-Laure below about about how it all began. She tells us more about the unique process behind each Craftspring piece, the lessons she’s learned along the way, and her favorite spots around Park Slope.

Craftspring founder Anne-Laure Py and one of the artisans who make their magical pieces

– Born & raised: Born in France – and raised between France and the USA.
– Cups of coffee a day: Not really a coffee drinker. Everyone in our office drinks tea. We especially love the loose leaf tea from Tranquil Tuesdays. (www.tranquiltuesdays.com)
– Currently reading: a book my friend Gabe Hudson just published called “Gork, the Teenage Dragon” – I love it and can’t put it down.
– Favorite pizza place: I love pizza! Franny’s on Flatbush is one of my all-time favorites and I’m so sad it’s closing. But I also love Numero 28 on 7th Avenue between Carroll and Garfield.
– Hidden talent: Ocean swimming.
– If I didn’t do what I do, I would be an… underwater archeologist.

What took you to Kyrgyzstan?
Working in Central Asian was a childhood dream (even though Central Asia, is basically as far from the ocean as you can get, and Kyrgyzstan is land-locked!). My first opportunity to go to the region was through a fellowship to study craft entrepreneurs sponsored by my alma mater, Wellesley College. I followed the Silk Road through Western China (Xinjiang), Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Iran.

I met and interviewed hundreds of artisans in villages, towns and cities – even went up to the summer pastures to meet and interview Kyrgyz and Kazakh nomads. It was an amazing experience. I learned so much about traditional crafts and their makers, and saw first-hand the struggle these artisans face to survive. In our day and age it’s so much more convenient and cheap to buy plastic things made in factories. Traditional crafts and knowledge are fading fast.

What were you doing before you launched Craftspring, and what made you decide to take the leap?

I was working in Beijing, China doing corporate PR! I had so much fun in China – and despite a very structured job, I was able to take off and explore so many places around the country. The years that I spent there were full of adventure and exploration. But I was ready to do meaningful work that was anchored in beauty, community and craft.

What makes your products unique?

The way our products are made is so joyful and filled with real and meaningful exchange. We think it makes our products magic. You can get a glimpse at some of the beauty of Kyrgyzstan and our amazing partners in this video.

We personally know each and every one of the artisans we partner with, and visit their studios every year. As our craft comes from a heritage of nomadic culture and yurt living, so do our materials. We source all of our sheep’s wool directly from the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Then we use the generations-old technique of wet felting in the creation of every piece.

Our artisan partners use 100% locally sourced wool, water and hands in their own women-run workshops to make our beautiful products. They include traditional details and infuse a sense of playful imagination into every one of our designs. Check out all of the love and magic that goes into making an ornament, and this other video about the Magic of Felt.

We work always to honor the beauty and magic of our artisans’ craft, to share it with the world, and to connect people and communities through meaningful giving. In doing so, we hope to contribute to a culture of thoughtfulness, to celebrate a sense of wonder and to advocate creativity and play.

We believe that a more connected world is made by hand. With wool. And water. And play.

Any exciting plans for the next few months?

Our busy bustling season is just around the corner! This year we will be doing pop-ups throughout the city, including in Soho (more details coming soon), and we will also be at the holiday markets at Grand Central, Union Square and Columbus Circle! We have trunk shows and several school-based events coming up too. You can sign up for our newsletter or follow us on Instagram to stay posted.

We’re also about to launch a fun and festive collection of kid’s masks! They are handmade using the same beautiful process as our ornaments – slowly, by hand, using local wools and traditional techniques – but they are fun for dress-up and make-believe play throughout the year. We’re so excited to be launching these soon!

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started?

Everything? Every day is a learning day for me. Having a small business has been intense in its beauty and in its challenges. But, the most important thing I wish I had known… that it’s great to ask for help from consultants who are experts in their fields. I now work with several consultants/guides – for everything from book-keeping, HR, to design, to personal growth. It has been so useful for Craftspring to benefit from the skills and experience of people who are great at their jobs!

What are your favorite spots in your neighborhood?
I live in Park Slope with my partner and our two girls. We love our neighborhood! Our favorite restaurant is Al Di La, and love going for Gelato at the Il Albero on 5th Ave. We also love to go see the puppet shows on the weekends at Puppetworks and going to see the Spellbound Theater company at the Old Stone House.

Explore the Craftspring universe at craftspring.com

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