Behind every business, there are people and their story. Here's ours: the story of two Kiwis who went halfway round the world and came back again, transformed by their walk in other people's shoes and cultures, and determined to really make a difference.
We're Craig and Janet Mathewson, born in New Zealand and living here again, having spent half our lives in England, Germany, France, and Pakistan. Our whole journey together has been very much about the joining up of very different worlds.
Craig comes from the Mainland (the South Island of NZ, to the non-Kiwis amongst you), from a real outdoors family who love to hunt, fish and do those Kiwi male things. Having graduated with a BA in Architecture at Auckland University here in NZ, before working for the then Ministry of Works, (now Opus), Craig headed off overseas for the big OE, to work at one of the largest British architecture firms in London. Flatting just round the corner from where Janet lived, without even knowing it, he developed his passion for art and design while exploring London and different parts of Europe and Turkey.
Janet on the other hand has always been a "collect the set" kind of a girl, who prefers rescuing injured wildlife, to eating it. (Just for the record, Craig is the exception to his hunting family too!). Not satisfied with gaining her BA(Hons) and MA in Medieval and Modern Languages, and History of Art, at Cambridge University, she set off on one of those lifelong student journeys that make parents groan…. After a stint in a top London PR company, temping to pay for the next bout of learning, Janet headed off to Wimbledon School of Art, to do her Art Foundation Diploma, graduating with the added bonus of having sold the most work at her show. This was followed by another BA(Hons) degree from Farnham's West Surrey College of Art and Design's prestigious ceramics department, before tucking a Secondary and Tertiary teaching diploma (PGCE) under her belt, from the London Institute of Education. By then, Craig and Janet had finally met and married, and were quite happily ensconced in London life. An unexpected turn in the road took them first to continental Europe, where the refugee theme that had first begun with refugee pupils Janet had taught in Inner City London re-emerged, as the two headed off for various stints spent working with an NGO in the North West Frontier of Pakistan, supporting Afghan refugees. This season also saw the deepening of a lifelong passion for Central Asia, with various journeys taking them from bus stations to bazaars and border crossings in countries like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. However much they love window shopping in Paris and London, or San Francisco, the two say there's nothing like getting down to a spot of bargaining over green chai or thick Turkish coffee in an out-of-the-way spot!
Although they came back to New Zealand in 2004 and quickly got involved in both the public and refugee sectors, their love for art and design and travel was always going to break out again in some new venture.
Saraban Tree is the expression of this journey: full of colourful, original contemporary art alongside treasures sourced and brought back from the nations. Artworks by established New Zealand artists hang in their home above vintage artisan ceramics and carved wooden homewares that hearken back to a world away. Just as their circle of friends encompasses Europeans, Americans, and Kiwis new and old (both homegrown ones and former refugees), so their business reflects the story that has shaped them thus far.
Craig and Janet's heart is to help release others into their calling and purpose, whether that requires the investment of their hearts, their time, their wallets, or all 3. They are deeply committed to social justice, and in the words of their favourite Book, they: "seek justice, and encourage the oppressed". It is one of their greatest privileges to have former refugees amongst their closest friends. These friends have taught them so much about what quality of life really is, and have healed and humbled them with their love and generosity. In 2014 Janet was also invited by the Auckland Refugee Community Coalition to become one of their Board of Governance Members, so that she could continue to contribute to the successful resettlement of former refugee communities in Auckland. As a result of their work with refugees over the last 20-odd years, Craig and Janet are determined that this business will honour the courage and determination of those who have survived poverty, civil war, injustice and oppression, through opportunities they can open up, including the donation of 10% of their sales of Silk Road products.
These donations go to a range of charities and capacity-building projects in New Zealand and overseas, who are making a difference in areas Craig and Janet care passionately about. This includes refugees, children, and microenterprise in developing countries, as well as anti-trafficking. You can find stories of these projects and those behind them on SARABAN TREE'S Facebook page: www.facebook.com/SarabanTree. You can also check out SARABAN TREE'S Charities on OUR CHARITIES page and find out what they say about Craig and Janet too.
Rather than race to show lots of different artists all at once, Craig and Janet are building a community where each artist will get proper exposure. As they add new artists, they'll concentrate on presenting their story in an accessible way. For established artists like New Zealander, Daphne Mason, who has been painting for 50 years, you can expect to see a wider range of subject matter and genres than in the works of an emerging artist. By providing work from past series as well as current works, SARABAN TREE gives you a unique opportunity to gain an overview of the artist's journey over time, and feel confident about his or her "collectability".
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