Business

Friendly Products keep nature No. 1

Lishu Rodriguez displays a Friendly Product grass pillow in her Poulsbo showroom. Rodriguez and husband Leo help and give back to native artists by selling the artists’  pieces at the Friendly Product showroom in Poulsbo.  - Brad Camp/Staff photo
Lishu Rodriguez displays a Friendly Product grass pillow in her Poulsbo showroom. Rodriguez and husband Leo help and give back to native artists by selling the artists’ pieces at the Friendly Product showroom in Poulsbo.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff photo

POULSBO — To describe her living room, Lishu Rodriguez gestures with a sweeping hand and says it’s a “collage of great work.”

But it’s not only a place for her family to enjoy.

Rodriguez and her husband Leo, both schooled in environmental arts courtesy of Otis College of Art and Design, have made a showroom of their Poulsbo living space, filling it with eco-friendly elements straight from the Himalayas. It’s part of a globalizing effort that has sprung modern furniture styles from preserved indigenous trades.

“We lived in Nepal for four years and we saw firsthand the difficulties people in developing countries have,” said Rodriguez, who was born in Nepal and grew up in the United States. “But they have such incredible skills.”

She stands amidst a collection of grass cushions and mats, bamboo chairs, colorful textiles and metal containers.

Small, lit candles greet visitors upon entrance; Rodriguez greets them with a hug and true Nepalese chai tea.

“We’re sourcing all these dying arts and trying to encourage them to continue on,” she said, adding with a motion toward the products, “This is what we need, we don’t need plastic anymore.”

To encourage the traditional skills of those they encountered in Nepal, she and her husband have begun Friendly Product, which Rodriguez said will help to add value and create markets for the handcrafts newer generations in Nepal are starting to see as passé.

The couple moved to the Poulsbo area one year ago, and officially opened their Friendly Product showroom last weekend.

They are the company’s head designers and marketers; the showroom will be open for visitors from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. each Saturday, or by appointment.

Friendly Product offers wooden bowls, for example, that are made by the Raute, or “forest people,” the last nomadic indigenous people of Nepal.

“We want to be a bridge between the two countries, between the two worlds,” Rodriguez said.

The products are made with fair trade practices and for direct pay; many of the artisans are women, she added.

It’s a move toward dual sustainability: job sustainability for the native artists and eco-sustainability via the materials. Bamboo, Rodriguez said, is the new, fastest growing and most sound non-timber building product.

Friendly Product is now taking orders for a Dec. 5 delivery.

For more information, call (360) 697-3431, visit www.friendlyproduct.com or visit the showroom at 17000 State Hwy 305.

The Friendly Product showroom also offers Himalayan artifacts and artwork by Bainbridge Island’s Blaine Fontana.

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