I live in Grindleton, a tiny village which overlooks the majestic Pendle Hill.  So when Halloween rolled in late 2018, the infamous Pendle Witch trials popped up in local conversation and tourism. The shops around us filled with Halloween decor too.

Seasonal and celebratory items like these can prove to be learning resources for preschoolers.

When implemented well, decor can work to signify a change in the daily rhythms of life. Waldorf inspired designs in particular, are fantastic at marking a new phase, a particular time of year or event which likely connects into certain key cultural and religious festival.

As a parent near Pendle Hill, Halloween (and witches) could be seen everywhere this year. Bunting, wall hangings, signs, tableware, and every costume (and accessory!) imaginable could of been sourced on the run up to October 31st. The reason I want to talk about them today is because of the processes and conditions in how they are made.

Plastic grumbles aside. In October 2018, I spotted a news story that brought a news lens to the hidden human cost behind these {often cheaply made} items. The BBC released an article titled ‘The SOS in my Halloween decorations’, describing how a cry for help had been discovered in a cheap box of Halloween decor. Apparently it had been desperately written by an inmate, who had been forced to make this stuff at a notorious Chinese labour camp. In this camp, inmates had to work 15 hours a day, seven days a week, otherwise “suffer torture, beat and rude remark’.  From 4:00am until midnight, breaking only to eat. The inmates received a total of £1.10 a month for this labour too and feared for their lives in order to put out a plea for help.

An innocuous box of cheap decorations, was one of many made by prisoners, such as Sun Yi ( the author of the note). Prisoners were like him had been detained for one to three years, without trial, and for misdemeanours such as being followers of the spiritual movement Falun Gong.

The note in full read:

‘Sir, if you occasionally buy this product, please kindly send this letter to the World Human Rights Organization. Thousands people here who are under the persicution (sic) of the Chinese Communist Party Government. Will thank and remember you forever’

I highly recommend reading the original article to discover Sun Yi’s sad story here.  Its not an easy one to get through I have to admit. I certainly came away from it deeply reflective.

In particular. I’m pretty sure people knew more about where items came from and the conditions surrounding their manufacturing {or making}, we would engage with products differently. Often the stories about how things are made are now missing. Disconnected from makers and lost in the mechanics that is mass manufacture.  Yet, there are tell tale aspects that should make us particularly suspicious. A price point being one.

Questioning where things are coming from, who makes them and if they are paid fairly for the labour involved seems important.  Yet it is difficult as busy parents to find time to do so AND finding the time to actually celebrate with our children the different holidays, cultural and religious festivals of daily life too.

To help, I am going to begin addressing this with ethically made decor. Ideal for the nursery, playroom or the living room and handcrafted here in the Forest of Bowland, UK. Advertised under @hellion_design channel or found on our website in the category #decor. I  am going to share new designs and limited run items that will be available to buy seasonally. Keep your eyes peeled for exciting collaborations happening across the summer too.

My Waldorf and Montessori inspired childrens decor, will help our children grasp all the important elements, symbols and rhythms of life we wish to gently convey. Knowing they can be used, year on year, and passed on down, rather than sadly having a ecological and human toll.