Sutra Imports is not an ordinary shopping destination. Housed in a renovated barn in Dakota, the shop is a haven for unique, fairly traded items. Owner Kim Hammer describes it as a place where “conscious or progressive or creative people can find inspiration for their life.”
The shop is literally bursting with items—the lawn outside even has pieces for sale. Every surface inside showcases another beautiful item. Recycled sari scarves, Tibetan prayer flags, wood carvings, ikat weavings, color and beauty surrounds your every step.
Sutra Imports has a broad and loyal fan base of people invested in spirituality, travel, the handmade and the local. Kim has a unique view of what local means to her shop: “Even though I am sourcing from far away, I have a very support local ethic…I just say I have a bigger backyard.”
While her items are imports, Kim makes sure that every one is fairly traded. She hand selects every item in her shop and cultivates a relationship with the artist. She shares the stories with the customers, creating a connection. “That’s very important to me,” she says, “that when people come here, not only do they get to see something beautiful and be inspired by that but they get to hear the story and have more of an intimate connection.”
The fair trade ethic was something Kim desired for her shop since its inception. She began researching online, looking for fair trade organizations. It was easier in India, because, as a more developed country, there is a network of NGOs, non-governmental organizations, already in place. Through Facebook, online searching and also walking through art fairs in India asking people she knew, she found places she has come to rely on for pieces.
“In Indonesia, that’s more evolving,” she says, “so there I’m more hunting for artisans. I go into shops, ask who made things. It’s a little bit more challenging in Indonesia to really get to the artists.” But she takes the challenge head on and has managed to find some incredibly talented artists.
Workshops and Group Travel
The barn doubles as a communal space where Kim often holds events. She began by offering traditional Indian craft classes, like indigo dying and block printing. “People were asking for something more,” says Kim, so she began to expand her offerings. “I’ve started calling it classes, conversation and concerts.” She has held several singing bowl concerts and hosted authors and speakers and continues to conduct craft workshops.
Because the barn is not heated, Kim closes her shop during the winter. This reprieve allows her to travel to India and Indonesia to find more items for the store. It also lets her become a tour guide. Kim offers semi-guided art and spiritual tours; “It’s a way for people to affordably and safely experience another culture and not be on a tour bus,” she says.
Group sizes range from 3 to 7 people and often sell out. The participants met some of the artisans Kim has grown to know over the years and they also ride camels, have a spa massage, visit the Taj Mahal and partake in other traditional Indian travel experiences.
Because she travels every year, Kim is always bringing something new back to the shop. The store is always changing and is truly a unique experience every time you go.
Sutra Imports reopens May 11.