Episode 14: Connecting the Roots of our Furniture and its Design

Hi my name is Sophia Clark and I am founder and creative director of Galiatea, where I curate and design luxury made-to-order furniture and home decor handmade by under-represented artisans globally using locally sourced sustainable materials. 
Galiatea is a fusion of cultures and styles, of simplicity and sophistication, of natural beauty and human creativity. The name Galiatea is derived from the word Galatea (the mythical muse of art, created by Pygmalion as the “perfect woman”) and the word Gaia (signifying "mother of earth"). The name Galiatea is intended to be symbolic – the melding of “art” and “earth”, as represented by one-of-a-kind handcrafted furniture and decorations from earth’s natural beauty (from lush alpaca furs of Peru to exotic woods of Brazil). By combining these two elements of art and earth, we believe that unique works of art can emerge, transforming an interior into a singular and fascinating space. 

In a world too often uniformed, each decorative element provided in this collection is designed to be absolutely unique. Those one-of-a-kind creations are carefully hand-picked by our in-house interior designer from handcrafted pieces elaborated by artisans, whose savoir-faire was passed from generations past, and whose raw materials are found in their local environment. 

Everything you own has a story. Wouldn’t it be nice to know where your products came from and that they were made with love in a sustainable way?
What you wear and how you chose to shop says a lot about who you are. As a socially conscious buyer you are positively impacting the world by enabling rural artisans in underdeveloped nations to support their families and continue to live in their own communities. When you purchase ethically produced goods you are helping to break the cycle of poverty by supporting programs that empower women entrepreneurs and educate children. Fair trade restores dignity to the artisans and assists women to become role models to their communities. The economic empowerment gives them the opportunity to stay in their villages and they will be less likely to migrate to urban areas. All products you purchase have an impact on the social change of our world.
Although we seem worlds apart from these countries, people all over the world generally want the same thing, to be happy, healthy and provide the best for their families. We have the same basic wants, needs, and dreams. Your purchase is part of social change by providing hope and a future for those born into less fortunate economical situations.

Because products are handmade and hand-dyed each piece is special, one of a kind, which means that slight variations occur, enhancing its beauty.
Let’s talk about the craft of these special places and see how they are truly part of the historical and cultural heritage of these countries.


Peruvian artistry stands not only as one of the most varied arts and crafts but it is renown worldwide for its quality and superior craftsmanship.  It remains a living tradition that dates back to the pre-Inca days and is deeply ingrained in Peruvian culture as a clear reflection of its history. It blends harmonious pre-Hispanic patterns and motifs with those introduced by the Spaniards. Let’s talk about weaving, one of the most distinctive craft passed along centuries. The oldest textiles ever found were discovered in the Chicama Valley and date back 4000 years. Some outstanding works includes Paracas funeral shrouds, Inca and Ayacucho weavings. It is amazing that the preferred materials which include brown and white cotton, vicuna, alpaca and llama wool are still used today. The weaving follows the same process: the shearing of the wool from an alpaca, sheep or llama which is cleaned and spun into yarn, then the yarn is dyed. Their vibrant colors are still created from natural dyes from plants and minerals found locally such as cochineal, a small insect used to create carmine red. It can occasionally be combined with aniline and industrial dyes. Finally a traditional backstrap loom , a vertical loom and pedal loom can be used for weaving colorful fabrics that reflect local traditions. The designs might be abstract, with geometric patterns or depicting flowers, birds and other typical elements found in their cultural heritage. Each village has its highly symbolic patterns passed down from generation to generation. The Peruvian weavers are mostly found in Ayacucho, Cuzco, Puno, Junín, Apurímac and Lima. In addition to weaving, artisans use knitting, braiding, embroidery and other techniques. AS you can see, Peruvian artisanry is not only essential to Peru’s identity and cultural heritage but it has been and still is essential to the survival of thousands of families, that for millennia have produced exquisite textiles. 

Let’s dive deeper into this exceptional material that is so unique to Peru, alpaca
All of our products from Peru are inspired and crafted with Alpaca. 
Not only is it considered one of the rarest types of furs due to the small protected population of Alpaca but its qualities distinguish it from the rest. Over 70% of the Alpaca fur is found in the remote Peruvian altitudes. This gentle and hardy animal is raised for its “miraculous fiber” in the small Andean villages and is therefore highly protected. Its hide is used only after its natural death (often caused by the cold weather and the sparse vegetation). Let me repeat that: absolutely NO animal is killed to obtain the fur. This new texture (yet 2500 year old) appears not only as stronger, lighter, water-resistant, inflammable, hypoallergenic, smoother but also incredibly luxurious. Art inspired by Mother Nature has never been so soft….

Galiatea keeps searching for new ways to integrate unique and unconventional materials and traditional techniques in the furniture industry in a contemporary way.  Integrating it into different applications in different types of seating shows the versatility and lush properties of this unique material. 

These designer chairs and ottomans covered in Alpaca are becoming a hot new trend on the market, and will surely stand out in any living room. The exceptional quality of those hand-crafted pieces will thrill you: the fur is treated with natural dyes, giving it a luscious appearance, and rendering them even more unique. We are the first and only company  in the design market incorporating Alpaca and contemporary design and hope you will enjoy this revolutionary  fusion of tradition, nature and design.

Galiatea prides itself in creating not only contemporary and elegant designs but also in using 100% locally sourced materials in its pieces as well as using the finest craftsmanship and traditional techniques that has been passed down for generation. Transforming natural materials into luxurious and unique art pieces in the furniture and home décor industries stands as a key trait of Galiatea.
What is the impact on the communities? It obviously supports the artisans who handmake each item, but with each purchase we are also able to help a secondary market that provides for the raw materials, a collective of farmers in the Andean region who have been designated by the government to oversee the Alpacas. 

Our lead artisan who handmakes the alpaca fur pillows and throws, has been honing his skills for over 15 years and learned it from his father and other skilled artisans in his community. 

Our furniture makers are principally handcrafted by a small family business run by a husband and wife and whose knowledge was passed on by the woman’s father.

Our embroidered pillows are weaved and knitted by a collective of women in the outskirts of Lima.

Our lead artisan for our mirrors, initially started crafting traditional colonial frames for local artists in Peru and has expanded to work on mirrors for the past 20 years, a skill that was passed on from his father as he took over his family's business.



Brazilian culture and artisanry has been influenced greatly by the different settlers that came:  Portuguese, Indians, Africans, Europeans and settlers from the Middle East and Asia. One of their main contributions can be seen in the beautiful and rich arts & craft markets spread throughout the country, but differing from region to region. For example, in northeastern Brazil, in Pernambuco and Bahia many woodcarving and sculpting techniques were inherited from the African slaves. The Portuguese Jesuits also passed on skills in the carving and painting of religious figures in wood to their indigenous converts which explains why woodcarving is so widespread as an art form from the north to São Paulo. Artisanry is becoming more popular in Brazil as people realize how essential is it to the promotion and restoration of a family tradition and art form handed down from generation to generation as well as to the celebration of local cultures. In addition, it gives low-income families and especially women an opportunity to become entrepreneurs and improve their financial situation. What is critical to us is that we do not contribute to any deforestation, therefore all the wood we are using for our furniture comes from trees rescued from fire, woods near rivers close to be carried by water, reclaimed wood and dead, dying or mature trees that are removed in order to replant new trees as mandated by law. 

As I explained, Galiatea’s sole purpose is to bring exclusive hand-crafted items from exotic parts of the world to the international market while keeping the environment safe. It is to expand the appreciation of traditional techniques combined with new contemporary designs and to enjoy the best natural materials. I believe this philosophy is perfectly reflected in our Brazilian pieces in collaboration with Brazilian designer, Fabio Stal.

Each design represents the essence of contemporary luxury, combining tradition and innovation to bring to our customers the very best in high-end furniture. These pieces of furniture include the finest woods and level of craftsmanship possible. Their unique customizable pieces embody the perfect blend of high-end Brazilian design and a touch of vintage appeal with a contemporary fresh twist. The clean lines with the mixture of luxury materials such as “Pau ferro” veneer, “Pergaminho” and brass, among many others, are all details that make these pieces truly stand out. These creations are continuing from father to son, using the very best artisans in the Brazilian design field.  




Weaving is at the heart of Turkey’s cultural heritage. It is a tradition that goes back over thousands of years, as we see weaving depicted in ancient mosaics in Tripolis. It incorporates the cultural heritage of the different civilizations that settled there over the millennia. Traditional weaving material includes wool, mohair, cotton, bristles and silk. Every family had a loom at home and that tradition has been passed on through generations. Wooden looms are still used to maintain the traditional weaving process In Kızılcabölük and Buldan regions. 
For example, the small village of Buldan, in the Denizli province, continues to produce the traditional peshtemal garments and towels, using the quality cotton grown nearby. That tradition dates back to the Roman times as far back as 800 BC. However, nowadays large, regional factories are replacing the weavers and very few weavers from age 23 to 93 are still carrying the tradition of handweaving items.

And although the process has become faster and more efficient with machinery, it has lost the sense of art form. To preserve that tradition, that quality of craftmanship and the beauty and uniqueness of handmade weaving, the world has to recognize its importance as an essential part of the Turkish cultural heritage. Those weavers that have been passed those skills from prior generations do not want to disappear, they want to pass them to the next generation. We can keep those traditions alive by supporting traditional weavers.

Our Turkish throws are loomed by small, family owned workshops in that same region of Denizli region of Turkey. Weaving is truly the only source of income for these skilled weavers, who pride themselves on keeping the looming tradition alive, utilizing manual craftsmanship without compromising quality. They only use eco-friendly, OEKO-TEX certified, 100% natural fibers such as cotton and bamboo and colors are achieved through non-harmful dyes. Tassels are hand-knotted by women in their homes. Unfortunately, their tradition and cultural heritage will disappear if handweaving items are no longer purchased.





Laos is a country of diverse ethnic groups, each with unique and highly adept craft and artisan skills passed on from generation to generation. They are excellent basket makers but they are especially well-known for their woven and embroidered textiles. The traditional weaving techniques handed on include chok (discontinuous supplementary weft technique), khit (continuous supplementary weft technique), mat mi (resist-dyeing technique), ghot (tapestry weave technique), muk (continuous supplementary warp technique) and muko (a combination of the muk, mat mi and chok techniques).

Using those techniques, they are creating masterpieces.  Unique in the world are the handwoven wraparound skirts with elaborately bordered hems called pha sin, the silk ceremonial shawls (pha biang), exquisite shoulder bags and many other pieces of clothing. Depending on the geographical provenance and ethnicity of the weavers, the silk and cotton cloth will have different styles and colors. All regions farm cotton and mulberry trees in order to provide raw materials for the community. The cotton used to make these pillows for example is planted by hand and watered by the monsoon rains. It takes eight months for the plant to produce the cotton flower, then it is picked by hand, ginned by hand (a difficult and tedious activity), and then spun into yarn by hand. Traditional wood and bamboo looms are used by weavers to transform the cotton fiber into cotton cloth. Then the process of hand-dying begins.

To obtain the famous indigo dye is a skill also passed through generations, an art form really, an integral part of their heritage. Indigo dye is made from the leaves and shoots of the “kharm” plant, which grows in many areas in Laos.  Once the seeds are sown, they have to wait for three months for the plants to grow. Old leaves are then handpicked in the morning when the sun is not so harsh. The leaves are soaked in water for 24 hours. When the water turns green the next day, they are removed and a scrap of cloth is used to filter out impurities. More filtering is done to produce thick green paste. The thick paste is carefully mixed with a precise amount of quicklime, rice wine, crushed citrus leaves and ash water from burnt coconut trees. The fermentation takes a few days to produce the end product – natural deep blue dye. The fermentation of the “kharm”inside air tight jars at the required temperature is a complex process, an ancestral skill. Understanding why indigo is also called “living color” explain why this is such a fundamental part of the Laos culture.

Because indigo has mosquito repelling properties and reduce perspiration, this color is linked to the livelihoods of Lao people and is revered for its practical as well as aesthetic qualities. In remote villages all over Laos, families used to spin cotton threads into beautiful dark blue fabric daily, but the pressures of modern life and the availability of cheap factory-made imports have resulted in Lao people giving up their crafts and their rural livelihoods. As a result, many of the crafts of Laos are vanishing art forms.

Our design and production teams work closely with artisan groups in Laos to create items that fit modern, natural lifestyles while still retaining the spirit of traditional craftsmanship. Guided by the principles of fair trade, we work to create employment opportunities for villagers, especially women, and to reduce poverty. Each product is made and finished in the villages, keeping alive in those villages those ancestral artistic techniques.




Nepal/Tibetan Himalayan cashmere is renowned as some of the softest cashmere in the world.  Actually, Cashmere originated from Kashmir in India. Cashmere known as “ the fiber for royals and emperors”  is obtained from the fine, soft, downy undercoat of domesticated Chyangra goats, native to the foothills of the Himalayas, living above 10000 ft  on sparse vegetation.  Cashmere traces its use to prehistoric times in Nepal so weaving cashmere, a tedious process, is truly part of the cultural heritage of this region. In the spring the goats shed their undercoat which regrows during the winter. The next step is to comb it to remove impurities and guard hair and to align the fibers.

Then specialized craftsmen and women spin, weave and finish the scarf which can take an average of 180 hours and the wool of 3 goats. This extremely light and luxurious soft fabric will keep you warm. You will also feel good to know that you are helping our unique group of weavers. All of our cashmere scarves and throws are handloomed in Pokhara Nepal by blind, deaf, or disabled weavers. We partner with a local non-profit organization that provides them with the tools, training, and support necessary to become independent through weaving. In Nepal, the disabled are discriminated against in mainstream society. They have little or no opportunities for work.

Weaving allows them to enjoy an independent life, increases their self-esteem and also improves the way they are treated by their family. The organization further gives back to the disabled community by donating white canes, hearing aids and wheel-chairs, providing food, medicine and essential goods for aged-care homes, helping the poor and distributing relief to earthquake and landslide victims. With such a great cause, these are our most favorite pieces!




Once upon a time, in the eastern province of Takeo in Cambodia, wooden looms were everywhere, skills being passed from one generation to the next. They were famous for their exquisite hand weaving.  But then the looms disappeared, a result from the khmer rouge, and the skills were no longer passed on. Young women would head to the garment factories while young men worked as day laborers. However, a weaving cooperative had preserved these ancient weaving techniques and decided to offer extensive training. 

That weaving cooperative believed that social entrepreneurship empowers people and the community. So, they identified aspiring entrepreneurs and invested in them by sharing knowledge through mentorship and training and provided interest free seed capital to help them establish sustainable micro businesses. The successful entrepreneurs then could become the catalyst of change by becoming mentors themselves and inspiring other community members. Entrepreneurs could take responsibility for their future; help alleviate poverty and improve the life of their families and community. This creates a ripple effect of sustainable, scalable positive impact, one village at a time.

Let us help these young women to stay in Takeo and earn an income through weaving, changing the dynamics of their community and restoring their cultural heritage, while promoting their skills.



After the Rwanda genocide 2 decades ago, many Rwandan women needed to become the breadwinner for their families and they used their ancestral skills of weaving with sisal fibers to do so. For centuries, they had handcrafted baskets, using them not only as containers to carry food and transport goods but also as decorations or commemorative gifts for weddings, births and graduations. After the war, these women transposed those basket weaving skills to other decoration items such as side tables.

This manual process is lengthy. First the women extract the fibers from sisal plant leaves that grow abundantly in the fields. To do so, they use a manual process of stripping the sisal leaves, revealing the natural white threads within the plant.  Then they boil those sisal threads with vibrant organic dye in large black kettles, which are then hung to dry. Then it is threaded into needles and the artisans wind carefully chosen colored sisal threads around thin bundles of long sweet grass which are strong enough to provide structure to the piece. They often use symbolic patterns such as the Sunburst pattern known as the hope design as well as vibrant colors. The beauty and durability of these items are the result of years of training and technique-development.

We are thrilled that the items in our catalogue are handwoven by a cooperative of women located in rural Rwanda and are handmade by each artisan, over a period of days in her home. The sale of this product means a fair wage and an opportunity to provide for her family where few job opportunities exist. These women are earning 10x traditional wages and are transforming into well respected business leaders in their communities, helping lead and create a positive future.

We hope that in addition to helping them financially by purchasing those items, and beyond the pleasure of owing a beautiful handmade table, there is a profound connection forged between the artisans who create these items and those that own them – a connection that leads to a greater appreciation and understanding of the importance of the Rwandan culture and the preservation of its artisanal heritage. 




Just like in Rwanda, our Uganda side tables are made by groups of women in intimate communities across Uganda. Raffia weaving is a dynamic craft, that has evolved to be a highly contemporary art form as well as an essential part of their cultural heritage, since the knowledge on how to weave is passed from mother to child. This is the women’s way to make money and to elevate their status within their social environment. Again, it is a long and arduous process. It starts with growing the materials themselves. Raffia grows over several months, then it is harvested, then dried. Once the fibers are processed to be sufficiently pliant, they are dyed with natural dyes made of ground flowers or plants:  roots, barks, fruit and berries, leaves, clay, leaves or lichens grown by the weavers. Once dyed, they are finally handwoven into intricate patterns. The weavers are using different processes such as coiling, plaiting, twining, or chequerboard weaving techniques using banana leaf stems for their structures. Each weaver innovates in their designs: lozenges, triangles, diamonds, star or flower shapes, zigzags, swirls or chequerboard motifs are combined with vibrant colors. Our one of kind pieces take weeks to complete.

Those Ugandan women are part of these amazing group of artisans that are keepers of their cultural heritage, that preserve their ancient craft traditions, that pass their knowledge and skills to the next generation. 

As you can see, in every instance, whether it be Peru, Brazil, Turkey, Laos, Nepal, Cambodia, Rwanda or Uganda,  our priority is for items to be made in an ethical, fair environment, that encourage artisans to continue with their generational skills while providing better for their families and while keeping their cultural heritage alive. Our products are using eco-friendly material and have something no machine -made object has….. they have a story, they let you connect to diverse heritages, and are an artistic expression from our artisans’ very soul.

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