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The Sparrow Studio



Design Inspiration With Sarah Caligiuri

Annie Phillips


I’m delighted to introduce you to someone who’s style inspires me, Sarah Caligiuri! You can find Sarah over on Instagram at

A friend of mine told me to follow Sarah’s Instagram account, and I was immediately drawn to the photos of her lovely home due to the cheerful colors and the way she doesn’t shrink back from layering patterns and textiles. Then as I spent more time on her page, I realized that I saw some of the same items on repeat but always in a fresh new way. That appealed to me personally as I try to be a conscious consumer. Before buying something new, I like to shop my mom’s garage or a friend’s closet. And when I am buying things to sell here at The Sparrow Studio, I prioritize products made with upcylced and re-purposed materials, such as our paper bead necklaces, woven grass bracelets, and earrings made from melted down brass padlocks from the junkyard.


Sarah was kind enough to style one of our baskets from Rwanda in several different rooms to share just how she works her magic. I asked her a few questions to explain her process to our community.

The Sparrow Studio: How do you describe your home aesthetic?

Sarah: It’s always hard for me to describe my style, but I guess the best way to sum it up would be global bohemian with an eclectic, wanderlust, colorful, and jungle flair!


TSS: What is your motivation for sharing your home on Instagram, anyway?

Sarah: In sharing my style and home, I hope to inspire people to work with the space they have, whether it be old, small, or rented (like mine). I hope my followers with not hesitate to make their space their own. Anyone can create a personalized sanctuary and have fun doing it! It doesn’t have to be too serious or permanent.

TSS: What tips can you offer to others wanting to re-fresh their homes?

Sarah: I want to inspire people to only bring pieces they love into their home and to rearrange often! It’s important to stay in harmony with your environment. Moving things around can create a whole new feel and flow to your space. Switch around your plants, accessories, pillows, and even your furniture, rugs, and art to give your home a new look. You don’t have to spend money to make your home somewhere magical… whatever way that looks like to you.


Thank you to Sarah Caligiuri for styling one of The Sparrow Studio’s baskets from Rwanda and for sharing your design tips with us!

Our full collection of baskets can be found here! Each basket is purchased at a fair wage and handmade in Rwanda from natural, sustainable plant fibers using traditional techniques. Each basket takes 3-6 days to create and is one-of-a-kind. We work with artisans who set their own prices for these baskets and who create their own designs for each basket. Your purchase supports the local traditions and talents of the Rwandans.

Leave a comment TELLING US YOUR FAVORITE BASKET IN THE WEB SHOP on this blog post below, and we will draw one name to win a Small Market Basket!

A Tale of Two Meal Programs (and an excuse to share a story about my dad)

Annie Phillips


Dear Friends,

I would like to tell you a story about my dad.

Last year, Jane (the manager of the co-op in Rwanda) told me that the ladies were coming to work hungry.   They were earning enough money to feed their children, but they were not taking the time to prepare meals for themselves during the work day.   Plus, food is not free, and they are moms.  So whenever the money was tight and it was a choice between feeding their families and feeding themselves; it was no choice at all.    

So they were hungry and they didn't have much energy at work.  Jane and I talked about how much it would cost to provide lunch for the women 5 days a week for one month.  She said we could do porridge for all 24 women for $50 per month, or we could supplement with meat and vegetables a few days a week for $100 a month.  Let that sink in.  We could provide 480 lunch meals a month for $100.  We could provide 5,760 lunch meals for $1200 for the entire year, for all of 2018.  

I asked my dad if he would pray with me for this need.   I don't know whether he pondered and prayed or not.  I do know that a few hours later he handed me a check that would provide 5,760 lunches for a group of 24 women in Kigali, Rwanda.  

So for all of last year, I would send $100 each month, and the ladies enjoyed lunch together. They took a break from their work and prepared a meal together and sat and ate together.   Is there anything better for community-building than sharing a meal?   

At the end of the year, I shared some photos with my dad and thanked him for feeding my friends.  I told him we were going to keep going with the meal program, but that I didn't think it would be difficult for me to fund-raise. He didn't bat an eye and wrote me another check for 2019.  By January of 2019, the co-op's size had decreased due to some women leaving to find work elsewhere and due to some women being voted out of the co-op for breaking the rules.  (After 8 years of working together as a co-op and 5 years of working with me and Jane, this has happened occasionally and wasn't too shocking of a thing).  And a smaller co-op came with its own gifts.  One of those gifts was that we could stretch our resources further for the remaining women.  So Jane and I chatted, and she did a little math.  She figured out that for the same $100 per month, they could all eat breakfast AND lunch every workday.  So that's what we have been doing for the last 6 months. My dad has sponsored 3,920 meals in 2019.

Visitors to the co-op have remarked about how healthy the ladies look. Their eyes are bright. Their skin glows.  Their bonds of friendship have strengthened.  They have had true challenges this year, and their courage and resolve and character has been tested.  I like to think that the meal program and the community it helped foster played a part in the strength they have shown in rising to meet each challenge that has come their way this year.


And now my dad, whom I adore with my whole heart, is sick.  He is a renowned oncologist, and now he has cancer.  As the daughter of an oncologist, I have hated cancer in a general way since I was quite young.  And I hate that my dad now has this disease.   Cancer is a brutal adversary.  But my dad is tough.  And we choose hope.  We choose hope. We choose hope in Rwanda, and we choose hope here.  The ladies in Kigali have been faithful prayer warriors for my family for nearly 6 years now.  Jane told me last week that she prays for my dad as she would pray for her own father if he were sick.  My dad has fed her friends and co-workers.  He has faithfully prayed for this co-op for 6 years, too.   

And something beautiful has been happening the last couple of weeks, while my dad battles cancer.  While my community in Rwanda prays for him and asks me every few days how he is doing, my dad's community in Houston has rallied around him and my mom.  Their Houston community has been bringing us meals.  We're a household of 7 right now, so these lovely friends have their work cut out for them when they bring us a meal.   I have cooked only one pot of soup in the last 2 weeks.  And we have another couple weeks of meals' worth of food from friends in the freezer. What a gift it has been to be on the receiving end of meals.  

What a gift it is to be on the receiving end of love. Friendship is not to be underestimated.

Final thought: There have been SO VERY MANY of you who have kept two small businesses afloat for 6 years- both the one in Rwanda and the one in the US. I have been remiss in writing about most of the kindnesses you have shown and the miracles I have witnessed. But facing down a season of change and cancer has a way of refining things and reminding me of the value of reflection and of giving witness to the stories I want to remember.   Thanks for indulging me in this story, friend.    

Prayers for my dad on this journey are appreciated. His name is Steve.  And while you're at it, my mom (Jan) wouldn't object to a few prayers on her behalf either. 



New Artisan Partnership in DENVER!

Annie Phillips


Annie here, Curator of The Sparrow Studio. It's been a year and a half since anyone has updated this space, and there are soooo many things I want to tell you! But for now, there is one thing in particular that is on my heart to share, and that is about our new artisan partnership.

Last fall, I started purchasing earrings from a group of 8 women in Denver. The group is called Manos Emprendedoras (ME), which in English translates to “entrepreneurial hands" and provides work opportunities to immigrant women from around the world living in Colorado. With their help, they are able to better provide for their families and adapt to the culture in a peaceful and beautiful way.

In their words, "ME offers immigrant women an opportunity to transcend language barriers and use their hands to transmit their inner beauty. By creating beautiful pieces of jewelry with extreme care, they express gratitude for their new home and hope for a better life. We want to thank you very much for supporting these women as they use their creativity to live without fear and with much love."

These women have been delightful to work with, and I love wearing and sharing their earrings! 

Recently, like many of you, my heart has been burdened for the "humanitarian crisis" (in the words of the CBP, Customs and Border Protection) currently happening at the southern border of the United States.  It has been a small comfort to me to know that your purchases of these earrings are contributing to the support of 8 families recently settled in Denver from Central America and South America.  But it doesn't feel like enough right now.  So I asked on an Instagram post last week, "What should we do? Where can we help?"  And you came through with suggestions of wonderful organizations offering humanitarian aid for the children and legal aid for asylum seekers.


And now for every purchase of earrings made by the women in Denver, The Sparrow Studio will donate 10% of the sale to an organization providing immediate relief for families in the asylum process.   For more details about which organizations we are donating to, follow us on Instagram.  We are donating to the organizations that YOU, our customers mentioned in the comments on our Instagram post:

Rebuilding in Ecuador

Annie Phillips

Meet Germania!

Germania is a single mother and doing her best to make it in a rural village in Ecuador.  In December, her house fell down in the extreme rains.  This house was made with bamboo walls and a natural fiber roof.  We learned about this unfortunate event in early February.  So we placed extra orders right after receiving an order we hadn't even posted online yet.  We knew you guys would show up and help!  And you have!  We are about half way to raising our initial goal of $500 toward her new home.  

But now we want to raise the bar.

Because Germania loves making great product for you and sees that our orders are more frequent, she has taken out a loan to build a better house!  We are so excited about this!  Look at this great house!  We are so glad to know she and her son will be safer here.  This house will not fall down in the rain.  However, we need you show up big time.  We need to help her raise $1000, and she is delighted to work hard for it and make you the best product she's made yet!  What do you think?  Can you buy more great jewelry, made from nuts and seeds, in rich colors to help us meet this goal?  We honestly need each one of you.  

Because Germania loves making great product for you and sees that our orders are more frequent, she has taken out a loan to build a better house!  We are so excited about this!  Look at this great house!  We are so glad to know she and her son will be safer here.  This house will not fall down in the rain.  However, we need you show up big time.  We need to help her raise $1000, and she is delighted to work hard for it and make you the best product she's made yet!  What do you think?  Can you buy more great jewelry, made from nuts and seeds, in rich colors to help us meet this goal?  We honestly need each one of you.  

To help you get to know Germania, we thought we'd share a little interview (A very special thank you to Annie's neighbor, Cherith, for all her help interpreting! ) 

Annie:  What is your favorite color?

Germania:  My favorite colors are fuchsia and turquoise.

Annie:  What is your favorite type of jewelry to make? Do you prefer making original designs and one-of-a-kind pieces, or bulk orders from us?

Germania:  I like to make all kinds of jewelry, but I most like making earrings and necklaces. When I make them I feel happy. It's my passion.

Annie:  How did you learn to make jewelry?

Germania:  I learned first about making jewelry with plastic pieces in high school. Then one day I saw someone with a bracelet made of seeds instead.  I liked it and just by looking at it, I made one myself.  From that day forward I started making more jewelry; and I am always making jewelry that is different and unique.  In high school I graduated with a specialty in jewelry making.

Annie:  How many types of seeds/beads do you grow near your house?

Germania:  There are times that I have to buy seeds and other times seeds that are partially made already and I give you the final product.  And sometimes I grow the seeds and create the final product.  The tourists really like the natural jewelry.   In my yard there are about 10 types of seed that grow.  All the others (tagua, pambil, and acai) I have to buy.

Annie:  Tell me about your son! How old is he? What is your favorite thing about being his mom? What is your goal for your son? What do the two of you enjoy doing together?

Germania:  Well, I make jewelry almost every day, and on the weekends I go to sell them in another Shuar community that has natural hot springs, which is about four hours from my house. I leave at 4:30 in the morning for the trip with my son.  My son is 12 years old. I would like him to be some type of professional and if not then I would like to help him study to have some kind of business.
In my town there is one high school. Any others are private and they cost a lot. I don't know if I can change high schools for him but this is my dream. But, well, every parent wants the best for their children. As for what we do together, we go to the market shopping together and also just hang out and sometimes we even make jewelry together.

Annie:  Can you tell me one thing that you enjoy about working with us?

Germania:  I am very grateful to know you and I like to work with you! I like to work with you because I can learn to make new styles and I very grateful for you for your purchases and I have been able to have money for my necessities. Thank you very much, Annie. I would like some day to meet you if God permits. Everything is possible in this life, it's just up to God.

We also wanted to share a recipe for Germania's favorite meal with you!



Chicken breast, uncooked

Hearts of Palm (Germania uses fresh, but I'm sure canned from the grocery store could substitute just fine)

Leaves for grilling (We suggest Banana Leaves.  These are typically available in the frozen food section of Asian and Latin markets. )



Rice (your choice!)


Clean and prepare chicken breasts.  If using canned hearts of palm, drain those.  Spread the banana leaves on your counter.   Cut 12" x 12" squares, approximately, from the leaves, and save the scraps for making ties.  Lay the banana leaf squares out on the counter, making sure the shiny side is facing up.  Place a chicken breast in the center of each square.  Place the desired amount of hearts of palm with the chicken breast.  Carefully fold in and overlap the excess banana leaf.  Place this "package" seam side down on a baking dish.  Tear a strip from the remaining banana leaf scraps and tie up your package.  

Germania might dig a hole and slowly smoke this meal,  But you can simply place your banana leaf wrapped chicken breast on the grill.  Heat the grill to high temperature, with the lid closed.  After 15 minutes, reduce to medium heat.  Then add the chicken packages.  Cook for about 25 minutes.  The leaves will get dark and have a smokey scent.  

Plantains and Yuca can be sliced and grilled as well.  Prepare rice as you prefer.  I'd do white Jasmine rice in a pressure cooker.  Here's a link to The Pioneer Woman's Yuca 101 to help you out.  And a guide to grilling Plantains.  

Enjoy!  Think of our friend Germania as you eat and post a picture on social media, tagging us, when you try this yummy meal!

NOW hop on over to the Ecuador page in our shop and make some purchases to help build Germania's house!  We are SO THANKFUL for each of you!!

THANK YOU! 2016 was a total success!

Annie Phillips

You shopped and pre-ordered and shared about us on social media; and we grew, our artisan partners met goals and felt your love.  The image above is from our Rwandan partner's Christmas party.  Through your donations and purchases, we were able to gift each woman a Bible, a hymn book, and a journal.  If you can't tell, they were VERY HAPPY about these gifts. Tears were shed and shouts of joy shared.  Many women expressed that they thought they'd NEVER own something so precious as a Bible.  They couldn't believe it.  Look at the joy you've given them!  We can't thank you enough.  

We have several great growth markers we'd like to share with you and a few prayer requests. We'll focus on More Than Sparrows, our Rwandan co-op partners, in this blog update.  Annie and I were able to FaceTime with Jane, our NEW manager, and Cheryl, the world's most outstanding volunteer, back in November, and it was such a gift to us.  We learned that, with Cheryl's guidance, the 34 women in the cooperative have created budgets, are earning a steady salary each month, and taking many tangible strides in growing and managing their business.  We are so encouraged by this news!  They are pursuing wholesale orders in Europe and Australia, so if you have any connections with shop owners, please email us (   And if you are in Kigali, please be sure to stop by The Shop Kigali- their retail spot.  

Another great stride, as previously mentioned, is that the fabulous Usanase Jane has grown from being our interpreter and hands on helper to our official manager.  Jane is generous, hard working, smart as a whip, and in the front right of the picture in a white dress.  We are so excited to have her step into this role.  And she is in the midst of filling a giant order for us. Please pray for her as she settles in.  

Changes are also on the horizon for More Than Sparrows, Rwanda has passed a new law saying that co-ops can no longer meet in houses, which is what most co-ops do.  Its what we do. Please pray for the right spot to open for them and for God to provide the finances they need to make the move.

Thank you, again, for your care and support.  Great changes are happening in the lives of our artisans.  Step by step and purchase by purchase we are seeing real growth.  Y'all are amazing. 

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