Home Commerce San Diego Blind Craftsmen and Knitters Featured on New Ecommerce Website

San Diego Blind Craftsmen and Knitters Featured on New Ecommerce Website


Marianne Mesa has been blind since birth, but this has rarely been a hindrance for the Point Loma resident. For 23 years, she and her husband had a sheep farm, where she hand spun wool from animals to knit hats that she gave to cancer patients and troops in Afghanistan to wear under their helmets. cold nights.

Now, for the first time, Mesa can sell their hand-knitted hats, mittens, baby clothes and blankets to the public on the new e-commerce site called GiftedBack.com. Kicking off on Sunday with a launch party at Liberty Station, Gifted Back – “Back” stands for Blind Artists Crafters Knitters – showcases the arts and crafts of blind and visually impaired San Diego artists.

Mesa, who moved to San Diego last year from Chelsea, Massachusetts, to live closer to her children, said she was eager to share her knitting with the public.

“It’s not about the money. I do it because I like it, but I enjoyed meeting the other artists and I can’t wait to see how things go,” he said. she declared.

Jennifer Finlan, who lost her sight in 2012, hand-shapes flower petals for her glazed ceramics at the Gifted Back launch party on October 3 at Liberty Station in San Diego.

(Pam Kragen – UT)

Mesa is one of seven San Diego artists featured on the website, but Gifted Back founder Pearl Mecenas hopes to recruit many more in the months and years to come. Mecenas worked with the Blind Community Center, the San Diego Center for the Blind, and the Braille Institute to recruit artists interested in marketing their products, including blankets, handmade gift cards, ceramic rose bouquets, paintings, books and other gift items.

Mecenas came up with the idea for Gifted Back about 10 months ago. He was inspired by her husband, Dr Eshwar Kapur, and the volunteer work he does with the blind and visually impaired in India. Four years ago, the San Diego couple were traveling to India and met Bhumika Patel, the founder of Guide Runners India, which trains and enables the blind and visually impaired to compete in running events. An avid and long-time runner, Kapur has signed up to serve on the executive committee of Guide Runners India. He is also a remote advisor and trainer.

Mecenas has worked for the past 20 years as a business and healthcare consultant, most of them at Kaiser Permanente. But after seeing the work her husband was doing to improve people’s lives, she decided to apply her business and marketing skills in a more philanthropic direction. Gifted Back is not a non-profit company but a limited liability company. For all products sold, artists receive 60 percent of the proceeds, and Mecenas collects the remainder to cover operating expenses, which includes offering optional gift-wrapping services for items purchased on the site.

Blind artist Joyce Porter knits a woolen blanket at the Gifted Back launch party.

Blind artist Joyce Porter knits a woolen blanket at the launch party for Gifted Back, a new e-commerce website for products created by blind and visually impaired artists in San Diego.

(Pam Kragen – UT)

Most of the Gifted Back artists have stated that they have never sold their products before, so any sales they make will be a plus in their life. According to the American Federation of the Blind, only 39% of Americans with vision loss between the ages of 16 and 64 are in the workforce. Barriers to employment include transportation, but Gifted Back allows them all to do all of their work from home.

South Bay resident Jennifer Finlan worked as a dental technician before losing her eyesight during surgery in 2012. Three years later, she enrolled in art classes at the Braille Institute and then went on to followed two more semesters of art classes at Southwestern College. She paints watercolors and makes ceramic flower bouquets that she shapes by hand from clay.

“It’s my job now,” Finlan said, while squeezing colorful plasticine petals at the launch event on Sunday. “It’s fun, and I love it. I want people to know that we can do anything sighted people can do. We do it our own way, and take it one day at a time. “

Joyce Porter, a Spring Valley resident for 46 years, said she was 7 when she started drawing and painting. She gave up art when she lost her sight at the age of 28. Then, 11 years ago, she learned to knit at the Braille Institute. Her specialty is making large yarn blankets, a job she spends up to 10 hours a day.

“I hope the website is performing well and I hope people appreciate the art we create because it’s a giveaway,” Porter said.

The website also features four other blind and visually impaired artists: author Mark Carlson, gift card designer Jill Coleman, blanket knitter Salvador Dominguez, and DJ / party host Shon Mackey. For more information on Gifted Back, visit giftedback.com Where instagram.com/gift.

Unique gift cards created by artist Jill Coleman for giftedback.com.

Unique gift cards created by artist Jill Coleman, who lost most of her vision to macular degeneration. She sells the cards on the giftedback.com site.

(Pam Kragen – UT)