I started MotherTongues five years ago in an effort as a stay-at-home mom to find a creative outlet that went beyond changing diapers. MotherTongues is a fair labor and organic cotton apparel company. Little did I know what a life-changing journey it would become. I research words that have no direct English translation and print them with poetic and symbolic descriptions on t-shirts, socks, aprons, scarves, and tote bags. I seek interesting words and concepts in diverse cultures and numerous languages through personal travel and lots of reading. Immigrant friends and persons hearing about MotherTongues too are sources of new words. I recognized that an interesting phenomenon occurred. I personally, and us as a family, started to change. The values of community, peace, justice, and ecological well-being contained in the words transformed me and our household, becoming part of our “philosophy of life.” For example, as I learnt about Dadirri, a word describing the way the Aboriginal people of Australia have lived in harmony with the earth for thousands of years, the carbon footprint of our family shrunk and the ethos of MotherTongues grew to embrace the planet. Learning about Lagom, a word describing the Swedish outlook on life of good-enough, brought home the value of “just enough” vs. “more is better”. Learning about Zen made me slow down, breathe and live in the moment instead of worrying about the future. The Finnish word Sisu – sustained courage – made me appreciate the courageousness of especially cancer survivors, and question my own courage in life. And the African concept of Ubuntu – I am because we are – made me wonder about the community that I am a part of. Today I am much more attuned to the living human web. I recognize more than ever that my personal well-being is linked to the well-being of others, often nameless and faceless people on the other side of the globe. As I grow MotherTongues, the company transforms me. It is indeed an unintended, but wonderful and exciting journey.
Guest post by Michelle Hamman. Michelle Hamman is the owner of MotherTongues