NOVICA review: Shop the world via global artisans gathered in one spot

I'm not big on keeping tabs on a so-called bucket list, an itemized list — in my head, on paper or techy gadget — of things I want to accomplish before, well, kicking the bucket. That doesn't mean I don't have things I still hope to do, and one of the biggies is travel the world.

The idea of visiting faraway places, experiencing the foods, the culture, the sites then returning home with a camera full of photos and souvenirs collected from local artisans would be a dream come true. I imagine collecting unique items from shops along cobbled paths and open-air markets, where I'd learn the stories of the artisans, shake the very hands of those crafting the goods that capture my eye, my heart, and a spot in my suitcase.

The time will come, I'm sure, for that dream. For now, though, I can experience the next best thing, courtesy NOVICA, where their mission includes giving "artists and artisans around the world a global platform to express their true artistic talents and to spur their creativity."

Associated with National Geographic, the NOVICA website offers the arts and crafts of artisans from across the globe, all in one spot. Visiting the site — filled with beautiful high-quality photos of beautiful high-quality handcrafts — is a treat and a journey in itself.

I was offered the opportunity to experience NOVICA, courtesy a credit from the company to try out the site and make a purchase or two of my choosing. Because of the vast collection, it took me quite sometime to make a decision — despite the variety of ways in which choices can be narrowed down. Visitors to the virtual global marketplace can search by region, price point, category (home decor, etcetera) and more. For example, there's Jewelry Gifts, Spiritual Gifts, Jewelry Box Gifts and, my favorite, Gifts by Personality. Just a small sampling of ways to narrow down your choices.

One especially interesting and different thing about the NOVICA experience — and it is indeed an experience (would you expect anything less from a National Geographic affiliate?) — was the opportunity to "curate" boards, kind of like Pinterest. On the Curation portion of the site, shoppers can become curators, creating galleries of goods in categories each creates, then share the gallery of curated goods with others via social networks. It provides a wishlist for shoppers and exposure for the artisans. Plus, it's just plain fun to peruse the fabulous collections curators have created.

After strolling through categories and curated collections, I finally settled on the items I would purchase from NOVICA. First, the Violet Hummingbird iron wall sculpture, shaped by artist J. Blas of Mexico.

 

I also chose the "Three Game Fun" box crafted of sheesham wood and adorned with brass inlays, by Suresh and Devender Garg.

 

The ordering process was unexpectedly simple — with unbelievably low, as in $2.95, shipping rates. We're talking shipping from Mexico and India. I was quite impressed by that, as well as by the expediency of the delivery. Both items arrived within less than two weeks of ordering.

Both pieces of artwork pleased me to no end. The hummingbird was sturdy and colorful and immediately hung outside (with hopes it'll attract real hummingbirds to my back deck). The delightful wood box of games was smooth and finely crafted, with lovely dominoes and dice made of the same wood and brass inlays. Beautiful stuff. If I hadn't found the goods to my liking, complete information on the simple return policy was included with each item.

Aside from the high quality and impressive craftmanship of both items I ordered, I was thoroughly impressed with the extra attention and detail to the wrapping of the items and the information included with them. The Hummingbird Sculpture was wrapped as if a special gift directly from the artisan.

 

Additional much-appreciated touches were the post card included with each, highlighting the region where the item was made, plus a gift "booklet" of sorts providing the name of the artisan and information on their work and the specific item.

Such warm touches to the shopping experience made it seem almost as if I were right there, meeting the artists in the markets where they may pedal their art. The only thing missing was the handshake. Maybe one day.

For more information, visit the NOVICA website, where "The world is your market," as well as on the NOVICA Facebook page and Twitter.

Disclosure: I received a credit toward items on the website free for this review. Opinions and anecdotes or my own.