Travelers in South Asia, a region rich in handicrafts, can easily overlook the intriguing folk arts of Bangladesh, a small country not on the tourist map.
Barry Ison, a Bangladeshi-born Australian, has made ethnic crafts chic at the shop called Ideas, which he runs in Dhaka's fashionable Gulshan neighborhood as a self-help project for the poor rural women who produce the goods.Ideas sells soft leather purses (from about $11) and briefcases (up to $65), pottery pieces starting at only a few dollars, hand-woven linens (a place mat and napkin set in traditional patterns is under $10) and brassware and copper items (from about $10). The shop is at 25 Gulshan Avenue.
At 97 Gulshan Avenue is the Kumudini Handicraft Center, another fashionable shop that benefits rural women. It is known for its selection of nakshi kantha embroidery and tapestry, in bright colors that often tell traditional tales, on purses, pillow covers, bedspreads, wall hangings and clothing.
Prices range from about $3.50 for a clutch bag or wallet finished in leather to several hundred dollars for a large tapestry or wall hanging. Aarong, an emporium run partly by the Bangladeshi Government, is in Adel Plaza on Mirpur Road. The most interesting crafts are hand-woven household linens from $1 for embroidered or crocheted trimmed napkins to about $18 for a bedspread.
All three shops are open from 10 a.m. to 8 or 9 p.m.