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 Ave.
At 97 Gulshan Ave. 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 inleather to several hundred dollars for a large tapestry or wall hanging. The Kumudini Trust operates a shop with a more limited selection in the Sonargaon Hotel.
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. There is a good choice of the paper-thin muslin for which this part of old Bengal was once famous.
All three shops are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. or 9 p.m.