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The Handmade Spice Box - An Artist's Palette for Cooks's video poster

Unique artisan-made spice box designed to foster creativity with spices using sustainable materials and fair trade practices. Read more

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This project was successfully funded on December 4, 2011.

Unique artisan-made spice box designed to foster creativity with spices using sustainable materials and fair trade practices.

Chris Pemberton
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Chris Pemberton

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About this project

What is the Handmade Spice Box?

It's my answer to all the awkward packaging that dictates how we use spices. It's a sustainable, fair-trade, and fun way to use spices more creatively patterned after the Masala Dabba - a generations old concept from Indian cooking. A masala dabba is typically handed down from generation to generation and makes cooking with spices organized, fun and creative. Problem is it's cold and uninspiring. What if I created something that begged you to be creative, and that was counter-worthy and kitchen tough? That's the Handmade Spice Box in a nutshell.

Some pictures of the final prototype:

What's it made of?

Sustainable, tree-free native wildgrass that is very environmentally responsible. The wildgrass is cut by hand into small chunks, boiled for 4-5 hours and than sun-dried. It is then cut into the shapes and sizes needed for the box and the die-cuts.

What are the design elements?

  • Curved edges to allow one handed opening and use.
  • Thumb-width sides to allow solid grip while using with one hand.
  • Clear petal cut-outs covered with a clear film to see inside spices and prevent spillage
  • Water-resistant coating to withstand kitchen abuse
  • Food grade tins with clear tops that can be stored underneath the tin if removed
  • Lightweight and manageable size for ease of use
  • Organic, fair-trade spices ground in small batches and hand blended

Here is an example of an early prototype:

Who makes it?

A group of master paper artisans in the Philippines. They have been making exquisite paper for generations and have a unique ability to blend sustainable materials with solid, functional construction. As far as I know they are the only group in the world that can make a box that meets my design parameters.

An artist at work:

Why am I doing this?

Two reasons - one practical, one passionate. The practical reason is that spices aren't meant to be locked in small jars that foster a "break glass in case of emergency" mindset.  They're meant to be used, played with, smelled and experienced. The packaging out there just doesn't work to foster creativity.

The slightly less practical but more passionate reason is that I truly believe spices can play a role combatting many modern issues such as chronic disease and unhealthy lifestyles while fostering connection in an increasingly disconnected world. 

Think about it- Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric and there have been thousands of peer-reviewed, western scientific studies that show it is a potent natural fighter against cancer. And if more people cooked with more spices like turmeric they would likely spend more time with loved ones around a table enjoying great food in great company. I'd like to think that a little handmade box can inspire creativity and a little more humanity in everyday routines. Support the project and see for yourself!

What are the project details and how will Kickstarter support help?

We are trying to take the prototype to the next level and actually make some boxes. The $6500 project goal will enable us to make the boxes but we need your support!

Is it fair trade?

Yes. I spent a few years in sustainability consulting and swore that any product I designed would be as socially responsible as possible. I am willing to bet that no other product in the spice category comes close, and it can hold it's own across any category sustainability-wise. We are going to invest in an educational fund for not just the artisan group but also the entire community where they work.

How about the rewards for support?

The whole point is to get the box into the hands of people who want to be creative when they cook, or want to give it as a gift to creative cooks.  That's where you come in. The various levels of support will be rewarded with boxes and spices so you can experience the creativity of the box firsthand. And I hear they make great gifts for the holidays...


  • The pledge levels include domestic US shipping. If you live outside the US and would like to have a box shipped to you, please add the estimated shipping cost to the pledge amount. Here are some general costs and ranges based on some far distances...

    Estimated ship cost for 1 filled box (3 lbs estimated weight) from US to Australia or South Africa is $35 USD.

    Estimated ship cost for the 4 box gift pack (9 lbs estimated weight) to Australia is $65 USD. Please visit to estimate and use Package--> Priority Mail International - that seems the fastest and most economical. Estimated delivery time is 6-10 days - I'll prioritize getting international shipments out first so they arrive by holidays...Thanks!

    Last updated:


  • You selected
    Pledge $15 or more

    7 backers

    A tin of my special Marrakesh blend. This is my favorite spice blend patterned after the great Ras el Hanout blend of Morocco but adapted to an American kitchen and style. You can't get this anywhere else. Ground in small batches and custom blended with organic spices and herbs.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    19 backers

    Ah, your very own (or a gift for someone special) handmade spice box - ready to add your favorite herbs and spices. $30 includes a handmade box with 6 unfilled food grade tins waiting for you to customize it and ground shipping.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $50 or more

    37 backers

    Your very own Everyday Box - my personal collection of those spices I use and create with every day - Malden Sea Salt, Tellicherry Black Pepper, Cumin, Cinnamon, Coriander and Turkish Baharat - a custom blend I made after visiting Istanbul. With this box you'll be the next Picasso with Paprika. Each box contains 6 tins of between 2-4 oz each of organic, fair trade spices ground in small batches. Includes ground shipping.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    8 backers

    I am making a handful of custom handmade red boxes and one has your name on it for $100. There will be a limited amount of these made due to the difficult process of making the red paper and I'll fill yours with a random holiday assortment of fresh ground spices and herbs. Each box contains 6 tins of between 2-4 oz each of organic, fair trade spices ground in small batches.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $160 or more

    16 backers

    The Gift Box Set includes 4 Handmade Spice Boxes filled with organic spices. 4 spice boxes = 4 great holiday gifts for family, friends, foodies or business clients. Each of the 4 boxes comes with a red ribbon bow tied around it. Let's put it this way - by getting the 4 pack and giving them as gifts, you're saying "I'm thoughtful, creative, unique, worldly and a downright cool person" because you can't get these anywhere else on the planet. And you get to benefit from the wonderful meals the recipient will cook. That about sums it up... And that's why we'll love you forever if you get this 4 pack.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $500 or more

    0 backers

    Spice Party! - For $500 I'll travel to your home, office or yurt in the greater Bay Area and regale friends and family with 4000 years of spice tales, the health benefits of different spices and show you how to make delicious custom spice blends - I have a secret technique that I'll share for making great spice blends everytime. I'll come with some boxes filled with organic, fair trade spices and herbs for the guests to play with during the party. This is hands on fun.

    Estimated delivery:

Funding period

- (30 days)