While we were able to restructure ourselves and have for the most part figured out how to keep the business going while I work on my master’s in Sustainable Development in Europe, there are certain aspects that have been difficult to keep up from so far away. Product design is one of these things.
Mari with partner weavers at Lake Atitlán
So when Elena wrote to me when she happened to be traveling through Austria last year, I was missing Guatemala so much – the colors, the weather, the people – and I was delighted by the surprise connection made through Instagram, and the opportunity to feel connected to Guatemala again, even for just an afternoon.
We got to talking, and it was clear that Elena and I had some common passions and concerns about the textile tradition and weavers in Guatemala. We talked about the role of private brands and designers; the pros and cons associated with western influence. At this point, she was just exploring the idea of being an Artisan Liaison, someone who would connect textile artisans in the Ixil region to different buyers, including designers. I told her I thought that was a great idea, especially since I had been away from Guatemala for the first time since starting the business, and was feeling first-hand the importance of being on the ground, next to artisans, in order to develop new products.
Elena in traditional handwoven outfit from Nebaj, Ixil region in Guatemala
Well, we are excited to be teaming up for a small spring capsule jewelry collection featuring handwoven textiles from San Juan Cotzal, in the Ixil region of Guatemala. This is a very rural area, and while I had admired their brocade designs for years, had not seriously considered working with the group due the geographic distance. It’s hard to communicate new designs, and to make sure the designs come out the way they should. In the almost 5 years of Kakaw Designs, we have never developed a perfect product on the first try. Trial and error are just part of the process, tweaking the details to make things better. There is also plenty of room for misunderstandings when working with real people, and things just take a bit longer in the handmade world. That’s why I wasn’t willing to take on that risk with a group so far away… until now, and that’s because we’re really counting on Elena. Without an Artisan Liaison, we would not be able to work with such a remote group.
Santos works on a prototype. Photo by Elena Laswick
We’re so excited to be sharing more with you, SOON.
The capsule jewelry collection will be released along with spring/summer blouses, cardigans, and bags. All in happy tones – because this has been such a cold winter in Europe, I just need more color in my life!
<Want to learn about other collaborations? Find some here.>
<Interested in the complex reality of ethical dilemmas working with artisans? Find it published on Eco Warrior Princess.>