Meet Elena, designer behind capsule jewelry collection 🌺

Today, we have a special blog post written by Elena Laswick. In case you hadn’t heard yet, we’re working together for a Capsule Jewelry Collection, and we are so excited for this collaboration.  So we thought we should introduce the lovely lady – so here she is, ready to tell you how she fell in love with textiles and how she came to working with Ixil women of Guatemala in particular.

 

Hi there!

My name is Elena and I’m teaming up with Mari this spring to bring you some new jewelry designs inspired by the textiles of the Ixil region of Guatemala! 

But who am I and why am I posting on Mari’s blog? Well, let me introduce myself. 

I was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona, a mere 100 km (60 miles) from the Mexican border, where I was surrounded by Mexican culture and immersed in Spanish throughout my childhood. In middle school, I even played the violin and sang in a mariachi band! And in high school, I danced folklorico (Mexican folk dance) in a school club. 

Photo1

Elena in high school in her folklórico dress, circa 2007. Photo: John Laswick.

It truly was an upbringing from the borderlands of the U.S. Tucson is also right on the edge of the Navajo Nation, where there are many talented weavers who produce beautiful rugs. My mom’s motto has always been, “Support your local artists,” so a lot of those rugs found their way into my childhood home. It’s no doubt my parents and Tucson are to thank for my affinity for Spanish and textiles.

Photo2.jpg

Elena’s mom’s current living room setup. Note the Navajo rug hanging on the left-hand wall above the couch. Other textiles featured: On the couch; Pillowcase from Santiago Atitlan, “servilleta” throw from Nebaj, Guatemala. Floor rug: Turkish. On the reclining chair: A Kilim pillow, also Turkish. Wall hangings above/within the mantle: Molas from Panama. On the coffee table: Kuba cloth from the DRC. Under the coffee table: Cat from the local animal shelter. Photo: Elena Laswick.

During and after college, I worked for a few different Central American NGOs and found myself critical of their theories of change. When I initially moved to the Ixil region of Guatemala three years ago, it was to work with a local social enterprise. Although I hoped this model of development would be a breath of fresh air, it too seemed plagued by similar problems as those I had encountered in the NGO world. The true novelty ended up being the wealth of textiles Guatemala had to offer. I soon realized that the only things I cared about spending money on were textiles and artisan-made products in general (not surprising given the type of household I grew up in). The irony was, I was thousands of miles from home and yet once again I found myself living amongst indigenous people with deeply rooted weaving traditions. 

photo3

 Elena’s neighbor and friend in Nebaj, Juana, weaving a new huipil (blouse) for personal use. Photo: Elena Laswick

After I quit my job at the social enterprise, I began researching Guatemalan textile-related brands. In the process, I stumbled on Kakaw Designs’ Instagram, where I eventually learned that Mari, the founder, was studying Sustainable Development in Austria. Before reaching out to Mari about meeting in person when I was traveling through Austria last fall, I tried to familiarize myself more with Kakaw Designs. Besides the beautiful plant-dyed and leather products, what most resonated with me was Mari’s life story. It seemed we had both followed similar trajectories from NGOs to artisans and had ended up returning to our roots as a result. My meeting with Mari confirmed that we are both textile lovers whose theory of change revolves around investing in artisans and trusting them to re-invest in their children and their communities. 

This capsule jewelry collection grew out of our shared desire to invest specifically in rural artisans, who have less access to an international market base. Working with me as an artisan liaison to ethically source textiles directly from weavers in the Ixil region, Kakaw Designs will soon offer a capsule jewelry collection with designs that incorporate the intricate brocade of San Juan Cotzal! I hope that these pieces make you feel connected to a place, to skilled weavers and artisans, and of course that you’ll love to wear them for their own sake as well. 

-Elena
Advertisements

Special deals for special subscribers

Did you know our newsletter subscribers hear about our biggest sales first?

Our last Flash Sale was announced via newsletter first, and the response was so overwhelming!  We sold out of some items before we even got a chance to announce the sale in other places.

Don’t miss our next sale – sign up for our newsletter 🌿🌿🌿

 

kakawstamptop edited lines transparent

HOLIDAY SALE!

Our holiday discount codes are up!  Please feel free to use them for the entire store at kakawdesigns.com 🌿

Valid until December 13th, and we appreciate early orders, since everything is handmade 💙

  • Use code HOLIDAY15 for 15% off orders over $50
  • Use code HOLIDAY25 for 25% off orders over $100

<<Shop now>>

Our favorite this season?  We’d have to say….

DSC_2565

Our naturally-dyed and handwoven Duffel Bag, as featured by Sustainably Chic in her holiday gift guide.  We’re just about to bring back the Duffel in Indigo as well 💙

<<See the colors online.>>

We hope everyone is enjoying the beginning of the holiday season!  ⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

XOXO,

Mari

Textile Sisterhood Giveaway is LIVE!

Textile Sisterhood Giveaway

I love the color pink because it is so joyful and simply put, it brightens up my day.  I loving having bright pink accents around my house and as part of my outfits… because just seeing this color makes me happy.  In this chilly weather especially, it’s a warmth that I appreciate greatly.

What do YOU like about pink?

We’ve teamed up with 8 other ethical women makers and founders to bring you a pink bundle of joy giveaway, and we want to know what YOU think about this color. Tell us on IG and enter  to win 9 separate prizes – that’s a lot of beauty 🌸🌸🌸

Join in on the fun via Instagram @kakawdesigns!

Textile Sisterhood Giveaway 2Collage.jpg

For this giveaway, we’ve partnered with (left to right):

Cardamom Collective 

Hecho

Kakaw Designs (that’s us!)

PresentlyIn

Toj

Kari by Kriti

Global Elective

Liya Mira

Cielo Collective

 

Good luck!!

 

XOXO,

Mari

 

What good friends are for…

After a lovely brunch the other day with this beauty Jessie, she let me take a few quick snaps featuring some of our handwoven scarves, naturally-dyed always.  Jess and I have known each other since we were in middle school… oh, how we have changed since those awkward teen years. 😆 She was always a beautiful ballerina, but has really blossomed into this confident woman, and a professional model, too.

Take a look at some of the shots, just taken on my iPhone.

 

Palo de la vida giraffee webQuetzal Wrap palo jess webQuetzal Wrap curcuma jess webQuetzal Wrap palo jess web 2**Doesn’t she make our scarves look gorgeous? You know you want to —-> Shop Scarves**

Thanks, Jess!  You’re the best!

 

Mari

NEW! Rebozo del Lago

We’re so excited to announce our most luxurious weave – by that, we mean that the widest, thickest, coziest shawl we’ve made yet.  Of course, naturally-dyed with plants and using ikat techniques to make the patterns.

I was so inspired by the beautiful colors at Lake Atitlán, where our weavers are from.  That’s why this shawl is named after the magical place – “Rebozo del Lago” 💙

 

7

10.jpeg

slideshow.png

1

Huge thanks to the very talented Devon Lach for these pictures taken in the San Francisco Bay.  I’m so thrilled she was able to capture the essence of this rebozo so perfectly – the cozy wrap around your shoulders with the light breeze of the ocean, walking barefoot comfortably on the beach.  It’s serene, earthy, ethical.  I love every bit of it.

We currently only have two Rebozos del Lago stocked, and the weavers are ready to make more, waiting for your order.

<<See our video about the dyeing and weaving processes>>

<<Order now>>

I’m going back to school

I have some exciting news to share:  I’ve decided to get my master’s in Sustainable Development.

IMG_3909.jpg

I’m excited and nervous for this next step.  Berry’s mostly just excited for the snow.

These are the two reactions I’ve been getting about the news:

  1. “That’s wonderful!”
  2. “What’s that?”

To all the encouraging people in my life, thank you.  I’ve been nervous about taking this step, but it will give me more tools to be able to work with artisan communities effectively.  After all, Kakaw Designs has always been a development-inspired social business.

And to those of you who have no idea what this Sustainable Development thing is, let me tell you.  It’s the study of development for countries, and how to merge economic, environmental, and social aspects.  How to find a common happy ground, for all three aspects of growth.  Needless to say, I’m interested in focusing on developing countries, as well as artisan communities, indigenous areas, and foreign aid / non-profit models (or rather, how to make these models more efficient).

I’m excited to get back into the academic world and delve into some of these questions that have been circling in my head.

bird mural edited.png

Sustainable Development for small villages

What does that mean for Kakaw Designs?

Don’t worry, I’m in the process of training people to take over production and logistics in Guatemala.  Some of the artisans will take on additional responsibilities, others will be continued by me online, and I have a great person lined up as the Production Manager.  <<More on that soon!>>  And we’ll continue fulfilling online orders from the US as we have been doing.  We’ll also continue to take custom-orders, which have been really fun.  So really, there’s nothing to worry about.

I’ll be gone for two years, mostly in Europe.  But I will be back in Guatemala for visits, and am working on a smooth transition to keep the business going as usual.  I really contemplated what the best thing to do was – to take a pause and refresh in two years, or try to keep the business steady during my absence.  And in the end, it just seemed like a waste to lose the momentum we’ve gained, and the idea is always to keep production going so that the artisans have work – that’s our mission, after all: supporting talented artisans and their traditions in Guatemala.

Exciting times are ahead!  Thank you for all your support.

XOXO,

Mari


post card2 big.png