Are you in Guatemala? Join our textile fun, even just one workshop.

We are opening our creative textile workshops during Textile Travels  to those already in Guatemala! Come learn more about the textile traditions of the beautiful Maya country, and practice some of the techniques yourself. Get creative, have fun, exchange ideas to benefit artisans and participants alike.

These workshops also include home-cooked meals and local visits to experience authentic village life. Cultural exchange through shared passions in textiles.

Interested? Let me know! Email mari@kakawdesigns.com

 

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Textile discovery embroidery class1

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Collab Art Totes

We are loving these Art Totes, designed by Kelly from Cardamom Collective ❤️ We worked on the textile colors and the general bag concept together, and the end result is so beautiful! These totes have been such a hit that we have now produced the design in a variety of naturally-dyed tones for Kelly. Take a look!

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We always enjoy collaborations, but with Kelly it’s especially fun because we dream up new color schemes together. And these gorgeous hues are used as part of our original products as Kakaw Designs as well.  Like our Duffel:

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(Side note: do you notice a certain familiarity here with the beautiful model? She’s Kelly’s cousin Lily of course! 😆)

Coming up next: rich hot pink tones – can you believe these colors come from natural dyes?

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Do you have artisanmade design dreams? Let me know, we’d love to help you. Our artisan partners are talented natural dyers, weavers, embroiderers, leather workers, and even a silversmith. Together, we’ve been able to create a wide range of unique high-quality products. Email me at mari@kakawdesigns.com to get the conversation started.

 

XOXO,

Mari

Summer Picnic Bundle 🌻

We only have a few of these bundles available! Perfect for summer picnics out and about.

Together with Hecho, we bring you a beautiful summer picnic bundle. Get one Picnic Blanket by yours truly and a handmade basket from Mexico in either medium or large.

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Pictured here: Picnic Blanket + Medium Hanging Basket

You might already know that our Picnic Blankets are multi-purpose and a true upcycled product. We’ve chosen traditional cortes (cortays) that specifically have minor holes from years of use. These holes have been mended carefully by hand, stitch by stitch, and reinforced sashiko-style with naturally-dyed thread to give the fabric new life as a blanket. Good for picnics, for hanging out on the couch, as a travel towel, baby blanket… so many ways to enjoy the piece.

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The hanging basket is handmade in Mexico by our friends at Hecho. It’s traditionally used for carrying babies in Puebla – can you believe it?? This story intrigued me so much, I knew I wanted to do a little summer special including the beautiful basket.

Together, the bundle prices are lower than normal retail:

Picnic Blanket + Medium Basket: $150 (normal retail $195)

Picnic Blanket + Large Basket: $170 (normal retail $215)

Prices include shipping within US.

Email mari@kakawdesigns.com to claim your bundle, just in time for summer sunshine.

 

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XOXO,

Mari

How to help after the Fuego Volcano eruption

As you’ve heard by now, our beloved Volcán de Fuego let out a big eruption on Sunday, June 3rd. This was the largest eruption in many decades, some say in even 100 years. While we usually love seeing lava in the clear sky, or seeing the smokes after a little Fuego burp, this time was very different. The colossal eruption created pyroclastic flows, a mixture of hot gas and volcanic rock and ash. These flows travel at extreme speeds and engulf everything on their path down from the volcano.

There have been more eruptions, evacuations, injuries, crowded shelters. The death toll is currently at 75 people, with 200 more still missing. Over 3000 people are in shelters.

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Photo by friend Cesar Barrios, a volunteer firefighter.

Let me first say that all of our artisan partners are well. Many have suffered ash falling from the sky, which is challenging to clean because of the way it turns into a cement-like substance when mixed with water. But they are not in immediate danger.

And the response by the people in Guatemala has been incredible. Many shelters are stuffed with donations (while the harder-to-reach shelters still need more goods). People are coming together to help in any way they can – cooking at home, donating food/clothes/blankets, volunteering at shelters, volunteer firefighters working in the affected areas for search and rescue.

For those of us not in Guatemala at the moment (myself included), helping out is a little bit more complicated. That’s because established emergency aid organizations like the Guatemalan Red Cross don’t always have a way to accept international donations online easily. Guatemala is considered high-risk for PayPal, which is why the Red Cross there can only accept international transfers straight into their bank accounts. This is cumbersome for people making small donations, or for those unfamiliar with this process.

That’s why there are so many Gofundme campaigns out there right now. I’m counting over 25 such campaigns with a simple search, and of course there are many other platforms for such fundraisers. I’ve been watching a few critically because I’m afraid these platforms don’t require much accountability or even transparency. The situation in Guatemala is devastating, and there is clear need. But to know exactly where your money goes, to know who you can trust with your money (and thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars more), is trickier.

So here are two concrete recommendations for you:

1. SERES  has been working for years in youth education for locally-minded sustainable development in the now-affected area. What I’ve always admired about them is their community-centric approach, giving ownership of the future to the youth. Their website is not yet updated with the volcano eruption info because they’ve been busy on the ground. Here’s a word from their founder, Corrina Grace:

On the afternoon of Sunday June 3rd,  the Volcán de Fuego – located just a few kms away from the site of the SERES Center – erupted spewing a fast moving mixture of gas and volcanic material. Most of the community of Los Lotes was buried, and the surrounding towns of El Rodeo, La Reina and others are evacuated.

As always, SERES is on the front lines providing long term support to our young people and their families. Today is no different. Half of our team piled into the pickup – loaded down much needed medical supplies, water and food – and made our way to El Rodeo. The rest got on the phones and social media, trying to locate the 100+ youth that are part of our network in the area. They were our first priority.

On the road to El Rodeo the despair and destruction in our path was overwhelming. After a day of scrambling, I hate to say that we are still trying to find some of our amazing young people. We’ve also confirmed that some of them didn’t make it out.

You can donate directly on their website to their general fund, as their donations are currently being used for most urgent needs like supplies, food, and medicine for those affected. The benefit to donating there is that it doesn’t take long for them to receive the funds (unlike Gofundme).

2. For crowdfunding, I recommend this campaign started by a respected non-profit, Vamos Adelante, that has been working in the affected area for over 20 years. Please note that Gofundme funds take 25 days to be released. But what I like about this project is that they have longer term goals in mind, since they have an established relationship with the people there. I trust them to know the needs of the people, the same people they have been working with for so long.  There will be much to do after the most urgent situation is over, to help the victims rebuild their lives.

 

When looking at other crowdfunding campaigns, please research the person who started it. Does this person have experience in emergency aid, community development, or have an established relationship with the affected communities? It’s unfortunately not unusual for fraud to arise even in catastrophic situations. Even if people have the best intentions, they might not necessarily know how to distribute the funds efficiently or even effectively.

It’s so encouraging to see how people from all over the world are supporting Guatemala right now. Thank you. The country is in crisis mode and there are more risks due to the volcanic activity, like landslides, mudslides, or more eruptions. Guatemala will be needing our help for a while. So please, take a moment to make sure that your donations are going towards the most credible fundraisers.

 

Questions? Comments? Please write below. I’d love to hear from you.

 

XOXO,

Mari

 

Mother’s Day Sale + Bundle

SALE for all scarves until May 13th, 2018. Use code LOVEMAMA for 25% off all scarves, because this is the product that has the most impact for our partner women weavers.  Naturally-dyed + handwoven, they make excellent ethical gifts.

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<<shop scarves with 25% off code LOVEMAMA>>

 

ALSO… We’ve got the perfect textile-loving bundle for all the Mamas out there!  Gift a handwoven Hummingbird Wrap in Indigo + Cardamom Collective pouch of your choice (block-printed or ikat) + hand-printed card written to the special Mom.  All for $90.

To claim a bundle, email me at mari@kakawdesigns.com.

 

 

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. 

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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.

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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. 

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 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

Announcing: Spring Capsule Collaboration

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.>

XOXO,

Mari