Q&A feature on Birds of a Thread

“How great would it be if we could come together and share our textile experiences and practices together, further strengthening bonds and supporting rural artisans to pursue innovative designs on their own?”

<Read more on Birds of a Thread>

That’s the inspiration behind our Textile Travels concept. As a small brand, we facilitate the reaching of new markets internationally through our unique designs. We work closely with talented artisans to make this happen while honoring their traditions. But if the artisan groups have their own storefronts or access to other stores/buyers, really the best case scenario as far as impact would be for them to be able to run with new designs on their own. Unfortunately, as a brand, we have to ask them to be respectful to our unique designs, meaning that they should not copy exactly what we have designed together. This hurts my heart a little every time!

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Thus… we’re off to creating a safe space of sharing creative ideas and having fun – among international textile lovers with unique experiences and backgrounds and rural artisans thirsty for new ideas. It’s win-win for everyone.

<Read more on Birds of a Thread>

XOXO,

Mari

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Indigo San Juan

Shibori scarves

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mari with indigo shibori

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Adventures in Guatemala, coming August 2019

We’re excited for this year’s two itineraries to continue our creative idea exchange journey in Guatemala. Take a look!

Textile Travels Guatemala 2019 info

<Download the one-page info sheet>

<See more on our website>

Please share the info with anyone you think might be interested. I’d really appreciate it 🙂

XOXO,

Mari

Reviews of textile adventure in Guatemala

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“Guatemala has been on my textile travel wish list for years, so when I spotted Mari’s trip I snapped up the opportunity and oh what a treat it turned out to be! Antigua is an absolute delight, but it was extra special being taken off the beaten track by Mari into the rural villages and meeting the wonderful artisans and cooperative groups in their homes. The workshops were a highlight and it was a privilege to spend creative time with the charming and very patient artisans who happened to be great cooks too! An unexpected bonus being treated to their traditional homemade dishes. At all times, I felt totally safe and reassured in Mari’s capable and calm hands plus traveling in a small group was really pleasant. The moment I left, I longed to return, thank you Mari, it was textile heaven! “

-Ricky

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We’re honored that a couple of participants of our Textile Travel from last year shared their experiences with us. Thank you 🙏

This  year’s trip also incorporates new ideas gained from last year’s first adventure, and feedback based on slowing down a little bit to have more time to take in all the beauty and textile techniques, and debrief with more energy in our group setting. Accordingly, we’ve also added new workshops like our pomom and tassel-making at our favorite cozy hotel in Antigua.  Learn more about this year’s trip here.

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“Traveling with Kakaw was such a fantastic experience. I loved that the other participants were as excited as I was about really learning new skills. The individual instructors were master weavers, dye artists, and embroiderers, and being welcomed into their homes for meals and workshops was such a great experience. The whole trip was really thoughtful and well planned. I came away with a few new skills and a pronounced appreciation for the work that goes into the beautiful textiles of Guatemala.”

-Amanda

 

This year we have two itineraries available:

Creative Textile Adventure: August 1-9

The Quetzal Adventure: August 8-14

Sign up in February and receive $150 off as an early-bird offer. Bring a friend, and get $100 off each too 🙂 Email mari@kakawdesigns.com for more information.

 

Xoxo,

Mari

Textile Travels Recap

Though it’s been over a month now since we said our goodbyes to our friends from our very first Textile Travels, I feel like I’m still processing the experience, there is just so much to take in.

 

First off, I’d like to say that we had a wonderful trip. It was a small group, which was great considering this was the first trip of its kind that I’ve organized, full of workshops with artisans for the goal of collaborative idea exchange. It’s a new concept for me and our partner artisans, so this was a trial run – a successful one at that.

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Amanda shows off her shibori work at Lake Atitlán

My favorite part was probably dyeing with Francisca and her cooperative of dyers and weavers. Indigo was especially fun, and I feel like where we were able to explore different designs and ideas well, since we all had a bit of experience with the magical dye, and had at least seen (some had even made) intricate shibori designs. I even stuck my jeans in the vat, and by the end of the day there was a whole line of indigo-dyed jeans, all from the weavers and their family members.  I loved that they  liked the idea!

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Line-up of jeans dyed in indigo

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Indigo beauties, trying new things with the weavers

We also organized workshops for embroidery, ikat, backstrap brocade weaving, as well as many visits to observe other techniques. It was a packed itinerary, but we squeezed in down time whenever we could. I would personally prefer a slower-paced trip, but it’s hard when there are so many beautiful places to visit, so many textile workshops to participate in… and not everyone has the luxury of taking part in a longer itinerary.

 

I have some new ideas on how to improve the trip – how to encourage even more idea exchange, prepare the participants better for them, and make sure the artisans get as much out of the workshops as possible (and not just the travel participants). I’m excited.

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Rural travel is beautiful in more ways than just textiles

And now, looking at 2019, I’m wondering if people have any requests on the time of the year. This first trip took place in August, which was meant to be helpful for those busy during the school year. Though we got very lucky with the weather, it’s possibly not the ideal month for travel because it is still during the rainy season. October/November are usually better weather-wise.

 

With that said, please let me know if you would like to receive more information about the next trip, or if you have any particular requests.

 

XOXO,

Mari

mari@kakawdesigns.com

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Brocade weaving class

Brocade loom and threads

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Ikat + Indigo

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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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

 

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