Una semana de tinte natural: Conozcan a Doña Margarita / A week of natural dyes: Meet Doña Margarita

Blog por Alejandra Arrué Lou

A continuación encontrará extractos de mi entrevista con Doña Margarita como parte del taller de tintes naturales con Olga Reiche, patrocinado por Kakaw Designs.

Conozca a Margarita

Cuando conocí a Margarita, al principio me pareció tímida y reservada. Pero después de pasar solo un día con ella, rápidamente aprendí que Margarita era todo lo contrario. Ella es un rayo de sol y vitalidad. Tiene una risa contagiosa, le encanta hacer bromas y tiene una profunda pasión por su arte. Ella cuenta que “desenredar y arreglar el hilo de algodón es una de mis actividades favoritas”. Esto le trae paz y serenidad. A Margarita le importan mucho su familia y su identidad. Ella busca preservar su cultura a través de los textiles que teje. Además, es una líder que quiere expandir su arte y liderar un grupo de mujeres artesanas para seguir experimentando con tintes naturales.

Alejandra: ¿Cuánta experiencia tuvo usted con los tintes naturales antes de este taller? 

Margarita: Yo no he recibido ningún taller antes. Tengo experiencia de mis padres porque mi abuelo ya tenía ese conocimiento. Cuando era pequeña, ellos practicaban el algodón, lo cosechaban, y lo trabajaban. Yo sacaba el algodón y lo clasificaba también. Tengo unos pocos recuerdos que ellos nos decían de las plantas. De hecho, tengo dos tías que viven todavía y conocen el algodón bien. Yo ahorita estoy buscando un huipil que mi mamá hizo con ese algodón. Cuando estaba escuchando a Olga, ya tenía un poco de experiencia y en ese momento estaba recordando del aprendizaje que me dejaron mis padres. Pero no, nunca he recibido un taller como este. 

Alejandra: ¿Por qué le interesó aprender más sobre el teñido natural?

Margarita: Para mi es importante porque quiero rescatar estas prácticas. Así era como lo hacíamos antes. Ahora ya no. Además, me sorprende que una planta saca un color distinto a como se ve. El encino es el color que más me interesa, pero hay otras plantas también que me interesan.

Alejandra: Ya que aprendió bastante esta semana, ¿quiere seguir trabajando con tintes naturales? ¿Cree que va a poder replicar esta práctica en su casa/asociación? 

Margarita: Sí quiero seguir. Personalmente, me gustaría trabajar con grupos de mujeres para experimentar. Ahora se trata de aprender de las plantas que sacan color, especialmente las plantas que hay en mi comunidad de Chamelco. La idea sería tener un grupo de mujeres para practicar, experimentar, y producir. Pero primero tengo que practicar sola para ver si me salen los colores y tintes.

Alejandra: ¿Cuáles son los retos que le puedan dificultar a seguir con el tinte natural?

Margarita: Pues hay muchos retos. Todo dependiendo del hilo. Por ejemplo, no todos los hilos se pueden teñir. O se puede teñir pero no se queda en el hilo fijo. Otro reto será poder encontrar los hilos naturales y los vendedores cerca de donde yo vivo. Por ejemplo, el blanco que muchas veces usamos ya tiene cloro y eso no es natural. Lo voy a investigar. Pero poco a poco.

Alejandra: ¿En su pueblo (Chamelco), hay gente que trabaja con tinte natural? ¿Por qué lo hacen / no lo hacen?

Margarita: Ahorita no hay nadie. No tienen motivación porque es mucho trabajo y los consumidores no entienden el precio alto. Los únicos que entienden son los artesanos. Por eso es importante que los consumidores entiendan sobre el tinte natural, que es elaborado por una artesana, y que requiere muchos días de trabajo. 

Alejandra: ¿Nos puede compartir algo que le impresionó mucho del taller con Olga? ¿Recomendaría este taller a otras tejedoras?

Margarita: De mi parte es muy interesante. Los procesos que nos explicó, en teoría y en práctica, son muy importantes. Si se lo recomendaría a otras tejedoras. Pero como los procesos son complicados y a veces lo hacemos “al ojo”, se puede volver muy confuso. Entonces hay que poner mucha atención. 

Alejandra: ¿Cómo fue quedarse la semana en la casa de Doña Lidia?

Margarita: Fue interesante. Aprendí a usar la estufa. Ya me puse más cómoda. Yo normalmente me levanto a las 3am. Se me olvida que no es mi casa porque no estoy acostumbrada. El viaje fue fácil pero hay que tener paciencia. A veces se tarda más en llegar. 


Blogpost by Alejandra Arrué Lou

Below you will find my interview with Doña Margarita who participated in Olga Reiche’s natural dye workshop, sponsored by Kakaw Designs. 

Meet Margarita

When I first met Margarita, she seemed shy and reserved. But after spending just one day with her, I quickly learned Margarita was just the opposite. She is a ray of sunshine and vibrancy. She has an infectious laugh, loves to make jokes, and has a deep passion for her art. She notes that, “untangling and arranging threads is one of my favorite activities.” This brings her peace and serenity. Margarita holds her family and her cultural identity dear and seeks to preserve her cultural identity through the textiles she weaves. In addition, she is a natural leader who hopes to expand her craft and lead a group of artisan women to continue experimenting with natural dyes. 

Alejandra: How much experience did you have with natural dyes before this workshop?
Margarita: I have never received any workshop. I have experience with my parents because my grandfather already had some knowledge. When I was little, they would practice with cotton, harvest it, and work with it. I would take apart the cotton and classify it. I have some memory that they [her family] would tell me about the different plants. In fact, I have two aunts that are still alive today that know cotton quite well. Right now, I am looking for a huipil that my mother made with that cotton. When I was listening to Olga, I had a bit of experience and in that moment I began to remember the learnings that my parents taught me. But no, I had never received a workshop like this before.  

Alejandra: Why were you interested in learning about natural dyes? 

Margarita: For me, it’s important to rescue these practices. This is how we used to do it. Not anymore. In addition, it is surprising that one plant emits a color that is different from what it looks like. The color that interests me the most is oak, but there are other plants that interest me as well. 

Alejandra: Now that you have learned a lot this week, would you like to continue working with natural dyes? Do you think you can replicate these processes in your house/association? 

Margarita: Yes, I would like to continue. Personally, I would like to work with a group of women to experiment more. Now, it is about learning about the plants that one can extract colors from, especially the plants found in my community of Chamelco. My idea is to have a group of women that can practice together, experiment, and produce cotton with these dyes. But first I have to practice myself to see if I can extract the plants’ colors. 

Alejandra: What challenges do you foresee if you continue to use natural dyes? 
Margarita:
Well, there are many challenges. Everything depends on the thread. For example, not all threads can be dyed. Or maybe they can be dyed but the color does not last. Another challenge will be to source the natural threads nearby where I live. For example, the white thread that we normally use has bleach and that cannot be used. I need to keep investigating. It will be challenging to find all the vendors, threads, and raw materials. Little by little.    

Alejandra: Are there people in your community that work with natural dyes? Why or why not?
Margarita: Right now, there isn’t anybody. There is no motivation because it requires a lot of work and the consumer does not understand the high prices. The only people who understand the prices are the artisans. That is why it is important that consumers understand how natural dying works–it is worked by an artisan over many days. 

Alejandra: Can you share something that impressed you about the workshop? Would you recommend it to other weavers?
Margarita: I found it very interesting. The processes that were explained to us, the theory and the practice, are very important. I would recommend it to other weavers. But the processes are very complicated and sometimes we do things without measuring so it can be quite confusing. So you have to pay very close attention. 

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The Custom Design Process

It’s been a fulfilling process for me personally to work as a facilitator for custom orders, connecting creatives abroad and local artisans this way. I asked Rita from Wild Shade Designs to write a little about the process of working with me to provide the client’s perspective. Read on below to see what she said.

These orders are helpful in collectively increasing work for our artisan partners. But more than that, they also get to try new design concepts, learning, growing, and creating new paths in a competitive artisanmade industry.

Right now with the COVID-19 situation, our artisan partners don’t have the normal access to sales – whether that be a small coop storefront, a stall at the artisan market, or orders for other local stores. These sales are all paused, until further notice. So custom orders are especially helpful at the moment, as we are also experiencing challenges as a small business, and worry about keeping steady production for our artisan partners.

If you feel inspired to create something in collaboration with us, please shoot me an email at mari@kakawdesigns.com to get the conversation started.

XOXO,

Mari


Review of the custom design process by Rita:

Designing my own textile and having it produced into products was something I wanted to do for a long time, but it seemed like something that would be cost prohibitive for a small maker like myself.  I sell naturally dyed scarves, and I wanted to try something new and more diverse to grow my shop, but I was concerned that the number of units required to produce a custom product would make it impossible for me.  After a lot of back and forth in my mind, I sketched out a design and e-mailed it to Mari at Kakaw Designs.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was surprised to find the minimum order was very reasonable and not an issue.  I am not a professional designer, so I was also a bit concerned that my sketches wouldn’t be adequate, but the sketches turned out to be just fine for the process.

I was also concerned that producing custom products in another country without being on the ground there would be almost impossible, but it is actually quite easy.  I send the design to Mari, and she handles the rest.  She communicates with the weavers and leatherworkers, gets the products packaged and shipped, and does all the legwork for you.  The process is much easier than I had imagined in the beginning, and it is truly magical to carry something made by talented artisans using your design!

My first design was pretty simple, so I wanted to try something a bit more complex for the next order.  I created a sketch and sent it to Mari, who then consulted the weaving cooperative to get feedback on the design.  After consulting the weavers, we adjusted the design to better fit the limitations of the dying and weaving process.  The process requires flexibility and exchange of ideas, and I really feel it is a collaborative process between designer and artisan.  In my mind, that makes the textile even more special.

 

Fish tote at park sketch

I am so glad I started this process with Kakaw Designs.  The custom design process has allowed me to expand my micro-business and develop an outlet for creative expression I would not have had otherwise.  In addition to the scarves and bags we have previously worked on, I am now working with Mari to expand into custom blouses as well.  If you’ve been thinking about the custom order process, but haven’t quite made up your mind, I recommend you give it a try.  It’s amazing fun to create your own custom designs, and once you get started, you realize just how infinite the possibilities are!

-Rita, Wild Shade Designs

Fish tote at park sketch 2

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

New product: Handwoven Huipil

We’re pretty excited to be releasing a few new products soon – coming up in Spring!  🌷 Here’s a little sneak preview of one of the treasures: a Handwoven Picbil Huipil, featuring naturally-dyed cotton thread from our partner weavers at Lake Atitlán, and handwoven with the traditional picbil technique on a backstrap loom by partner weavers near Cobán.  These are both regional, specialized crafts, so we’re pretty excited to be combining the two into one beautiful blouse ❤️

Take a look:

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More coming soon – including a new capsule jewelry collection to complement spring collection products.  I’m so excited to be releasing upbeat colors – I don’t know about you, but winter has been especially long for me (away from the Land of the Eternal Spring…), and I am SO ready for flower fields, picnics, sunshine, biking around, and wearing colors that make me happy… 🌷🌷🌷

Interested in a custom color?  These huipil blouses take “slow-made” to the next level with so much work going into each beauty.  This also means that it’s possible to take special orders for small quantities.  So if you’re interested in a special color, email me at mari@kakawdesigns.com and let’s chat about it 😉

XOXO,

Mari

 

Photos by Kelly Moe-Rossetto featuring also our Rebozo del Lago and Crossbody in Indigo. 

Featured on The Maker Journal!

Take a look at this beautiful website full of narratives about artisan traditions and slow fashion practices around the world.  I love this online community feel of people who believe in the value of handmade beauties.

Our upcoming Textile Travels was featured!  Take a look at the whole piece here.

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I’ve found myself in a little pickle as the founder of Kakaw Designs, a small artisanmade brand based in Guatemala, and now also a master’s student in Sustainable Development in Europe.  It seems to me that conscious consumers are more and more focused on the environmental side of fashion, pushing for locally-made products and a general reduction in consumption.  While I am a big supporter of these movements and personally believe that More is not always Better, these trends lead me to wonder about the social and economic side effects for the small-scale producers that I’ve worked with for years now in Guatemala.

We are so excited for all the possibilities to come this summer.  Time to explore new creative ideas, together with our artisan partners.  Want to know more?  As always, just email me at: mari@kakawdesigns.com.

XOXO,

Mari

We love custom collaborations 💗

Did you know?  We LOOOOVE to work on custom orders!

We’ve made custom scarves, pouches, pendants, napkins, belts, and more as custom orders.  It’s a fun process to be involved in making beautiful designs become reality. And it’s also great fun to see different customer preferences; we’ve learned a lot from each experience.  We all have our favorite colors and styles, so this is a great way for our partner artisans to branch out and try new things.  We can help through the process.

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Our custom orders start from 6 / 12 units, depending on the item.  Let us know if you have something in mind – we’d love to work with you.  💗

Email me at mari@kakawdesigns.com with your ideas!

 

XOXO,

Mari

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….

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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

SCARFSEASON celebrate with 20% off!

It’s getting chilly these days… are you feeling the beautiful autumn breeze, too?

This is one of my favorite seasons, one that I’ve missed in Guatemala since it’s always spring there (really, that’s not a complaint – I love spring, too!).  This year, I’m in Austria working on my master’s in Sustainable Development, and I’m so glad I brought along a few scarves.  I’m a little worried for winter, I’m sure it will be the coldest in my life yet.  I will definitely be carrying around my handwoven + naturally-dyed scarves with me, all the time 🙂

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Are you feeling chilly, too? Take 20% off all scarves with code SCARFSEASON until Sunday, October 22nd.  Order two and we’ll include a handmade Luggage Tag as a gift 😉

Some of my favorites this season:

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Rebozo del Lago, a wide and cozy shawl dyed with plants.  Handwoven + intricate ikat designs. (Retail $200)

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Naturally-dyed footloom scarves in Indigo and Plum. (Retail $75)

<<See more of our ethical scarves>>

 

I hope you’re enjoying the beautiful change of seasons, the trees changing colors, losing leaves, the fresh breeze but still some warm sunshine peeking through, too.

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” 💙

 

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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>>