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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December can be a pretty crazy month, full of activities, and maybe added stress. It’s a lovely season, but we understand the hectic nature of modern-day holiday celebrations.

We can relate. We’re makers and sellers, but also teachers, students, wives, friends, sisters… There’s a lot happening in our lives, too.

And by we, I mean: Kelly from Cardamom Collective, Ehren from Hecho, and me (Mari) from Kakaw Designs. This is why we wanted to share with you some of our favorite things, the items that remind us to relax, to take a deep breath, to brew and enjoy a cup of tea. If you think this might be beneficial for you, or if you’d like to gift it to someone you know, just email me at mari@kakawdesigns. We’d be happy to send you a bundle or two.

Mindful Morning One includes:

1 Mini mortar and pestle from Hecho (choose from pink marble and white onyx)

1 Indigo ikat pouch from Cardamom Collective

2 Hand-embroidered coasters from Kakaw Designs

Some kakaw (aka cacao) and cardamom to add to your favorite morning drink

$65 plus shipping, ready in the US.

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Mindful Morning two includes:

1 Mini mortar and pestle from Hecho (choose from pink marble and white onyx)

1 Indigo ikat pouch from Cardamom Collective

2 Hand-embroidered tea towels from Kakaw Designs

Some kakaw (aka cacao) and cardamom to add to your favorite morning drink

$85 plus shipping, ready in the US.

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25% Holiday Code is live

Just a note that our 25% off sale is going on! Use code HOLIDAYS2018 for 25% off all orders over $50 until December 31st.

We took a different approach this year. Usually we try to avoid selling out of products, but this year that’s already proven difficult. Some of our newest items are now sold out, but still plenty of other items are in stock for shipping both from US and Guatemala, so don’t worry.

Shop at kakawdesigns.com

 

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Kaleido Collection: Beautiful forms in a beautiful country

<I’m super psyched to announce something brand new for us. I shared a little bit about the difficulties being away from artisans, and the idea for Kakaw Designs has always been to support talented artisans in Guatemala. With that in mind, we’re excited to be adding gorgeous handwoven cushion covers by Kaleido Collection onto our website this Fall. Emmy shares her honest story about the how and why behind her new brand, take a look! -Mari>

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Emmy practicing her backstrap weaving skills during Textile Travels – she joined us for a workshop 🙂

I first came to know and live in the beautiful country of Guatemala through working at an NGO focused on coffee communities. Working in a small town primarily made up of small-scale agriculture, I worked alongside coffee producers and got to know the skilled work and art of coffee. Along the way, I met several artisans, some who have generations of craft experience and others who are newfound makers. What started as purchases and custom-made requests for myself turned into a desire to share these beautiful forms with others while supporting talented artisans.

Let’s start at the beginning. It’s hard not to notice the colorful and intricate textiles found throughout Guatemala. Sadly, many people, both visitors and chapines, don’t know the hours of meticulous work and faces behind these woven pieces. I was one of those people that admired woven and embroidered textiles but didn’t truly understand all that went into producing a piece. Not to mention that there are a multitude of different processes and techniques. That’s part of what makes Guatemalan textiles so amazing.

Picking up the textiles with Francisca

Picking up textiles with Francisca

<I interrupt to give a virtual high-five for anyone who can spot a custom Kakaw textile in this shot 😉 -Mari>

My first visit with the Corazon del Lago weaving cooperative was a trip to San Juan la Laguna at Lake Atitlan with my sister. Like many visitors, we came for an afternoon to check out the little shops that line the main road up from the dock. Little did I know at the time that my first scarf purchase from one of those little shops would grow into something more. A year later, I found out that it’s the same cooperative that Kakaw Designs works with. Through Mari I was introduced to Francisca, the co-op president, and I set up a natural dyes demonstration to get a glimpse of the process behind botanical-based dyes. My inner environmentalist was intrigued by the amazing, vibrant colors that plants can produce.

In talking with Francisca, it’s clear that the co-op has benefited many women in the community but like many businesses in Guatemala, it’s not easy to grow in an economy that is often reliant on the ebbs and flows of tourism. Through my work with community tourism in coffee communities, economic markets tied to tourism and agriculture harvest seasons are stories that aren’t uncommon to hear. Diversification is essential.

Over time I began to learn more and more about the world of Guatemalan textiles and the skilled people that make it happen. It also meant that I was acquiring more woven pieces ranging from huipiles from one of the textile shops in Antigua and learning where they are from to requesting custom sewing orders from Elvia, an expert seamstress who I’ve worked with through the coffee organization. One of my favorite personal pieces I have worked with Elvia on has been pillow covers, of which there have been several iterations with the most recent being the collaboration with the weaving cooperative!

In Elvia's home studio - Lavender Love is her favorite

In Elvia’s home sewing studio – Lavender Love is her favorite

Throughout all this, I had never really thought about starting a business. After getting to know several brands that collaborate with artisans like Kakaw Designs, I realized that it wasn’t such a far-fetched idea. So begun the idea of not just buying pieces for myself, but to contribute to other market avenues for artisans, albeit small. I still have a lot to learn, but I figured that the worst failure would be never trying.

The word Kaleido means beautiful form in Greek. I found it fitting, as there are so many beautiful things in Guatemala – the breathtaking landscapes, detailed craftsmanship and especially the gracious and hospitable people.

Artisan relationships are the heart of Kaleido Collection. Valuing artisans’ work and time is unfortunately not the norm for many of the things we consume and buy. Kaleido Collection hopes to be a small part of that change along with many other like-minded organizations and brands that seek to make just and dignified work the only acceptable practice.

I hope you enjoy these pillows as much as I have enjoyed the journey in producing them!

 

<see more of the beautiful cushion covers online>

 

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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

New! The Duffel is back in a new color for fall 🍂

The first batch of our Duffel was in Indigo, and the bags went so quickly – now it’s back in these fall hues we’re calling Chocolate.  It’s time we have some colors named after our cacao roots, don’t you think?

Chocolate Duffel alone 1 square web

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We’re so excited to share these fall colors with you 🍂 🍂 🍂  We love our plant-dyed and handwoven Duffel!  See what others are saying by reading customer reviews online.

<<Shop now>>

Photo credit: Leander Khil

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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>>