Psst – this is a guest post by Mari Gray, founder of Kakaw Designs! Check it out here.
When we started Kakaw Designs, we focused on our partnership with a wonderful weaving cooperative. I admired their work with natural dyes and traditional weaving techniques, and knew that I could trust the founder, Francisca. Since then, we’ve expanded to work with a lovely group of embroiderers from Sumpango, and it has been wonderful to have a whole new world of possibilities in design open up for us, as in our most recent best-selling product, our Corte Wrap.
We’re overwhelmed by the popularity of this product, and we would like to share with you a little bit about the women who are involved in the making of this beautiful scarf.
First off, I’ve learned that while working with rural artisans is incredibly rewarding, it has its own challenges. That’s why it’s so important to have a strong, reliable and professional leader to work with. And for the embroiderers, that’s Claribel. She’s the one who recently recommended a new community in Las Flores to work with. She’s also the one who trains the women, and makes sure that the products are coming out as they should. Just a couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting some of the women involved in the embroidery in the new community introduced by this super embroidery leader.
Claribel had explained to me why she had chosen this village – simply because the women needed work. I knew that some of the Corte Wraps that these women worked on came back with a campfire smell, which I personally love, but still meant that I needed to give the scarves a good wash before sale. With that said, I think I was a little worried not knowing how much “need” these women had. But I was curious and excited to finally meet these ladies that I had heard so much about.
I was greeted by the two sisters, Anita and Teresita, in beautiful matching hand-embroidered huipiles. Their house was lovely with a large entrance room, big enough for community celebrations, and filled with plants and even song birds, a dream for the garden lover like myself.
We got to talking over a cup of tea, and the family explained to me how they enjoyed working with Claribel, and how they appreciated the embroidery work because the alternative option would be much harsher, manual labor in the fields. That’s what most people do in the village – work in agriculture: harvesting, planting, working on large plantations. The long hours in the sun make this difficult work for everyone, and especially for women. It’s no wonder that they prefer to work in embroidery, from the comfort of their home, where they can also work on their daily chores like watching their children and preparing meals.
These women do not live in castles, have super modern appliances, or fancy cars. But they’re also not destitute. I think a part of me was afraid that they might be living in some terrible conditions, but I was relieved to see that they had such a lovely home. I want to paint an honest picture of these two sisters in particular:
They have a beautiful home. The sisters are close. They take pride in their traditional art of embroidery. Their work is excellent. They live in a mostly agricultural village with dirt roads. Their kitchen is big, with two wood-burning stoves for lots of cooking. They have plenty of room to host community gatherings at their home. They are welcoming, and they seem happy.
Lastly, I’d like to say thanks. A big GRACIAS to everyone who has supported our work at Kakaw Designs, because we believe in supporting talented local artisans, especially women. We wouldn’t be able to do it without you!