January 9, 2019
A few months ago we began searching for female artisans around Chichicastenango to embroider fajas (woven belts later into straps) for us specifically. We decided to put up fliers all around the villages outside of the Maya city as part of our ongoing quest to move away from market buying and being able to support female artisans directly, based on their talent alone. With the help of some locals, word of mouth, and hundreds of fliers in tiendas, on telephone poles, and anywhere else they could hang, we looked for as many artisans as we could find! Each faja can take anywhere from 3-15 days to complete, so we wanted to keep the opportunity open to as many women who were willing to work with us.
After hundereds of fliers and what felt like endless searching, one person called us! One. Manuela. She called and spoke on behalf of her sister, Pascuala, and their community of artisans. Manuela and Pascuala were more than eager to travel all the way to Panajachel, a little more than two hours journey for them, to learn about Hiptipico and our mission. They brought samples of the work of their weaving cooperative, and to say their fajas were stunning would be an understatement!
From that point on we knew we had to showcase their work through Hiptipico. From sisters to cousins, in-laws, and neighbors, there are a total of 23 women in the weaving group, and they all have incredible talent and positive energy. It’s nearly impossible to see more than a few at the same time, and we work closely with about 12 of them. Depending on demand, we may visit with them only once a month or almost once a week! We always love getting to see them, but last week’s visit was extra special.
The weavers from Chontála came all the way to our office in Panajachel to bring us brand new fajas for our Woven Collection. Where we had typically sourced all our fajas secondhand by buying them vintage from market vendors, this new partnership allows us to take out the middleman (or woman) and buy directly from the artisan herself. They always make sure to maintain the highest quality for our camera strap collection, and have an incredible attention to detail. Their talent and energy is unparalleled, and getting to work with them is an incredible opportunity for us.
Our meetings could be described as a little unorthodox, creating a creative space for opportunities to bloom. As a group of 12 women, usually only a select few represent them and travel all the way to our office. That being said, they usually have at least a couple children in tow!
As our meeting was wrapping up, one of the weavers, Manuela, noticed a sample bag we had made by our artisan partner Don Vicente almost half a year ago that caught her eye. Before we realized what was happening, Manuela grabbed the bag and proudly showed the other women. She recognized her huipil!
Keep in mind we found Manuela and her group by posting signs all around villages looking for female weavers. She answered our ad and we’ve only been working with her a months, and it’s not as if we’d bought it from her directly! So naturally we started to figure out how it could be possible.
We realized that she had sold the huipil to a random man more than a year ago. Who sold it to someone else, and then someone else. That last someone else was the final piece of the puzzle for us- Don Vicente, who made the sample bag Manuela spotted.
The bag had sat on the shelf at our old office for months before we moved, never making it out of the sample stage of design. It had been sitting in the new office since our move in August, which is around the time we started working with the Chontála weaving cooperative. She was meant to answer that ad and come to our meeting that day and spot the bag waiting on our shelves. So we gifted it to her!
She was so excited to see her huipil used in another way and wore it so proudly as a crossbody home! The smile on her face when she recognized her huipil in it’s new life is what encourages us each and every morning. We want more of this: shopping directly from weavers so they know where their creations are going. So they can see the final product, and most importantly know their value!