It recently dawned on me that while I have the pleasure of telling the stories of brands that are doing good, I rarely get to experience it. Many of the vendors I partner with work specifically on behalf of the men and women who’s lives are dramatically changed because of the opportunities their companies provide. They know their artisans by name, they know their families, and every business decision they make is driven by the hearts they’ve encountered. I wanted in on that. I wanted to see the faces, understand the processes, know the hearts. It’s easy for me to get swept away in designing boxes, but the PEOPLE are what always have and always will matter.
Fortunately, my good friend Sheeva from Local + Lejos, a socially conscious home decor company invited me to come with her on a quick trip to Antigua and Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. She was heading out to meet with her artisans and design components of her spring line – I could tag along to see the entire process. Two weeks later our journey for good was underway.
day one: We strolled through the streets of Antigua, taking in the sights, colors, sounds, and of course a good cup of coffee. Inspiration was in abundance for Haute Hope box designs and the Local + Lejos’ spring collection!
After exploring we met up with California native turned Guatemalan textile guru, Molly Berry for the best breakfast. The three of us chatted about the ever-growing industry, integrity in the supply chain and what it really means to impact a person’s life (hint: it’s dignified work).
In the early afternoon we headed about two hours out to Panajachel, Guatemala. Panajachel is a really neat town that serves as the docking point for Lake Atitlan and its surrounding islands.
To get around you have to take speed boats (or row yourself) across the lake. There wasn’t one excursion that didn’t take my breathe away.
day two: We hopped in a boat to the neighboring island of San Juan to meet with one of the weavers working on products for Sheeva’s spring line.
We arrived at the Vicente’s (the weaver) home and to our joy many of the ladies in the collective were there as well. They took turns proudly showed us how they dye the fabric (using anything from avocado to homemade indigo), and demonstrated the insanely difficult and beautiful art of backstrap of weaving. I learned that the designs all tell a story, the loom is an extension of the woman and the heart of the home. I learned that there is an immense amount of pride, care and detail that goes into every piece they create. I learned that properly supporting these women is of upmost importance.
As if my heart wasn’t already full, Vicenta and her daughter made an authentic Guatemalan lunch for us. We ate with her and her family – and while staring happily at the colorful plate before me, the eldest daughter reminded me, “we eat with the eyes first.” Since being back I’ve taken that to heart and tried to make my meals just a bit more beautiful.
We left Vicenta and (literally) hopped on the back of a pick up truck to a dock on a nearby island. One boat, a tuk tuk ride, and a short walk later we arrived at Maya Traditions. Maya Traditions is an incredible organization designed to connect businesses like Sheeva’s with indigenous Mayan artisans. The next few hours were spent knee deep in fabrics mapping out her spring line with their lead designer, Avery!
day 3: After an early morning meeting with the weaver creating Sheeva’s best selling blankets, we teamed up with Maya from Ketzali (ah-mazing scarves, accessories and ponchos) and attended a pretty cool tradeshow happening back in Antigua. It was so exciting to see Guatemalan entrepreneurs taking traditional methods and adapting them to fit the design needs of the western shopper. Sheeva and I both had the chance to talk shop with various artists and discovered products for upcoming seasons!
Does the phrase, “let’s go to market” make your heart skip a beat too? We spent the rest of the afternoon climbing, digging, discovering, bartering and squealing in textile heaven. I snagged a gorgeous indigo blanket, pillow cases and a chair hammock!
Our last night in Guatemala was spent breaking bread with Molly and her family, recounting the trip and soaking up the rich culture. I can confidently say my mission was accomplished. I now know first hand that Vicenta is able to send her daughter to college. I saw Sheeva sit with an artisan and vow to help her get a bank account so she can save her money and increase her business. I experienced the two flights, two hour shuttle, one hour boat ride, and 20 minute hike it takes to meet with these women. These items don’t come with ease, they aren’t machine made, they aren’t cheaply built. They are crafted with excellence, with integrity, with heart. We owe it to our world to make better choices as consumers – we owe it to people. I’m more proud than ever to be a part of this movement, even if it is just one box at a time.