"I was born in the city of Guatemala in 1983. My parents are from Santa Rosa, far from the city. My mother was always inclined towards arts and crafts, although she did this as a hobby. Seeing my mother make so many creative...
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Laura del Carmen Contreras
"I was born in the city of Guatemala in 1983. My parents are from Santa Rosa, far from the city. My mother was always inclined towards arts and crafts, although she did this as a hobby. Seeing my mother make so many creative and beautiful things awoke in me a love for art, especially for painting. In grade school I designed dresses, and I participated in several painting contests, although I never managed to win a prize.
"I remember when I was 11, I made my first purse as a birthday gift for my grandmother. It was a jute bag, embroidered by hand with a braided jute handle. My grandmother was thrilled and told me it was very pretty.
"In college, I majored in food engineering. When I graduated, I worked as a consultant and also began studying fashion design. At the same time, I contacted U.S. artist Guido Bondiolli who counseled and supported me with the project. I had always admired his work – when I saw his handcrafted purses I realized it's possible to create really modern and unusual designs.
"My handbags and accessories are a short-term version of my vision of an entire line of articles for women. I know that little by little we will include more pieces in my collection. One of my dreams is to design and produce apparel. I am highly motivated to continue with the eco-ethno-chic perspective to encourage Guatemalans to feel that what we create here with local textiles and materials is as valuable as the best brands on the market. Of course we must work with love and to the highest standards of quality.
"I love my work. It is so satisfying to innovate, change, transform and see that there are people who like my designs and wear them. I'm pretty much self-taught, specifically in the area of handbags. I bought several books on the Internet and read them carefully. Then… trial and error. I have also learned a lot from the people who work with me in process of crafting, and from the suppliers of my materials.
"Establishing myself as an artist hasn't been easy because of finances and buying materials. But the good thing is that my family backs me up, especially my younger sister, who is an industrial designer and supports my project by helping with a number of tasks.
"It's fascinating to think of all the different uses that our traditional huipil
blouses can have, and also leatherwork. In both cases, these are handicrafts and even if I use the same pattern, each piece is different. For example, leather has tiny holes, marks or wrinkles. These aren't a sign of bad quality because it's a natural material. This is very interesting because, in a way, every finished piece has special features as some of the marks on the leather remain in the finished piece.
"These small, special things are why I love my work so much. Handmade art is worth what it costs. It requires a great deal of manual work and, even if industrialized products have finishes an artisan can only dream of, the work behind every handcrafted piece takes hours and hours of talent and skill.
"As I create my own designs, I've been able to understand the art and pride involved in wearing a traditional blouse from my country, its hours of work, of sleepless nights that represent its creativity and combinations of color.
"As much as I love the work that I do with the handbags, lately I have a taken up once more one of my life-long passions: painting. I've been painting and I would love to share my compositions with you. I hope you find meaning in my paintings, and appreciate the value that each painting has for me."