"Hola! We're Martha Gomez and Marissa Callado, graphic designers from the state of Guanajuato. In 2009 we got together with palm weavers from the Mixteco community that had moved here from Oaxaca. We noticed their products weren't selling well because they were working with synthetic raffia, so we got together and encouraged them to return to weaving...
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Martha and Marisa
"Hola! We're Martha Gomez and Marissa Callado, graphic designers from the state of Guanajuato. In 2009 we got together with palm weavers from the Mixteco community that had moved here from Oaxaca. We noticed their products weren't selling well because they were working with synthetic raffia, so we got together and encouraged them to return to weaving natural palm. We created new designs and in 2010 we began developing accessories and home décor items which started to sell very well.
"Guanajuato has a long leather tanning tradition, mostly done by hand, which we combine with natural palm weaves from Oaxaca. Our designs combine tradition with contemporary vogue. Our project is steadily growing and not only is it securing an income for the Mixteco weavers here, we are now also working with more weavers in the Oaxaca sierra. Our mission is to preserve handcrafting techniques from Mexico's antique cultures, support artisans in the practice of their traditions, and find new venues to increase their incomes.
"We began with only three bag designs in two different colors, and now so far we have eight models in two or three colors.
"Reaching out to the Mixteco community here has not been at all difficult. Many believe in the possibilities that the modern lifestyle has to improve their living conditions. However trying to gain the trust of the families in Oaxaca was somewhat difficult, mostly so in terms of communication. The dialogue between tradition and modernity wasn't so easy at first, but we have now overcome it.
"When we first started working with the Mixteco families here in Guanajuato we began by offering new designs combining palm with other materials, and we made the first prototypes. Not all of them worked out but when they saw that some were selling well and that they were getting a fair share from the earnings they began to trust us.
"Later on we did have a problem once we had our first collection and they wanted to create their own business without us. We felt really bad and we couldn't understand what we had done or how they felt about us. In their eyes, they thought we wanted to be their bosses, but dialoguing with them we assured them it was not the case. We have since continued working together, but with a different scheme.
"By the time we started to work with the weavers from Oaxaca we had a clear idea of what we wanted, and how to ask for it. Our previous experience had been a valuable lesson to us and now any difficulties we may have are more on the technical side and we always manage to solve them successfully.
"All of this has changed our lifestyle, we’ve had to embark in activities we weren't used, like being in constant contact with the families we work with, researching the symbols, designing the bags, quality control, keeping an eye on fashion trends, etc. It has all been an interesting process and it has also been an interesting challenge to find the balance between tradition and modernity.
"In October 2010 we entered a competition on handcrafts and creativity sponsored by the State of Guanajuato, and we won the award for 'Contemporary Handcrafts.'
"This project is definitely more than a 'job' for us. It is a journey that has been filled with great satisfactions and learning. The weavers in Oaxaca are women mostly in their mid-30s and they are using the money to put the kids through school. The weavers here in Guanajuato see this work as a way to complement their income as many of them now have their own workshops thanks to what they earned from our previous designs. They also destine the money to their children's education.
"This is why we are so greatly motivated to continue with this project and make it grow. We want to see more people putting their kids through school.
"Many customers also give us important feedback, and many say they feel identified with the project, which is also a great motivation to continue forging ahead."