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Fair Trade Artisan Design in Guatemala

Yabal fair trade company in Guatemala

This month, Dunitz & Company posted a great blog featuring four Fair Trade companies supporting artisans in Guatemala and their design processes with artisans. Yabal is honored to be included in this list along with these other amazing ethical brands and woman leaders!

Working with artisans as an ethical company in Guatemala has it’s own rewards and challenges and we love forming alliances, sharing experiences, and forming friendships with other like-minded groups.

Thank you to Mayan Hands, Maya Mam, and Dunitz & Company for creating this article and sharing each of your unique experiences creating handmade designs with your artisan teams.

Here is what Director Allison Havens has to say about Yabal’s design-making process in the article:

Yabal fair trade company in Guatemala

Yabal creates one-of-a-kind artisanal textiles through collaborative processes with artisan groups.

ALLISON HAVENS from YabalI came to Guatemala in 2011 after having worked in a fair trade store in Chicago for several years, looking for a change of scenery and work. I worked as a Volunteer and Activity Coordinator at a womens and childrens domestic violence center in Quetzaltenango for my first three years in Guatemala. However, I soon became frustrated with the lack of options for these families to maintain their economic independence from their abusers and the overall lack of work options for uneducated women in Guatemala.  This experience brought me back full circle into the fair trade worlds as I connected with the local women’s fair trade organization Yabal. I began working with them in 2012 to build up their business and sales, and have been with Yabal since. The mission of Yabal is to support rural women artisans through consistent, well paid, respectful artisan textile work. The impact is real, tangible, and immediate for the women and their families we partner with. It’s incredible to see how this type of work and equitable business relationship changes lives and builds confidence in the women that have worked with Yabal for many years.

I didn’t start off designing products for Yabal but the nature of the work led me to try my hand at product design. There is so much local competition for artisan goods in Guatemala that unique designs and quality crafts(woman)ship are one of the only ways to set yourself apart and continue providing for work for our weavers. I have a background in studio art, but product design was overwhelming for me. Yabal’s weavers have the ability to create hundreds of incredible pattern and color combinations. It’s almost impossible to limit the design possibilities into just one “collection.” I usually have an impulse to include every design and every color option in our collection because they’re all gorgeous. It’s just not possible.

When creating Yabal designs, we always use one of the women’s own weavings as a base and jumping-off point. A lot of times, it’s really about choosing a certain color palette and paring down the number of color combinations used so that the design is more attractive to trends in a foreign market. We seek to maintain the identity of the weaving designs and of the communities where they come from while adding a bit Western design influence.  Usually the process is a very collaborative effort and we take our design lead from the incredible master artisans we partner with.

Multicolor coin purse

Handmade clutch woven with natural dyes and nautral cotton by women artisans in Guatemala

One of my favorite products is the Maya Coin Purse. This product is an example of not wanting to completely narrow down and standardize the design; allowing some spontaneity and creativity up to the weavers. Because of this, each of these purses features a difference brocade design using traditional Maya geometric patterns. This makes each purse an original artwork created by each weaver. While the design patterns will vary with each purse, the colors are standardized and simplified. When stores purchase several of these coin purses, the variations shipped allows customer to choose a design that is completely unique. And even better, the threads for our coin purses are artisanally dyed using all natural plants and minerals by another women’s cooperative.

Read the full article and what the other fair trade artisan brands had to say here.

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