An interview with Director Allison Havens about Yabal’s new Revive Collection
Please tell us a bit about this collection?
Yabal REVIVE is a sustainable artisan home accessories collection, featuring ecological textiles handwoven in the highlands of Guatemala. Revive is a collection of color, representing rebirth and hope for a better future. It reminds us to appreciate the little joys we have in our lives and in our homes every day to live our lives in a spirit of joy! Fibers include local sheep’s wool, natural plant dyes, raw cotton, and recycled denim jeans fiber. Designs are an innovative mix of traditional Mayan weaving and contemporary style. Yabal partners with master women weavers from rural mountain communities providing fair trade jobs and uses profits to fund social programs. This collection reflects the love and care we have for this beautiful land and its people.
Who makes these textiles?
Our back-strap loom textiles are handwoven by communities in the Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan area of the Western Highlands. The two main cooperatives make up no less than 42 skilled Mayan women weavers. The back-strap loom is personal and adjusted to the height of the weaver using it, meaning all weavers have their own back-strap loom and it is common to set it up in the kitchen area of your home, but it is easy to fold it up and take it with you. We visit our partner communities on a regular basis, so we follow the progress of the weaving and we pick up the finished fabrics/embroideries directly from the weavers, whilst nurturing the wonderful relationship that we have developed with them in the last 15 years.
The organic wool rugs and wool blankets are woven in the region of Momostenango by a small family artisan workshop who has been making these wool pieces for over 5 generations. They use all locally grown plants for their artisanal dye vats and do everything by hand- hand-card the raw wool, hand-spin, dye the threads over open fire vats, weave the rugs and blankets on wooden pedal looms, and then hand-felt the blankets with handmade plant brushes. The whole process is amazing to witness and if you ever get a chance to visit Guatemala, we highly recommend seeing it in person.
What makes Yabal products unique?
Our textiles are handwoven on a traditional Mayan back-strap loom, a weaving tradition and technique that dates back thousands of years; and though we stay true to this tradition and technique, and also use Mayan symbols and colors that are typical for the region that we work with; we combine them with a modern design to create a contemporary high fashion line of home textiles. Also, the way that our products are created, with sustainable cotton and artisanally dyed threads, by hand, by women that are being paid fairly for their skilled work; our products have a positive impact on the planet, on the weavers and ultimately on the client that purchases the product. This is also why we are Fair Trade certified!
What is a challenge with this type of work?
It is always good to keep in mind that since the products are made by hand and with naturally dyed threads, sometimes a batch of products might differ slightly from the previous. For example, the dyeing process is affected both by the season and the weather. We work closely with the artisans in order to minimize these differences in tones, but it is part of the artisanal and flexible nature of their work. This is also one of the charms of purchasing ethically made products; you are holding something unique in your hands; something that was made with love and that will last; something that is not possible to mass produce!
What is the impact that these products have on the communities in which you work?
Yabal is a Fair Trade certified, nonprofit social enterprise. This means that when you purchase one of our products, you contribute directly to the economic self-sufficiency of the women in the communities that we partner with and not just that; your purchase also supports job-skills workshops and social programs implemented in these communities. Through the over 10 years we have working with our partner weaving communities, we have grown from 8 women weavers (when we started) to now over 50 women in our initial cooperative. We hear first-hand from them how this work has allowed them greater empowerment as women within their own families and in their communities, allowed them to send their children to school, ensured that their children have enough food, and they have a greater sense of self-confidence as business owners and master artisans.