Nestled into the hills that surround Lake Atitlan’s cool waters, you will find a quaint village home to the Single Mothers Co-operative (Asociacion Madres Solteras). The Single Mothers Co-op has 23 members who gather every day to create a better life for their children. These incredible Tz'utujil Maya women have all been abandoned by the father of their children and work tirelessly day and night to provide food, clothing and security for their families. There is no assistance for single mothers in San Juan and job opportunities are also scarce. That is why the women took fate into their own hands and began weaving together for a better future. Their strength, hard work and perseverance has given them hope, freedom and a loyal support network.
The co-op’s talent is inspirational and their work is breathtaking. The women harvest their own cotton and dye their threads with only natural ingredients such as avocado pits and tree roots. They also create their own silk from silkworms and weave each blanket or throw by hand on a backstrap loom. So much love and patience goes into every one of their designs, as it is a skill that has been passed down from generation to generation. We feel very lucky to work alongside them and contribute to preserving a dying art.
The bustling lakeside villages of Lago Atitlan are home to many incredible leather artisans. When we came across Juan and Silvia’s family workshop, we knew that we had found the best. Juan started his handicraft store 12 years ago and now employs 50 of his family members to create his innovative designs.
The family certainly understands quality. Each leather bag is naturally dyed and every textile is hand sourced. If they aren’t using recycled textiles, they are employing women’s weaving co-operatives to weave specific textile designs for their bags. Each leather bag or clutch is carefully thought out, combining traditional techniques with modern designs.
The Weaving Women of Santo Tomas Jalieza started due to a collective vision. Women in the community wanted to create and sell their beautiful textiles, receive more work and split the income. They also wanted to be less reliant on their husbands and fathers and to help provide for their families. Fourty four women now work within the co-operative and are continuing to teach their daughters to weave, to preserve what is a dying art.
The women love to weave with bright colours (particularly pink) and are continually creating new designs that blow us away. They create each design by hand on a backstrap loom and sewing machine. Their traditional technique is what sets them apart, as they weave intricate patterns with raised threads that stand out above the rest.
Chiapas is the poorest state in Mexico. This poverty is due to a lack of government understanding and support for large indigenous Maya populations who live in rural villages and whom do not speak Spanish. That is why initiatives like Jolom Mayaetik are so important.
This beautiful organisation is not only a weaving co-operative, it is a place where Maya women come together to empower each other. Here women from 12 communities have a safe space. They learn about their rights as indigenous women, teach their children about their culture and history and learn about health and natural medicines. The women are taught to embrace their identity and not forget who they are.
Because many of these women live in rural communities that are hours from the city, the co-op provides them with a way of selling their pieces without having to travel every day to the markets. Instead they can weave at home with their children and continue to run the household.
Our values instantly connected with this incredible group of women and once we saw their work we were even more impressed. They apply traditional techniques to modern designs. Each design is made on a backstrap loom that is tied onto their waist and connected to a tree. The hand woven motifs represent traditional Maya beliefs and tell age old stories. The process takes hours, making the end result absolutely stunning.
Memo and his mother have been perfecting traditional San Pedro Amuzgos blouses and huipiles (traditional dress) for years. Memo’s designs are mostly handwoven on a backstrap loom and the embroidery is added to create beautiful motifs that represent the local flora and fauna of their town. Memo currently works with groups of women in his hometown. He purchases their pieces at a fair price and sells them at the Oaxaca artisan markets, along with his own designs and his mother’s. By doing this, he is helping the women continue to weave, without having to travel hours to local markets. His pieces have a real coastal vibe and are perfect for summer days.
Other co-operatives we support are the J’pas Joloviletik Weaving Co-operative and Tierra Dentro Weaving co-operative. You will also find many ethically sourced pieces throughout our store, that were made by individual artisans in markets throughout throughout Oaxaca, Chiapas and Lake Atitlan.