A Basket Case
Posted on 10 June 2016
If you've looked at our website recently, you may have noticed that some basket designs have disappeared. Not to worry - this is a temporary situation. Here's the backstory.
The demand for our beautiful and fragrant pine needle baskets continues to grow and even though more women are making more baskets, we still find our shelves looking rather bare a week or more before the next order leaves Guatemala for the warehouse. It's great problem - but a problem nonetheless. All of us - U.S. team, Guatemala team and of course, our artisan partners - put our heads together to come up with some solutions. This is our plan:
1. Train more basket makers! Right now we have three core basket making cooperatives, one of which is relatively new. We've started working with a fourth coop and last month received some very good samples, so we placed our first order with them. We can't wait to see their baskets!
We've also identified two more groups, both of which have basket-making
experience, Our Guatemala director Julio met with one group and fieldworkers Nancy and Mayra with the other. The women showed samples of their work and examined samples of our designs. Their techniques are different, but the women expressed confidence that they could learn this new style of basket making. They are very enthusiastic about the possibility of partnering with Mayan Hands and we are equally excited about co-creating economic opportunity for women for whom it will clearly make a difference. It will take some considerable effort to bring them on board. They're located in very remote areas and they have less experience working as a coop so need to develop business and leadership skills. They will also need support with technical skills and quality control. Representatives from one group are traveling many hours to attend a several-day workshop next week to learn techniques and bring them back to their community.
The process of bringing on new artisan groups isn't always easy and we've learned a lot of lessons over the years. There's nothing like going to the communities to meet with the women to get an understanding of the challenges and possibilities. As Julio says, he listens and observes with his head and his heart. We'll work together on individualized plans to assess skills and needs, and then create a strategy for each group. Often this means bringing leaders from other Mayan Hands cooperatives in to talk with new artisans about their experiences working with Mayan Hands and fair trade. Hearing from other women that they are paid fairly and on time, that Mayan Hands has worked with them for many years and that they receive other support is very reassuring and motivating.
- We are introducing a few more designs similar to the wild grass and pine needle trivet. We plan to have a 14" version to function as a placemat and a 4" version for a coaster, along with some napkin rings. These items, which are somewhat simpler styles but equally beautiful, can be good designs for new basket makers. The women will practice and refine their technical skills as they will repeat some of the core elements of good baskets. At the same time they are learning, they can immediately earn income. We have already placed orders for these, so they should be on the website in a month or so.
- Here in the United States, rather than constantly finding ourselves out of stock of so many different basket designs, we are going to narrow our selection temporarily and focus on maintaining a consistent supply of bestsellers. As we are able to meet the demand, we will re-introduce more favorites. And there are some exciting new designs in the wings that we can't wait to show you. We expect that we will have more selections on the website in a few weeks.
We appreciate your patience, as well as your support of our expanding ranks of artisan partners!