Visiting our artisan partners can feel like a family reunion. When we arrive at the home of Maria Ana and her husband Paolino, open arms welcome us as curious kids peek around the corner. Today, our conversation starts with the weather – later we will talk about business – but this year weather is no small talk.
In Rabinal, where Maria Ana and her family live, there is a serious drought affecting the corn that they grow each year to feed the family and their animals (two cows, three pigs and the chickens that move around too fast to count). They review the numbers – they’ve obviously been over and over them – and the outlook is bleak. Despite their best efforts, they expect to lose the majority of their crop and won’t have enough corn to feed both animals and family. They will have to sell their animals to pay for food for the family.
It is with this backdrop we talk about business. Maria Ana and the other members of her cooperative weave fabric on the foot loom. This cloth is used for Mayan Hands placemats, napkins as well as bags. Preparing the warp and warping the large loom is very time-consuming, so together we discuss the details that will mean they receive the best return for their investment of time. We agree on minimum yardages and realistic turnaround times.
Then comes the fun part, new designs. Samples are spread out across laps, the table, even the ground. We all agree the design with soft blue and jade against a black background is a winner and laugh together when Maria Ana suggests that the orange sample is, well, “fuerte” (strong).
No family gathering is complete without photos and Maria Ana, her compañeras and family members pose for us, then pose with us. We promise to send photos back to them and tell them these photos will help send their story out with the products made from their beautiful handwoven cloth.
And just like a family reunion, it’s hard to say good-bye. Long after we leave, we are thinking about them.