Inspiration takes flight: the story behind our new collection, Birds of Guatemala!

Photo of two handwoven accent pillows, one square with stripes and one rectangular, in shades of bright blue, green, and purple, with an illustration of the colorful Azure-Crowned Hummingbird that inspired the designs.

In Spring 2024, Mayan Hands proudly launched our new collection, Birds of Guatemala: an artful home décor collection of handwoven cushion covers that celebrates fine weaving technique and vibrant color.

Today we take you behind the scenes to learn how this colorful collection came to life!

The inspiration

Anyone who loves Guatemalan textiles has experienced the joy of color. Our goal was to create a cohesive collection that would appeal to an international market, while honoring that gorgeously vibrant aesthetic tradition. - Anne Kelly 

We were fortunate to work with designer and Pratt professor Frank Millero, an expert on sustainability and design who previously worked with us to craft the Madre Tierra collection. "The backstrap weavers in Morales were happy to work with Frank again--he understands the special qualities and challenges of creating textiles on a backstrap loom," shared Anne Kelly, executive director of Mayan Hands from 2012-2022, who shepherded the collection through its first phase.

The collection takes flight

Frank looked to the colorful native birds of Guatemala for inspiration, choosing three species to inspire the color palettes, and poring over textile swatches representing different weaving techniques. Before long, weavers got to work creating the initial product samples.

The three birds that inspired the collection: the tiny Wine-Throated Hummingbird, elegant Grey-Throated Chat, and brilliant Azure-Crowned Hummingbird:

Birds of Guatemala pillows with the birds that inspired their colorful palette

One collection, many hands

The Birds of Guatemala home decor collection is a special collaboration between three different artisan groups, combining their different skills for the very first time:
  • Backstrap weavers from Morales created the textile for each pillow body, weaving warp-faced designs featuring stripes, simple jaspe motifs, and color blocks
  • Cinta weavers from Chirijquiac developed custom accent tags with the corona (crown) motif. Cinta weaving is a technique that uses a special loom to weave a narrow but intricate textile
  • Randa embroiderersfrom Patanatic used traditional geometric embroidery to join two handwoven panels in our lumbar pillows. Randa is a traditional form of embroidery usually found joining panels of corte, a woman's skirt

Working with Mayan Hands and Nest was a joyful and enlightening experience. This project connected me to the amazing people and the gorgeous wildlife of Guatemala. I hope these products do the same for you! - Frank Millero, designer

Into the wild

For our team retreat in early 2024, the Mayan Hands team decided to celebrate birds of Guatemala in our own way: by going birding! 

Hiking into the lush, green mountains above Santiago Atitlan, we listened for birdsong and took turns using our guide's scope to see birds in brilliant detail. We were all ecstatic to spot Guatemala's beautiful and elusive national bird, the resplendent quetzal!

Thank you, Nest!

Nest logo

This design collaboration was made possible thanks to Mayan Hands' participation in the Artisan Accelerator, a program of the non-profit Nest. Nest supports the responsible growth and creative engagement of the artisan & maker economy to build a world of greater gender equity and economic inclusion. As a member of Nest's global network, the Artisan Guild, Mayan Hands has also participated in Nest-led research about impacts of climate change on artisan communities.

The Artisan Accelerator allowed Mayan Hands to invest in innovations in our partnership with artisan communities. Nest’s support allowed us to develop the Birds of Guatemala collection and improve the back end of our website, streamlining the order process for wholesale and retail customers.

The Nest Artisan Accelerator program was such a valuable experience as we emerged from the pandemic. The process helped us focus on our strategy for creating more income-generating orders for artisan partner groups. - Anne Kelly

We hope that the vibrant, heirloom-quality throw pillows of the Birds of Guatemala collection bring warmth and joy to your home! 

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