Anticipation was in the air last week as thirteen Mayan Hands artisan partners gathered to work with Anastasia Azure, a superb weaving/jewelry artist based in Rhode Island. For three days, the women worked together to master an innovative technique that combines the arts of weaving and metalwork.
Representatives from three artisan cooperatives were invited to participate. Some of the women attending the workshop have worked with Mayan Hands for many years, but sales of their products have diminished as trends change. Our long-term commitment to our artisan partners, a basic principle of fair trade, led us to identify alternative opportunities for them. Intrigued by the possibilities, the weavers responded positively to the invitation to learn a new skill.
Two new groups of women that recently started to work with were also invited to participate. They live in remote villages in the highlands of Guatemala, where there’s no tourism and very few opportunities to make a living or sell their embroidered or beaded products. They were excited to attend the workshop, hopeful that this opportunity will provide them with a source of steady income.
Anastasia’s technique has many steps and requires the use of tools new to the women. She is an extraordinary, experienced teacher and used photos, diagrams, and models to elucidate the process. Her students thanked Anastasia profusely: she had the patience of a mother teaching her children something new and complicated, they said. They were especially grateful to her for coming from so far away to share her expertise with them, since there are people right here in Guatemala who have no interest in sharing knowledge that would enable them to improve their lives.
The women, talented artisans to begin with, worked diligently and, at the conclusion of the three days, had mastered the basics. On the final day, they worked from scratch to create a pendant to take home with them. So much excitement as they completed their pieces, slipped them on a chain and then around their necks!
Our artisan partners said that the three days of the workshop had flown by, that the learning was fun, and that they are determined to continue practicing in the coming weeks to get it perfect. They thanked all those who made this opportunity a possibility. Julio, Mayra and Nancy, our staff in Guatemala, organized the details so that the workshop could proceed smoothly. They found the perfect venue for the workshop, gathered the many different materials needed, and brought in delicious food every day. Brenda nurtured this workshop along in advance and served as an enthusiastic facilitator/translator/participant. Especially the women thank the many friends of Mayan Hands who support the programs that can open doors of possibility for them and their families.
We are looking forward to bringing their creations to market soon. Stay tuned!