I recently had the opportunity to return to Guatemala & meet with representatives from the two artisan groups we work with. We had fabulous & extremely productive meetings in Antigua, with the coordinators from ASPECOM, & in Santa Cruz La Laguna, with the coordinators from AMIGOS.
ASPECOM is the cooperative group in San Cristóbal, Totonicopán that does all of the weaving of products using recycled plastic cord. The founder is Rutilia Ramos & she, along with Marta Valiente, coordinate the work of the artisans. I communicate with them (using WhatsApp) & they communicate with and allocate the work to the artisans. The group of artisans ranges from 25 to 35 women depending on the work demand and time of year. One of my main goals is to allocate production across time so there is even demand while meeting the desired shipping schedule of the retailers. It's a fine balance & definitely why I am always encouraging buyers to place their orders as early as possible.
One of purposes of our meeting in Antigua was to discuss some of the intricacies of the business & production so that they better understand the order process on my end & I better understand the production process on their end. It was very valuable time & we all walked away with clarity & better understanding of why certain things are done a certain way and where there is opportunity for improvement.
We were also able to discuss both new & existing designs which is so much easier to do in person! We've got some fun ideas brewing and I can't wait to see how they turn out.
The above photo (oddly and inadvertently arranged by height 😊) includes: me (Katie, co-founder/director ixöq); Don Roberto (husband of Tita & ixöq's un-official but extremely helpful driver); Eunice (daughter of Ruti who helps with finances, training & overall coordination while working a full time job elsewhere); Marta (Tita, coordinator of the artisans, production & shipping) & Rutilia (founder & director of ASPECOM).
The below photos show us hard at work during out meeting on the terrace of my new favorite hotel in Antigua (Hotel Los Pasos). We reviewed my catalog for wholesale buyers; our order process; our shared catalog with design details. We talked about some new designs that we hope to introduce later this summer & even did some tests with different weaving techniques. We were together for a few hours which is never enough but it was extremely helpful & as much as I love seeing all of the artisans, this visit away from San Cristobal gave us time to really concentrate on managerial details that rarely we have time for. After they left I packed everything up that they had brought me & headed to Lago Atitlan for the rest of my stay.
While at the lake I was able to meet with the coordinators (Ricardo & Paulina) at CECAP (the training center for Amigos de Santa Cruz). The artisans who work at CECAP are responsible for making all of the tassels & linings for our cesta totes. This provides work for 10-20 women.
This was a VERY helpful meeting because we were able to discuss timing of orders; resources & availability of materials; artisan training & new designs. It was great for them to understand ixöq's order process & for me to understand the timing & availability of materials. We have worked with them since the beginning and it is always a pleasure to return to CECAP & learn about their new areas of focus, which are always evolving. Even though our focus in primarily on the items woven from recycled plastic cord we do sell some textiles of theirs at pop-up markets. They are always looking for retail opportunities in the states so if you have a store and are interested in stocking some beautiful handwoven textiles please let me know & I can connect you. You can see some of their beautiful products on their site.
Sadly I neglected to take a photo during our meeting but I can share a little bit of Guatemalan culture with a video of one of the processions that we saw in Antigua. These take place throughout Lent culminating in multiple large & fabulous processions during Semana Santa (Holy Week) in cities across Guatemala.
All in all it was a fabulous trip and I am so glad I was able to spend some valuable time with these groups who are the heart & soul & backbone of ixöq.