Bienvenidos! Let me introduce myself – I’m Emmy, and for anyone who knows me, you know that some of my favorite things include the environment, travel and Guatemala.
I first came to know and live in the beautiful country of Guatemala through working at an NGO focused on coffee communities. Working in a small town primarily made up of small-scale agriculture, I worked alongside coffee producers and got to know the skilled work and art of coffee. Along the way I met several artisans, some who have generations of craft experience and others who are newfound makers. What started as purchases and custom-made requests for myself turned into a desire to share these beautiful forms with others while supporting talented artisans.
Let’s start at the beginning. It’s hard not to notice the colorful and intricate textiles found throughout Guatemala. Sadly, many people, both visitors and chapines, don’t know the hours of meticulous work and faces behind these woven pieces. I was one of those people that admired woven and embroidered textiles but didn’t truly understand all that went into producing a piece. Not to mention that there are a multitude of different processes and techniques. That’s part of what makes Guatemalan textiles so amazing.
Not long after I moved to Guatemala, I began to acquire textile products – mostly items made from used cortes and huipiles produced by Elvia, an expert seamstress who I worked with through the coffee organization. Over time I began to learn more and more about the world of Guatemalan textiles and the skilled people that make it happen. One of those people was in San Juan la Laguna. This town is particularly well-known at Lake Atitlan for its use of ikat dyeing. Through Mari at Kakaw Designs, I was introduced to Francisca, the president of the Corazon del Lago Weaving Cooperative. I set up a natural dyes demonstration to get a glimpse of the process behind botanical-based dyes. It truly is amazing to see the vibrant colors that plants can produce and to hear the generations of knowledge behind it.
In talking with Francisca, it’s clear that the co-op has benefited many women in the community but like many businesses in Guatemala, it’s not easy to grow in an economy that is often reliant on the ebbs and flows of tourism. Through my work with community tourism in coffee communities, economic markets tied to tourism and agriculture harvest seasons are stories that aren’t uncommon to hear. Diversification of markets and/or products is essential.
During my time working in Guatemala, I purchased a number of handmade products including custom design orders from the artisans I had met. I had never really thought about starting a business. After getting to know several brands that collaborate with artisans I realized that it wasn’t such a far-fetched idea. So began the idea of not just buying pieces for myself, but to contribute to other market avenues for artisans, albeit small. I still have a lot to learn, but I figured that the worst failure would be never trying.
The word Kaleido means beautiful form in Greek. I found it fitting, as there are so many beautiful things in Guatemala – the breathtaking landscapes, detailed craftsmanship and especially the gracious and hospitable people.
Artisan relationships are the heart of Kaleido Collection. Valuing artisans’ work and time is unfortunately not the norm for many of the things we consume and buy. Kaleido Collection hopes to be a small part of that change along with many other like-minded organizations and brands that seek to make just and dignified work the only acceptable practice. My goal is to also use sustainable production methods for the health and safety of people and the planet.
I hope you enjoy these products as much as I have enjoyed the journey in producing them. Here’s to more opportunities for artisan collaboration!