What is fair?

What is ethically made or sourced? Fairly traded? I’m not so sure either as it’s very context specific and personal. I try to avoid those buzz words even if they are well-intentioned. What I do know is that everyone deserves to be compensated and valued for their labor.

One of Kaleido Collection’s values is artisan relationships in the form of fair pay and a collaborative design process. 

Valuing artisans’ work and time is unfortunately not the norm for many of the things we consume and buy. Kaleido hopes to be a small part of that change along with many other like-minded organizations that seek to make just and dignified work the only acceptable practice. The artisans that Kaleido works with set their own wages that they can use to invest in themselves and their families and communities through autonomous decision making as opposed to through scholarships and mission driven programs that may have strings attached or make recipients feel indebted or inferior. That’s not to say that these sorts of programs are inherently bad – programs with close ties to local communities that have community buy-in can and do make a lot of sense and provide a multitude of opportunities and support, especially when there’s a lack of public services in place. But all too often outside organizations inadvertently dictate what’s best for others without always understanding local and cultural contexts. We believe that compensating artisans in local currency is the most dignified form of payment and support. 

Kaleido also values our artisan relationships through a collaborative design process. Kaleido is very thankful for our artisan relationships because it’s meant that in many cases they are willing to try new ideas and also provide feedback on designs. By collaborating together on custom Kaleido pieces, the artisans are able to test out different designs and techniques essentially risk free. We are so grateful that they have been up for the challenge. Part of our hope is that apart from producing beautiful pieces for customers and supporters like you (and sharing what a beautiful place Guatemala is) is that our relationship will allow them to expand their markets and product offerings. By working on Kaleido products we hope this sparks new ideas that artisans can use to further develop their businesses if they choose. 

The weaving cooperative with whom we work is a small example of exactly that. While Kaleido is a tiny customer account for the cooperative, it goes to show the power of social media and idea sharing. We posted our Piña Niña pineapple textile on Facebook and a woman contacted the cooperative to have a similar pattern made. New design variations can make a difference! If you’re interested in learning more about opportunities that are mutually beneficial for creative idea sharing with artisans, check out Kakaw Design’s Textile Travel trips.

As we continue to learn more and think critically about re-shaping status quo production models, we look forward to more collaborations and further building artisan relationships!

Pillow process


Weaving cooperative

One of my favorite initial projects that I requested from Elvia was a pillow cover. We had a few versions with used corte I had bought from the market, and the most recent is the design using the handwoven textiles from the Corazon del Lago Weaving Cooperative at Lake Atitlan. The coop is a group of 33 talented women in San Juan la Laguna. They are committed to maintaining traditional weaving practices and use plant-based dyes. Read on for a glimpse of the collaboration and production steps that went into elaborating these vibrant pillow covers.



Sample color booklet

Rarely do projects turn out exactly as you envision them. That’s definitely true of these pillow covers, but I wouldn’t change the end result and journey along the way. It first started with the initial design. I wanted both fun colors and patterns with a mix of more traditional San Juan designs and different motifs. The colors got tweaked once I got my official color booklet from the cooperative via Kakaw Designs. To reflect these colors in my electronic designs I used an app to identify the colors in the booklet and transferred that into CMYK color scales. Then it was time to send the files and dimensions to Francisca, the co-op president, for her to review and get the go ahead. Now it was a matter of being patient and waiting for them to be ready in person.


The finished textiles

Three weeks later the textiles were ready to be picked up at the cooperative. This was the first time seeing them, and I was excited but also a little nervous how they were going to turn out. My first reaction was that of mixed feelings; some of the fabric turned out a bit different from what I had imagined – transformed from paper and electronic designs into their true form, I was amazed by the textures impossible to capture in 2D, but also a little unsure of the designs that held hints of variations and richer colors in real life. Take for example, the pineapple pattern. Francisca explained that pericón (Mexican marigold, often prepared as a tea) is used to achieve the orange color, but the color can be influenced by when and where it is grown. This is why the Piña Niña pattern came out more striped, as the vat used for dying the jaspe style pineapples was different from the remaining background. It’s these little pieces that make up the story behind handmade products and demonstrate the knowledge and work that goes into producing them, and making them one of a kind. The next morning when I hung the fabrics out to see them in the sunlight, I was truly pleased with how they turned out and loved them even more than the initial design.

Now that the textiles were ready, it was time to get to work with Elvia. In talking through the design with her, we ran into a few challenges. We had several decisions to make: should we line the pillows, how were we going to finish the edges, what’s the best method regarding time, resources and material? One factor was the equipment available. Elvia’s multi-stitch sewing machine became too expensive to repair after several parts continued to break, so this meant she was left with a straight stitch machine, meaning she couldn’t simply finish the edges with an overcast or zig zag stitch. We wanted to be sure the cut seams were finished so we decided on binding them with corte, the traditional skirt used by indigenous women. I like to call it un toque de corte, a touch of corte. It gives it a little surprise on the inside 🙂 The other challenge was that the lienzo (literally translates to canvas, but in this case it’s a sheet or bolt) of textiles ended up being a little wider than expected, but we didn’t want to trim the beautifully finished edges, so we elected to leave them be – now you can get a fun pop of color from the corte but see how the backstrap weaving technique produces nice, finished edges.

These pillow covers are up in the shop and ready for new homes!

Welcome to Kaleido Collection!


That’s me, Emmy!

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.


San Miguel Escobar, 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.


Elvia with her favorite pattern

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!