Tumultuous times can sometimes bring out your most creative ideas. When the pandemic first reached Guatemala in March, our team was caught in the middle of it. We were hosting our first travel retreat, when our flights were cancelled and we were forced to evacuate the country. In the middle of the chaos, we kept reminding ourselves of the saying “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” We wanted to have that quick, “I know what I’m doing” response that you’re “supposed” to have. We really tried to keep our cool, but the truth is we spent 90% of the time freaking out and 10% trying to not freak out.
After returning to the US, things in Guatemala got more strict. The government made their lockdown indefinite and citizens weren’t allowed to travel within departments. Our artisan partners were having a hard time sourcing materials and were being forced to close their businesses. With no way to work, their livelihood was in jeopardy. We decided to pivot and find ways to help those most in need through food drives, donations, special artisan sales and more It was uncharted territory that everyone in the world seemed to be collectively trying to figure out how to navigate.
As the months went by, the uncertainty of our new reality forced us to sit still and reflect on our mission. Woven exists to elevate artisans and help preserve their culture. Our goal has always been to put our community of makers, partners, and customers first, without compromising on our sustainable standards. We had many conversations with our weavers in Guatemala and one thing they unanimously shared was that continuing to work was essential to their survival. We don’t use that word to sound dramatic. This pandemic has affected every country differently and the reality in Guatemala was a very critical one.
While assessing our new challenges, we started to look around at what trends were rising for summer. One that peeked our interest was tie dye. We had seen it slowly take flight since January and now it was exploding. People were really embracing this classic style and making it a staple. One thing we also noticed was the lack of chemical-free options available. That’s when we saw an opportunity! Plant-based dyes are a century old Mayan tradition that artisans use to create textiles. They rely on the use of plants and spices that are non-toxic and produce zero chemical residues, to add color to their fabrics. This is a perfect sustainable alternative to the traditional form of creating tie dye, which relies on chemical dyes that are incredibly toxic to humans and the environment.
We reached out to our artisan partners from the Voces Maya Cooperative in Lake Atitlan and pitched our idea: a plant-based tie dye summer collection. They were very excited, but had one big question, “what is tie dye?” Guatemalan artisans use a technique called “Jaspe” which is similar to tie dye, but with the big distinction that the end result produces various arrow and stripe shapes. To achieve the tie dye result we were looking for, we worked closely with the artisans through video chats and after a few practice rounds, we began working on Sol y Suenos. Our throws, scrunchies and headbands are made by Juana and the women of the Voces Maya Cooperative and has been in the works since May.
Artisans spent 20 days weaving on a back-strap loom to create our beach throws using organic cotton threads. They spent another week mixing plants and spices like rosemary, annatto, basil and strawberries to create the dyes used in our collection. The throws were then soaked for approximately 48 hours in the dyes and were set to dry for another 3 to 4 days, before getting their finishing touches and being sewn together. Everything was made with attention to detail, care for the planet, and love for the craft. The connection between nature and the artisans is so important, they actually sit on the ground when weaving, so they can be physically connected to the earth while they create.
While we’ve always been focused on creating impact with the planet in mind, this season of change and challenges brought us even closer to that mission. It’s in these times that we’ve had to reflect on what matters to us and redefine it for the times we’re living in. This collection reflects that renewal and was made to represent silver linings along our journey. We hope it brings as much light and joy to your life as it has for us and our artisans.