All textiles manufactured and distributed by Manos del Uruguay encourage economic and personal growth of its artisans; each piece bears a tag noting the craftswoman who made it, and where the work originated. The company, a not-for-profit since 1968, is organized into small cooperatives based in the rural villages where the artisans live and work. Manos, after being carefully vetted, joined the World Fair Trade Organization in 2009. This organization employs 250 artisans throughout nineteen localities in Uruguay. These ethics help to keep women in their homeland, able to support their families and teach traditional skills and values to new generations.
On moving forward with this vision, Lucia Benitez of design and product development says, “This has been the aim of Manos from the beginning, almost fifty years ago from now. Over all these years, the market and global situation has changed many times and gone through different stages. Fortunately, Manos has been able to adapt to difficult times, always with our mind set with the conviction that people are the most important thing in our organization and we must take care of them at any cost. Many times it has been hard to get competitive prices and still be able to provide for the artisans. However, we have managed to keep the organization alive and sustainable over the years. We always try to establish long-term business relationships with customers who value what we are and what we do.”
Each piece is created one by one, giving them meaning and an individual story. The textiles begin with small dye lots heated by wood fire or gas, and the yarn is dyed up to six times. This process achieves yarn imbued with complexity and artistry. Once this is done, the dye is then sun-dried in coops in back yards across the cooperatives. The women then hand-spin Manos’s Clasica Wool yarn, using pure wool from native Corriedale sheep. This singular process imbues the low-torsion yarn with character and beauty, giving the buyer a truly custom piece.
Manos was born decades ago with the singular goal of promoting and defending the Uruguayan way of life- their capability to sustain themselves economically while honoring their long-held traditions and cultural values. Demand for handmade products in the global market and weaving the essence of its people into its textiles sustains this organization in its mutual goals of economic viability and support of its regional people.
Manos del Uruguay will be exhibiting their woven and knitted products, including their classic styles and some additions based on the US Market as well as garments and accessories such as scarves and throws at NY NOW’s Artisan Resource at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center from January 31st through February 3rd, 2016.