Using locally produced materials
Heather Walter is a studious woman as well as one of action.
After ten years of working for a luxury textile line, she left her job and headed straight to Guatemala to study textiles. However, what she saw left her dismayed: a mountain of synthetic fiber that was turned into garments, as well as the challenges that women weavers met on a daily basis. That distress forced her to take action. With her experience in the textile industry, she launched Crudo Textiles, which focuses on sustainable materials tand building strong relationships with weavers.
There are many line items to deal when starting a new business among those is recruiting, acquiring resources and setting fair wages. The artisans that Heather turned to, which is also the main partner, Mujeres De Corazon, consists of 15 women based in Chimaltenango, who have been weaving for nearly 20 years. Another partner is with a group of basket makers named Los Pinos of Patanatic in Lake Atitlan as well as a natural dye expert known simply on the streets as “Magna” in Santa Santo Domingo Xenacoj. “Magna and her machete source the natural dyestuffs we use when testing new colors. Although we don’t work there currently, we hope to take our dyes to jaspe weavers in San Juan La Laguna soon,” Heather wrote.
As Heather became more familiar with business practices in Guatemala she immediately noticed that pay is skewed for substinence. “Women weavers are often forced to sell their work at a price that does not reflect the cost of materials and hours labored. Crudo's goal is to connect these women to outside markets, responsibly, so they can guaranteed a fair wage and add value to their work,” she wrote in an email to HAND/EYE Online. “Crudo’s goal is to connect these women to outside markets, responsibly, so they can guaranteed a fair wage and add value to their work,” she added.
Fair wages are important to Crudo and to the weavers as well as learning new skills related to textile craft. Crudo hosts monthly workshops with the weavers on a number of subjects ranging from natural dyes to fibers and different weaving techniques. “Education and innovation are at the heart of everything we create. We’ve been studying indigo together for two years and will continue to do so for the rest of our lives. We also work closely with the weavers on how their product is marked up when it goes from their looms to market and the different sales channels available to them. Empowering the weavers to understand their design and their business is critical in helping Crudo expand its reach.”
One of many Crudo’s triumphs include getting the weavers excited about sustainability and using new materials. “Some of the fibers we use aren’t currently being woven by brocade backstrap weavers in Guatemala and we get goosebumps seeing traditional designs become realized in new contents,” However, there are also challenges. Among them is finding finding materials, which is surprising because Guatemala has a wealth of natural resources, yet not many are utilized in textile production. “On the flipside, it’s a great challenge to face! Searching for these raw materials has led us to some hard-to-reach places, meeting many interesting artisans. For now, we're working with wool, maguey, cotton, natural dyes and reclaimed threads. We're also dabbling in linen and hoping to get our hands on hemp soon.”
Crudo’s current textile collection consists of natural fibers—undyed or naturally dyed—but also reclaimed materials that are handwoven on the backstrap loom. “The production process would make your head spin! What others would consider too complicated, Curdo considers a labor of love. For example, our design La Canche Indigo. The maguey is hand harvested and the raw cotton threads hand-dyed in an organic indigo vat. Once the threads are tested for washability, colorfast, and crocking, they are warped on a backstrap loom, handwoven, and voila!” said Heather.
Crudo Textiles will be attending and showing for the first time their current collection of textiles, cushions, tabletop linens and wall hangings at NY NOW’s Artisan Resoure from February 3-6 at New York City’s Jacob J. Javits Convention Center.
For more information and to purchase from their collection, please visit www.crudotextiles.com. To view the weavers in action and get a taste of Guatemala, please view: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=42&v=kA7Z_SMQUP4