Empowering women via traditional art
Sometimes the most surprising and beautiful instances occur during the middle of a war. In this case, the fashion and home accessories brand Cojolya emerged to support the women of Santiago Atitlán during this time of conflict. Fusing the visions of Candis E. Krummel, Elena Sojuel, and Santiago Atitlán native, Antonio Ramirez Sosof, Cojolya’s mission is to make back strap loom weaving a financially viable craft in order to preserve traditional art and to empower the women of that community.
The company works with women from low-income backgrounds who, in many instances, are the main income providers for their families. “By working with Cojolya, these women can better financially support their families in hopes of providing their children with the educational opportunities they were not allotted growing up. Through our social program, Mano a Mano para el Desarrollo, our weavers are offered workshops on various subjects dealing with development and empowerment through Fair Trade. Additionally, we provide training to improve the productive capacities of our artisans, often accompanied by professionals who assist them in learning these techniques,” said Sarah Feinberg, Cojolya’s communications manager. “Mano a Mano also functions as an educational development program for the children of our artisans. The boys and girls enrolled in this program benefit from free computer and printing accessibility, funding for school supplies, and a support team of role models to guide them through their academic careers,” she added.
The women artisans help produce four collections:
The Xocomil Casa Mia collection consists of home goods products that embody the xocomil, the strong and sudden midday winds that occur regularly on Lake Atitlán. The textiles of the collection are inspired by the natural elements that balance the environment of the lake; the contrast of cold and warm colors, waves and reflections, symmetry, verticality and horizontality.
The Ikat collection is composed of accessories created with the traditional jaspé technique. Jaspé is the art of hand-dyeing the thread before hand-weaving the textile. Since jaspé is inexact, the result will always slightly differ, a guarantee of each item's uniqueness.
The Tz’kin Jay collection is named for the myriad of birds that habitat the shores of Lake Atitlán. It consists of accessories that celebrate the intricacies and contradictions within weaving. It plays with twisted strings woven smoothly, thick brocades with a fine delicacy, light and dark, earth and sky. This collection marks the growth of Cojolya’s design and skill, an apogee of weaving.
The Pueblo collection honors Santiago Atitlán and its colorful, storied culture. These rich textures and eclectic colors represent the gritty, artful essence of the community, while the uses of brocade and embroidery pay respect to traditional Mayan heritage. The prints take the form of Cojolya’s classic accessories translated across a wide range of styles, including the tote, purse, small shoulder bag, and clutch, accented by shapes that highlight Santiago’s eccentricities
Cojolya will be attending NY NOW’s Artisan Resource from August 12 through August 15 at the acon Javits Center in New York City. They will be displaying a broad range of accessories, including totes, clutches, wallets, shoulder bags, hats and scarfs. They will also exhibit their home goods collection, which consists of pillows, throws and tzuts, along with their textile catalogue for custom orders. “This will be the first time we have participated in this exhibition and we want to convey to the buyers the art of our culture, the talents of our artisans and craftsmen, our capacity for quality production, and above all else, products that have been created and traded fairly,” siad Feinberg.
Cojolya products can be purchased in their retail store located in Santiago Atitlán and via shop.cojolya.org. Their designs can also be found in Colibrí, located in Antigua. The company has partnered with both “Behind The Hill” in New York City and Novica, in association with National Geographic, to produce custom designs. For bespoke orders, all inquiries can be sent to email@example.com.