Summer is a season of having fun in the sun, so we’ve gathered a few of our favorite summer must-haves that are ethically sourced from our artisan partners, so you can shop guilt-free while also supporting Concern America’s work in Mexico, Guatemala, and Colombia.
Floral Purse with Strap (CC108)
For those who are always on the go, bring beauty wherever are with this woven purse with brightly embroidered flowers. This traveling purse can also double as a makeup bag, a work of art, a stylish handbag, etc.
Girl's Summer Dress (CC077)
Our aptly named Girl's Summer Dress is made from 100% cotton manta cloth to keep your little one feeling cool during this warm season. This lovely hand embroidered dress is adorned with Mayan symbols on the chest and colorful hand stitching around the neck and sleeves.
Hair Tie Scrunchie (GA035)
You know you can always use an extra scrunchie, especially as the weather heats up! Look no further than these hand-woven elastic hair ties, which are made from the gorgeous textile scraps of the indigenous Guatemalan weavers. Each one is different and very colorful (useful when trying to find them just when you need them).
Cherry Blossom Jute Bag (BA216)
Before heading to your next family gathering, be sure to scoop up a Cherry Blossom Jute Bag to help you carry your libations! It's size and durability make it the ultimate wine bottle carrier or gift bag. Give as a gift and pass on the good will, as your fair-trade purchase supports rural women artisans of Bangladesh.
Sun Hat (CC069)
Beat the heat this summer with a beautiful and unique hand-embroidered sun hat to protect yourself from the sun’s rays. Made with 100% cotton, this cute hat is like a 2-for-1 as it is also reversible!
Spork and Knife Set (GA544)
Our popular Spork and Knife set is back just in time for summer! This Concern America Exclusive item is perfect for your next picnic at the park and comes in its own hand-woven pouch that has various designs.. Show off your sustainability with this hardwood set made by the artisan cooperative Cucharas Ixchel de Peten.
For a selection of gifts befitting all of the moments in our lives that mothers and mother figures have walked alongside us, held our hand or carried us, and prepared a “nothing better than mom’s cooking” dish for us, browse our Mother’s Day picks from our Artisan Marketplace to celebrate the most meaningful experiences of our lives while having a huge impact in the lives of our artisan partners.
Back row (left to right): Carolina Franco, Bety Juarez, John Straw, Cat Quinn
Front row (left to right): Betty Spanel, Sandra Dones, Lupita Tamayo, Teri Saydak
Concern America’s religious-themed crafts have been doubly blessed: by the hands of the artisans who made them, and by a priest when they arrived on our shelves. Shop through our beautiful selection of religious crafts today.
Known to Mayan weavers as Jaspe, Ikat weaving (pronounced ee-kat) has remained a traditional craft in Guatemala from Pre-Colombian times to the present day. Guatemalan Jaspe textiles are commonly woven on a back-strap loom. This process includes sticks, rope, and a strap that is worn around the weaver’s waist, hence the term ‘back-strap’. Guatemala is also one of few countries that have developed a warp Ikat; a process with only the warp (vertical) threads wrapped and dyed.
Ikat is a type of weaving where the warp, weft or both are tie-dyed before weaving, to create designs on the finished fabric. Great care must be taken in tying resist areas with water repellent material such as bicycle inner tube strips or plastic thread. The precision of the wrapping determines the clarity of the design. After wrapping, the warp threads are dyed. When finished and unwrapped, the areas under the ties have stayed the original color. Numerous colors can be added after additional wrappings. Great care must be taken in putting the warp on the loom, keeping all the threads in position is necessary for the design to work. The natural movement during weaving gives Ikat designs a feathered edge, which characterizes this technique.
Preparing the warp threads before dying. The weaver wraps "ties" onto the areas where the dye won't penetrate.
Warp threads after dying. The weaver must now remove all the ties.
After the ties are removed, the dyed threads are ready to be placed on the loom.
Ties can be removed at different times to dip threads in different color dye baths.
Once positioned on the loom, the weaver continues her magic!
Detail of a Fernando Llort painting, showing his naive style
People often ask us about the symbolism behind the naive style of folk art, hand painted on our El Salvadorian products. Each piece reflects the images of the every-day life of the region: birds, flowers, animals, villagers and adobe houses. The images come from both what the artisans see around them and the spiritual presence of God in their hearts that allowed them to endure the hardships of civil war. The artists put their creativity and personality into each item so that the colors and designs are 100% unique.
Concern America works with the cooperative La Semilla de Dios ("The Seed of God"), which was founded August 27, 1977. Among the founders was the painter Fernando Llort, who sparked the now-famous La Palma artisan movement. Fernando's art is heavily influenced by the Mayan culture, and he has been able to mix modern ideas with a naive style of drawing.
Walking through the streets of La Palma as a young man, Fernando found a kid rubbing a little seed against the ground, and discovered that it had a white surface with a brown frame, "a framed painting" he thought, and he painted it with very small and colorful drawings.
Map of La Palma Region in El Salvador Portrait of Fernando Llort
That episode lead to the creation of the first workshop in La Palma, "La Semilla de Dios" (The seed of God), in reference to the seed that started it all. There, Fernando would start teaching the people from the town to draw and paint; an artisan movement was born, and La Palma went from being a mainly agricultural town, to one driven by art. Fernando's dream was now a reality and his idea would become the main source of income for a lot of families in La Palma, and would also transform the town into one of the most visited spots in El Salvador.
The cooperative now owns a piece of land in the mountains outside of town where they plant and sustainably harvest the trees that supply about 40% of their seeds and wood. The income provides better nutrition and educational opportunities for their children and grandchildren. To see our gorgeous selection of El Salvadorian crafts, please visit our shop.
Some of the fairly traded Crafts are for sale in our Marketplace
Backstrap weaving is an ancient art practiced for centuries in many parts of the world. Peru, Guatemala, China, Japan, Bolivia, and Mexico are a few of the places they use the backstrap loom. Today it is still used on a daily basis in many parts of Guatemala and Mexico by Mayan women to weave fabrics for clothing and other household cloths.
For the most part, the backstrap loom consists of sticks, rope, and a strap that is worn around the weaver's waist. This strap is how the backstrap loom received its name. The loom is very lightweight, which allows the weaver to work indoors, or outdoors, weather and children permitting.
The primary feature of the backstrap loom is that the lengthwise threads (warp) are stretched from a fixed device such as a post or tree to a belt that a person wears around their waist. By backing away from the post or tree, the user can pull the warp threads into tension. In order to weave, the threads must be stretched in a horizontal direction and a means must be provided so that the threads can be separated into two (or more) parts so that a weft thread can be passed between the two sets of threads. The two sets of warp threads can then be reversed and a weft thread passed through again. By repeating this process, fabric can be woven.
Many weavers incorporate intricate embroidery patterns within their weavings. Young girls begin learning how to weave at about 7 years of age. By the time girls are ready to marry and have their own home they are extremely skilled weavers.
Concern America purchases many gorgeous Fair Trade weavings from co ops in Guatemala and Mexico. One of our most cherished times is when the packages arrive and we can actually smell the smoke from the weaver’s kitchen fires inside the boxes. We get the sense that their spirit is woven into each thread.
First, the warp threads must be created with this notched wooden tool that measures the length needed, as well as positions every other thread to be able to move as a set, up or down in harmony with each other.
After the warp threads are secured to a post or tree, (some women even use their toes), the backstrap loom is attached to the weaver’s back as she kneels on the floor.
Back and forth the shuttle goes, carrying the weft thread with it. Every pass must be beaten in position with the beater. The process is slow and hard on the legs, yet very rhythmic and soothing.
From just a few well-placed sticks, the humble backstrap loom is behind some of history's most beautiful and complex textiles. You can purchase these lovely fairly traded Guatemalan scarves in our Marketplace.
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