I first connected with Hayro Lopez in 2017 on Instagram through a mutual friend. We exchanged notes about working together but the timing wasn't quite right.
Two years later I got to take a buyers trip to Antigua, Guatemala to an artisan marketplace. Hayro & I spent some time together & I saw the beautiful work of the artisans he was overseeing, but again the details never seemed to work out & it didn't happen.
When he reached out on Instagram a few months ago, the timing was perfect! We were ready to expand & his artisans were really in need of additional work after a tough few years due to COVID.
I asked him to answer a few questions to let us get to know him a bit better & to introduce you to the great work he's doing in Guatemala. Here's the interview:
JL - Tell us a bit about the artisan groups you partner with. Who are they? What do they specialize in?
HL - We have two groups, one in Santiago, Atitlan and other one in Chichicastenango. They specializes in back strap loom technique. All the huipiles are made in back strap loom.
In Santiago Atitlan, 3 master weavers make handmade embroidery.
We have a group of 7 master weavers that can make new woven huipiles in Chichicastenango.
All of them are women that live in small villages.
All the process is handmade, even when we cut the leather and make the measurements of each handbag by hand make the process very unique.
We have 7 bag makers in the workshop that earn a payroll each 15 days.
The weavers earn according to the demand of their amazing work, so for that reason we really want to give them constantly income thanks to shops like you.
JL - How did you get connected with these different artisan groups?
HL - When I was in college, I learned a lot about the communities that live in poverty, they told me we really need to sale our art, but they didn't have nice materials to give an exportation quality. So I started to visit many communities. And contacting them.
JL - How is a huipil made?
HL - We use both new & vintage huipiles :)
New woven and one of a kind huipiles that make just more beautiful the handbags and accessories we offer to the world.
Huipil is made in a back strap loom and some of them take around 6 months to complete. Many of the huipiles usually are ready in 2 months.
JL - Where is your leather from?
HL - We use only full grain leather dyed by hand and sometimes by machines in two regions of Guatemala.
JL - Tell us about the bag lining: what’s the story behind the upcycled denim? The handwoven ikat?
HL - Upcycled denim comes from the huge denims factories that have left over when they cut the denim fabric to make new jeans.
They took the little swatches and then they make all the process until they start again in yarn until new upcycled denim fabrics.
Handwoven ikat fabric need more than 22 steps to just make one yard, per yard.
It is dyed by hand and they need a lot of physical space to dye each little design for the ikat fabric.
The special region to make these amazing ikat fabrics is in Totonicapan.
JL - What impact have you seen fair wage employment to have on the artisans & their communities?
HL - The master weavers start to have their own income and starting to be more independent and the bag makers start to have a consistency work including in 2020 year when the pandemic covid season was hard.
And start to help their husbands in the communities.
JL - What do you wish more people knew about the handmade process in Guatemala?
HL - To really believe and appreciate all the work that is in all the handmade process.
And that even when we found similar huipiles never never they will found an exactly the same huipil.
And that they are making very important change in the people that is involved in all the process of the handbags they purchase with you.