We (Becky & Katie), the founders of ixöq have both traveled and spent time in Guatemala, and particularly Lake Atitlan, for many years. Becky was a Peace Corps volunteer there, where she met her husband Jeff, a fellow volunteer, and she has returned many times over the years with her family. Katie first traveled there with her family to study Spanish and ended up buying a house on the lake, which they now own with Becky and her family and which they rent but also visit as much as possible. Over the years, we have grown to love the people and the culture and gained a great appreciation for the artistry displayed in the textiles and other products being made for both personal use and to sell at markets.
We’ve also been fortunate enough to have met and gotten to know some of the artisans, learned about the nonprofits working with and training artisans, and developed relationships with both the women and the groups providing security and a community to women artisans. In working with these groups we learned that two of the greatest challenges for the artists are competing with mass-produced products, which are becoming more and more prevalent in the street markets, and expanding beyond the markets of their small corner of the world.
With our love for exploring and learning about (and shopping in!) different villages around the lake and our appreciation for the hard work and dedication that the artisans bring to each product, we grew interested in working with these groups and reached out to Amigos de Santa Cruz (our first partner!) about collaborating. Living in the United States, we feel we have a good sense of what will sell in US markets and where the hard work of these artisans will be most appreciated. The artisans and program coordinators at Amigos were happy for us to bring this knowledge and expertise to them and we were thrilled to be able to work with them on specific designs and to be able to provide steady employment for a number of women. We are so impressed with the programs and training provided at Amigos de Santa Cruz and are so happy to work with and support them.
On our first trip back to the lake after founding ixöq, we visited Asociacíon Lema in San Juan la Laguna. We had purchased items from them before and been impressed with the high quality of their work, their friendliness and the passion and hard work that the women put into the cooperative. We met with one of the founders and her daughter who handles large orders and we started purchasing and designing. We’ve worked closely with them to customize many of their items, such as cosmetic bags, and to create some new hand woven items, such as hand towels and scarves and we’re excited to continue to add new items as we grow.
Thus far this has been an amazing experience. We love the collaboration. We love what we’re learning from these amazing women. We love that we are helping empower women and that with the work that ixöq provides they are able to become more financially independent and better support themselves and their families. We love that we are establishing lasting friendships with some amazing people. And we love that we are able to share the beauty and culture of Guatemala in a manner that both honors and supports the artisans with whom we work.