I don't know about you, but we absolutely love travelling and getting to meet people from all corners of the world. At Collectiviste we are passionate about empowering artisans and working with small communities to bring to life well designed and skillfully handcrafted products. This is why we want to share with you some of our favourite, places, products and people, and hopefully inspire you to find out more about these artisans and support their work too.
Our recent journey has taken us to the South American country of Colombia, a place of magical landscapes, exquisite coffee and wonderful people. Nevertheless, stricken by an internal conflict that has endured for over five decades. It’s in the midst of this unfolding drama that we found incredibly talented artisans, committed to preserving their traditions and overcoming the aftermath of the war by empowering the new generations.
San Jacinto: A Woven Kaleidoscope
Not far from the iconic colonial city of Cartagena de Indias, north-west of the country at a small town curiously known for its traditional hammock weaving. Women and men of all ages meet on the main street to sell their colourful goods to tourists and travellers. The production of these handwoven textiles is rooted in indigenous culture, and it has become one of the main economic activities of the region.
There are seven different cooperatives all run by the local female artisans, created to promote unity and help those who can't afford materials or can't cope with the demand. We met Cecilia and her coworkers from the "Cooperativa de Artesanos de San Jacinto", who kindly invited us into their homes and opened the door for us to discover their trade and culture. Over a cup of black Colombian coffee and with quiet but strong demeanour they shared with us the story behind their products.
Mercedes the treasurer, told us how the tradition of weaving on a vertical loom has been a major part of women’s universe in the Montes de Maria region for many centuries. The development of the traditional hammock or “chinchorro” is a knowledge that has been transmitted from one generation to another since pre-Hispanic times. "This legacy passes from grandmother to granddaughter, from mother to daughter, from aunt to niece and also from friends to neighbours up till today" she explained.
The Earthen Floor Workshop
As they welcomed us in their homes, we soon discovered how everything about their living revolves around the loom. Big and small vertical looms are placed on almost every corner of the room in the small houses and everyone in the family participates in the production of woven pieces depending on the season and demand. The older, more experienced, women work on bigger looms creating intricate designs, while the younger create small pieces using hand looms. The workshop has become the place of reunion, work and socialising for most of these families.
With untreated earthen floors, plain brick walls and curtain doors. The artisans are fighting to preserve their livelihood in a market inundated by industrially made products, which do not take anywhere near the same time, effort and skill to create as these unique hand-loomed pieces. We could clearly see Mercedes and Cecilia's passion for their work, as they talked about their challenges but with a hopeful tone, they keep teaching us more about their trade and patiently answered all our questions. We found out that each piece of fabric takes between 1 and 2 weeks to complete depending on the complexity of the design, and it is usually made by one weaver.
The beauty of their work lays not only in the quality and passion with which they create their textiles but in the strive for keeping traditional weaving alive, and the skills of artisans that have been fundamental for the developing of cultural identity within this particular community. We are currently collaborating with Cecilia and her team in designing a one of kind collection of textiles which aims to inspire and bring a bit of their cultural identity into our own homes.
If you enjoy discovering more about global artisans and partnering with them to share their beautiful skills with the world, keep an eye on this space as we will be bringing more and more inspiring stories home!
In the meantime, why don't you take a look at the video below to find out more about this incredible community and their craft.