Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Final Snapshot

Our month-long stay in San Lucas ended with the inauguration of Ajkem'a Loy'a's newly redesigned store. Here it is - the new logo handpainted on the facade, courtesy of Elias Jacinto (master painter & typographer in San Lucas) with side texts by our own Jeremy "Jeremias Ganabien" Goodwin.

Sunday, June 22, 2008









Estella with a fish bag. Tomorrow, Monday the 23rd, Candice and Trey (Carlos) will do a workshop with the children of Ajkem'a Loy'a to make little bags. The children are very inspiring, they make us beautiful drawings and brighten up our days with 
their love, affection and openess. While one of the groups is conducting a workshop 
with the women, another group takes care of the kids.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Our final week

Next week will be our last week here in San Lucas. We have done a lot and yet feel there is so much left to do! We will be focusing on three major things in the next several days:
1. Working with the women of Ajkem'a Loy'a to organize, plan, practice and promote workshops for tourists - in beading, backstrap loom weaving, and jewelry making.
2. Redesign their store and association's logo (stay tuned for before & after pix!)
3. Continue refining their construction skills in patternmaking and sewing to facilitate new product development.

Stay tuned for some final images, outcomes, and most importantly, next steps...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Chichicastenango

A 30-minute boat ride to Panajachel and an hour car ride (or 4-hour multiple transfer bus ride on public transportation as some from our group experienced) got us to Chichicastenango known for its enormous outdoor market on Thursdays and Sundays (as well as the church in which the Popol Vuh was found.)

Walking for several hours through the windy paths of the market with vendors on either side of us, we confirmed that the competition in the Guatemalan arts & crafts market is fierce. We found everything from antique guipiles, to westernized adaptations of the typical outfits, to bedspreads, wooden items, and even leather goods.

It is critical that our group be able to develop innovative products to be able to enter the market, and this week we begin the process of figuring out what some of those could be.

Ajkem'a Loy'a Workshop: Natural Dyeing


Last year some of the women from Ajkem'a Loy'a were trained in naturally dyeing cotton threads for their weaving. With a stove setup in the outside patio of the students' house, Sandra very patiently walked us through the lengthy process through which we dyed two bunches of thread with "Pericon" (St. Johns Wort.) The result - a very nice tone of mustard yellow. The challenge - this process takes around 7 hours in total which will ultimately increase the price of the products made with natural dyes (now, mainly napkins and scarves.)

Any feedback from our readers on what percentage increase in price would you be willing to pay for naturally dyed threads that are guaranteed not to run?

Ajkem'a Loy'a Workshop: Mostacilla

This was the first workshop run by the women from Ajkem'a Loy'a for the group from The New School. They taught us their techniques to make "fajas de mostacilla" (beaded belts that they commonly use to tie their skirts around their waist.) We worked in pairs starting off with a rectangular piece of wood with two rusty nails hammered into each of the ends. The first step was to carefully attach a wire to these two nails which would hold the threads in place. We each took a spool of thread and stretched it back and forth lengthwise between the two new wires we had attached.



Then, the beading began. Previously assorted colors were in styrofoam cups for us to use. The women initially suggested that we follow one of the designs they normally use, and copy over and over again - that of small birds. Most of us were quick to suggest coming up with our own designs. This unplanned change in the process was a real eye-opener for our collaborators who enjoyed watching us imagine new designs on the spot, or diagram them out in our notebooks, or even copy images from the garments we were wearing. We realize it is essential that we continue to learn the techniques they already master for the next two weeks during which we want to collaborate on new products. We also have a newfound respect for Guatemalan arts and crafts in general, now knowing the tedious nature of a lot of their work. (And personally, I am fascinated with the parallels between this technique of beading and digital media - each bead acting as a "pixel" in the material world.)

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Most Beautiful Landscape

On our way from Panajachel back to San Lucas Toliman we made a stop from the curvy road to soothe the motion sick. What we ran into was this most beautiful landscape from the "Mirador de Godines." It was dusk and we were above the clouds that have been covering the volcanos since we arrived. Here you can see Lake Atitlan, the three volcanos that surround it, and two small cities (the color lights on the bottom of the picture.)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Weaving Workshop

Yesterday was a particularly exciting day because we were having our first weaving workshop. I packed my backstrap loom that has traveled with me from Guatemala to NY and back to Guatemala without being touched. The women from Ajkem's Loy'a and the students spread around the house, setting up their work stations. I chose to go outside in the front yard and tie my loom to a tree. As soon as I started weaving, the world around me disappeared and I entered into a very peaceful state of mind. Once in a while, my trance was interrupted by kids laughter, requests for translation and ants biting my feet.

Weaving the thread in and out of the loom transported me to far away places, cherished memories and dreams about the future. The art of weaving allowed me to coexist in multiple times, places and dimensions. Past, present and future were interwoven into the very fabric of my scarf. Each knot, each space represents a moment in an alternative reality and, in someway, tells the story of my most intimate hopes and fears. There is a thread for each of my loved ones, the people that have shared a moment of their lives with me and by that interaction made me stronger and wiser. There is a thread for those that have hurt me because they have helped me understand and cherish my own power. There is a thread for those that have challenged me, because it is only through those challenges that I have striven to try harder and improve myself. And finally, there is a thread for all of those people, things, moments that have inspired me, because it is in those moments of inspiration that I find my true being.

Nine hours later, I snapped out of the trance only to realize that the story of my life had been woven...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Business Workshop: Savings & Inventory Control

Building on the June 5th workshop on pricing, our student team started off by asking the women of Ajkem'a Loy'a what items could be eliminated from the pricing worksheet in order to reduce the price point of one of their products. This conversation led the group to prioritize what they need now for their association, what could come in the future, and of particular interest to the women - how can individual members loan resources they may have to the association during their start-up phase (items that are required for weaving, for example.) The second part of the workshop was about inventory control. The association has a way to keep track of their inventory which they shared with us - they have a notebook in which they write what products they have and what they sell. Our students suggested that they instead use two notebooks - one to keep track of products and another to keep track of sales. We ended the morning with a visit to their store during which we all identified opportunities to improve their shop. Our goal - a relaunch of the Ajkem'a Loy'a arts and crafts store on Thursday, June 26th!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Product Workshop: Design & Fabrication

Candice, Eileen, Jeremy, Stacy, Trey started off their first workshop with everyone sharing the clothing and accessories they had been asked to bring along and explain why the brought them. This exercise was meant to show that the things one likes can be made in different ways and turned into different things. Then the group engaged in a cutting and pasting activity in which they were asked to cut out shapes, patterns, colors and lines that they liked from magazines given to them. The following activity was about creating icons or symbols that tell stories. The women were asked to draw different things in their lives that represent something important to them. Finally, the participants created a new article of clothing for a child (in our afternoon session, they had to design for one of the visitors.) For homework the women need to think about an idea for an actual product to develop before our collaboration is over.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Business Workshop: Pricing

Anna, David, Jane, and Nika led this workshop on valuing time and pricing. They started with a laughing ice breaker in which all participants had to laugh for a whole minute. Then, each person had to write or draw everything they do in one day. This setup the conversation about one's time and how to value time. It was particularly interesting to find out exactly how much the Ajkem'a Loy'a members spend on their products each day. The workshop ended with the detailing of capital costs, material costs, and labor costs, that go into the making of a guipil. They currently charge 150-200 quetzales (U$20-25) per item, but should be charging at least Q458 (U$62), to earn a fair wage (U$1 per hour) and not work at a loss. Although there was a reaction of "Maybe we shouldn't be weavers any more" the women were excited to learn the details of the numbers behind a business, and are now open to thinking about modified designs which may cost them less to produce.

Barbie a la Maya

We learned that some of the children make garments for their barbie dolls. This particular one is an interesting outfit designed from local textiles. It reminds us of one of our students' prototype designs from the Spring semester, and something to return to with the women (and children!)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Dancing

Dancing is central to latin culture and is already playing a big role in our time in Guatemala. On the first day the women of Ajkem'a Loy'a performed their typical dance, the "són."


Later in the day we had a chance to also try the moves.

It has now become tradition to end our days with some dancing - son, reggaeton, salsa, and even some pop.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Rain


It's been raining every single day since we arrived in San Lucas. First, the two tropical storms, and now it seems to just be the normal climate. Everything is damp, the things we wash don't really dry, and we look forward to every bit of sun we can get!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Apple computers = laughter

As I was editing some of our videos I started to attract several of the children from Ajkem'a Loy'a to the desk in which I was sitting. They were content to just sit next to me and watch and listen as I edited in iMovie, but it was when I went to PhotoBooth and started taking pictures with the embedded iSight camera, that this happened.

and these are what they were taking & what were making them laugh so much


Anybody have any suggestions on how to contact Apple with these images to ask for a potential donation or loan of one or two laptops for these kids?