FYI: I probably won’t get around to posting the archives entry today. I’ve been up since 5:00 AM writing today’s two entries and have to leave for a tour of the city at 10. Please forgive any crude editing, awkward phrasing or bad spelling as I’m pressed for time. I’ll clean it up later.
I found two sources at ColombiaModa that I’m really excited about. Both are supported by agencies funded by the Colombian government. One is for molas and the second -which I’ll talk about first- is for organically grown and cruelty free domestically produced silks. Based on information I gleaned elsewhere, the total proceeds from sales go directly to the artisans. Infrastructure costs such as administration and marketing are paid with agency funds.
I had no idea that silk was produced in Colombia, did you? It is an artisan operation supported by the Cauca Corporation for the Development of the Silk Industry (Corporacion para el Desarrollo de la Sericulture del Cauca), originally brought here by Chinese and Korean masters. Cauca is a department, we’d call that a state in the U.S.. Departments are different from states in that they’re not independent. Anyway, although in relative (design) infancy, the products may be a fit for some of you. By the way, the organization is certified by many agencies, some unknown here. They are registered organic by the USDA, certified hand-made (Hecho a Mano), by BioTropical (an ecological production standard), by an organic farming agency (Organic Farming) and JAS. They were very interested in becoming certified by Co-op America once they learned of it. Below is a photo of the very charming young lady attending the booth holding a cocoon.
They gave me a video showing the production process in detail. It’s quite fascinating. I have permission to upload portions of it but this requires some editing first. The video contains images from a designer named Carlos Valenzuela and I don’t have his permission to release that footage. He wasn’t around to ask but I’ll contact him later. The video is translated into English. I’ll work on this when I get back and announce when it’s ready for viewing.
I think their biggest issue is creativity in the potential application of their products. Currently, they’re focusing on shawls, scarves and wraps. The thing is, they can do yardage -and have. Moreover, it is so incredibly inexpensive, I was certain I was being misquoted or I misunderstood the currency exchange. Since they’re used to working with shawl dimensions, I got a quote of $15 USD for a selection that measured 26cm by 160cm. They do two basic kinds of fabrics. One is traditional wovens, dyed, natural or with dyed stripes. This silk isn’t fine blouse or dress weight; it’s crisper, almost like a linen. It had a very pleasing hand. I could definitely imagine these goods in a woman’s (or man’s) suit or tailored jacket. They had a sample men’s sportshirt (by a leading Colombian designer) to show but the fabric seemed wasted in such rendering. Since there’s so much variety in jacket items, I’d refine it by saying these goods would work as a linen substitute.
As I was saying, they have two types of goods, one woven (above) and the other various patterns in an open weave, probably closer to tying (I’ll need you textile experts to correct me please). The skeleton of the pattern is woven but top threads are tied. There’s two varieties, with threads cut and uncut. The cut threads make for a fluffy wrap. Below is a sample of a dyed shawl with the cut thread variety.
And here’s a close up of the weave (below)
Below is a swatch of the uncut variety. This I loved. If I had a modicum of creativity myself, I’d buy some to make a jacket. For the kind I have in mind, it’d need another fabrication underneath. That’s my sticking point.
Maybe the organization could sponsor a design competition? Who knows. Oh I forgot. They also have their own line of products called YuUSXA. I have no idea how to pronounce that. More info is found at Corseda. My contact’s name is Dayse Delgado. Feel free to contact them and do mention I sent you. By the way, I don’t know why green DEs like to play coy or be ambiguous about their referral sources. Are you sourcing or playing a self-imposed sourcing IQ competition? No one (but you) cares -at least for the reasons you do. If people can’t track the return on their marketing investments, they’re not likely to continue to attempt outreach and so, a loss is incurred to all concerned. No offense, but being coy ends up being a bit selfish. In this case, you’re hurting the artisans. Besides, in staying mum, you’ve lost the weight of the influence of the person who gave you the referral. It’s a no win situation. Now where would you be if I were as stingy with my information?
Lecture dispensed with, the second artisan source that may interest some of you, is Mola production. This group is supported by Gobernacion de Antioquia, another Colombian supported agency. This agency supports other forms of artisan produced goods including traditional garments and full package. I didn’t think to get the contact info but the Mola people (two associations, AmaiTule and AsoiMola), for whom I do have contact info, will likely put you in touch if you want garments produced. I don’t find a web address at this moment but my contact’s name is Erika Guann for Incubar Uraba. Phone is +828-8810. I didn’t have the time to do it but if one of you wants to do a search and refine that phone number, that’d be great. There is no address or rather, it’s likely commonly known locally so it’s not needed but that information is Caiman Neuvo (street or town zone?) in Necocli Antioquia. Necocli is the town, Antioquia is the department (“state”). I should mention to them that they could provide a bit more contact info convenient to outside sourcers :).
Again, every dollar in sales goes directly to the artisans who produced it. I’m really excited about the source although the demand for it is limited because previously, one had to acquire molas via for-profit intermediaries and in spite of all the protests to the contrary, one never knew how much of the money the artisans really got. Just imagine, guilt free mola sourcing!
The first thing I learned was that Mola production isn’t limited to points north, nor to the Kuna indigenous peoples which is what I thought. Rather, mola making is also employed by another indigenous people called the Tule who are spread over the Caribbean basin and northern Colombia. The work was phenomenal. You’re not supposed to do cash and carry at a show but I did. I bought a baseball cap (like I’d ever wear one of these) that was completely covered in molas. I also bought some tee shirts. Yes, tee shirts. The work was exquisite. The molas were applied directly to the medium. Here are some photos.
Another bag (back pack):
A mola bikini:
Here’s the image from one of the shirts I bought:
I really liked the above design because it showed design creativity in departing from the traditional mola application (as seen in the mola bag above) but not the process. You probably can’t tell from the photo above, but the design placement is somewhat asymmetrical and it was deliberate. It works.
I bought two tees and those run $15 USD each. If you wanted to buy the molas themselves, not applied to a product, pricing is based on size of course but run $7 to $14 USD. Below are two pillows with mola insets. Since these molas are designed for these pillows, they are slightly smaller (maybe an inch all around?) than the stand alone, small $7 sized molas.
Actually, the molas designed for the pillows are smaller than the $7 ones.
Again, they will produce these on goods of your choice, that either they or the other cut and sew operation in the organization provides to order, or on goods you supply and just charge you for the mola application. The parrot mola on the tee above would also have been $7 so I ended up paying $8 for the shirt.
Lastly, here’s a photo of one of the artisans at work. She is indigenous Tule and her name is Ana Ribertina Bernal. I don’t know how old she was but looked to be about 13 years old. She couldn’t have been of course. She was tiny and fine boned. She was very shy about speaking to me but had no problem looking me in the eye or writing her name for me.