We’re Kakaw Designs!

Hello friends!

We have successfully changed our business name and everything to Kakaw Designs. We’re so excited for this next part of our journey! To stay in the loop on all the happenings, please follow us blog now at kakawdesigns.wordpress.com!

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Don’t forget to also check out our website!

Change is always so exciting, and we couldn’t be happier about this one.  Read our blog post “Why Kakaw?” to learn more.

Thanks so much for following us on this blog, and we hope that you will continue to follow us on the Kakaw Designs blog!

San Juan la Laguna

Our video adventure to San Juan la Laguna was an incredible experience.  We were there with the talented videographer Joel Sharpe to produce a short film documenting the process behind the textiles made for our boots and bags by the cooperative Corazón del Lago.  Oh, and what a process that is!

We’re still working on the final edits of the film, so I don’t want to spoil it for you, but here are some behind the scenes shots from those wonderful few days:

 

San Juan street.

San Juan street.

Preparing the cotton.

Preparing the cotton.

Getting ready to make ikat knots.

Getting ready to make ikat knots.

The video guru at work.

The video guru at work.

Ikat knots are ready to go!

Ikat knots are ready to go!

Interview time

Interview time

Natural dyeing is hard work!

Natural dyeing is hard work!

Backstrap weaving

Backstrap weaving

Francisca with our proud boots and scarf.

Francisca with our proud boots and scarf.  What a pleasure to be working together with this cooperative of women weavers!

 

With the talented women of Corazón del Lago.

With the talented women of Corazón del Lago.

 

And while we’re finishing up the final edits of this video to be debuted on our new website, have you seen the first video Joel worked on with us?

 

Website

While we’re working to make our website even more beautiful, we are putting some current boot info here on the blog.  Thanks so much for your understanding, and we can’t wait to show you the new look on the web soon!

 

 

Currently, we have our two original boot styles available for custom-made orders.

Short Curved Boot

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Short Curved Boot with San Juan Stripes

Cherry Boots

Short Curved Boot with Chichicastenango Corte

 

Short Straight Boot

Short Straight Boot with San Pedro Corte

Short Straight Boot with San Pedro Corte (no embroidery)

Short Straight Boot with San Juan Stripes

Short Straight Boot with San Juan Stripes

 

Here are the current textile options, so that you can design your own pair of unique boots:

Please email mari@gray-boots.com for any questions or orders.

 

Thanks again for your patience and understanding during this transition!

 

 

Ikat

We’ve been working hard these past months on developing new, gorgeous products.  We have a new boot style along with two bags that we are about to launch soon, and we are so excited.

We’re especially pleased to be working with a wonderful cooperative of weavers at Lake Atitlán.  They’ve done a fantastic job making our textile designs come to reality using the ikat technique.  What’s that, you say?  Well, since you asked….

Ikat, or jaspe in Spanish, is a technique for dying thread used around the world to reveal intricate designs.  Knots are placed in calculated patterns in either the warp (vertical thread on the loom) or weft (the thread that is woven in horizontally on the loom).

Knots in the warp

Sometimes this process is repeated several times, with knots placed in different places and different color dyes used each time.  When the knots are unveiled, that area remains free of the dye.

 

Lots of knots, lots of colors

After the dying is finished, the weaving begins, where the beautiful designs are turned into textiles.

Preparing the loom, Indonesia

 

The final product?  Oh, the possibilities!

Ikat in fashion

 

Our ikat products are coming soon.  We can’t wait to share them with you!

San Juan Sacatepéquez

                  

We’re so happy that our textile options from San Juan Sacatepéquez are among our most popular, because we absolutely adore the huipil from this town!  Let us tell you why…

About an hour north of Guatemala City, San Juan Sacatepéquez  is a proper town and not a rural village.  There, the traditional traje (outfit) is sure to catch your eye, as the women match in their yellow huipiles with blue and purple bird designs.  The end effect is the women looking like elegant macaws themselves…

 

San Juan Sac. Woman

 

Macaw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We love to use the huipiles from San Juan Sactepéquez because the upper and lower parts of the same huipil can give us two different textile options for boots!

This is one side of a huipil from San Juan Sacaepéquez.  Note the vertical lines and the woven bird designs.

This is one side of a huipil from San Juan Sacaepéquez. Note the vertical lines and the woven bird designs.

 

See how we get both the San Juan Design and San Juan Stripes options?  This way, we are able to utilize as much of each treasured textile pieces as possible, since as you know, they are all made by hand.

We particularly love this town’s huipiles because they are quite similar in color tones.  That’s why we are able to always offer the San Juan Design and San Juan Stripes online for custom-made boots.  We hope that you like these photos of some of our boots made with the huipil from San Juan Sacatepéquez!

 

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Semana Santa

Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is THE week to be in Antigua.  Thousands upon thousands of people flood the colonial cobble-stoned streets of the town either as a pilgrimage to witness the daily processions or to spend their vacation drinking and eating in the streets (or both).

While the local Panza Verdes (those from Antigua) may love or hate the crowds of people that Semana Santa brings, nobody can argue that it is a very special time to be in Antigua.

What’s the attraction, you ask?  The alfombras, or carpets, made out of flowers, pine needles, fruits, and colored sawdust.  Sometimes hours and hours of meticulous work is put into a single alfombra, all to be paraded on when a procession passes.

Take a look at some of the photos!

These alfombras were prepared at night for the Good Friday procession starting at 4am.  The lines of people walk over the beautiful carpets like below.  Such a short life, but a beautiful one.

walk on alfombra2

walk on alfombra

Ifyou’re still interested, here are some more alfombra photos from 2010.

Happy Semana Santa, everyone!

Cherry Blossoms in DC

I’ve never seen the beautiful DC cherry blossoms in full-bloom, but I am convinced after seeing these photos that I absolutely must.  Soon, and of course, with boots.

Cherry Boots

Thank you, Krystal Laymon, for wearing the boots and looking fabulous!  And congratulations, Greyson Harris, for being featured in the Flickr Gallery “Cherry Blossoms in D.C”.   I hope you two had a wonderful day with the gorgeous flowers!

 

Lake Atitlán

If you’ve visited Guatemala, you’re sure to have visited Lake Atitlán.  Located at the belly button of the world and surrounded by gorgeous volcanoes, Aldous Huxley is said to have called Atitlán “the most beautiful lake in the world.”

 

The Belly Button of the World

I’ve been very lucky to have visited the lake many times throughout my life. Actually, I was even featured in a Japanese magazine as a Tzutujil girl from Santiago Atitlán, one of many towns around the lake.

Little Tzutujil Me

While I am not Tzutijil or at all Mayan, somehow Atitlán does feel like home to me.  So needless to say, I am so happy to be working with a cooperative of women weavers from the town of San Juan la Laguna for our new Tall Boot.  The textiles they are weaving for us using the traditional backstrap loom and ikat designs are dyed naturally and carefully.

 

Francisca with indigo and cochinilla-dyed works of art.

Francisca with indigo and cochinilla-dyed works of art.

Just last week, I was able to once again pay a visit to the lake for a meeting with the cooperative and another non-profit organization.  Hopefully we have some exciting news soon… until then, check out how we are transforming the beautiful woven pieces from Lago Atitlán:

 

We’ll be launching the collection made with the textiles produced by the cooperative next month, with more photos coming soon!  Our hope is that you’ll be able to feel a little bit of the relaxing spirit of Lake Atitlán.

Don’t worry, Lake, I’ll be back soon.

Backstrap Weaving

Since I grew up watching my mother weave, the process of weaving seems almost like common sense to me.  So, I often forget to back up and explain to others what the process looks like.  Here, I would like to take the time to show you what “backstrap weaving” really is:

Guatemalan Backstrap Loom

The Sam Noble Museum (University of Oklahoma) has a nice description of backstrap weaving:

The backstrap loom, an example of which is shown [above], is deceptively simple. For the most part, it consists of sticks, rope, and a strap that is worn around the weaver’s waist. This strap is how the backstrap loom received its name. This simple technology means that almost anyone can own a backstrap loom and that the loom can be set up almost anywhere. This mobility allows the weaver to work indoors or outside, at a neighbor’s house or in the marketplace, while keeping watch over the children or while chatting with friends. And the backstrap loom can be adjusted to fit any weaver, from the child learning to weave to an adult master weaver.

This simple loom is used all over the world.  Products differ in style, but the basic process is quite similar:

 

The Cochiti Pueblo, US

The Quichua, Peru

The Jili of Hainan Island, China

The Hill Tribe, Northern Thailand

The Maya of Nebaj, Guatemala

Sumba Island, Indonesia

 

Many indigenous peoples used and continue to use backstrap weaving.  In much of the world, it is a traditional art with deep ties to native identities.  Unfortunately, it is a dying tradition as mass-produced cheap textiles flood every corner of the globe… without an international market for these woven pieces, it is very difficult for weavers to continue weaving, nor does it make economic sense to teach young girls to weave.

If you have some time to spare, the below trailer video (2011) about the Shipibo of Peru is worth a watch.  It shows the reactions of the present-day Shipibo people to what was filmed decades ago of the same tribe, and how they feel about the changes in their lives.  The connection these people feel to their traditional art forms is striking and inspiring.

 

Antigua is Happy

Maybe about a month ago, this awesome video came out featuring many familiar faces of beautiful Antigua, Guatemala.  Needless to say, it went viral here in the Antigua community pretty quickly.  If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out now, and come join us when you can!