IndiArts Collective keeps respectful transparent relationships with our artisan partners by buying directly from them and paying their asking price. Our featured handmade products showcase their talents to global markets, helping them support their families and improve their quality of living.
We travelled and interviewed the makers to learn about their experience and share the traditions behind each of their products. Bringing these items to a larger audience and providing their history on our site helps "Give artisans a voice" and aids with the conservation of indigenous and traditional communities and cultures around the world.
Leather Masters- Arte Kuna Colombia family business
We use genuine cow leather which is decorated with native artwork made by Colombian indigenous groups. We buy the Molas or tejido Wayuu art work directly from the artisans in the Kuna and Wayuu communities of Colombia. These fabrics are later brought to the small leather family business where the final products are carefully handmade with the best finishes possible by leather masters. We respect and value indigenous artwork, which is the reason why we guarantee that the authenticity of the indigenous art we used to decorate our products remains unaltered.
Wayuu Style Collection- Wayuu Indigenous Community
The Wayuu (pronounced "Wah-You") people are an indigenous group inhabiting the visually striking desert of La Guajira Peninsula which borders Colombia and Venezuela. The Wayuu live in small settlements called "rancherias" which consist of five or six houses. Within these rancherias, the Wayuu people are able to preserve a way of life that has been passed down through the generations and remains unscathed by modern culture. Organized in matrilineal clans, the Wayuu children carry their mother's last name, making the Wayuu women not only the center of the family but cultural leaders as well. One of the most significant aspects of culture that the Wayuu women practice is the art of crocheting.
Each Wayuu mother teaches her daughter how to weave and crochet, keeping the tradition as alive and vibrant as ever. To the Wayuu, weaving is a symbol of wisdom, intelligence, and creativity. As young Wayuu women come of age, they learn to create Mochilas Wayuu bags. According to legend, the tradition comes from "Wale´kerü", a spider that taught the women how to weave their creative drawings into the Wayuu bags. Each design incorporated into every Wayuu bag is unique to the weaver, telling a story through the bag's colors, patterns and shapes. The weaver takes careful precision in her storytelling, making sure that the Mochila bag is a strong representation of Wayuu culture. Today, Wayuu bags have become a means of financial support for the Wayuu people, which enables them to preserve their culture and way of life.How are Mochila Wayuu made?
The “Mochila Wayuu” is their most known traditional craft; however, using the same weaving technique they create much more products.To create each unique design Wayuu women use a specific technique of placing a single cotton thread in a manual loom. Wayuu women work full days while weaving their Wayuu bags and can take up to a full month to complete one single bag.
Picture taken during our last visit on May, 2018 to buy directly our mochilas to the Wayuu Artisans in La Guajira.
Read our blog post "Life in "Colombia's Indigenous Capital" to learn more about our experience during this trip.
Video produced by artisans we work directly with.
Copyrights: Video produced by COLOMBIART.CO
Molas Embroidery- Kunas
Originating in the Kuna’s indigenous community from Colombia and Panama the molas began with the tradition of the Kunas painting their bodies with geometric designs, initially using colours that were only found in nature. After Spanish colonization and the arrival of missionaries, the Kunas transferred these traditional geometric designs onto their clothing. At first they painted the designs directly on the fabric and later switched to weaving the patterns onto their clothes by using a reverse application technique. The molas are the Kunas’ central form of art which makes them essential in defining their cultural identity and traditions. Many of our products incorporate the molas into their design. Each mola is one-of-a-kind as their artists draw on many different inspirations to create each unique design. Nature, dreams and worldviews are among some of the many diverse themes that the Kuna use for their artistic inspiration to create their mola designs. The making of each mola requires a lot of skill, patience and time as many designs can take up to six months to finish depending on the size and the complexity of the design.
Molas makers- Kuna women from Colombia and Panama selling their molas in the public market in San Blas.
How are Molas made?
Molas are handmade using a reverse application technique which involves using multiple layers of different coloured cloth. The design can range from two to seven layers of cloth that usually consist of cotton material and often come from parts of the Kuna women’s clothing. The best quality molas generally have a greater number of layers, which also indicates higher quality. Once put in place, these layers of cloth are sewn together and the design is formed by cutting away segments of each layer.
The largest pattern is typically cut from the bottom layer which sits on top of an uncut foundation layer of fabric which remains whole. Subsequent top layers are then progressively cut smaller to reveal the colours beneath in each successive layer. This basic scheme can be altered and adapted to create numerous variations by cutting multiple layers at once, which generates a distinctive sequence of colours.
Once the design has been cut the edges of the layers are folded under and sewn down. Often, the stitches are nearly invisible since the thread the artists use is the same colour as the layer they are working with. Sewing with blind stitches and keeping the stitches as small as possible also helps achieve this invisible effect. The finest molas have extremely meticulous stitching, made using tiny needles that best achieve these intricate designs.
Learn more about the Kuna artisans in our blog "The History Behind Molas"
Copyrights: Video produced by Parque Expora in Medellin for the Museo del Oro del Banco de la Republica. ( Gold Museum in Bogota, Colombia)
Beaded Jewelry- Emberra Community
Tagua Jewelry- Maria Jose, family business
Tagua is a nut from a palm tree called Phytelephas aequatorialis, or literally, “plant elephant” and is commonly referred to as “vegetable ivory”. This can only grow in the South American Rainforest in the countries of Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru and Bolivia. Tagua has exploded since colonial times; and using Tagua beads for creating handcrafts and as an adornment is part of an ancient tradition practiced by artisan families till these days.
Tagua is a hard, durable and sustainable nut which is considered as one of the best options to replace ivory ornaments. This is an eco-friendly material as it is a renewable resource; in fact, a Tagua tree continuously produces about three crops a year (each crop produces up to 15 Tagua nuts) and this production continues for over a hundred years!Why should you give a Tagua to your loved ones?
Among indigenous communities of South America, Tagua nuts represent sacred, feminine energy. Every member of a tribe is given a Tagua nut to wear, because it is believed that the nut maintains harmony among family members and friends.How are our Tagua bracelets made?
This includes a long process to create the Tagua bids that come from the hard shell nut.
- The Tagua fruit is collected from the trees and dried for four up to eight weeks, after which period they become hard
- Shells are cracked to extract the nuts, and each nut is cleaned and shaped as desired
- The Tagua is dye in the desired colors
- After dyed, the nut is again exposed to the sun for one week to two weeks (depends if the season is rainy or dry)
- Finally, after drying up the nut the artisan uses sealers to hold the color before polishing the nut
Now the Tagua beads are ready for artisans to cut, shape, perforate them and start putting together their beautiful and creative designs!
Let's empower and support South American disadvantaged artisans together!!
Check out our blog section on our website to learn more about upcoming projects, our current artisans, their traditions and culture.