The Little Market is proud to work with talented artisans at GAIA, in the United States, Kara Weaves in India, Luchometik, in Mexico, and Lula Mena, in El Salvador.GAIA is one of our artisan partners based out of the United States, and the organization employs marginalized refugee women who are rebuilding their lives in Dallas, Texas. These women have survived hardships in life, such as violence and oppression in their home countries, and have faced new challenges as they’ve started over in a country that is foreign to them. At GAIA, the women engage in personal connections and can work toward earning financial independence and taking care of themselves and their families. The Dallas team creates designs that are based on the artisans’ skills. For example, some of the women have sewing skills, and they can often sew from home with smaller machines. Other women will work on making jewelry based on GAIA’s designs. Most of the vintage and recycled textiles come from throughout the world, such as Africa, Guatemala, Mexico, and Thailand, while GAIA’s exclusive designs are hand-woven by artisans who are located in India.
At Kara Weaves in India, artisans take ancient local fabrics, which are made using traditional wooden looms, and turn them into beautiful goods such as handmade towels, napkins and aprons. Pure cotton is used to make these products, and co-operatives source cotton from the yarn bank, the Indian government’s centralized cotton procurement system. Two textiles are used, and they are the thorthu and mendu fabrics of Kerala; people in Kerala relied on and wore these textiles for hundreds of years.
To make the table linens, aprons and towels from Kara Weaves that we offer at The Little Market, the artisans first prepare the yarn by sourcing, washing, dyeing, softening, bleaching, drying the yarn, and also applying any specific treatments as needed. Next are the pre-looming processes, which include spinning the yarn and setting up the loom. Then the skilled artisans start the weaving process. After that is the quality check, which happens in-house, and the stitching into products. The production process will vary based on how much fabric is required, customizations that may be involved, and techniques, such as motifs and prints, that are used. The artisans at Kara Weaves are members of local weaving co-operatives created by the Indian government in the 1960s in order to help support and promote local forms of art. At Kara Weaves, artisans design products using traditional techniques and market them on a global basis. Promoting the work helps to bring awareness and much-needed payment and income for the disappearing craft. After the co-operatives started to work with Kara Weaves, the wages increased by as much as 127 percent, and the number of weavers has tripled. One of the partner co-ops has also received a government grant from the Indian government, and this grant has allowed the co-op to purchase sewing equipment and train weavers with new types of skills.
Artisans at Lula Mena, a microenterprise located in El Salvador, create beautiful handmade pieces while following fair trade and eco-friendly practices. Lula Mena, the designer, and a team of approximately 75 artisans work together to develop sustainable and ethical products. The technique is passed down from generation to generation, and it’s very labor intensive. It has traditionally been a male-dominated technique, and men and women at Lula Mena work together to preserve the technique and create the handmade pieces. Don Ciro, the master artisan, has been working with Lula Mena for many years. They place a significance on using quality, natural, and repurposed materials to create goods such as pillows, hammocks, and throws that you can find here at The Little Market. The process begins with Lula designing a product, and then the necessary materials, such as cotton and polyester threads for throws and pillows, natural seeds, and copper threads, are gathered, a prototype is created, Lula approves, and production begins. These products are made on a traditional foot loom and on a traditional shuttle loom, and the first step of the weaving process is to warp the threads. The threads are folded and wrapped, weaved and warped, and glued and united in the loom. The mind and hands coordinate with the movement of the feet to create these pieces on the looms. On average, three artisans work together in a group to create each hammock, and two artisans partner up to create each pillow. The technique originated from the Spanish. Each product made by artisans at Lula Mena supports the artisans, their families, and their communities, while empowering them and their livelihood.