Artisan Stories: The Extended Cut – Local + Lejos

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Local + Lejos was founded in 2015 with the goal of using business as a force for good by creating sustainable employment for artisans around the world. For any artisan in our community, we pay fair wages, which in most of the countries we work in, results in our partners bringing in 2-3x more income than before our work together.

And thanks to your support, we’ve been able to grow our artisan partners year over year, through outreach and training.

When you choose to vote for us with your dollar, that dollar is felt in far-flung places around the globe, in a very real way.

So with that, we’re inviting you to step into 2018 with us in a massive spirit of gratitude, towards you, and all of our artisan partners.

We’ve been privileged to work with each of them, watching our groups expand and our partnership deepen with every new color, style, and size of home goods we produce.

Join us on a journey across the globe as we kick off with these exciting updates from Rwanda, of real lives that are feeling the impact of every purchase made at Local + Lejos:

Rwanda

Cooperatives: Nyaruguru District, Kamonyi District, & Muhanga District

There is such an art to the weaving that these women execute and it takes significant time, discussion, and a few samples to figure out which designs we can and can not successfully produce.

But what stuck with us, is that these groups LOVE a challenge.

These cooperatives craft our Sisal Peace Baskets, Banana Leaf Cubes, Floor Baskets, Akazi Bowls, and Neri Trays.

Some cooperatives work from the large grounds of a schoolyard, others from their homes, while some work in unison with soft music playing, and taking turns caring for small children.

Recently got to hear some “on the ground” stories and updates about how our artisans’ craft, expertise, and collaboration with Local + Lejos is impacting their day-to-day lives:

  • “We have all paid our family health insurance which is a great achievement for our families.”

  • We were able to pay the school fees with no delaying."

  • “We can provide clothes to our families which makes us look smart compared to their neighbors.”

  • One artisan named Alexie has been able to provide the electricity into her home and owns the shop where their neighbors can go and find the basic food and some other materials like sugar, rice, flour, porridge, different vegetables, and soap, etc. And while she is busy in weaving, her husband manages the sales. Alexie also shared that with the Local and Lejos orders, their income has been growing. She is earning 200,000 Rwandan Francs per month ($243 USD) instead of 80,000 per month. This is a substantial salary a person who is lives in rural area.

  • “Most of us have been able to repair our houses to make them smart.”

  • “We have bought lands to build on, and some to cultivate.”

  • A lady called Vestine founded a small shop to help the neighbors shopping in the nearby areas.

The Rwandan Cooperatives are just one humbling example of what’s possible through partnerships.

Here’s an insight into what makes some of our other partner countries so unique and specialized:


Cambodia

Khmer Artisan Collective

Between century old Cambodian temples and modern hip hotels lies the Angkor Handicraft Collective. Many of the eighteen women who sit at the looms come from rural parts of the country each day to create our intricately designed Mika and Seka Throws.  

As they weave to the sounds of the occasional motorcycle passing by outside, we believe they experience a strong sense of pride in carrying out their country's iconic craft.

 

Guatemala

Women of Chichicastenango & Weavers of San Juan

It's no surprise our blankets from Guatemala are as colorful and vivid as the vibrant culture of the country! Stepping off the boat into San Juan or traveling over the windy roads and corn fields to the small province of Nauhala, there is a cultural authenticity that has been preserved for generations.

These cooperatives use natural materials such as avocado pits, coffee beans, and tree roots and produce items including the Alma Blanket, Azul Serape Blanket, Cazadore Serape Blanket, Raya Throw and Verbana Throw.

 

Mexico

Weavers of Teotitlan del Valle

A seven-hour bus ride from Mexico City, through rolling agave fields, lies the small town of Teotitlan del Valle. Nestled in the valley, this small town prides itself on an age-old tradition of producing textiles. Their unique production of rugs, including the Totona rug, Campeche rug, and Veracruz rug requires unparalleled skills and is made with a dye from natural products and raw materials.

 

Uganda

Craftsmen of Wakiso

When we came across the work of these master craftsmen, we were mesmerized by the quality and attention to detail of their products. The Ankole cow can only be found in one place in the world, East Africa. By partnering with our Uganda group, we can conserve these beautiful animals and ensure it remains a prized icon for the tribe’s pride and identity while creating unique pieces, such as tumblers, coasters, and pitchers from the cowhorn (only after the cow has been used for meat.)

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There is something so exciting about discovering new craftsmen and women, uncovering age-old techniques passed down through communities, and getting to appreciate with our own eyes the expertise of the creatives at these cooperatives.

We know that these partnerships are benefiting local communities, creating job opportunities, providing fair wages and developing sustainable skills. But we consider ourselves truly fortunate that such talented individuals from cooperatives in six countries said yes to allowing us to enjoy the magic of their talents.

For that, we are eternally grateful.