Our goal is simple. We aim to support traditional heritage arts and the makers behind them in Guatemala through detailed product design and experiential workshops
We are a central team of three: Mari, Evelyn, and Sucy. Most of our work is done from our studio in Antigua Guatemala.
Mari is the founder of Kakaw Designs. She named the business after - you guessed it - her love of cacao. She was drawn to its importance in Maya heritage, and after learning how to grow and process this magical fruit during her work at a permaculture farm, she fell in love. The business name's chosen spelling is out of respect to the plant's pre-Columbian roots.
When not in Antigua, Mari works remotely from Austria, where her partner is from. She has a MSc in Sustainable Development and BAs in International Relations and Spanish. If you're curious, you can learn more about her story here.
Evelyn is our Operations Manager. She kept the business going when Mari went away to work on her master's, and simply put, we don't know what we would do without her! She plays an important part in production, order fulfillment, website updates, local artisan communications, workshop organization, product photography, and much, much, more.
Sucy handles much of the day-to-day happenings in our Antigua studio, including online order shipments. She packs everything carefully and manages shipping logistics. If you come to our studio for a workshop, you'll likely find her helping out with set-up, or perhaps with product photography. Sucy studies law in university and is also a talented weaver!
Our current artisan partners are:
Weavers and dyers at Lake Atitlán led by Francisca. The association's members use natural dyes to color their yarn vibrantly, often with ikat dye-resist patterns. They use both backstrap and footloom for weaving. Francisca is one of the founders of the cooperative and oversees our production, often involving 15 or more women for a single order. She always works her textile magic, providing us the best of the best. We also love to partner with this group for workshops at Lake Atitlán.
When the pandemic shut down life as we knew it, we started offering online backstrap weaving classes with master weaver and mentor Doña Lidia. Together, we have been able to introduce weavers from around the world to the art of backstrap weaving. An expert weaver and teacher, Doña Lidia is the perfect gentle guide for this weaving journey. She now teaches backstrap weaving in our studio garden in Antigua, and we make it a point to spend a day with her and her family on many of our travel itineraries.
Claribel from Sumpango organizes embroidery production and teaches embroidery workshops with us. She's in charge of distributing the work among the women she works with in her community, and making sure that they each know exactly what to do - colors, designs, techniques... it's a lot of work! She visits the embroiderers regularly in their "aldea" (neighborhood outside of Sumpango) to make sure that everything is going well.
Everilda has been helping us with sourcing inquiries for many years. But recently, she's also taken on backstrap weaving classes in our Antigua courtyard! She is a patient and dedicated teacher.
Chato (nickname for Edwin) is our dedicated maker for all things pomopms and tassel-oriented. He also teaches the workshop we offer on traditional Chajul-style pompoms that are used to decorate head ribbons in the highlands town. He is a master multitasker, juggling our orders alongside managing his own booth at the local artisan market, being a dad to two young kids, working as a freelance accountant on the side as well as events set-up in Antigua. He is certainly a talented busy man!
Juan Carlos is our all-things-sewing-extraordinaire. We started working together for simple drawstring bags, the ones we use for packaging made with repurposed corte. Poco a poco, he has taught himself more complex construction, and with the funds raised in 2020/2021 through the sale of cloth masks, he was able to purchase professional equipment. We continue to work together to create new garment patterns and fulfill orders. In the below image, he shows off his Aiko Jacket.
Isaac and his extended family learned how to embroider in a temporary shelter after the Fuego Volcano eruption in 2018. During the many months after their community was evacuated, the area needed rebuilding, and the volcano continued to be observed closely. These months were hard, to say the least, and many at the shelter found embroidery to be therapeutic. The additional income obtained has also supported the family through tough times. The members have since gone back to living in their homes, and our orders of lettered pompoms and more are distributed to a handful of adult members of the family.
Don Meme and his team of leathersmiths delicately craft our bag designs into reality. He's also the one who directly helps with product development for bags - it's not easy to transform Mari's scribbles into real products!
When we first started Kakaw Designs, our focus was on order-made boots that incorporate textiles. Don Julio was our partner for production. He oversaw production for hundreds of pairs of custom-made boots for us this way. He was a patient, dedicated, and kind partner. We are so grateful to have been able to start the business with such a special partner. Don Julio passed away in 2020. We will always remember his smile fondly.