Artisan Profile: Vicki + Isabel

Isabel and Vicki are two of five siblings and along with their parents, the entire family is dedicated to the business of weaving. On any given afternoon, if you were to stop by and visit the family compound, which is located in quiet part of Teotitlan del Valle, you could find each family member focused on a different stage of their craft.

On one such afternoon, MZ founder Shelley and the Creative + Marketing Director Hannah stopped by to visit with the two sisters who had recently joined the MZ team of designers. Isabel and Vicki were integral in helping us develop the first product offerings in our Lujo Collection, which launched Fall 2017.

We walked through the huge metal doors into a sunny open patio strung up with yarn drying in the sun. Encircling the courtyard were cement rooms leading to different living spaces and most prominently, shaded open air workshops filled with looms of all sizes, one for each member of the family.

Isabel and Vicki welcomed us with oranges as we chatted about their family, how their new jobs were working out for them, and ideas for future products and processes.

“It’s great work for us,” said Vicki of joining MZ, “because it’s certain we will get paid.”

Often the sisters, like their family members, will weave rugs with nothing more than the hope that they will be able to sell it. With a property situated far from the town center, and few other outlets for sales, a rug might sit for months or even years before finding a buyer. The cost of yarn, dyes and the [wo]man hours it takes to complete a piece, can be quite a large investment in comparison to the funds the family has on hand. MZ pays partially up front to help with those costs, and we guarantee to buy the pieces we request be made, so there is less personal investment and financial risk for the weaver.

“The design process isn’t too complicated. [MZ Design Coordinator] Sam says what colors she wants, offers feedback on the first set of samples, and then we finish them up,” said Isabel.

Their family is one of the few in the village who still work with natural dyes. For the Lujo collection, they created a beautiful pink and gray palette using the cochineal bug to create a dusty pink, and mixing natural tones of black and white wool together to create the gray.

“Dyeing takes a lot of time, and a lot of work,” she added, “Weaving is my favorite part of the process … playing with the colors.”

The women took to their looms to show us what they were working on, and watching them immersed in their tasks while surrounded by their family was a beautiful sight. Their little sister was washing clothes, while the mother was spinning yarn into skeins for dyeing, and their father and brothers all worked the looms like them. The sound of the wooden pedal looms make a beautiful cacophony and the act of weaving itself can be quite the mind/body meditation.

Not to over-romanticize weaving … it is hard work and like any art form, sales are challenging. However, in the comfort of the compound, on a hot afternoon with a slight breeze and sounds of looms working, the beauty of a family business that everyone can take pride in is a beautiful sight.

“The goal is to keep growing,” the two sisters told us.

We are excited to be a part of that process.

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