Saturday, September 22, 2018

What happened to the Cuauhtémoc artisan store in La Paz in the years 2010?

We are just coming back from Guadalupe Silva's artisan store, Cuauhtémoc, also called "El weaver", here in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico. It's the oldest crafts store in La Paz. It is named after the last Aztec emperor of the Mexica people.
When you enter this store, you step back in time in an instant. Nothing has changed for a long time. You are revisiting the 1960s.
Guadalupe's dad, Fortunato, created this business about 60 years ago. His whole family was helping as weavers, seamstresses, etc. It was a bustling place in La Paz where locals would buy all their sheets, towels, bedspreads etc. Here's a few pictures dating back to the booming days of this store in the 1960s:
 
In this last picture, Fortunato is seen at the spinning wheel.
Fortunato used to travel to other parts of Mexico in order to get raw materials for his business. He knew exactly where to go and who to see. He was a keen business man. His business was at its best. Back home, his family was taking care of the spinning and weaving. 

What happened then?

In 2002, La Paz stopped growing their own cotton in the valley. The water had become too expensive to keep on growing this crop. This was a first blow on Fortunato's business. In 2009, a flu epidemic swept accross Mexico. Tourists stayed away. The price of cotton and wool also went up. This was the last blow. Weaving stopped altogether at Fortunato's place. The looms went quiet. Here is what they look like today:
Guadalupe gave us a tour in the back of the store, where all the spinning and weaving used to take place. The 4 old tread looms are still standing there:
This is a traditional tread/foot loom. They were originally introduced in Mexico by the Spanish.
It would not take that much to restart these looms. José, Fortunato's grandson, is ready to hit the loom again. He's not the only one left with the knowledge of traditional weaving in the family. Click here to see a bedspread that is made on this kind of loom in Oaxaca. 
In Fortunato's store, they used to get the cotton as picked from the cotton plant and spin it themselves with these 3 machines:
Guadalupe, Fortunato's daughter, is in charge of the store nowadays. Since they do not sell their own products any more, they sell crafts from other parts of Mexico and from Guatemala, and some of Pazeña's items. Their customers are mostly American and Canadian tourists in the winter time. Some of them have known the store when the looms were still running and feel nostalgic of the rythmic beat in the back. The place does feel a little empty, as if it was missing its soul. 
But, not all is lost and weaving may resume next year with the support of a sponsor. Let's wish them all the best. Fortunato's work will not be in vain.
The following are pictures of a cotton tree in our street in La Paz and of a cotton flower.



Thursday, September 13, 2018

A typical week as a startup business

It's Thursday night, I just created 3 Facebook boosted posts promoting discounts on a mini-backpack, a medium backpack and a crossbody bag that will run over this weekend. And I feel wiped out. These past few days have been dedicated to revising the product pages and their translations in French and Spanish. My Spanish is not that great but it's probably OK for product pages. I can't believe the amount of time this all takes. FAQs also got a new look, and the translations also had to be reviewed. I probably went over each translation 100 times by now. Every time I take a look at the website, stuff pops out that's not quite right. Did I not see it the time before? 
Also this week, I continued to not believe in the marketing funnel and email sequences that we are supposed to send to potential customers, and in other things that we should be doing according to the marketing law. I just do not want to go that route. I do not feel like coaxing people into doing something. My husband and partner Peter is of the same opinion.
Whenever I feel confused or discouraged, the best thing I can do is go lie down and ask myself a question like "What would be wise for me to do about my business now?". I don't event expect an answer really. But many times what happens is as I relax and detach from the worries and doubts, some thought ends up popping up out of nowhere. And it's a good one. Rather than obsess about what's wrong and how to fix it, it works better to just give up and rest in silence. Let the universe do the work for you. I do it almost every day.
A new medium size Hazaña backpack came in this week, it was given the color name of Autumn. Gloria, the weaver, chose the colors and the design herself. My input was not necessary at this level, since she is the creative one when it comes to colors. I truly love it, and I am the first one to wear it. My son Louis tooks these two pictures:



This backpack is so perfect for the desert climate we have here in La Paz, Mexico. I would also use it in cold weather though, when we travel. As long as it does not rain, really, because it's cotton. It is available here.







It's a good time to talk about Gloria. I met her in Oaxaca in Dec 2016, at an arts fair. The whole Oaxaca experience was delightful.
I love Oaxaca. The walking streets in the huge historical dowtown are really cool.
Gloria is the same age as me. We are in our late fifties. She started weaving at age 4. She loves it. She lives in a pueblo near Oaxaca. She excells at very delicate weaving and got professional prizes for her fine work. We do not sell this type of items yet. Their fineness is crazy. Gloria told me that her eyes are not tired and that she sees very well all the time, even when she is weaving these extremely fine designs.
Gloria is on the right side.
Reina on the left makes very high quality silk shirts that we also sell here.
Gloria is the only weaver I met that accepted to take on the challenge of the Hazaña backpack. Most other weavers do not want to bother that much. Her patience and cooperation are endless. It might be that we both know that this backpack could become a big deal for us in time. My guess is that she sees the same thing as me in the Hazaña... Anyway, she also weaves many other products, like the ones you see on the picture, and more.
Gloria works with friends and family members, since almost all of them are weavers. This way we will be able to adapt when demand increases. But, there being no stock and knowing that it takes 12 hours to make this backpack, and that of course Gloria has many other customers, our delivery times have to be what they are. There is no round about way. Another cause for our long delivery times is that at times there are shortages of thread in Oaxaca and weavers have to wait up to 3 weeks to get the thread they need, or there can be week-long political strikes that impede entrance or exit from Oaxaca to everybody, including packages and postal workers! There is nothing we can do about this and it is no fun when this happens. People cannot go to work or go back home. 
Gloria invited me to stay at her house for a whole week. I die to go there. I hope I can go next year. I would like to know a lot more about her life and her work, about the way her community functions, and she'll teach me how to cook Tlayudas and other local specialties. We'll get to know each other better. We'll go to the famous and spectacular mountain springs "Hierve el Agua" together, and maybe attend a "Temazcal", the traditional Mexican sweat lodge. Gloria has never been there even though she's lived in Oaxaca her whole life. 
In those old pueblos around Oaxaca, people do not travel, they just go to Oaxaca and back. Few own cars - travel is done by bus or collective taxis. It takes a long time to get anywhere in this way.

Slow production backpacks ethically handcrafted in Mexico and Colombia

Thank you for visiting this page. Our goal is to provide functional handcrafted bags and backpacks that meet today's demands while retaining the qualities of traditional items. The same weaving techniques used for centuries ensure quality products. At Pazena.com, modernity meets and respects tradition. This is what slow fashion is all about.
We also provide shirts, rugs, bedspreads, dog bandanas and household items. Many of these items are vegan and can be gift items for special occasions. All are handloomed with the utmost care and in an ethical manner benefiting the weaving communities we work with. The weavers are looking to connect to a wider global audience in order to preserve their own culture. 
The artisans creating these items are true master weavers located in various pueblos in Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico, and around the Lost City in Colombia. Their communities have been weaving for centuries. Their items are sturdy and comfortable to wear. Every order is treated as a special order since most artisans have no stock and some only own one loom. Each piece is unique. Some articles may take a day or two to make, others may take up to a month. Our goal is also to keep production slow to preserve the weavers' quality of life and product quality.
When you buy one of Pazeña's items, you are directly helping the weaver communities in Mexico or Colombia to continue living off their ancestral art and you are making a difference in their life. 
Our first signature bag is the "Hazaña" backpack featuring our exclusive and innovative secret pocket on the outside with 2 elastic key fobs. Our customers love this bag for its multifunctionality and the fact that they no longer misplace their keys or USB drives! We will expand this unique feature to handbags and shoulder bags. The Hazaña is challenging to sew together, which is why we called it Hazaña, meaning a "feat" or "exploit" in Spanish. It took over a year to finalize this design. It comes in 65 colors and is machine-washable.
  
Our other signature backpack is the SAKADO, with only two pockets, for those of you who do not like pockets:
The cotton used is grown and spun in Mexico or Colombia, then sometimes dyed manually by the weavers per order. The colors are set. We do not carry computer/laptop bags.
Dimensions, patterns and colors may vary slightly from one item to the next in the same line due to the manual nature of the work and the inherent variations in the threads. The color of linings may vary from what is shown on the photos according to what is available. Sometimes a thread will stick out from a seam, this is a normal thing to happen. It just needs to be cut, nothing will unravel. Colors may differ somewhat from what is seen on a computer screen. Unlike industrial products, handmade products may contain inherent irregularities.
We ship worldwide except Venezuela, Guatemala and Syria. Packages are sent by the Mexican postal service (Correos de Mexico) or the Colombian postal service (4-72), with a tracking number. Most orders may take 1.5 and up to 2.5 months to reach you through your local postal service. We will keep you updated on your order and you will receive a tracking number.
Our shipping, exchange/return, order cancellation/modification and international fee policies are available to you at the bottom of this page and in the FAQs. By ordering you agree to these policies, therefore please consult them before you order.
Feel free to share your thoughts with us at info@pazena.com

Lost in the jungle of internet marketing, sounds familiar?

Funnel marketing, backlinks, link out, link back, link this, link that, guest posting, content marketing, affiliate marketing, reaching out, influencer marketing, social media, social messaging, email marketing, online networking, forums, google analytics, programmatic marketing, visual search, business plan, google lens, micro-moments, voice search, crawling robots, chatbot, viral, adwords, popups, exit intent popups, automatic emails, landing pages, hashtags, CSV files, SEO, SEM, PPC, WTF else... Suggested use: squeeze every single drop out of it.
Business on the internet sounds like a mad rat race and a ton of self-induced stress and worry leading to possible heart disease or cancer or some kind of early onset of Alzheimer. You're better off smoking and drinking and not exercizing. If you're already smoking and drinking and not exercizing, please do not add digital marketing to it, as studies show it is fatal in most cases!
Is it really true what they all say? Do we really have to do all these things? Do we also have to have popups all over the place so that nobody can ever leave a website without being reminded that they are making a mistake? Do all website visitors care about the 15% off if they do this or that? I want my visitors to roam the website in peace and leave it whenever they feel like it, even if they were in the middle of checking out. I might even remove the automatic email sent to visitors who left something in their cart and did not check out. Isn't all this harrassment? mmmm... Are we website owners the internet police or what? We should start giving it a name, like purchase harrassment or something.
I am a simple person. I've been in love with bags and weaving arts my whole life and I was always attracted to quality. When I was in preschool in the early 60s, I loved my little leather satchel I carried every day. I still remember exactly how it looked and how much I liked it. I loved it as much as my cat. I remember the weight, the feel, the closure and even the sound the closure. One day, my cousin Florence was wearing a pretty light blue dress. We were about 4 years old. I felt the material of her dress with my fingers and I fell in love with it. I wanted this dress. I still remember the feel of this dress to this day. Oui Florence, c'est vrai!
I started crochetting with my grandma in the South of France at age 5, or maybe 4. I loved it. My grandma also knew how to make embroidery and lace! She said weaving lace was very complex. The wooden ball she used for lace had tons of wood pins that she knew how to organize. I thought it was too difficult for a little girl like me so I never gave myself a chance to try it. I started knitting at age 13 with my step mum. I was fascinated by my creations. I made 200 gorgeous sweaters by the time I was 25. Some of them were works of art that should have been framed or put in a museum.
This love for bags and for the feel of woven materials led me to create my own backpack in 2016. Something that I had been looking for for 15 years on the internet and in stores but never found. The inspiration was to go to Oaxaca and have it done there. This backpack is now for sale here, it is called Hazaña ("feat") because it is very difficult to sew together. 
Some weavers rejected this project and I don't blame them. The pearl weaver who is able to make this backpack is Gloria. It takes her 12 hours to make one backpack from the time she starts preparing the loom until she sews the last pocket. She lives in Santo Tomas Jalieza, close to Oaxaca and weaves with her family members. My next article will be about her.
The design of this backpack was finalized early this year (2018), with the acquisition of special metal parts for it. The last touch. Gloria feels confident now and is ready to hit it. She made many trial backpacks until they came out perfect. Her ideas and suggestions were a valuable contribution to the design. Her patience was infinite. The few customers who already bought a Hazaña backpack think it is beautiful and practical. Gloria also weaves the SAKADO backpack, a more simple design with only 2 pockets, as well as many other products on the website.
My goal is to sell this backpack only through the internet. I am not interested in marketing this product locally. Now let's face reality. Our niche - hand woven backpacks - is not even a Google keyword! I want to succeed organically - another term I learnt about recently. I am NOT willing to do all the things you are supposed to do to succeed on the internet. There is no end to it. I don't have a business plan. I want people to find this backpack because this is what they like. I am willing to do basic stuff like "boosting" a facebook post or even adwords, and minimal SEO. But that's all. I do not feel like reaching out to editors or whoever. I don't care what are the keywords and links my competition uses. I don't want to look at their statistics either. In a nutshell, I refuse to become obsessive compulsive about it. 
What it boils down to is that I do not want to be too intellectual and analytical about this new business. I want to act from inspiration, to trust my universe, read the signs that are sent to me and follow the advice of customers and competent people when they have something to say. I will continue to use my tarot cards for decision making concerning the business. They are my best tool! Here, how about #tarotcarddigitalmarketing?
The inspiration for writing this article today comes from a movie Peter and I saw yesterday, "Adrift". In this movie, Peter and Christine own a yacht called Hazaña! My name is Christelle. Funny? We feel we are in an ocean of category 5 internet hurricane.
Share this post if you like it or if you hate it. Alll types of comments are very welcome. We don't take anything personnally.

Monday, October 24, 2016

pazena.com: slow fashion quality backpacks, small daypacks, bags and more handloomed in Oaxaca, Mexico

Personal Power and Money - Our new slow fashion web store pazena.com
Money is an expression of personal power. What we spend our money on is what we invest our personal power in. If we care about where we invest our personal power, we need to look not only at the end product and its cost, but also at the manufacturing processes and the people that do the work. Here are a few questions that we can ask ourselves if we want to be "ethical". What is the quality of their work life? How vulnerable are they in today's economy? Are we paying them fairly for their hard work? What can we do to encourage them? What can we learn from them?
Carlos Aguera recycles traditional huilpiles in Chiapas.
In these times we are so accustomed to instant gratification due to the advancement of technology. And so too consumer goods are mass produced at an ever increasing rate. Yes, we could have cotton and wool backpacks, bags and household items machine-manufactured in China or India for example. And probably for a much less investment cost and a much quicker turnaround time. Yet that is not the opportunity that life has offered us and we are not attracted to this kind of business. 
Gloria Mendoza Luis is the Hazaña and Sakado weaver. A true master-weaver.
Purchasing high quality, handwoven, many times hand-dyed, and hand-sewn products from Mexico and Colombia is a step into the past. The pace is a little bit slower in Latin America. A slower pace is more natural to the human being and this should be respected as a healthy way of life. Work gets done, but not in a frantic way. We learn from these artisans. We find out that we in the Western world have forgotten or even denied some basic values in life. Luckily there are still enough wise artisans left in this world for us to learn how to review our values. They teach us by example. Let's just observe them. No classes needed.
Automated machinery have a high accuracy rate of repeatability. They churn out identical products over and over. With handwoven products each item is unique and no two similar items are exactly identical. The weavers are also very creative and act upon inspiration, which gives birth to something new. They really care about the quality of their products. They love what they do and infuse love into their work. They adapt to the needs of the customers too. Modernity meets and respects tradition this way. Wouldn’t you rather invest your personal power into a product born out of pure human creativity?
Money is also energy. Not only what we spend our money on but also how we create financial wealth and abundance tells us about ourselves and our personalities. At pazena.com we care about what we sell and how we sell it as it is an expression of who we are. This is how we proceed at Pazeña: we do not bargain the artisans' prices. They know how much they need to charge, and we respect their price. We know they are honest. We pay them 50% of the order at the beginning, and the rest when they are ready to ship it. We are trying to be the change we want to see in the world and we think we can make it this way.
Feel free to share your thoughts on this subject with us at info@pazena.com. We are very interested in what our visitors believe.

Click on this picture for more information:
 5 pocket 3 key fobs breathable machine-washable backack hand woven in Oaxaca
"Hazaña" handwoven backpack with 5 pockets & 3 key fobs
Thanks for visiting.


Agave








 Traditional tailors seem to be an endangered species
 Preparation of mezcal, obtained from the same cactus (maguey) as tequila.

Distillation of mezcal



 The central plaza of Oaxaca






 Wedding procession in town



 Sharpening knives ecologically
Students drawing the cathedral
Mole is the culinary specialty of Oaxaca. It is a delicious sauce made from beans and chocolate.
 This is the nearby town of Teotitlan, where the specialty is weaving wool



This weaver weaves at the back of his backyard.



 Monte Alban

 View on Oaxaca