11 Things to Celebrate in 2023
2023 was a great year for Handmade by Friendship Bridge®! We have so much to celebrate, both in our artisan’s personal lives and also as an organization. As we look forward to 2024, set new goals, and help our artisans thrive, we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished this year. Here are some highlights:
1. Our artisans provided the centerpieces for WorldDenver’s International Women’s Day celebration. In March, Friendship Bridge was honored by WorldDenver at their International Women’s Day event, held at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, for our work that empowers women in Guatemala. In addition to being honored, centerpieces for the event consisted of Handmade by Friendship Bridge® products made by our artisan clients—baskets by Manuela, napkins woven by Marcela, beaded coin purses by Maria, and tote bags by Jacinta. The large centerpiece order provided additional income to all four artisans.
2. We designed a dress for Indigenous pageant winner Edna Marly Figueroa Cuc. Our client, Rosario, was honored to design a dress for Edna Marly Figueroa Cuc as she represented Guatemala in the 2023 Miss Abya Yala Indigenous pageant, held in Panama on June 1. Rosario and the Handmade by Friendship Bridge® team worked on the dress over a span of eight weeks (80 hours), designing and manufacturing each piece, and Edna won the competition! The Handmade team chose colors that represent the four colors of corn based on the indigenous Maya’s worldview—red, white, yellow, and black. The dress features 20 hand-painted colorful images covered in gemstones known as nahuales—one of the most important concepts for the indigenous Maya. Hand-painted words adorn the back of the dress: Que todos levanten, que nadie se quede atrás, que no seamos ni uno ni dos de nosotros, sino todos. This translates to “let everyone rise up, let no one be left behind, let it not be one or two of us, but all of us,” a phrase chosen by Edna from the Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Mayas that encompasses the worldview for Mayan culture.
3. We hired an artisan assistant. We needed more personalized service for our artisans, so Renata joined the Handmade team in September. She is in charge of supporting the artisans in developing and strengthening their skills through coordinating training. She also helps them look for local sales opportunities and helps ensure they have a positive experience with Handmade. Originally from El Tablón, Sololá, Renata was an intern with us through Maia - Impacto infinito before being hired. We are so happy to have her on our team!
4. Our Luggage Tag and Royal Crossbody Bag were top sellers this year. Made from repurposed Guatemalan huipiles by our artisans Jacinta and Martina, both items have been praised by customers for their quality craftsmanship and unique style. Customers also love that the items are environmentally conscious in their use of secondhand materials.
5. Handmade was featured in several prominent news broadcasts, websites, blogs, and Instagram posts. Starting in March, a television news crew from 9News Denver came to our Colorado showroom to interview our staff for an evening news story that featured a range of Handmade items. As the year continued, the websites My Four and More, Daily Mom, and HipLatina featured Handmade items. Finally, we collaborated with six fresh micro-influencer voices on Instagram to host giveaways and spread the word of women’s empowerment through Handmade, for Women’s Equality Day in August and during the holiday season: @nathalydove, @shopdolcevintage, @ginnypaxkrosel, @savagex_14, @jguad1224, and @sometimesfany.
6. We received more than 50 wholesale products orders, in collaboration with stores, boutiques, museums, and corporations. Some of our largest continuing wholesale orders come from Bought Beautifully, Whole Planet Foundation, Lovely and Fair, and independent buyers who sell Handmade products in their communities.
7. Our artisan, Santos, was visited by a filmmaker for a future YouTube series that focuses on sustainable textile production. The success of Santos's textile business rests upon the collective dedication of four generations within her family: her grandmother, mother, Santos herself, and her daughter. Friendship Bridge’s goal of generational change is evident in Santos’s family, making her a natural choice for the upcoming YouTube series produced by THR3EFOLD. Her eldest daughter, Sandra, has finished high school and now works as her business partner. Since Santos lacks the ability to read, write, or speak Spanish, Sandra manages the business's administrative side. Sandra's hope for the future is that her mother’s business will continue to grow. Someday, Sandra hopes to take over so that the art of creating traditional Guatemalan textiles is not lost.
8. The Master Weavers Collection was exhibited in a museum for the first time. The collection, composed of Guatemalan huipiles made by our artisans, was exhibited in the Global Village Museum in Fort Collins, Colorado. Previously, we have exhibited parts of this collection in two coffeehouses, at the Weave a Real Peace (WARP) annual meeting, and at Friendship Bridge events, but this time, the exhibit featured cultural and historic information about huipiles and their importance to the indigenous Maya. Because Indigenous Mayan people don’t speak Spanish, the official language of Guatemala, they have had fewer opportunities to tell their story and share the art of weaving. We were proud to be able to share information through the museum and plan to continue educating American audiences about them.
9. Two artisans won a Women’s Entrepreneurs Award. Rosario won 1st place for the Successful Entrepreneur category—this category was for Bridge to Success clients who have grown their business distinctly. Jacinta won 2nd place for the Exemplary Client category, an award meant for clients who had an admirable story of overcoming challenges, and who also demonstrated commitment to Non-Formal Education activities.
10. Our artisans learned new skills and created innovative new product collections. Our first collection inspired by classic art was designed, including Van Gogh’s Starry Night-inspired earrings that were featured in HipLatina’s holiday gift guide, made by Mirian. Artisans learned more about market trends, and developed designs with different color palettes as a result. In addition, bead artisan Lidia led in-person beading workshops for the first time, and we hosted our first artisan workshop at the Cobán branch office.
11. Handmade received a new office space and photo studio at the Panajachel office. This new space is a reflection of the growth that our program has seen in recent years, and will continue to better suit the needs of the program. We can’t wait to see what our artisans accomplish in 2024!