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We were very happy to have Michelle Baggerman over this spring. It was great that she could take a d-tour and come visit us for a couple of weeks on her way to the USA. We had a very tight schedule as we tried to fit in as many activities as possible; with only two weeks there was no time to waste. The main purpose of the trip, was for Michelle to see how far we were getting on in Anudando with our Renacimiento product line and to see how great the craftsmen were developing her technique (Precious Waste).

Within the two weeks it was impossible to travel to all the communities that are part of Anudando's team today, but despite all we managed quite well. The idea was not only to visit the craftsman and see how they were working; we wanted to take a bit of advantage, as most craftsmen feel quite comfortable working with the reused plastic yarn already. We thought it was time to take it a bit further and to take the craftsmen a bit out of their comfort zone by playing more with the combination of colours and patterns.

For decades and in some cases even centuries, the craftsmen have mastered their own techniques creating beautiful pieces that reflect their culture and traditions. Unfortunately, due to various circumstances, in the last few decades some crafts have started to fade away. We believe that no craft can be preserved if we don’t let it evolve with time and therefore we decided to carry a bit of an experiment with each of our weavers.

Our first visit was to Gualupita, in the state of Mexico, to visit Don Tito the first stand loom weaver to become part of Anudando’s team. We turned up with a few samples (picture 1) of colour combinations and textures to try out on the weft, which is the yarn that you use to draw on to the loom to make a textile. Don Tito was quite comfortable with our proposal and after a couple of bumpy days, was ready to give them a go. In the end, we were all very pleased with the final outcome (picture 2) and are looking forward to next time trying out some experiments on the warp too.

In between craftsmen communities, we went to Mexico City a few times, to do a bit of sightseeing, visit some museums, and a couple of craft fairs. The most remarkable visit was to a school. We were invited to take part of a Fairtrade and Sustainable Makers Fair at Tomas Moro School, in Mexico City. We were there to sell our products, but most importantly we where there to show the children how we turn plastic bags into yarn. For them to understand that a waste material is not only waste, it can be a great resource too. Everyone was blown away by it, and every single kid wanted to have a go on the spinning wheel - Poor Michelle had almost no break. She was by far the most popular person in the whole fair! (picture3)

Our second visit was to the state of Michoacan, where we visited a few different villages. In Michoacan pretty much each village or town specializes in a craft form, and we wanted for Michelle to experience the very particular creative vibe this state has. One of the little towns we visited was Aranza, where their specialty is to weave “laze like” textiles on waist looms. In Aranza, we have been working for almost a year now with Laura Equihua, the best weaver in town and a nationwide award winner. As always, she was very welcoming but when we showed her what we had in plan for her to try she couldn’t hold a laugh. (picture4)

Señora Laura does extremely beautiful textiles, but she is used to always working with repeated patterns and highly measured and precise textiles. We thought it would be interesting to see what would come out of a more playful and random approach, where patterns and colour combinations are not symmetric and perfect. After a couple of giggles, Señora Laura approved of our choice and in the end even proposed ways in which the designs could work best. (picture5)

Another visit we did whilst in Michoacan, was to Telares Uruapan, an artisanal family owned cotton textile factory, in the city of Uruapan. The main purpose of this visit was to try and see whether they would be keen on working with us. We met with Rewy and Señor Silverio, the men in charge of the workshop – one the colour expert and the other the production manager. It was a devastating and thrilling experience at the same time.

This “factory” 20 years a go used to produce over 1000 meters of cotton on standing looms per week. It was a huge family business full of life and creativity, unfortunately after all the hotel’s standardized their products world wide, their business went down and today, they merely do a few meters per week. Nevertheless, they are very keen on keeping it going and were super interested on giving our “weird” plastic yarns a go. Let’s wait and see what comes from their first sample. We can’t wait to see the results!

As if it were not enough, we also managed to fit in a few hours for sampling new products. This time we are thinking on developing a series of handbags and purses to come out to the market this winter. Lizzane Dirkx, Michelle and I are all designing a few prototypes that for el Abierto Mexicano de Diseño, end of October, we will test out and define the winners that will go into development.

All in all a very productive trip and a wonderful time. We are very much looking forward to having Michelle over again, and most of all to see in a few months what are the results from these experiments. Exciting!