Proud Mary Artisan Collaborations
Proud Mary currently collaborates with traditional craft artisans in Mexico, Morocco, Lesotho, Mali, Dominican Republic, Peru, and Syria. While Proud Mary has worked with artisans in other countries, our focus remains on building long-term relationships, quality craftsmanship, and product development. We approach our relationships with our partner artisans as a two-way street: consistent orders ensure sustainability and quality of product. We see job creation as the ultimate indicator of impact. Proud Mary is most proud when our workshops expand and have the capacity to not only work with us and our designs, but with other businesses as well. Our payment terms are proposed by the artisans with whom we work.
Our longest artisan collaboration has been ongoing in Mali since 2011. While the conflict and security in the country has fluctuated, we continue to develop products and share a special connection to our Malian artisan partners. Their commitment to instill dignity and pride in the tradition and art of bogolan (mud cloth) production gives opportunity to young men, many of whom are unemployed and also need guidance and opportunity for societies overall to succeed.
Beyond growing and improving relationships with existing partners, as Proud Mary grows we seek new avenues for production as well as opportunities to share the talents of new artisans with our customers. Through collaboration and partnership with artisans in the Dominican Republic, a cooperative that previously only sold individual items to the local tourist market is now able to complete and export their products in bulk. It’s experiences like the one working with the Dominican artisans that Proud Mary seeks to recreate for other artisan groups.
Given the ongoing conflict in Syria, our latest artisan partnership in this war-torn country allows us to play a role, albeit limited, in alleviating some of the hardship of the conflict on the civilian populations with which we work. More than 11 million Syrians have been displaced by the war that has ravaged this once vibrant society. Design and skilled craftsmanship has been at the heart of Syrian culture for centuries, yet five years of war and destruction has all but eliminated the country’s rich artisan traditions. We currently work closely with an organization in Damascus providing space for women to meet and develop skills training. We have designed three custom colorways of their crochet bags--you can find the bags on our site and through our retail partners.
Proud Mary first started working in Morocco in 2012 and we have maintained our collaboration with artisans in Marrakesh and Essaouira since in 2013. Harper Poe, Proud Mary’s Founder, was immediately drawn to many of the traditional natural fiber crafts of Morocco, as well as the colors of the country’s dramatic desert landscape. While the crafts sector in Morocco is diverse, Proud Mary focuses specifically on natural fiber products including baskets and raffia. Essaouira is a magical little coastal town from where our raffia shoes originated and Marrakech, the pink city, is aesthetically a dream for the senses. Harper’s regular trips to Morocco allow her to continue to discover new artisans and their crafts.
The woven raffia sandals from Morocco are one of our most successful product lines. By merging natural materials with traditional techniques we have created a product with consistent market demand, which in turn has led to job creation amongst the artisans groups with which Proud Mary collaborates.
Each pair of raffia shoes takes a full day to weave the upper. The woven uppers are made by a group of women artisans who learned the technique from their mothers. The soles of each shoe are made by a group of men cobblers. The raffia originates from East Africa and is dyed in Morocco.
Proud Mary started working in Chiapas, Mexico in early 2015 and we continue to expand partnerships in Southern Mexico. Currently we work with six different cooperatives and family owned businesses in Chiapas.
Harper deeply appreciates the warmth of our artisan partners in Mexico and the colors and dynamism of Mayan textile design. All of Proud Mary’s work in Chiapas uses traditional techniques paired with simplified modern design intended to focus on the core of the craft.
Our collaborations and partnerships with artisans in Southern Mexico span a variety of crafts and techniques, including: 1) a male weaving group comprised of five men who loom a majority of Proud Mary’s textiles; 2) a female weaving group who backstrap loom to produce a soft weave for our pillows and blankets; 3) a San Juan Chamula group comprised of five women who weave natural wool for our clutches and pom pom pillows/blankets; 4) the Huixtan community which creates densely embroidered bold flowers that we use in shawls and clutches; 5) the Chenalho Embroider group, who embroider our tunics; and lastly 6) the San Cristobal sewing workshop, a family owned business run by a husband and wife team.
Our collaboration process in Mexico depends on the season for which we are producing. Whether it is Spring or Fall will determine what artisans will be included in our core collaboration for that season. Our process is multistep, where different artisans add different value to each product. Typically the woven material is made in a large quantity, it’s then passed along to the sewing workshop to sew the specific item and then finally to the embroiderer to add the final touches. Each village has a different weaving style and traditional techniques depending upon what the design calls for. The amount of time it takes to produce a single item often depends on the type of loom utilized; more material can be produced on a foot loom than a backstrap loom. It takes three days to set the warp on the loom and approximately one week to weave 30 yards of material. After the weaving is completed the products are then sewn and finished at our San Cristobal workshop. Each of our hand woven and hand crafted products from Mexico takes around two-three weeks to complete.
The artisans we work with in Mexico source their raw materials from all-across the country, including cotton from Mexican-owned producer, Omega, and leather from producers in Mexico City.