A white space, first sales and emerging young artists

After two weeks of opening our workshop, things have moved up up up!

1. We’ve painted the space white (thanks to Marlon, Armando and Enok for the help!) and it looks tonnes better.

2. We’ve sold 2 pairs earrings, 4 key rings and a bracelet already

3. At the recommendation of the kids, we’re giving 50% of the sales price to the maker and keeping 50% to help towards the rent and materials (this project is costing us a lot to start up which we are looking for funding for..) Axel (the local handyman) made us a big table and this weekend we are in Xela to get more supplies – scissors, blutak (impossible to find!) paint, moto tool heads to cut coconuts…

 

4. The popularity of the workshops is extraordinary. We have up to 25 young artists (Aged between 3-18) regularly coming to the workshop, as well as several adults. If we are running 5 minutes late, the kids come to our house to fetch us. We don’t have any chairs, so everyone stands, but noone is complaining. It’s a squeeze and a fight for the one pair of scissors and our attention! We could do with extra help and are going to advertise for volunteers in the surf camps and hostels.

 

5. Carla has started a friendship bracelet making bar at the front of the shop  whilst I have been working with kids to find new ways to incorporate tin cans and recycled materials into necklaces and bracelets. So far, we’ve taught the kids how to make bracelets, necklaces, key rings, earrings and mobile phone charms. We are learning ourselves too and there is still a long way to go. The medium term plan is for each piece to have either a recycled or natural (from El Paredon) element to it, instead of just bought beads. We have gradually allowed the kids more freedom and they are already making some really creative, beautiful work. These are some examples:

It is nice to get out of bed with a spring in the step on the way to our studio. Although exhausting trying to help 10 kids at a time, it doesn’t feel like work. It is totally satisfying, creatively. It is exciting that things are happening. And exciting that the town is excited too.


Welcome to our workshop

our workshop (on the right)

We have opened our workshop/shop! (the building on the right – next to the central hub of the town – el comedor). A quick dust down of the cobwebs, a whiteboard borrowed from the church, a table borrowed from a teacher, plastic stools from home and we are on for business. To begin with, we’re opening between 1-3pm, Mon-Fri, before teaching in the school. This is when the little kids are free (up to age 10) as they go to school in the mornings. We picked up the key from an old man at the end of our street, paid him the £25 for the month’s rent and celebrated with kids and granddads who walked by with 2 big bottles of Mirinda – the local Fanta

inside the space – day one
our custom-made window which lets in as much breeze and light as possible

Day 1

We had invited 8 adults – Janet the hairdresser, William the resourceful maker, Enok’s dad who makes little turtles out of coconut shell, Telma the fierce schoolkeeper, Juan Carlos the grafter, sweet but flakey Pati and a couple of other women who are interested in making artesanias  – to our first meeting where we would explain how our social enterprise would work:

  • We buy the materials (from Guatemala City or Antigua – either way a 5 hour journey)
  • We hold a month of workshops where everyone shares their skills and create a range of products using local and recycled materials
  • Locals buy the materials from us and make the products
  • We sell the products in our shop and in Surf House and Surf Camp to tourists. 75% goes to the maker and 25% goes back into the project.

So we opened for our first day and, true El Paredon style, none of our core adult group showed up and loads of kids did. So we drew birds local to the area – Pelicans and herons. There is some real artistic talent here but they don’t do art in the school. Compared to classrooms in the UK – filled with paintings and displays – the walls are bare with the occasional ‘Jesus loves you’ sign.

In our first hour of our first workshop, we realized we needed to stop kids running in and out with all our precious bits and bobs so sparkly and new. We sent one of our keen helpers to find a piece of wood to lock the door. Another wee boy mopped the floor. Another put up the mask drawings the kids made the day before in an impromptu workshop in the outside eatery. Lots of curious adults wandered by and wandered in, as well as some chickens.

Day 2 in our workshop

our first key rings made by the kids

9 kids came and we made bracelets ‘pulseras’ out of the beads we bought in the city. Everyone were surprisingly calm and orderly, although it was hard to chuck them out at the end of the session. They each made three – 1 to keep and 2 to sell in our shop. It felt like a real success. That night, Telma came round with carved surfboards, triangles and turtles made out of coconut and an enthusiasm we hadn’t yet seen in her. We also met Enok’s dad who is happy to work with us on Sundays when he is not out at sea fishing and show some of the keen kids how to make his beautiful coconut turtles. We need to buy them little saws, files, sandpaper and sanding tools so they can get working. We also need a proper, solid table and lots of chairs (most of the kids are working standing or on drinks crates) as well as a hammer and shelves to put our materials on. We are trying to beg, borrow or steal for these things but may have to tap into our funds and get them from San Jose.

We also made our first sale to some men who were fixing electricity in the village!

our first customers

Lanchitas – our first product

One hazy afternoon little Enok came round with an arm full of pompas – hard wooden segments that fall freely from the tree in the football field next to our garden.

 

We saw them and instantly knew their potential –  as the boats that transport people to and from the village to the next town. These boats here are called lanchas. They are brightly coloured and can hold up to 30 people.

The lanchas have roofs made from a taut material publicizing local beer, fizzy drinks, snacks. So we are going to use old drinks cans.

We have started to make them and show them to people, who seem to like them and think we can sell them. We hope to sell them in tourist towns – Antigua, by Lake Atitlan, as well as in our shop/workshop/diner that we are going to rent with Priscilla, the owner of the local  diner – ‘el comedor’. We are also going to pay some of the local kids to sell them in the hotels here to tourists.

The grand plan is to teach people how to make them and then pay them for the finished products they make and sell them under our brand, recognising each maker and paying them a good price.

Beyond coconut earrings

On Sunday, Carla and I had a date with the folks who have already started to create jewellery and other ‘artesania’ products to sell to tourists. An American guy came last year to teach the locals how to transform coconuts into earrings, peach stones into carved key rings, mobiles, purses and more. The Mayor has invested money in equipment to help the process. The American guys didn’t come back for the second phase but there remains a lot of nice work created during the course, and some people keen to respark the business. The key players seem to be Janet, who runs the ‘beauty salon’ here, Dora who is the Mayor’s sister and looks after all the equipment and William, who knows how to use all the tools and is currently making more products to set up his own kiosk.

We were shown all the products already created. Here are a few examples, and the tools that exist.

Carla and I got quite inspired at the possibilities for using the equipment, which Dora said we can borrow. We think the jewellery and existing products are a bit fiddly/naff/not unique and don’t have a lot of potential for profit so we are thinking to create a new range of products which can be made quickly and easily by a range of people and which draw on the things unique to El Paredon.

We spoke to William about the potential of these morro fruits. When the inside is scraped out, the cask is very hard and light – perfect for souvenirs. We have commissioned William to prepare 10 for us, of different shapes.

After that meeting, we were given a big bag of shrimps for free by some local fishermen and so we took them to Sandra’s house and cooked them up for her family. After we ate, Kayley showed us some products she has been developing in her spare time – bracelets and these funny little creatures, which I kinda love.

It would be cool to find a space in the village to sell all the best work by local people and also the work we create through our project.

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