I've featured my friend Tory's hand-woven bags on my Intagram previously, but I have been wanting to do a more detailed post on her and her inspiring work with Ixchel Triangle for some time. She is one of the many independent creatives/entrepreneurs in my town, and I'm happy to share her work with you. She was kind enough to let me feature one of my favorite products she makes, which is the hand-woven Guatemalan yoga mat bag you see here modeled by my baby sister, Maya. It's perfect for carrying around my pilates mat and other gym accesories! She also sells woven bags, totes, and straps for cameras and guitars and no two are alike! Her business gives back to the community in which the bags are produced as well.
Also, Tory is allowing me to host a giveaway where you can win your our Ixchel Triangle yoga mat bag. To enter, first follow both @melissasonico and @ixcheltriangle on Instagram as well as following her Pinterest board here. For additional entries, you can repost/pin any of the photos from this blog post on my Pinterest board and Instagram using the hashtag #ixchelmelissayoga. Also comment below with which bag you might want, and that way we track who is entered in the contest. The contest runs from today 2/23 to Monday 3/2 at 12pm PST, so you have a week to enter! Go to the shop to choose a bag to win! The discount code 'ixchelmelissayoga' for 15% off will also be offered starting 3/12!
To find out more about Tory and her endeavors, read the interview below!
How did you get started with Ixchel Triangle?
My grandma moved to Guatemala when I was five, so this country, the people, and their culture have been a part of my life ever since. It was during a visit to Guatemala a few years ago that I decided to start Ixchel (pronounced E-shell) Triangle. I wanted to share the beauty of the Mayan culture while also supporting the Mayan people and their traditional style of weaving on a back-strap loom. A boy named Mario was one of my greatest motivators. Mario is exceedingly bright and motivated but was going to drop out of school, due to a lack of funds. I promised to fund his education including university as long as he didn't give up! He was the motivation I needed to start the business I had be thinking about for years. I'm happy to say that, through the support of Ixchel Triangle, Mario and now other children like him have been able to stay in school and receive the education they deserve. Mario is now just a few short years away from starting university.
What's the story behind the name?
There is an area in the highlands of Guatemala whose villages, comprised together, are known as the Ixchel triangle. It is in this area that some of our weavings are made. Also, Ixchel is the Mayan goddess of midwifery and fertility, which I love because I had my daughters at home with a midwife. It is said that Ixchel was the one to invent weaving.
What is your mission statement for Ixchel Triangle?
Bless the maker, bless the buyer. I will always work with co-ops, not a factory-- utilizing the cultural skills of people, not the mass production of machines. working with co-ops guarantees that our artisans are being paid and treated fairly, rather than used and abused as cheap labor. I believe that education is freedom which is why part of our proceeds are used to support the education of children in Guatemala, and our long term goal of creating a mobile library! Our Makers are being blessed through the proud work they do which enables them to support and educate their children. Our Buyers are blessed with amazing handmade products. Products they can be proud to carry because they were ethically made. A sign of this promise is the signature on all of our products: each item is signed by its maker, giving you a special connection and guarantee that this was handmade, with love, for you!
Tell us more about the designs and individual weavings?
Each weaving we use has been made on either a back-strap loom or a foot loom. The weavings typically take 3-4 weeks to complete, and no two are exactly the same. Each village has their own style of weaving, incorporating different things that are important to that village. For instance, some weavings will portray people working in the crops, while others concentrate on birds, or traditional Mayan animals. A few villages incorporate different flowers or geometric patterns into their weavings. The sun is very important to the Mayan people, and you will see sun rays are a very common part of their weavings. It's really sad, but some companies have started using machines to mimic these traditional weavings so that they can mass produce a ton of the same designs. This is the exact thing I will never do with our weavings and designs. I want to share the beauty of the Mayan culture with people, not rape it!
What is the process in producing the bags/straps?
Once we have our weavings to work with, we start on our leather which is all locally sourced in Guatemala. Every piece is measured and cut by hand. Our weavings are then trimmed to fit whichever product we are making, then the leather is sewn to the weavings with a sewing machine. This is the only time a machine comes into play. (Video by Tory below!)
What other creative outlets do you have?
I love to bake and dance! Before I started Ixchel Triangle, I was the bakery occupations teacher for San Bernardino County teaching inmates in county prison. So, whenever I need to think about something other than business, I go and create something delicious and then eat it! Whenever my girlfriends and I get together, we go dancing. There is almost nothing I love more than moving my body and dancing with good friends. A typical work day is a ton of emailing and phone calls, making sure orders are packed correctly and being shipped on time, plus the whole social media side of things. I can't always be in Guatemala, but we are in constant communication: we email and talk daily to make sure everything is running smoothly, and I also like to know how all of our artisans are doing. Sometimes a family member is ill or has passed away, etc. I like to keep close relations with everyone I work with and extend to them my love and support. I'm running a business but we are all human; I never want to forget this aspect of the relationship I have with our artisans. As for a day off? I think every small business owner knows you don't really have any days off. If i'm not physically doing something work-related, I'm thinking about business. But seriously, if I'm not working it's all about my girls! I have three daughters age 10, 5 1/2, and 3 1/2. They are usually with me while I work, and then when I'm free we are doing whatever they want. That's the beauty of having your own business: your family can be at the heart of it!
What's next for your line?
I recently came out with my Xit children's collection and that will be growing with some fun new pieces next season. We are about to release our first shoe, which has been a long time in the making, and I'm very proud of it! I'm really happy to say that we have some amazing guitar straps that are about to be released to the public as well. Currently only some select musicians and bands are using them like Delta Spirit, among others. I'll also be back down in Guatemala this month working on putting the final touches on a couple new bag/totes that will be out at the end of the year.