Bags for Barbie Dolls, Mobile Phone Charms, Tipica mobile phone cases and more. This week orders have started to come in for bespoke beadwork, and as ever with me, nothing is exactly conventional or straightforward.
First the bags for Barbie Dolls. Judy is a lady who I met before Christmas when she was out here with Miracle in Action or s they used to be known the Airline Ambassadors. She and her fellow volunteers do a lot of fundraising to support their projects, and buy beads in Guatemala to sell in the States at a profit. In fact Judy, Marti and the crew were in fact the first official customers of moSTANcilla. ( see www.miraclesinaction.org for more details). Now when Jan was around I was still undecided about whether I should stay or not to continue suporting the women, and she really gave me the confidence to take the decision I wanted to take. To raise funding for her trip she had sold a British herbal remedy on E'Bay in the States, but still had money left over from these sales at the end of her trip. She generously gave me $100 to encourage me to stay and continue the project. The money was a great gift, but even more important to me was the fact that she believed that I could make a difference here and this gave me thr courage to take the decision that I knew I wanted to make.
Anyway when Judy comes down to Guatemala she often brings toys for disadvantaged children. She explained to me that good condition second hand Barbies were the easiest to come by, although not her first choice, but that she likes to dress them up nicely to make them look new for the children. Bags can be hard to come by apparently, so she asked meover Christmas whether we could make some Barbie sized bags to accesorise her Barbies. In fact she even sent me a photo of a Barbie sized bag next to a ruler so we could get the size right.
In Panabaj, no job is too small or too much trouble, so we set about making some samples. The ladies were tickled pink in true Barbie fashion and we have currently 12 of the 33 bags that Judy has ordered ready for her.
While I was away in the UK, Tomoko from Japan turned up at the house. Lucy (Oxfam UK) had kindly put her in touch with us. Anyhow, after my year in Japan I love the Japanese as those of you who know me well know, so I was looking forward to meeting her, and she came back again this week. I was also kid of expecting the order to be unusual as indeed it turned out to be. Apprently Japanese are currently going wild for mobile phones and she wants to order 200 to sell back in Japan to support her NGO. The charms should be about 2cm long, and will be in different animal forms. so far we have fish, parrots, lizards, quetzales, frogs, dolphins, butterflies and cats. We are going to try for a few tortoises, monkeys and maybe even a complementary fruit and veg range!!! I hear that bag charms are the thing at home, so maybe we can enlarge the designs for the UK market too!
On Tuesday I met Penny who is the founder of Miracles in Action. Penny has been selling beads for years, but was disappointed recently by her usual supplier, so has given us the opportunity to make at selection of samples for her, and if the quality is high we may have her long term business. Penny does a lot of luncheon talks for ladies groups in the states talking about her work in Guatemala, but she also has a system in place for schools who sell beads on her behalf to make funds. She gives them a bag of narrow 100 beaded bracelets which cost her $100 )she is paying a fair price), and the children have to sell them for $5 each. I am sure that we could do something simliar at home.
Anyway as well as working with beads, Penny asked us if we would be able to copy and idea she found in China. In China she had bought a mobile phone case in the style of a mandarin costume. Could we make these in traditional Guatemalan style? She would be able to get a sewing machine for us if we could. Well as I happen to know a taylor who lost his machine in the landslide I said yes of course, and bombed down to talk to Susie who is running a weaving project afterwards. Could she ask the women to keep their scraps from the neck of their guipiles to make these cases? Of course she said. I can´t wait until I can post the photos.
Other than that this week we have had some success in finding places to leave the products for sale. There is fair trade shop in Panajachel,and Laura the manager is going to let us leave our produce there, and will offer some guidance in terms of contacts and marketing which is fantastic. A shop in Antigua wants some samples, and a very posh hotel (Antigua Porta Hotel= has placed an order for their gift shop, and a lady from the States bought $150 dollars worth. Dorothy Craw in Newcastle continues to come up trumps with contacts here in Guatemala as well as at home. Actually it turns out that she visted a project here next door to where I live. Her friend, Vey Smithers, has a shop in Antigua called Colibri and has very generously offered us her advice, contacts and support.
Another exciting developent this week is that my friend Lucy from Oxfam asked her friend who is jewellry designer at home whether she would be able to design an exclusive designe for the women to make up and she kindly said yes. More on this soon! Hopefully Lorenda´s (Lorenda Reddekopp-our favourite Canadian radio journalist) friend who used to work for Glamour magazine will be able to make this into an article and sell it to some glossys too!
On the day to day stuff we have started to make an audit of the skills each lady has in terms of what styles she knows how to make. This will enable us to match what we need making up to who can do it more easily in the short term, but also enables us to organise classes led by the women themselves so that they can learn from each other. We had our first two classed this week, in which ladies who only knew how to make bags and bracelets learnt how to make two styles of necklaces. I tried to learn too, but I think I need special needs support! I´ll blame it on the size of my fingers, which are twice the size of these very small boned folk here.
So the next imminent tasks are ordering more colours to make up Penny´s order, get more quotes for postage to the UK, and find out for definate the quantity of import tax or duty we would need to pay, then I can send some stuff back home to you generous supporters!
Talking of support in the UK, I´d like to thank as well as Dorothy, also Sarah Garside and her year 8 form class at Sir Robert of Newnminster RC school in Washington Tyne and Wear for their support. They were due to do an assembly about the disaster this week, for which I thank them kindly. Also cousin Lindsay who didn´t know that she had volunteered to ring the UK customs and excise people for us, but who is also planning an Open University module about the project again to raise awareness and support.
On the negative front there have been a few reminders this week of the need to take extra care of your own personal safety this week. My friend is bravely recovering from a violent attack in which she had a lot of money stolen, and some disappointed thief made away with my diary thinking it was a wallet.
Anyway I´m going to try and work out how to post some photos now, before heading of to a reggae festival for Saturday night.