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Blog posts tagged with '2014'

Artisan Spotlight: Diego Ravinal

Everything old is new again, right? At its best, fashion takes classics that have been around for ages, and spins them into something new right before our eyes. Oscar de la Renta, Rachel Roy, Nicole Miller, and several other designers showed pearls for Spring 2014, but these weren’t your granny’s pearls. While pearls have an elegant, classic aesthetic, they take on a cool, young edge when mixed with more casual pieces.


At Unique Batik, we are always looking for ways to translate fun fresh trends into our handcrafted jewelry and bags, so we’re pleased to bring you the Pearl Circus Necklace and Pearl Circus 2 Strand as a great way to incorporate the pearl micro trend into your spring and summer wardrobe. These subtly dramatic pearl necklaces are created for us by the same family of artisans that makes our delightful Circus collection of jewelry, as well as our Rock Candy and Trapeze collections.

Pearl Circus


Led by artisan Diego Ravinal and based in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, the group is made up of Diego, his four sisters, and his brother-in-law. When their father died thirteen years ago, Diego had to abandon his education, leaving school to work and support the family. Diego was able to get a bank loan of Q3500 (the equivalent of $450) and set up a stall on one of the main streets in town, near the beach. There, he sold jewelry and other trinkets to tourists, as the town in which he lives is on a beautiful volcanic lake and is a popular vacation spot. Although doing business this way was enough to get by, Diego was unable to grow his business until he could find a wholesale buyer.

DiegoLake Atitlan

When Diego connected with Sharon and started making jewelry for Unique Batik, he was able to generate enough work for all four of his sisters. Diego’s family has not had the opportunity for much education -- both his mother and three of his sisters are illiterate and not all of them are able to speak Spanish fluently. This means that income generating opportunities are few and far between. Their work making jewelry allows them to contribute to the prosperity of the family, and gives them a voice in decision making. When making decisions about pay and production, the group dialogues and decides together.

ChonaElanaMariaDiego's Kids

Diego is proud of his work; he has created his own designs, and when people come to his stall and admire his jewelry, saying it is unique, it gives him energy to continue creating. He has also continued his education, going to school in the afternoons, and is only one class away from completing his studies and getting his diploma. In the six years of working together with his family he has built a successful business and now dreams of growing that business and building his own home in Santiago. Sure, it’s the same dream that people have had for generations...but some things never go out of style.




Mixing It Up for Spring

For Spring/Summer 2014, we’re excited to introduce a new collection of Unique Batik bags and scarves made in Guatemala. These au courant accessories reflect a couple of spring trends, including nautical inspired stripes and animal print. Mixed with another spring trend -- florals -- polka dots and leopard print look fresh, fun, and ready to go anywhere.


An important part of both our design process and our commitment as a fair trade organization is working with artisans to preserve cultural traditions while creating brand-new products that are on trend. Recycled huipils (embroidered blouses traditionally worn by Mayan women) have long been one of our favorite materials to use for bags of all sizes. Embroidery patterns from all over Guatemala make their way onto these beautiful, elaborate textiles and represent unique designs found in each region. As huipils become worn and unwearable, they are sold at the marketplace, which is how Unique Batik can bring you hand-embroidered work at affordable prices...another reason to love recycling!


With a little bit of ingenuity, these recycled huipils can become something completely new, both beautiful and practical for the way we live our lives here and now. Artisans appreciate design assistance, in regard to both functionality and form. Information, like what size to make a bag perfect for carrying your passport while traveling, and what colors are going to be hot this season, is exactly what they need to know to develop successful products. Often, it is an ongoing process. For example, when working on a new product, we talk about colors and they send us samples. Then, we communicate again and the samples are refined, until the artisans know exactly what colors to use to get consistent results.


Santos Perez is one of the many artisans who benefit from such design assistance. He and members of his extended family work together to create one of our favorite wardrobe staples, the striped scarf. Working in the village of San Antonio, the group makes foot loom and back strap loom scarves, with 21 women doing the iconic back strap weaving and three men working on the larger foot looms. The group is proud of the work that they do, both in keeping traditional weaving alive and in the quality of the products they make. They only use first quality thread that doesn’t fade or bleed when washed. The biggest challenge they have faced is finding a market for their handicrafts; through their sales to Unique Batik, they can provide for their families, including sending all of their kids to school.


Our new striped scarves crafted by Santos and his family feature color schemes influenced by two classic but always fresh trends. The red and white stripes reflect the nautical chic seen all over fashion runways for spring and summer. Earthy toned stripes are a take on the animal print craze that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Both of these manage to be trendy but never faddish. We think they look great paired with the mixed prints of our new bags, so don’t be afraid to mix it up and make it your own!

Polka Pot Passport and San Antonio Stripe ScarfPolka Dot Flap and San Antonio Stripe ScarfPolka Dot Eyeglass Case and San Antonio Stripe Scarf