Unique Batik Blog

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Pompom and tassel trend

We’re in full summer mode here at Unique Batik and we’ve got lots of great ideas to help you make the most of your adventures – in style.

Do you love the pompom and tassel trend? From totes to clutches, we’ve got a variety to choose from in a range of colors for every occasion. What makes ours special? They’re handmade in Guatemela, and each piece is unique in its craftsmanship.

Related post:  Las Mujeres De Panabaj: Working Together to Rebuild

Guatemala is known for its vibrant and vivid colors, where artisans take pride in their patterns, materials and creations. There’s something for everyone – whether you like a bit of whimsy or a simple a pop of color. If you’re looking for one-of-kind style and authenticity, go the Fair Trade route!

Pompom and tassels at Unique Batik

Shop our Unique Batik bags


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Guatemalan Traditions: Natural Dyes

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Income is more valuable than ever for women in Guatemala, as construction jobs are disappearing for their husbands. Many women are now the sole wage earners in their households. With pressure to support their families and raise their children, Natural Dye Co-ops are popping up all over Guatemala.

Unique Batik partners with natural dye artisans living in San Juan la Laguna, which is located on the western shore of Lake Atitlan. San Juan la Laguna is a quiet, clean village of about 8,000 residents.  Off the beaten (tourist) path, its resulting relaxed atmosphere allows visitors to get away from the bustle of the city and experience the genuine friendliness of the indigenous Guatemalan people.

In the co-op, the women have perfected ways to create dyes from coffee, avocado, berries, cocoa, tree bark, and other plants.

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Cotton thread is dyed in these homemade mixtures and then woven to make scarves,

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clothing, household items, and handbags.

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Shades of green pulled from avocado; Coral red plucked from achote seed; Neutral shades drawn from eucalyptus and guava.

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By using local plants, many of which are growing in the back yards of the women, sourcing ingredients takes much less time. Some of the plants used can even result in various colors, depending on how long the yarns are left to boil in the dye vats. For example, the sacatinta plant yields blue to grey to charcoal, all dependent on boiling time.

Support these talented women and shop our entire line of Natural Dye items HERE.

Download a printable Natural Dye Color Chart HERE. 

 


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10 Simple Ideas for Summer Entertaining

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This is our absolute favorite time of year. The warmer temperatures outside have everyone out of their winter slumber and ready to get social. Whether you want to host a backyard barbecue or a weekend brunch, we have 10 Simple Ideas to make Backyard Entertaining an absolute breeze!

1.Design an easy menu

Choose easy dishes that you can prepare ahead of time, that way you can enjoy the outdoor party without getting stuck in the kitchen. Cut fruit, dips, spreads, and baked goods can be easy to whip up the day before. One of our favorite make-ahead dishes for a barbecue is this Loaded Baked Potato Salad from The Shabby Creek Cottage.

2. Keeps drinks simple

Just like the food, decide your beverages beforehand and keep it simple. Depending on the occasion, wine and beer may be an easy choice, but always be sure to include non-alcoholic options as well. We are currently obsessed with infused water – not only does it taste delicious but it’s super easy to make ahead of time!

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3. And you can easily take drinks to the next level with these impressive looking (yet easy to make) ice buckets from The Chic Site:

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4. Speaking of drinks…

Keep the drinks in a separate area from the food. This will encourage guests to mingle, and will keep folks from trying to balance plates and cups.

5. And keep those drinks bug free!

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We love this idea for using a simple cupcake liner to top your cup to keep your drink in and bugs out.

Entertaining in the summer means great weather, but warmer temperatures can almost mean bugs, so don’t forget about the food –

6.Serve salads and fruit in large glass canisters with a lid, like these from 4 Men 1 Lady:

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That way guests can serve themselves without worrying about flies in their food.

7. Another simple solution for bugs, use slices of lemon pierced with cloves on and around food as a natural repellant. 

8. And if you’re hosting guests near water, provide a simple station with bug spray and sunscreen.

9. Keep dessert straightforward with a serve yourself Ice Cream Bar.

Fill a cooler with ice and top with salt to keep it cool without melting. Add a few pints of ice cream, a scoop, and cones – you’re done!

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You can even take it to the next level by providing marshmallows – guests can add one to the bottom of their cone to keep the ice cream from melting out.

10. Lastly, keep decor simple by using fresh flowers and fruit. 

Bouquets of fresh flowers are so easy to decorate with, and guests can take them when they leave – no clean up required!

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Shop this look HERE.

You can also keep bowls of lemons, limes, and oranges (that you can use for drinks) to add pops of color to your tablescape without the waste!

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New for Spring – Florecita Line

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Coco Chanel iconisized the Little Black Dress, a simple design that any woman could keep in her closet and dress up or down depending on the occasion. Created to match anything and everything, the versatility of a basic wardrobe piece is the reason that the LBD continues to resonate nearly 100 years later.

And our newly expanded Florecita accessory line is essentially the Little Black Dress for your purse! Timeless design in great neutral colors – a basic for any wardrobe. Bold prints and fun colors are always great for brightening up displays and keeping inventory interesting, but don’t forget the appeal of the basic accessory that never loses it’s season.

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At the top of the new line: The Florecita Paris – your new go-to large handbag.

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Available in an array of colors, this lightweight carry all boasts long leather handles for over the shoulder ease (think Longchamp…but Fair Trade!) and a large interior that you’re going to love! Plus with it’s neutral colors, it can easily translate from Spring to Fall – we love that kind of versatility!

Next up, the Florecita Purse.

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Just like it’s larger partner Paris, our Florecita purse has sweet leather detailing but also includes a cross-body strap. Perfect for the person who wants a small bag with a bit of room, the zippered top offers more space and keeps essentials safely tucked inside.

Another great cross-body option, the Florecita Snap.

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One of the best details of this small bag: the strength of the snap! Items inside will never fly out; a must-have feature in a sweet little travel bag.

Another great travel bag option: the Florecita Passport

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and for just the essentials: Florecita Double Pocket Cell

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Both the Passport and the Double Pocket Cell have zippered pockets for added security and a longer cross-body strap for ease of use.

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But one of the best features of the Pocket Cell: its lightly padded lining to keep cell phones safe. This case is great for a grab-and-go trip or to toss in a larger tote.

For the person who wants a coin zip with a little room, the Florecita Two-Zip.

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Doubling as a wallet, the two-zip gives you the option of carrying cards, coins, or both!

And finally, last but certainly not least, the Florecita Coin rounds out the collection:

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The entire collection is handmade in the highlands of Guatemala, by talented Fair Trade artisans with an eye for detail. Each purse and pouch is incredibly well-made, hand-crafted to used for any adventure!

 

 


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Artisan Spotlight: Carmelita Ramos

In honor of International Women’s Day, we’re reposting this Artisan Spotlight on one of our favorite leaders: Carmelita Ramos. Enjoy!

Sparkling beads dance across her hands as Carmelita Ramos creates earrings and bracelets to sell to customers in the distant land of the United States. Her dreams of earning a living and educating her children were once just as distant, but through her work and creativity and her connection with fair trade, those dreams have become a reality. Carmelita’s story did not begin so differently from that of many, many other women in Guatemala. Being able to sell her handicrafts to a fair trade company like Unique Batik has given her the hand up — not handout — that changed the course of her life.

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Carmelita making the carnival bracelet

Born into a family of thirteen children in the rural mountain village of San Jorge in the department of Solola, Carmelita’s challenges in life started early. None of the girls in her family were sent to school. This is still true for many girls in Guatemala; of the two million children who do not attend school, most are indigenous girls living in rural areas. In fact, 90% of these girls do not attend secondary school. Carmelita was no exception.

With no education, Carmelita’s options were few. She became a maid at a young age, which is a typical path, with 98% of domestic workers being women and 70% of domestic workers being indigenous Maya. However, Carmelita’s story took a turn when, through her employers, she began making jewelry to sell for export. She immediately showed promise as a designer, creating an original bracelet featuring bamboo and making oven mitts out of scrap fabric. For her first significant order, she received a paycheck of Q1200 (the equivalent of $150 US dollars).  It brought tears to her eyes because she had never seen a Q100 note.

Carmelita’s creativity and ingenuity have been a big factor in her success as an artisan. Now part of a jewelry making cooperative of eleven people, all family members, Carmelita sources the beading materials herself and trains co-op members how to make new jewelry designs. Unlike many other artisans in the area, when Carmelita’s group creates exclusive new designs for a customer, they do not sell them to anyone else. The group members work from their own homes, but confer on pricing, production, and any other issues that might come up.

Carmelita and Maria

Today, not only has Carmelita’s story defied expectations, but her leadership of the artisan co-op has influenced the lives of many others. Her own daughter, Maria, has graduated with a degree in business administration.  She has partially paid for her education and transportation to school through part-time work making beaded jewelry with the artisan co-op. Another group member, Marta, has five children, for whom Marta desperately wanted an education. Her husband did not support her dream, but through her earnings as an artisan, all of Marta’s children have gone to school.  Since the time her jewelry work began, Carmelita and her husband, Juan, have gone from living with her mother-in-law to buying their own land and building a two-story cement block house — an extraordinary accomplishment for a woman who started with no education and no means.

The journey has not been without its challenges. Competition in the area is fierce for beaders, keeping their wages low. There is even a “bead mafia” which controls the availability of beads, so Carmelita’s group is not always able to source the colors they need. US buyers are not always reliable, and it is the long-term, fair trade relationship with Unique Batik that has made a difference in the success of Carmelita’s group. Ten years ago, a US buyer placed a big order for beaded jewelry from women in Carmelita’s village, then pulled out without paying the women for their work. A mutual acquaintance gave Carmelita Unique Batik owner Sharon Gale’s phone number. Carmelita called Sharon for help, and that began the relationship between Unique Batik and Carmelita’s cooperative.

Carmelita’s talent as a designer is special, but without the opportunities created by fair trade purchases, even with all her hard work and creativity, the story might not have such a happy ending. Given the opportunity to be treated with integrity and turn her gifts into a secure life for her family, Carmelita has transformed her own narrative. Thanks for being part of her happy ending


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Principles of Fair Trade: Capacity Building

We have all heard the old adage “give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.” Perhaps a better adage for the world of fair trade would be “buy fish from a November 2014 blog1 man for a fair price, he eats for a year; show him how to craft a better net, he eats for a lifetime.” Possibly not as catchy…but it’s a good illustration of one of the important principles of fair trade — capacity building.

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Batik: Layered Beauty

Batik has been around for centuries, in lands as diverse as Japan, India, and Egypt. As an art form that grew and thrived in multiple cultures before the time of recorded history, it is IMG_0467impossible to trace its direct origins, but there is no doubt about its popularity in West Africa today. Textiles have long played an important role in many African cultures, often carrying with them symbolic meaning, communicating social cues, and being used ceremonially. Batik gained popularity in the region as early as the sixteenth century, when Dutch soldiers and tradesmen brought the fabrics from Indonesia, introducing them into coastal markets. Once there, the cloth spread inland and quickly became assimilated into local cultures, which then influenced the patterns being produced and made the fabric their own.

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