All of our products are handmade by indigenous Mayan Indians, living along the shore of Lake Atitlan in the highlands of Guatemala. Many of the people there make a living as subsistence farmers or by working as laborers on large farms or coffee plantations. Making and selling beautiful beadwork and artisan crafts are an important source of cash income for these families.
We practice Fair Trade principals and more, also helping with education and medical expenses. We have started a wonderful new educational scholarship program in 2017 helping all our employees and artisans with English classes and higher professional education or university degrees. It costs about $1,000.00 US per year to send someone to college, plus a laptop computer, books and transportation, about $200.00 US per month. It is almost impossible for them to pay this amount of money in their own country, but we can do it from the U.S. based on our small profit margin and a small inheritance I recently received. This has been a most unexpected gift from God, the Divine and the "Higher Power" or whatever term you use. I'm just glad it's here!
This scholarship program is probably one of the best things I have ever done in my entire life, and will create GENERATIONAL CHANGE. The adults who have gained professional degrees will qualify be able to have jobs that will pay for their children to go to school, and on and on and on. There is little to no help for higher education, and the government only pays for grades one to three in grammar school, so many people end up with a third grade education and know only how to read, write and do math at the most elementary level. But with training, English and computers, they will all be ready to "meet the world" and take their place in the world, right where they belong. Bravo!
I am so pleased to be able to help to all the students from our group that are applying themselves and doing so well.
God bless the children and the older ones who will make a difference for their families, their culture and their country. My small inheritance was a "miracle in the making," and I can't thank God and the angels above for influencing the person who left this money to me, now to be shared with so many. Such small gifts can make such a huge difference for the people in Guatemala, and becomes an ongoing gift to be handed down through the generations in so many ways.
Working with our wonderful employees and artisans has become the Light of my Life, and any interested parties can contact me for more information or ways they can help. We don't ask for money, nor do we "give it out." We offer a HAND UP, not a HAND OUT!
"The winds of grace blow all the time; all we need do is set our sails." Dear God please show me The Way.
And this is ONE WAY. Love to all, Catherine Todd, AtitlanArts.com
Beading co-op in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, with just a few of the Mayan artisans we work with at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Our good friend Rosario Ratzan is far left in her family's workshop.
A portion of all our sales has gone to support different groups around Lake Atitlan each year. We support many different projects around the lake, including helping to redo the computer lab at Robert Muller LIFE School, a multicultural, bilingual K-9 school located in Panajachel, one of the thirteen villages on the shores of Lake Atitlan, where we live in Guatemala.
We offer ongoing support to Mayan Families, who help countless indigenous families with many educational and medical programs around Lake Atitlan. For more information and the ways you can help, see MayanFamilies.org. Volunteers and donations are always welcome at this fine organization. See more on their webpage.
We follow fair trade principles and support the families of the artisans we work with. We offer jobs, medical & educational expenses and many extra-curricular activities. They are considered "friends and family" in Guatemala. We couldn't ask for more.
HOW WE PRACTICE "FAIR TRADE"
We practice Social Responsibility, Fair Trade principles and help the families of our artisans with medical and educational expenses. The artisans can always count on a bit more than the normal going rate, and they work from the comfort of their own home, enabling them to care for children, family members and daily life. We have regular production meetings and don't burden them with strict deadlines, enabling them to work at their own pace.
We pay transportation expenses to and from our home/office, as transportation by boat, bus or taxi / tuc-tuc alone can cost the artisan half of what they might earn! We also provide umbrellas in the rainy season!
We offer help with medical and educational expenses, books, tools and materials, and bring instruction and design manuals, work and craft products from the United States that they can't find anywhere in Guatemala. Benefits and materials are probably one of the most important things we do, as they would never receive this working here in Guatemala. We open new markets in the United States and Europe where they can sell their products, which they would never be able to do on their own. So it's a very mutually beneficial arrangement. And fun for us, too! Can you imagine spending your days working with this beautiful beadwork, and coming up with new designs all the time?
The artisans love receiving beading books and magazines that they have never seen before. They can't read English, but it doesn't matter, as they look at the photograph and immediately begin counting the beads! I am truly amazed at the ingenuity shown by the Mayan people, regardless of what might be a stumbling block to others. The patience and dedication to their craft and their skill shines through in every piece, in every time.
We support MayanFarmilies.org in Panajachel and many other music and educational scholarships, charities and community projects every year.
• QUALITY: We use the best quality materials available, including premier Czech glass beads, solid magnets and first quality embroidery and weaving threads. We bring many new types of materials from the United States with new techniques to do premier quality work. We also produce "museum-quality" work which is sold in museums, boutiques and gift shops all over the world. We do quite a bit of custom work for libraries, special exhibitions, museums and stores. Quality, unique design & attention to detail are the watch words in our business.
• FAIR TRADE: We pay fair trade wages and still sell at competitive prices. We offer our artisans interest-free loans, help cover individual and family medical expenses, and provide educational materials with the use of computers and more, as there is little if any governmental assistance for what we take for granted in the U.S. The benefits we offer are as important as the wages we pay.
• ARTISAN BENEFITS: Along with medical and educational expenses, we help the artisans we work with to purchase or receive English lessons, eyeglasses, Onil stoves and Eco-Water filters. We have initiated a program where they can grow their own food on land where we have, using intensive organic gardening techniques. We hope to expand this program to the entire Lake Atitlan region in the coming years. The best "Fair Trade" is to help people help themselves. And that is what our work is doing. Everyone is happy, and everyone comes out ahead!
• TRAINING: We introduce new materials & techniques to this region as the artisans do not have access to the multitude of materials we have in the United States or Europe. We hold regular training sessions to introduce new techniques, materials and ideas. We help the artisans learn how to calculate costs for the cost of materials and the hours worked on each piece, so they can charge a fair rate for their products. We use the beautiful existing techniques and designs created by the indigenous Mayans and adopt them for the U.S. and European market, including sizing, styles, colors and designs.
• DESIGN: The creativity shown by the people here surpasses practically anything we've seen before, and is on par with France and Italy. This creative spirit must be encouraged by the spirit of lovely Lake Atitlan, which has been called the "Eighth Wonder of the World." A visit here is encouraged for you to "come and see for yourself." You won't be disappointed!
• GUARANTEE: We offer a life-time guarantee to our customers. If something breaks at any point in time, we will repair or replace it, or offer a gift certificate for the original cost if you pay shipping costs to return it.
Our motto is "When in doubt, err on the side of generosity." Works every time!
• GUARANTEED SALE: To our stores and wholesale customers: if something does not sell, you can exchange it for something else that will sell in your area, at any point in time.
• CUSTOMER SATISFACTION: There is no time limit for Customer Satisfaction. Our artisans and customers are the reason we do this beautiful work, and we hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Thank you for your continued support!
• WHOLESALE / BULK PRICES: For wholesale prices, bulk rates, special orders, discount festival/fair codes or shipping, contact us anytime by email or telephone. We're happy to discuss whatever your special needs might be.
AtitlanArts (at) gmail.com, USA tel (919) 693-0853, Guatemala (502) 7762-1004
or free Skype tel (rings on my computer wherever I am) NC 919-725-7336
skype name: catherinetodd (free call computer to computer!)
We are based in Oxford, North Carolina USA and Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, and visit our customers in North Carolina, New York and nationwide in museums, zoos, stores, festivals and fairs on a regular basis. We live and work in all these areas, and love every minute of it!
COPYRIGHT © : All pages, text, designs and images are protected by © copyright 2013 and forward.
Please note that all our unique handmade designs and our website has © copyright protection, which is done to protect the income and livelihood of the artisans we work with. If you would like to use text, images or designs, permission must be received in writing. Our company names Atitlan Arts and AtitlanArts.com are trademarked.
Contact Catherine Todd at: AtitlanArts (at) gmail.com.
Designs often go through many transformations as they wind their way around the world, and it's no different in Guatemala. If something looks "familiar" to you and you think it's your design, please let us know. If you would like to copy one of our designs, please write for permission. We do supply beads and materials you may purchase on request. If you would like to teach a class or workshop, we would love to have you! Contact us about travel arrangements, room and board and more. Thank you!
Ancelma Morales, one of our finest beaders in our artisan family and friend
died 5 January 2013 ~ 47 years old
Rest in Peace ~ We Miss You So Much