Designing For a Better Life

A few weeks ago I met a man selling his hanging basket made of natural fiber twine on the street in San Pedro. I love the look of the wire frame and twine and have been wanting to create light fixtures from the same materials so I stop and start a conversation with the man I find out is named Pablo, from San Pablo. 


San Pablo is a small town in Lake Atitlan just a 15 minute tuk tuk ride from the more popular tourist town of San Marcos. San Pablo has no tourism and i doubt even has a hotel. It also doesn’t have much in the way of commerce like its neighbor, San Juan, known for its weaving cooperatives and Coffee production. Out of his bag Pablo pulls out a piece of cardboard an english speaker wrote for him asking for donations to buy school supplies for his town.

The cardboard note Pablo shares with English speaking tourists

The cardboard note Pablo shares with English speaking tourists

Pablo also tells me how he comes to sell his baskets that his family makes in San Pedro since there’s no one to buy them in San Pedro. Although I love the style I just don’t need a hanging basket today but pull out my phone and show him the Pinterest board I had already created for a line of lighting I’ve been working on.  He lit up with the opportunity to make the lighting pendants and shades from his wire and twine. He was excited at the opportunity and ready to get to work. We exchanged contact info and i promised to return with the pictures printed, some sketches and some money to buy materials. 

In the following two weeks before I returned Pablo called me weekly to check in and make sure I was still coming.  On the day we were to meet he was waiting for me and we rode back to his home in San Pablo where I met his family who all were artisans in their own right.  His daughter crocheted bikinis and typical souvenirs as well as sewed for clothing designers, one of which I recognized the piece she pulled out as an example of her work.  I spent the afternoon with pictures and sketches ordering the first 5 samples to be made.  I know it might take a few times to get the designs right before I'll have the prototype to photograph and market.   I left him with a deposit to buy materials and will be returning in 10 days to review the samples.

I know I have a special privilege to have access to a global community through the internet with my Etsy shop and contacts in the retail business in the US to buy in bulk.  I look for ways to help people by creating new products and getting them to market. I’m looking forward to creating a relationship with Pablo, getting to know his family and creating and selling these beautiful fixtures.

Carley MontgomeryComment