What Does Artisan-Made Mean?

In a society that heavily mass-produces, I am constantly fascinated by brands who ethically source artisans in communities around the world to lead their slow manufacturing process, to honor the heritage and skill that is often found in these communities. This small-scale model, is a huge step in offering a shift in our culture’s reliance on mass production. Offering the alternative to purchase products that are made by hand, slowly and consciously whether it be in the U.S. or sourced elsewhere.  


Of course, it is a complicated idea to hop over to Bali (let's say) and find a textile weaver to create the dresses you are wanting to sell here in the U.S. There is a delicate balance of deeply understanding the culture, community, and economy within these places before this type of business model can be possible and not to mention ethical. 


My friend Renata’s brand Muna Skye is a wonderful example of this artisan-made model. Her stunning bag collection was started in 2017 in a small town in Nicaragua where her family is from. I wanted to learn more about her process and hear how it call started:

My parents built a home in a city called Masaya which is known for their abundance of colorful textiles, ceramics, and leather goods. I spent most of my life traveling between LA and Nicaragua and most of my family still lives there. I work with multiple artisans that I found through word-of-mouth and trial and error. It took months of sampling my designs before I started selling my bags. The materials I use are all native to Nicaragua and we will only use materials that are sustainable or reusable. No synthetic dyes, plastics or finishes.

This slow design process is an involved one and I wanted to learn more about the start-to-finish production process: 

I start off the design process with a hand sketch and the artisans create the mold for me. There are certain styles that the artisans create on their own, I take those designs and tweak them to make them more unique. Being able to work with artisans that have been perfecting their craft for years and have handed down their skills for generations, that is what inspires me the most. Also, being able to give back to my community and help create sustainable incomes for them.

We don’t often consider where our products are made or even who made them. We are most concerned with the final result. This way of thinking allows for an overabundance of products being sold, unethical labor practices and the loss of heritage driven craftsmanship. Of course, we don’t need to only shop artisan made but understanding where our products are made, and who made them, is extremely important in helping to eliminate our society’s mass-produced way of shopping. 

Photos by: Felicia Lasala

Jumpsuit: Reformation

Bags: Muna Skye

Dress: hand-dyed silk vintage dress