Having lived all her life in Mexico, designer Paola Sariñana learned the secrets behind Mexican artisans’ handmade products and became an expert. Together with her sister, Paola is currently running her mother’s business of Makaua –a company of artisans, producers and designers, working together to create beautiful handmade products for the home.
When we asked Paola about the story behind Makaua’s beautiful handwoven palm baskets, bags and placemats, her past suddenly came to her mind. “The story of Makaua began with my mother –Beatriz. She had always dreamed to sell handmade Mexican products to other countries. One day, she saw a man selling palm placemats and she thought it would be a great idea to show them to a store in the US. They loved it! However, she faced many challenges when it came to locating where the pieces were made and who made them. Long story short, – she did it – she built a good long-lasting relationship with the community of artisans who made those products. Now we have been working together for over 16 years.”
Paola and her sister are now taking up the business their mother left in their hands. It’s no coincidence that ‘Makaua’, in the ancient Náhuatl language, means both ‘from hand to hand’ and ‘the act of giving a hand’.
Keeping in mind Mexico’s multicolored culture and traditions, Paola explains there is nothing as special as a handmade product that represents a story and the person who made it.
“By adding the element of modern design, we strive to create contemporary and useful pieces that merge both tradition and timeless simplicity. We like designing custom made products for our clients.”
“We believe and promote the value of true connections between people, between stories, and between different worlds.”
“We believe less is more, and that sophistication goes hand in hand with simplicity.”
Later in her story, Paola told us about the fascinating process Makaua artisans follow when they create a handwoven basket. Working from home, they maintain their way of life and they are able to be with their families.
“The palm tree grows abundantly in the Southern mountains of Mexico. For centuries, the people of the region have made use of this natural fiber to create useful products such as baskets. During the process, palm leaves are cut, boiled and left to dry under the sun. After the leaves are dry, people make braids out of them, using each leaf as a strand. This is done using a braiding technique that has been passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years. Palm braids are then dyed by very talented artisans and, finally, they use sewing machines to make the final product.”
Paola’s house is 80% palm products. Every day she uses Makaua palm placemats, palm puffs and palm baskets of every size and for any need. A full display of their products can be found in a wonderful showroom they have in La Condesa, Mexico City.
“The apartment building for our showroom is called Edificios Condesa. It was built in the early 1900s and is a staple in this area of the city. The apartment is very spacious and full of natural light. Here we have a selection of pieces of different models and colors. It is a space we share with two other brands that have a style that goes very well with ours, so I think we have created a pretty cool space.”
As the ‘Makaua’ name suggests, it has always been very important for them to work hand in hand as a team during every part of the process– from the person who cuts the palm leaves, to the person who does the finishing process, to the person who sells the product.
“We are very proud to be able to offer a dignified source of income to people who live in one of the most vulnerable areas of our country. Artisans set the price of each product that they make, so they are always paid fairly. It is great being able to share these amazing products and the story behind them with people from all over the world –like you, MiND.”
“We offer much more than a product. We are sharing a story, a concept, a way to connect. We believe our products should reflect a connection between nature, culture, tradition and between the hands and soul of the artisan and the heart and eyes of distant worlds.”
With such a beautiful collection of Mexican products, we were curious about their next catalogue and if they have any upcoming exhibitions or projects.
“We create two collections per year (Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter). Currently, we are displaying our SS 2019 Collection at the trade show called ‘NYNow’. In fact, we just got back from New York where we usually go two times a year to show our newest products. In general, we mainly sell our products to stores and we are getting more and more clients who have online stores. Many of them do very well, so thankfully there is more work for us. Also, we are planning to open our online store for Mexico this year, and we are hoping to expand to the European market as well!”
We at MiND were really glad to discover Makaua’s story and we wish Paola and her team good luck with their new collections of palm products!
By: Lisa Zanon