In the week from April 8 to 12, the Azuero Eco Foundation hosted the first Eco-Artisans workshop,taught by Marilex Sánchez, artisan and weaving expert who is also a member of the Five Pines Cooperative from Nicaragua (Cooperativa de Cinco Pinos de Nicaragua). Marilex uses natural materials such as pine leaves mixed with yarn to create innovative objects like headbands, baskets, bags, and earrings. The workshop aimed to explore the combination between the techniques which Marilex uses with the local materials found in the Azuero peninsula, for example the cogollo, the heart of the Panama hat palm (Carludovica palmata), which has traditionally been used for colored hats.
The workshop was open to the public and advertised on our social media profiles and website with an immediate response, as many people registered to attend the workshop and learn the technique. A diverse group of people participated in the workshop, from local expats to experienced artisans from the surrounding communities and young people who form part of our environmental education program “Pro Eco Pelaos.”
It was a very rewarding week, and the artisans quickly learned and enjoyed the techniques which Marilux taught them. The Eco-Artisans project was created as a collaboration with National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions to promote innovative and resilient practices in artisanal traditions. The official name of the initiative is “Eco-Artisans of Azuero: Capacity-building for the creation of objects which promote the preservation of natual resources” (“Eco Artesanos de Azuero: Construyendo capacidad para crear accesorios que promuevan la conservación de recursos naturales”), and its purpose is to create crafts and innovative products using the locally available natural resources and materials, which will help to promote the cultivation, reproduction and preservatio of the resources.
The first phase of the project consisted in organizing a dialogue with artisans from the region who were willing to share their point of views and to understand the current “market” situation of artisans. During this dialogue, the artisans reviewed a portfolio of products and crafts made with natural materials from Central America to evaluate which of the employed techniques they would like to learn more about. They were most interested in the crafts with natural materials made by Marilex Sánchez from Nicaragua.
The innovative products which Marilex taught the participants of the workshop to make addressed the demand of the buyers of crafts who are looking for products which are different, unique and affordable. By the end of the week, we announced that we would keep in touch with the Eco-Artisans to invite them to our upcoming workshops and to learn how to cultivate and harvest the heart of the Panama hat palm. Additionally, we offered the artisans the opportunity to present their creations and sell their prodcuts in the FESTARTE festival in the city Las Tablas, a festival dedicated to arts, culture and gastronomy.
If you are interested in being part of our Eco-Artisans group, follow us on Facebook and Instagram (@proecoazuero) or visit our website for more information: .www.proecoazuero.org.