My long awaited custom made Guatemalan boots by Teysha arrived this week! My designer friend Kim Lewis connected me with a sweet American woman named Hanna who operates the Teysha workshop on the outskirts of Antiqua in Guatemala. When I visited Guatemala this summer I dragged my entire team to an area called Pastores where all the shoe and boot artisans work in Antigua because I had to have a pair!
In the little village of Pastores, up a steep concrete hill and hidden behind a metal gate (with no sign), Hanna greeted us with her adorable toe-headed baby boy on her hip. It was great to get a tour and meet the very small group of artisans that hand make every boot and shoe at Teysha.
I got to pick out which textile I wanted for my boot. So many beautiful, authentic embroideries to choose from!
Then Hanna measured my foot. Now this is the exciting part because I have small feet but they are really flat and I have old age bunions starting to form so finding comfortable shoes is getting more and more difficult. Hanna drew my foot and measured it in three places.
While I was waiting for my very special boots to arrive from Guatemala, lovingly and expertly made by hand by my new friends, I thought I’d interview Hanna for your reading pleasure.
Here’s what I asked her:
1. How long have you lived in Guatemala and what was the impetus to leave the States?
I moved down to Guatemala in early 2013 to help Travis with this crazy idea he had to start a shoe workshop with the artisans of Pastores. I thought I would be in Guatemala a few months, perhaps, and never dreamed I would be starting my family here!
2. Tell us a little bit about how Teysha came to be.
Teysha came to be after the founders, Sophie and Travis, decided to join their love of artisans and their crafts with a sustainable business model to help these artisans expand their horizons and opportunities. Teysha began working first in Panama and Colombia with the amazing Mola artisans of the Kuna Islands. We first made ballet flats there, and then decided to expand to the Guatemalan paradise of gorgeous textiles and legendary shoe-makers. I came into the picture when making custom boots in a foreign land required someone down on the ground seeking out beautiful textiles and working directly with the artisans.
3. What are your goals for the company in terms of employees, products, etc.
The goal of Teysha is to empower each artisan we work with to hone their craft and create products that can support them and their families for lifetimes to come. The main obstacle that artisans face in Guatemala is an access to high-quality materials and access to a wider market. Pastores has been a legendary shoe-making town for decades, but access to the internet and foreign markets has been very limited. We are hoping that by supporting the artisans here and providing a connection to the market, we can empower artisans to take charge of their art and be able to make a living wage. Sustaining the textile art of Latin America and the handmade techniques of the shoemakers in Pastores are our highest priorities!
4. Besides your adorable son, what has been your most fun creation at Teysha?
Each day at Teysha is very exciting for me, as we are constantly working to improve our current products and dreaming up new ones! My favorite creations recently have been some fun new styles that we haven’t released yet…Look out for a new sleek tall boot and a super fun chukka re-style! We are also working to get our workshop in Pastores converted into a full-on design center, so i’m super excited about that!
5. What do you love most about Guatemala?
I love Guatemala for the people and the environment! It is such a beautiful country, my dream landscape of lush mountains, forests, lakes, and volcanos. The people here are so friendly, optimistic, and striving for a better future for the country. Just look at the news from the region – Guatemala has been leading peaceful protests against corruption in the government and they are getting results! It is very exciting to be in a country where the people care so much, that they are changing history and moving mountains to make their voices heard!
6. What has been the biggest challenge living in Guatemala?
The biggest challenge at the beginning was adjusting my expectations of how things “should” be, what times the buses “should” run, what the groceries stores “should” stock, how often the electricity “should” be running…There are a lot of things that don’t go as expected or as planned in Guatemala on a daily basis. Once I understood that, and was able to let go of my expectations, my time was much improved! And it really has taught me a lot about going with the flow, about anxiety, stress, and the brightness of life without pressure.
And now, drum roll please……. my gorgeous new boots!
After traveling to Guatemala 8 times now, I am amazing at how many transplanted Americans are there doing GREAT things – from helping the artisans to elevate their craft like Teysha or to bringing the best Texans barbecue to Antiqua or to changing lives thru mission work like our friends at CRI.
I will be traveling back to Guatemala this December for a wedding and to play santa at the orphanage again so watch the blog for that news!