Seven Story Market engages in fair trade, what the Guatemalans call “comercio justo,” just commerce. This means that artisans are paid a fair wage, a wage that they themselves set, for their creations. It means that they work in safe, healthy environments. And it means that we, Seven Story Market, contribute to the well being of the artisans’ communities. As small cooperatives and individual artisans are often underfunded, Seven Story Market artisans are paid up front, at least half the amount of the order, when the pieces are ordered, and the remainder immediately upon delivery.

Fair trade means a fair price. Artisans are paid the price that they themselves set for the products they produce. Fair trade requires trust among the traders. Susan travels to Guatemala regularly to develop these trusting partnerships. Susan works with the artisans to further their interests. For example, new product development ideas are discussed with the artisans for their consideration. Seven Story Market seeks to promote artisans’ goods to other importers/sellers. Providing a steady revenue stream to fair trade producers is a top priority.

Fair trade also means environmental protection and enhancement. An example of this is that all woods used by Humberto Mendoza’s woodworking shop are certified local and sustainable. For every tree cut down, two to three others are planted. So, customers can enjoy the beauty of ebony and mahogany without guilt. Another example is that dyes used by Artisanias Xejavi are azo-free.

Seven Story Market’s goal is that by Year 3 of operation 20% of net profits will be placed at the disposal of the artisan communities to meet basic human needs and to further just, locally determined community development.

As the purchaser of items from Seven Story Market, you can be confident that your purchase enriches the lives of pueblo artisans, their families, and their communities.

These richly colored scarves are woven on the backstrap loom by Mayan women in the pueblos surrounding Antigua, Guatemala. This weaving group gives indigenous weavers a way to make a living and preserve their precious heritage and traditional ways of life, while caring for their families in their own homes. These master weavers are paid a fair, living wage for their work.

When an artisan winds the back strap around her waist and leans back on the grass mat, her body becomes a part of the loom. As she weaves, the Mayan woman is joining the Creator in weaving the universe. This important cultural and spiritual practice, under threat in the modern, poverty stricken word in which the Maya live, is being preserved by groups such as Artisanias Xejavi, who value the artisans and market the unique and glorious works created by them.

The mercerized cotton lends a silken hand to the fabric, while the colorfast, azo-free Swiss dyes assure that colors will not run. Each piece is hand knotted by the weaver as it leaves the loom.

This small business was initiated in 1981 by Chonita Sojuel Medosa, a Mayan woman living in the pueblo of Santiago on the shores of Lake Atitlan . Chonita began bead work as a way to make a living when her husband was killed in “The Violence,” the 36-year war against the indigenous peoples of Guatemala. It now provides work to 45 full time and 35 part time women.

Chonita’s son-in-law, Domingo, is the chief designer. In an airy, light-filled workshop high above the dusty streets and noise of traffic, he and a small group of women beaders tweak the designs to perfection. Then women artisans are able to execute the wonderful jewelry and ornaments in their own homes between the tasks of caring for their families. All artisans are paid a fair wage, and they pride themselves on the high quality of each piece. Profits go to the community in the form of food for elderly people who have no families to care for them and scholarships for students whose families cannot afford public school fees and books. Through this stellar business, land for a new school has been purchased, and a proposal for a senior center is being developed. This work is coordinated through Sharing the Dream in Guatemala.

Beads used by Creaciones Chonita are sourced in Czechoslovakia. Czech beads are known by artisans as the best in the world.

It was the last 5 years of the 36-year war against the Indigenous. Poverty, displacement, and physical threat meant that there was no work in the highlands for young men. The war ended in 1996, but this is still true. Men travel for hours in truckbeds with their machetes, to work for very low wages in the sugar plantations on the coast. The men are fed food that is frequently bad, sleep in open-air sheds, work long hours in dangerous conditions, in heat to which they are unaccustomed, and are often ill. They often opt out, and women in the highland pueblos are left to suffer the realization of their fears, as their men leave them, emigrating to the factories in far away cities or over the borders and into the United States. Sometimes family members never hear from their men, again. It is uncertain whether they were killed crossing the desert or from illness in the squatter communities that are the only places most factory workers can afford to live, or simply were lost to the culture gap and escape from desperation.

At this time, fifteen years ago, Humberto Mendoza had an idea to provide meaningful, supportive work for young men in Santiago Atitlan. Santiago, a pueblo on the shores of Lake Atitlan, had suffered most cruelly in the war. Since then, the community was the site of a massive mudslide in October of 2005 that buried whole neighborhoods and killed upwards of 1000 people. Humberto began teaching young men woodworking and design. As the young men become more skilled, Humberto helps them set up their own shops, and takes in more men to train. The items they craft, wooden puzzle boxes in the shape of animals, are wonderfully crafted. Each lovely piece takes four hours to craft, not including drying time. All the woods used, ebony, mahogany, cedar and cocobolo, are certified as legal by the Guatemalan National Forestry Board.