My first week in Guatemala has been a whirlwind of amazing experiences. My first few days were spent trying to absorb an enormous amount of information about how our boots are made, who makes them, where we get our textiles, who makes the textiles, where i'll be living, how i'll be living, etc. We worked with our boot-maker Carlos in our new shop that is actually just a small patio at his home. He cleared out some space for us and we built wooden shelves to store our materials and textiles and we got everything organized to make our boot shop as efficient as possible.
The boot process is quite involved, but i'll give a quick rundown here of how it's done. First, we start with each person's unique foot measurements - the length of their foot, and the area around the ball and arch of their foot. With these measurements, we can select a correctly-sized last or foot mold. With this mold as a starting point, we can attach leather to the top or sides to correctly match the size of the boot buyer's foot. After we make the last the correct size, we must choose their leather and mold it around the last. At the same time, we are cutting their textiles and then we send the textiles to be sewn. When the leather and the textiles are sewn together, we can then start building the boot around the mold. Carlos has many helpers, with people coming in at all times of the day to do their part with the boots: sewing, cutting, stitching around the sole of the foot, attaching the sole, sewing the piping - there is much to be done and each person has their specialties and expertise to share. After learning about the process of the boots and seeing ones actually being made, I felt confident moving forward.
Our first weekend, Travis, Tessa, and I made our way to Lake Atitlan where we hoped to find some new amazing textiles. We were not disappointed. Our first full day at the lake, we went to a nearby town, San Juan, where we met some amazing ladies. These ladies were part of a co-op of women that worked in small villages around the lake to produce their unique textiles. They worked on farms to grow the plants and animals and even insects that they use to make their natural dyes for their textiles. They controlled the entire supply chain in this way. They made their dyes, grew their own cotton, spun the cotton, hand wove the cotton into the textiles, and sold the textiles themselves.
When we arrived in their shops, they were so welcoming and happy to show us how they produced their textiles from start-to-finish. They were patient with us as we listened and learned about the dying process and they even offered us a chance to come to their farm and see what they grow that produces such vibrant colors! I was excited about this prospect, and inquired about the possibility of staying on with them for a small time in San Juan and they said that I would be welcome to.
I've always been very passionate about empowering people to realize their dreams, and I felt unbelievably drawn to these powerfully productive women. There are about fifty women in the co-op and they work in teams to complete each textile. This cooperative teamwork is aimed at creating economic viability for these women and their families, and I could sense their resilience through the hard work that they do.
When I told them that I was looking to find a house on the lake so that I could learn more about their culture and their textile work, one woman, Rosario, immediately offered to rent me a house that they had available. I needed help, and she was so quick to offer it to me. I knew that she could use some help showing the world her textiles and the amazing work she is doing on her farm and the look that passed between us was one of mutual respect, openness, kindness and friendship. I knew at that moment that I wanted to stay with these women; to learn how they live, how they work, about their traditions, and what it means to be a Mayan woman in Guatemala.
After my ah-ha moment, Travis and Tessa and I proceeded to scour their shops for our favorite textiles and the women promised to work with us to make the best textiles possible for our boots in the future.
After this amazing experience, our heads were filled with a world of possibilities for the future of Teysha. We could get a farm, we could raise silkworms and every flower we could use for dyes, we could start a community center to help these women achieve their dreams and learn new skills, we could live on Lake Atitlan forever. It was all very exciting and we left the lake with a renewed vigor and zeal for the work we are doing.
Only time will tell where these projects will go and how they will affect the artisans of Guatemala and our supporters around the world. We think that everyone will love the naturally dyed cotton textiles of the women of Lake Atitlan as well as our amazing Chi Chi textiles from around Guatemala. Everywhere we've gone in Guatemala, we've been stopped by the locals and by travelers alike asking us where in the world our boots are from. We've gotten so much positive feedback! One guy stopped us at our hostel at the lake and said that we must be drinking the local kool-aid judging by our wild footwear - and he was right! Pass the Guate juice!
As this week continues, we will be making more and more boots and soon, we will be sending our second generation boots around the world to make people's feet SO happy! Yay for amazing prospects in Guatemala - our dreams are coming true everyday and we appreciate SO MUCH the support that we are getting from everyone. It means a lot to us and the artisans that we work with. Until next time…enjoy Spring while it lasts!
As the newest addition to the Teysha team, I thought I would introduce myself so everyone will know who is writing these crazy stories from afar. My name is Hanna and I am originally from Houston, Texas. I met Travis, the co-founder of Teysha, in our first week of college at the University of Georgia. As fellow Texans, we hit it off in our Ultimate Frisbee class and became fast friends. The next year, we decided to study abroad together and we narrowed our destination choices down to Austria and Costa Rica. After deciding that Austria would be too cold, we made the best decision of our lives and made our way to Costa Rica. In Costa Rica, we fell in love with the laid-back, friendly nature of Latin Americans. We learned to appreciate the slower pace of life, the Tico Time, and the benefits of a simpler life. After studying in Costa Rica for five months, we traveled by bus to Guatemala - a grueling, slightly dangerous journey that we were relieved to accomplish
In Guatemala, we visited some of the most beautiful places in Central America - Semuc Champay, Tikal, Rio Dulce, and Antigua - a beautiful colonial city. In Antigua, we explored the extensive markets and we filled our bags with the amazing textiles and artisan goods we found. It can be said that the seeds were planted then for what is now Teysha - a project of young entrepreneurs trying to empower people around the world through cultural connection, artisan appreciation, and quality craftsmanship. So here I am today, four years after our initial trip to Central America, back for an indefinite amount of time.
My job description could be paragraphs long, but for the most part I am here to facilitate the Guate Boot-making process. I will be traveling around Guatemala searching for beautiful textiles, supporting the artisans I meet, working with our boot-maker Carlos and the rest of his team, and I will eventually be dreaming up new products that we can bring back and share with the world.
As a lover of travel, culture, funky clothing, and new experiences, this opportunity with Teysha is a dream-come-true. I am so excited to be working with friends that have amazing visions for how each one of us can improve our world through cultural understanding and appreciation. I will be posting at least once a week, updating my progress down here in Guatemala and sharing the amazing stories of the people we work with and my ideas for our growing organization. Teysha believes in Keeping Earth Weird, so let's keep this spirit alive and shed our pre-conceptions of the world as we travel this crazy journey together. If anyone ever has any questions for me personally, I can be reached at email@example.com - I would love to hear from you. Hasta luego, amigo.
Read on to learn more about some of the improvements and processes we're doing for Round 2 of Guate Boots!
Yo folks, wanted to give y'all a little update
on our efforts in Guatemala and a little forewarning that we are
running out of space in Round 2 and that the price of our boots for
round 3 may be going up a bit more. DEADLINE IS THURSDAY NIGHT!
We have just released a whole bunch of beautiful vintage huipil
tapestries so go check them out if you haven't reserved your pair. Now, I
wanted to give y'all an update on the boot making front and the
wonderful strides we're taking.
First round, we made a quality
boot but it lacked some of the special finishing touches that define
master shoe making. What can I say.. they were our first boots and we
still love them very much! We have since made big steps to get us closer
to having one of the best made boots possible. For instance, the soling
material is now a natural rubber mix that should extend the duration of
the sole as well as the comfort significantly. We are also offering a
very nice finished leather sole which will last a very long time. Keep
in mind, no shoe will last forever, so you have to take care of them,
and when the sole wears out, simply take them to a shoe hospital and
they can fix your baby right up. That's one of the benefits of using
traditional shoe-making techniques vs conventional mass produced shoes
that tend to use shoddy materials.
Additionally, we have upped
the quality of the inner lining with a very nice Mexican pig skin
leather that is very durable, comfortable and quite pleasing to the eye.
Pig skin is a standard in artisan boots, provides a nice breathable
quality, and smells wonderful. We have also reinforced the back of the
heal in order to be doubly sure you will get miles, miles and miles out
of these puppies. We are also crafting beautiful insoles to provide a
bit more comfort and quality.
We have lined the entire textile
with piping with the same leather your boot will be made of and done a
really fine job with that aspect. It adds a very refined look as well as
will protect the textile from wear. (Note: if you see any part of your
textile fraying we recommend using a lighter to burn the singes, this
will help the textile to stay properly in tact and is simply good
maintenance. Don't pull the thread! And it's not a bad idea to
waterproof the textile with scotch guard or something of that sort.) We
have also folded the back strap of the boot that helps to hold the
textiles together, provides a functional loop to help get your boot on,
and frames the textiles beautifully.
On the tongue, we have
reinforced the tongue with a second piece of leather branded on both
sides. On the outward facing side a beautiful Teysha Triangle impression
and on the inside the Teysha mark. This provides a bit more comfort, a
more refined look, and those of you who like to hang out with your
tongue out... I'll just say it looks bad ass.
definitely not least, the soling of the shoe is of extreme care. All of
it is welt construction which is one of the more challenging techniques
in artisan boot making. Takes a lot of time and care. We are putting 6
to 7 stitches per inch in the mounting of the sole. This provides a
tighter, more secure construction as well as a very elegant look.
Shoemakers use this as a measure of detail and expertise. 6 to 7
stitches is a very high standard where as cheaper boots usually have 4
or so. The nicest having 9, but that's not necessary for a more casual
boot. (You can bet we'll be doing 9 when we start rolling out some more
On the tapestry side... well let's just say
we are finding more and more women and communities every week and with
that some of the most excellent art works we have come across in
Guatemala. You are getting the premium. We are also working to improve
our lower end textiles for those looking for a more budget friendly
boot. Our newest friends in Atitlan are going to be amazing
collaborators in creating naturally dyed, small farmed textiles that are
really just awesome.
With that said, these improvements have
an inherent cost of time, material, and expertise. That means they have a
financial cost as well. So the reality is, our boot is evolving and the
price must evolve as well. We are keeping price where it is through the
end of this round but cannot guarantee the boot won't be more expensive
next time around as we continue to improve these techniques and find
higher end materials. So... fair warning!
All in all. We are
making a very badass boot and are incredibly excited to offer you this
kind of quality. I (Travis and Team Teysha) wanted to let you know all
of this so you knew what you are supporting and to also say YOUR BOOTS
ARE GOING TO BE AMAZING!!!!!
Join us in welcoming Hanna to team Teysha! She
is our rockstar community developer down on the ground in Guatemala.
She'll be helping everyone source the most amazing, fairly traded
textiles as well as developing all sorts of anthropological and
sociological projects to help further empower artisans and sustainable
supply chains. She is awesome!
Greetings from the Guate Boots front lines!
been hard at work getting ready to make our 2nd generation of Guate
Boots. Growing from our lessons from the first round we have been
preparing for the awesomeness that lies ahead. Tonight, we kick off the
next generation at 7pm central time. We've got an amazing array of
textiles from all over Guatemala, 100s of styles possible.
We've been studying the art of boot making as well
since our last bout in the boot making madness. We had the great luck to
pick the minds of two world class master shoemakers; Lee Miller of
Texas Traditions Boots and Marcell Mrsán
of Koronya Handmade Shoes and Boots. The two were kind enough to sit
down with Sanders, Sophie, and Travis and share some wisdom in ways we
could improve our Kicks. While we're still nowhere near master level
we've made some awesome strides and are continually moving forward. We
have to say, our first go was pretty great thanks to the awesome talents
of our boot makers here in Guatemala. But we strive to always be improving!
we're down here in Guatemala and have been working with the shoemakers;
developing quality control processes, improving design aesthetics,
finishing subtleties, communicating our standards with the community of
boot makers, and overall just improving the whole creation of the boots. Meanwhile,
Sanders has been getting our technology side up to speed so we can
better organize these processes and make sure we can help you create the
coolest boot possible.
Tessa, our rockstar (former) intern
now turned full fledged Teysha Ally Extraordinaire has arrived for her
first deployment in the field to help in developing these processes and
to so experience more of the Mayan culture and their incredible
artistry. She will be spending time in some of the pueblos getting to
know some of the women Teysha has empowered and learning about their
techniques, designs and culture. She's got an amazing eye for tapestries
and has found some truly spectacular ones.
Hall, Teysha's newest Ally is arriving this evening for the kick off of
our second round. She is an experienced Latin American explorer,
anthropologist,and enthusiast who will be learning the ways of the Guate
Boots and eventually be taking the reigns. She will be leading the
charge on our anthropological mission to begin cataloging huipils and
other Guatemalan art forms so we and our supporters can learn more about
this incredible region and the many cultures that make it up. So look
forward to hearing more from her on the amazingness that is Guatemala.
for me, Travis, well I continue to find myself falling deeply in love
with the world of design and am looking at every tool, pattern, fabric,
leather, glue, thread, rubber, grommet, mind and hand and thinking how
can we do better. While I must admit, I am a rookie relative to Lee and
Marcell, their art form has inspired me to re-imagine the world of
creation and commerce. Our shoes are not perfect, nor ever will be,
imperfection is part of nature and humanity. But, is my mission to bring
us, Teysha, closer and closer to this impossible perfection by
learning, drawing, and helping the many people and materials that make
up Teysha work together to reach this goal. For me, perfection is
something that is created with respect to the natural beauty and
limitations of our precious planet, respects the rights and health of
the people involved in it's creation, empowers art forms to thrive in
the modern world, and then delivers all of these traits- beauty,
connection, quality, and respect- to the beholder and hopefully onward
to their loved ones as the shoe goes on to other generations.
with that said, I want you to know that each pair of Kicks comes with
our full backing. If you're not pleased, we're not pleased and will do
anything in our power to make our Kicks the greatest shoes you've ever
worn. We want to be your shoemaker and cultural connector for life.
Keep Earth Weird,
We've got a lot of fun things planned to celebrate our 1 year anniversary this May!!!!
Come on down and visit us!
May 4th @ Etc Etc Boutique, 3pm-8pm
May 5th @ Langford Market Boutique, 12pm-5pm
May 7th @ Center61 for a panel on sustainable fashion, 5-7:30pm
May 8th @ La Zona Rosa for the Austin Fashion Week presentation- evening
May 11th @ Beehive in Westlake
May 12th @ HOPE Farmer's Market
May 29th @ Blues on the green
When did Teysha begin...?
It could be said that Teysha begun 24 years ago when we were born. Or 8 years ago when we became close friends and co-dreamers on an environmental science trip to Hawaii. Or 6-8 years ago when we each made our first solo trip to Central America. Or 3 years ago when we were both doing life-changing internships and study abroad in the Americas. Or 2 years ago when we graduated from school, or in January 2012 when we set off to Panama, or in May 2012 when we had our first pop up shop. We're calling May the anniversary, but it's all relative :)
The point being that Teysha, or the idea of Teysha has been inside of us forever because it is what we are meant to do in life. No, not make shoes. But to connect people, to empower others, to travel and explore, to preserve the earth, and to change the world! Teysha is a manifestation of our past experiences, values, and passions, and it is the highest blessing to have the opportunity to bring it to the world and be met with such amazing support.
When we left for Panama in January of last year, I have to admit I was a little freaked out. But with all things in life, being a little scared and taking a big risk usually leads to good things if you have good intentions. We spent those 10 weeks in Panama doing a lot of thinking, a lot of searching, a lot of prototyping, searching for artisans, making friends, writing, planning, being frustrated, being hot, but being really excited for whatever was going to come of this seemingly crazy idea. On paper and in our head, it was simple. There was SO much we didn't know about starting a business, especially a multi-national, cross-cultural, manufacturing and retail business, it was definitely for the best that we didn't know how much we didn't know.
The journey so far has been like a winding road with lots of hills- you feel your
destination and vision, but can only see so far ahead. So you keep going,
and more and more the next steps become clear. For most of the past year, we had literally no idea what was going to happen further than the next 4 weeks. Every month or every couple weeks we'd reach a new opportunity, or find our selves in a situation that we had not anticipated. Our shoes being shown to Blake Nordstrom two months after our first sale? Being selected as a YouthTrade company? Getting in to ACL?? -- just some of the situations where we were like "woah.... what???". It's truly like being on a roller-coaster. Always exciting, sometimes scary, ever-changing, and wild.
I think there are many points in everyone's life where you don't quite feel ready for something, or you feel a little scared or nervous, but if you just say YES, you will find that you get ready quickly to meet the challenges and opportunities! Whether that's taking a new job, leaving your current work, going on a trip, starting a new project-- take a leap of faith, dive in, follow your heart and through that you'll be where you are meant to be. Share what's inside of you with the world!!
It has been so important for us to keep our eye on our vision and mission- to create a global community of action, opportunity, and respect for people and nature. There have been many challenges, but we've gotten through them with a ton of help from our friends.
We owe so much to all of the incredible artisans who have become our
family and friends over the past year. Jorge and Claudia in Colombia,
Sue and Rodelick in Panama, Sonia and Carlitos in Guatemala- and the
hundreds of other men and women that we've worked with in the past year
inspire us endlessly with their hard work, commitment to beauty and
community, and respect for the earth.
In the beautiful words of Travis, "Teysha is the world's, not hardly me and sophie's or yours; it's a lot
of people. Everyone is shaping and creating it. I would just like to say
humbly for us all, that Teysha's most inner essence is the Mayan and
Kuna weavers that are our backbone and strength. Their commitment and
humility in their artform is something that we should all strive to
understand and incorporate into our lives. Imagine the patience,
creativity, and time that goes into each huipil/mola. This is an action
that is incredibly far from our understanding and activity in the world.
It is a truly beautiful thing."
I really want to thank our community of incredible supporters this past year. From our first Pop Up Shop at Sno Beach (thank you Elizabeth!!), the love and support of our friends has been truly uplifting.
Every. Single. Person. in this journey is a huge part of our company. I know 100% that we would not be here today if it weren't for all of you. From our families who let us take over their living room and garage as a shoe warehouse (THANK YOU), to our parents with their wise advice and support, our mentors who are there to offer their perspectives on everything we don't know about international development, business planning, accounting, our dear friends who have helped us immensely with everything from graphic design, website building, marketing plans, help at shows EVERYTHING, plus being there to drink beers and have fun, to the amazing women who hosted us for trunk shows at their homes and helped us meet more and more women and Teysha allies, people who have helped us make connections and told us about events, the HOPE Farmer's market ladies and community, thank you thank you thank you THANK YOU!!!!
Some of the organizations or institutions who we want to give a shout out to: HOPE Farmer's Market, YouthTrade, Whole Planet Foundation team, Center61, Academy for Conscious Leadership, our Trunk Show hosts, amazing local boutique owners, fellow Austin social entrepreneurs. <3 <3!!!!
We are also so proud to be building the most kickass team of world changers and entrepreneurs. We are so thankful to have Sanders, Tessa, Hamilton, Clay, Hanna, and everyone else along on this crazy journey with Travis and me.
So we are reaaaaaally really really excited for the next year in Teysha world. Feeling so happy about our amazing products and artisans, our partnerships that we are building, the events coming up this summer and fall, and the opportunity to bring all of you down to Panama/ Colombia/ Guatemala with us!! :) :) Hip hip, HOORAY!
And we wanted to share some pictures of this past year!
Teysha + Luz y Fortaleza
have been searching for an ally in Panama, someone who shares our
vision, desire to empower, and love for traditional art. Several months
ago, we were introduced to Michael, Rodelick, Sue, and Augustin of
Fundacion Luz y Fortaleza Indigena (Indigenous light and Strength). From
the moment we first spoke, we could feel very strongly that we had met
our partners, the people who shared our dream of holistic prosperity,
and who wanted to make it happen.
week, we had the honor of meeting the Foundation in Panama. We
journeyed together to the island of Ustupu, the most populated island in
Kuna Yala and the home of Sue and Agustin, and Rodelick. The island is
home to about 5,000 Kuna, who live with their families in cane/ bamboo
huts, and live off the land and sea.
of the things we find most amazing and inspiring about the Kuna culture
is that practically every decision is made as a community. There is the
Spiritual Congress, the Administrative Congress, and the women’s groups
who all meet regularly to discuss matters pertaining to the community.
Our presence there as a company was certainly something that had the
potential to affect the community as a whole, so we knew we had to be
prepared to tell our story and work together to create the vision of our
presence there. We had many, many meetings where we were introduced to
various community leaders, chiefs, teachers, and groups of women.
conversations with the villagers, many beautiful ideas came up of how
we could all work together to create a better future. Projects focusing
on bringing more opportunities through mola design, the environment,
education, health, food security, eco-tourism, and more were all
discussed, and everyone could feel the excitement about everything that
could be possible.
What does this partnership mean for the Kuna Community and Teysha?
We will begin by focusing on:
1) Economic Empowerment: beginning new Mola design projects with the women, sourcing molas, and creating new molas for Teysha goods. We are committed to going beyond Fair Trade with the women- paying them at least 2-5 times the average price per mola, helping to source and finance materials, providing micro loans for tools and infrastructure, and creating a model based on collaboration and empowerment.
2) Nutrition: With the proceeds from the headband project, the Foundation will purchase four pigs for the island and 50 chicks for another isolated community. The idea with these animals is for the community to raise them and increase their nutrient/ protein intake, and then help provide animals for neighboring communities.
3) Cultural empowerment: In the new Foundation and Teysha headquarters on the island, we will create a mola art center/ design center/ educational school/ and resource for the community.
We have many other plans and dreams in the works, and know that we will need the help and expertise of you all and leaders from around the world to bring their knowledge to the community.
being there on the island, we realized that this is a community with
high hopes and aspirations, full of hard workers, families, friends, and
people who want the best for the future. We believe that as a social
enterprise, we are bringing a unique opportunity to both stimulate the
local economy as well as do many of the development projects that are
desired by the community.
always, it will take a village to do this! We want to extend an
invitation to all of you to come and be a part of this new development
on the island of Ustupu. Around the time of August 20th- September 4th,
we plan to be on the island working on restoring the building that was
given to Teysha and the Foundation, and doing several smaller projects
with the community, as well as of course enjoying the beauty surrounding
Ustupu on the islands and in the forest. We will be sending more
details, but wanted this to be a Save the Date of sorts for Teysha’s
A note from Luz y Fortaleza founders Rodelick and Sue
foundation, Luz y Fortaleza Indigena (Indigenous Light and Strength)
looks to help indigenous communities directly and indirectly in Panama. We have named the foundation Luz because our projects and
work, in alliance with Teysha, bring a light of hope to the communities
who need it most. At the same time, we look to strengthen these cultural
roots by way of their artistic manifestations and artisan crafts. The
alliance of the foundation with Teysha will continue in this direction
so that many communities will be able to see in the Foundation and
Teysha this light of hope
So it's been about a year in the making of Teysha. I don't know how that happened so quickly, but I guess it's true what they say... Time is BS. Anyway, a year ago we put our stake in the ground and declared our intent to shake up the system and build new and prosperous economies that truly invest in the source of their wealth: people and the planet. I would use the word 'launch' but that would make us sound like a start-up, we aspire to be more like an explorer of humanity and Earth using our successes to further our impact, expand to other communities, and make things happen. And yes! I'm finally blogging! To be honest, we hardly knew what the hell we were doing this last year and figured we better keep that under wraps. Now, we feel like we've got it more or less figured out and will now start spilling our guts! Wahooo!
Once again, Teysha's good friend and amazing artist, Sophie Roach, has come through in the clutch, creating an amazing design for our newest T-shirts. In line with Teysha's ever present drive to be different and unique, the "Keep Earth Weird" shirts can be seen on the back of Teysha reps throughout the SXSW festival currently taking over downtown Austin.
If you want to get your hands on one of these eye-catching T's or any other beautiful Teysha products, make sure to stop by The Neighborhood pop up shop event on 2nd street, right in the heart of the Music, Film, and Interactive madness. These amazing shirts were made in an extremely limited capacity (to make them that much more special), so make sure to get yours before they run out!
In addition to the "Keep Earth Weird" T-Shirts, our pop up shop at SXSW also features plenty of Spring Reserve Kuna Kicks, Belts, and other Teysha products, as well as an opportunity to learn more about the next order of Guate Boots! If you have trouble finding our shop, be sure to send us a message on Facebook, and we'll be happy to direct you our way. Happy SXSW Y'all!