When Dalia Lerner and Maribel Ize founded Artemateria, a company that brings designers and artisan communities in Mexico to a global market, it was a way to blend their passions for design, business, and the country they grew up in.
Both founders are from Mexico City, but moved to the United States in their twenties.
“Our heart is always in the country we grew up in and love so much,” Lerner says.
After many visits to artisan workshops throughout Mexico, Lerner and Ize decided to take their combined experience in Development Economics and Business Administration and start a business.
“We would always go to artisan workshops and see the craft handed down through generations,” Lerner recalls. “The materials were beautiful, the quality was high-end, and all they needed was a bit of help with design to sell to a more demanding global market.”
Lerner and Ize started talking with artisans about their idea to help them partner with designers and sell on a larger scale. An important aspect of the business has always been that the artist comes first, and maintaining the craft is paramount to the founders.
“We look for artisans who are leaders in each area. People who have been doing their craft for generations and are masters,” Lerner says. “We start at the beginning with the people and craftsmanship, and narrow it down to a specific product we want to develop.”
The result is empowered artisans and refined and rare products that exceed the expectations of high-end customers, while maintaining the heritage of the craft. So far, Artemateria has sold products to Calvin Klein, Anthropologie, The Citizenry, Sundance Catalog, ABC Home and Carpet, and other big names.
They source products from all over Mexico, though currently most of them come from the south. Most of the textile collection, including popular woven baskets, is made in Chiapas, and Artemateria works with an organization called Aid to Artisans to help provide support to artisans that make them.
“They help with training for the artisans and help them learn to manage their business and be independent,” Lerner explains.
They are always looking for new artisans and ways to improve existing designs, like adding richer colors, enhancing production capacity, and finding ways to help products withstand the elements. In some cases, they bring previously unheard of techniques to a global stage.
Such is the case with a line of cactus fiber vases made by an artisan named Miguel in Hidalgo.
“Miguel’s family was very poor, and he wanted to give his wife flowers but she couldn’t buy a vase. The area is famous for the cactus plant, so he separated leaves of cactus and molded them together and made a vase,” Lerner notes. “It’s my favorite story because Miguel was giving something beautiful to his wife and now he’s developing the vases more and selling them in stores, and it’s changing his life.”
Ize agrees that helping artisans and communities is her favorite part of the business.
“I love that we can do something meaningful, and help entire families and communities,” she says. “I also really love that we’re maintaining ancient arts and helping them not disappear”
Both founders say one of the most enjoyable aspects of the work is that they’re doing it together, as friends, and staying connected to Mexico.
“I learn as much from our artisans as they learn from us, and that connection with the craft and being able to showcase their talent in the global market and give back to the culture and country where we grew up is really special,” Lerner reveals.
For more information about Artemateria, visit artemateria.net.