Producer Spotlight: Proud Mary

Posted on May 23, 2013 by Ali Price | 0 Comments

We're excited to have Harper Poe of Proud Mary sharing her story with us today. Harper was one of Lydali's very first partners, and we absolutely love the textiles and products she produces in partnership with artisans in several different countries now. 


Can you tell us about how you got started and the backstory to the name Proud Mary? 

I started Proud Mary with a friend of mine in NY in 2008.  I had just returned from volunteering in South America where I completely fell in love with the traditional textiles and the artisans creating them.  I returned to NY and my friend Molly and I started trying to figure out how to combine our love for product design, textiles, and economic development.  My first name is Mary and Molly's first name is also Mary so we knew we wanted use in Mary in some way.  We were joking around about Proud Mary but then we were like ding, ding, it's perfect. 
What are some of the things that inspire the designs and patterns of your textiles?
I'm inspired by fashion, traditional textile patterns and colors, and landscapes of the places I travel.
Can you elaborate on the traditional weaving and printing methods artisans use to make the products?  
I'm currently working with artisans in Guatemala, Mali, Peru, Niger, and Morocco.  Guatemala has one of the strongest weaving cultures in the world.  The Mayans have been weaving for thousands of years.  Traditionally their weaving is done on a backstrap loom where one end is tied to a tree and the other around the woman's back.  This is how they wove the fabric for their huipiles, women's shirts that Guatemala is famous for.  Nowadays they use the foot loom more often than the backstrap loom for efficiency but many women still use a backstrap loom for special projects.
In Mali I work with a mud cloth workshop in a small town a few hours Northwest of Bamako.  The workshop is a social project designed by a wonderful Malian man as a way to employee local young men and carry on the craft of mud cloth printing.  In their workshop they use all natural dyes including Indigo, mud from the Niger River, and other barks and leaves.  They then use a bleach and soap solution to create the pattern.  In Mali they call mud cloth Bogolanfini.  

In Peru I work with a small group of women 8 hours North of Lima in a mountain area called Cajamarca.  The women use natural dyes, organic cotton and wool, and weave on a backstrap loom.  Their designs are very traditional but they are open to learning new styles, patterns, and colors. 
Do you have any personal stories about the artisans who make the tote bags we sell on Lydali? 
The totes are made in a small Guatemalan town near Antigua.  It is a family run workshop in a town that used to have several large garment factories.  When the factories moved over to Asia the town was basically all out of business.  The head of our sewing workshop has grown his shop exponentially in the past 5 years.  Last time I saw him he was so happy to have a car and be able to send his kids to school.  
Finally, what are some of your favorite pieces on Lydali?
I love Mikuti jewelry...Erica and I have recently become friends and I am so inspired by her passion for her work.  
Thanks so much, Harper! We're so inspired by you, and we love the work you're doing. Shop Proud Mary products from Guatemala and Mali. 

Posted in Producer Spotlight, Proud Mary

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