All of us have persons that touch our lives positively. In my case, it was my grandmother Noy, who became one of the major artistic influences in my life. She always advised me: “Give the best that you have, wherever you are and whomever you are with”.
I received from her my first set of watercolors, which helped me to discover a new world through painting when I was a child. From that moment, painting has become something special, since it connects me with my inner being. Likewise, I have always had a special connection with nature: its forms, colors, and textures created great games and ideas during my childhood until they became the inspiration for many of my present designs.
I obtained my Bachelor’s Degree in Craft Design at Dr. José Matías Delgado University, and it was during the first years of my career that I met different communities of artisans and fell in love with all crafts. For me, it was magical to learn a story told through an object and traditional techniques transmitted from generation to generation. From that moment, I realized that a marvelous symbiosis could exist between a designer and an artisan –and how one could be capable of complementing the other.
Many crafting techniques were disappearing in El Salvador as a result of crafts being unappreciated and undervalued. Then and there I decided to contribute to their preservation, since they give us an identity as a country, through the creation of products with contemporary designs. That is how I decided to begin to work with communities of artisans.
The desire to preserve traditional techniques and add value to crafting, lead me to work on a national project to reactivate the sewing and dyeing of indigo. El Salvador used to be one of the main producers of indigo in the world during the colonial era but, eventually, this magic powder was replaced by artificial coloring agents that made indigo disappear.
I learned this traditional technique from a Japanese master, and then I taught how to work with it to more than 100 artisans throughout the country. This technique represents at present a large part of the crafts of El Salvador.
EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN
Once the indigo project ended, I lived one of the most important experiences of my life: I became a mother. It was at that moment that I understood the importance of being present in the lives of our children, especially during their early years, when it is possible to surround them with love and help them build the foundations that will help them to become human beings in the future. This experience marked my life and the manner in which, further on in life, I was able to work hand in hand with other mothers that share that love for their children.
My travels throughout the country, teaching the technique of indigo dyeing, showed me that opportunities for women who live in rural areas of El Salvador do not exist. To overcome this, they have to migrate to the nearest city, and they only manage to be with their children every 15 days or leave them indefinitely in the care of relatives, when they decide to immigrate to another country. It is this family disengagement that I believe many of the social problems that we face today in El Salvador occur.
It was learning the reality of my country and seeing how difficult it is for women to find sustainable work opportunities that allow them to improve their quality of life and, at the same time, take care of their children, that made me understand that, if I could not completely change that reality, I could use my knowledge, experience, and talent to change it at least in a small measure.
Inspired by this, I founded my company Lula Mena®, in which we seek to generate hope and transform lives by joining art, design, and culture with the reality of vulnerable women in high areas of risk in El Salvador, creating opportunities by making unique, handmade, eco-friendly and innovative products, under norms of fair trade.