Artisan Spotlight | Meet Irma
Meet Irma, a seamstress from Guatemala that we are partnering with for our Holiday 2017 collection. She was born in Ciudad Vieja, which is just outside the more known city of Antigua. She comes from a big family, growing up with five siblings. When Irma's father passed away at the age of four, she recalls how their lives were forever changed.
As in most developing nations without a dual income household, the children are expected to help provide for the family. That often means that children miss out on things like getting an education because they can't afford it or because they need to be working instead of attending school. Irma was held back from entering school until the age of six because they couldn't afford for her to attend. She ended up only receiving four years of proper education until she reluctantly had to drop out so that she could go to work to provide for the family. Irma was only ten years old.
She started cleaning houses for money and helping her mother raise the other, younger siblings. At the same time, one of her older brothers began working in a factory, sewing and ironing clothes. Textile manufacturing has and continues to be a good source of job provision within the country of Guatemala. Irma convinced her brother to take her with him one day, begging to learn more skills that would make her more employable. Her brother obliged and began teaching her basic sewing skills that eventually led to the use of a sewing machine and more advanced techniques.
The clothing factory became a place of joy and security for Irma. She liked learning new skills, operating different machines, working with her brother and being able to provide for their family. It was also during those three years that she met her husband! He was a mechanic at the factory and would work on the machines when they needed servicing. They were married three years after beginning to work in the factory. Irma was just 17 years old.
Irma had their first daughter, Brenda, shortly after they got married. Wanting to be home with her new baby, she and her husband decided that Irma would start her own sewing business out of their home. They had two problems though, Irma did not know how to follow a sewing pattern nor did she own a sewing machine.
Naturally, Irma figured all this out. She found someone in their city to teach her how to cut and read patterns. Until Irma's husband could save up to buy her a sewing machine, she handmade every article of clothing for women and people in the surrounding area for an income. Because of the quality of her garments and excellent customer service, Irma went on to get bigger jobs within her community, like making all the school uniforms!
Today, Irma and her husband have four children together ranging in age from, 13 - 21. She is proud that they are all in school! Her dreams for her children are for them to attend University. Despite her own lack of education and story of success, she still insists that degrees are needed for the "good" jobs in Guatemala. Like most mothers, she wants more for her children.
In the next five years, Irma sees herself busy with lots of work! She wants the financial security a dignified wage can bring to her life and the life of her family. She doesn't want to have to be fearful about their finances or limit her children's potential. She says this from a place of earnest joy, knowing that her children will only benefit from having an education that can propel them forward in a thriving career of their choosing.