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Emma Gutierrez

Artisan Organization: Emma Gutierrez

Country: Central America

"I'm Emma Gutiérrez, a designer from Guatemala. I'm a responsible, creative and entrepreneurial woman.

"Life has taught me to enjoy each moment and I appreciate all of them, although not all have been great. One of my most difficult experiences was when I graduated in 2000. One of my closest friends unexpectedly died. This tragedy created a breakdown in my group of friends which affected us deeply. That same year, I had to decide which major to pursue in university.

"I wanted to study architecture, but aptitude tests showed that it wasn't a good fit for me and my father agreed. Eventually, I got to study it and learned about industrial design, which fascinated me. I could design different things, apply this knowledge to my architecture projects and I loved it. I worked hard and earned good grades.

"In my senior year, my first job was to participate in an artisan project with local and international designers. It was my first experience working with artisans, and I enjoyed it. This is when I met the owner of a company where I did my second project. I eventually took a job there and was able to grow along with the company for ten years.

"I tried out different areas of interior design and architecture through a variety of projects. In 2012, the company began to consult on the development of artisanal products for the program of Hambre Cero/Tejiendo Alimentos (Zero Hunger/Weaving Meals), an initiative from Guatemala's Ministry of Economy. This program encourages developing and opening markets to the poorest and most undernourished municipalities in the country.

"Here, I became acquainted with artisan groups and learned how to develop decorative items and personal accessories. During this time, design and work were my passions.

"The company suffered a downturn in its interior design branch in 2014 and I saw the need to develop new designs. During times of crisis, new ideas and challenges arise, which is when two personal projects emerged outside of the office. These projects made me see things differently and want to do more to help others and contribute to the growth of my country.

"A friend and I launched a line of apparel. Then, with three other friends, we organized a festival to promote new designers and artisans in Guatemala.

"I went through a period of transition in 2015 and decided to take a new path. I left my job and decided to focus on my own projects to create opportunities for artisans in different areas by creating decorative items and apparel that showcase Guatemalan artistry.

"I've had some beautiful moments and I'm sure this is what I'd like to do for as long as possible. I love designing and it's so satisfying to see my designs finished by artisan hands. My family is also involved in the project. I work with my mother, brother and two cousins. My major challenge now is to help the youth in rural areas to see potential in their talents and earn a better future through design and art.

"I want them to become interested in their cultural roots and to see traditional crafts as a way to improve their lives, taking advantage of their creativity and entrepreneurship. All of these efforts are focused toward achieving truly sustainable communities.

"I'm currently working with specific communities in Guatemala. Each village possesses a unique cultural and artistic wealth and I'm happy to help these people achieve a better life. I hope this project grows and can contribute to other communities with whom we can work for a long time.""