The biggest challenge they constantly face is having constant work so they may provide for their families and keep their children in school so they may have a brighter future.
The Nahualá Artisan Cooperative was legally formed in Guatemala in 1990 and now counts with 105 associates whose main expertise is in wood carving. They specialize in low and high relief work, and they craft furniture with the traditional stylizations of the Guatemala highlands.
Nahualá Artisan Cooperative's main mission is to contribute to the country's development through the hand-crafting of a variety of items. Nahualá is a region with easy access to prime materials, either local or from nearby Totonicapán.
The region is well-known for its wood works and is home to generations of talented artisans who continue to use millenary techniques, which they adapt to today's procedures and equipment. The people of Nahualá are driven by a need and a desire to improve their living conditions. Together they designed a plan consisting of three phases. First was creating and administering reforestation efforts; second phase included researching new techniques and tools and, the third phase consisted in marketing their products and increasing sales. Many of the associate artisans work at the Cooperative's headquarters so they can have access to tools that otherwise they wouldn't be able to afford.
"Because our family's financial situation, I've had to work since I was a little boy so instead of going to school I helped my father in the fields," recalls Antonio Tambriz. "I began to carve in 1983, when you could find a wood workshop just about everywhere, and I was really keen to learn. The first order I got was for finely-carved shelving, and I was so pleased with the customer's satisfaction with my work, the first professional piece i ever made. I began as an apprentice and now I'm a master carver – I hope one day I can teach my sons all the knowledge I have acquired so they may too contribute to the preservation of our Nahualá traditions."
Diego Itzoc worked in agriculture when one of his closest friends taught him to all about carving. "I still keep at home the first carving I ever made, and now I have earned the respect of other carvers and friends, who like my work. What I love most about carving is having access to a variety of tools which allow me to carve practically everything that comes to mind."
"Carving has many ups and downs," confides Cruz Simaj who began carving in 2001. "There are times when there's a lot of work to be done and that is good because one can work all day long every day. But there can also be times when no orders come in and we have a hard time being able to provide for our families. What I enjoy most about carving is the challenge of attaining a perfect finish so customers are satisfied with our work and returns. Quality is of utmost importance."
The artisans with the Nahualá Cooperative are humble people from the Guatemala countryside who take great pride in their work. They help each other out, they learn from each others' expertise, and would love to be able to pass on this craft to their children. The biggest challenge they constantly face is having constant work so they may provide for their families and keep their children in school so they may have a brighter future.
The Cooperative continues to grow, not only to satisfy the needs of the community, but to be able to stimulate the human potential and skills, which only need a push in the right direction so they may contribute to their community's development.