Positive Impact in Style: Meet Tierra de los Artesanos

tierra de los artesanos east end houston

Tucked inside the cutest shopping center in Eado is a new shop called Tierra de los Artesanos. It’s full of handcrafted goods that feel traditionally Mexican and fresh and modern too. The first time I stepped inside, I immediately fell in love. The walls were lined with photos of the artists whose goods you can find there. And everything is perfectly made with lots of bright colors, embroidery, and natural materials like cotton and leather.

I had to talk to the founder, Yvonne Mendoza about her shop.

lots of tierra fair trade mexican goods

BB: For someone that is just hearing about your business for the first time, can you tell us about it?

YM:  Claro que si!, of course. Tierra de los Artesanos (Tierra for short) was born during my graduate school years at the UH Graduate College of Social Work. It was in my classes were I wrestled with how to positively stir impact in my community. We studied global issues often and during one specific class I thought, how can I best facilitate what is already working and thriving to benefit communities, specifically Mexican communities? I mixed my social work profession with my love for Mexico and Tierra was born.

Tierra is a platform for Mexican artisans in Mexico and now Mexican immigrants in Houston to sell their creative pieces at a fair-price. We are a people first business. We are compelled to show Houston and beyond the authentic beauty and diversity of Mexico. Different regions carry different products, it’s all bright, but the stitching, embroidery, and cloth is different! More importantly, we are artisan based. Each of the products carry a name, a city, a long story. Each product is a reflection of hard work, hustle, and love. What I believe the people of Mexico represent.

Tierra is here to accurately portray this to the best of our ability. We use sustainable practices with the artisans to continue to channel this social enterprise forward.

fair trade woven bags by tierra houston

BB: Where are you located? How long have you been there?

YM: We are located at 720A Telephone Road, Houston, TX 77023. We call ourselves the little green house in the Tlaquepaque Plaza in the East End. We love that we are nestled in this neighborhood and that the plaza aesthetically looks like Mexico! We have been here for three months! Before the actual store-front, we dedicated 1yr and a half to doing pop-ups around Houston and our online market.

mexican artists of tierra de los artesanos

BB: Can you tell us about the people you get to work with? Where are the makers from?

YM: Oh yes, the people come from various parts of Mexico. Herbert is from Merida, Yucatan. He exclusively works all of the Huichol and leather products. Although the people of Huichol come from the Nayarit, Zacatecas and Durango, Herbert has studied extensively with the people of Huichol and faithfully practices the craft. Rossana and Joaquin are a married couple who live in Oxkutzcab, Yucatan. They, so skillfully, create leather jewelry with semi-precious stones from the Yucatan. The Santiz family is made up of Mario and Juana and their extensive family, they come from a town in Chiapas, MX. They work all of the embroidered shirts, bags, and stuffed animals.

fair trade jewelry and home goods tierra de los artesanos

BB: How did you meet them? What is it like to work with them?

YM: All of these artisans were found during various Mexico trips that I took. One I found selling me his shirts while I was eating ice cream. It was such a hot day outside and he was determined to sell me one. I liked his tenacity and sincerity. Rossana and Joaquin were selling their jewelry at a pop-up shop in Mexico and I was just intrigued by the colors and their love for their art. Herbert was found during a festival at a local plaza. When I met him you could tell he was selling his heart, not just his Huichol product.

All of these relationships have been nurtured over the past 2 years. It requires a lot of trust to do this. They took a leap of faith with me and for that I will be forever grateful.

tierra de los artesanos hand embroidered blouse

BB: Can you tell us some stories about the makers you work with?

YM: Yes! Rossana came to visit me one time during a stay in Mexico. She was ready to show me all her new work. She had brought her daughter along. I was grateful to have met her. The thing is we don’t see each other every week, you know because they are miles away. We talk on the phone often but we physically change throughout the year. So when we meet up we don’t recognize each other! We have to describe our outfits and try to find each other in the crowd. It’s funny and weird at the same time. When I realized this was happening, we started to send pictures of things happening throughout the year and we now face time!

They also share hardships. They individually own their own businesses and create artisans goods for themselves and others. Life happens here and there and we share those experiences as well.

handmade toy made in mexico fair trade

BB: Why is the work you are doing important?

YM: It is important to me because Tierra is a representation of my ethics and my core foundation. When my parents immigrated from Mexico they built a life and instilled in us that being fair is how we must always play. They often share stories of times where life circumstances due to legal status (they were undocumented at the time), and language played against them.

They are now business owners themselves and raised us on the shared belief that we must help people always, love where you come from, and be ethical. Tierra is a representation of all of this. Let me tell you it’s hard sometimes to stay true to this, but I am often reminded that this is why I started this.

yvonne mendoza founder of tierra de los artesanos
Yvonne Mendoza, Founder Tierra de los Artesanos

BB: What are your next steps for your business?

YM: This question make me happy…well, we are working closely with the University of Houston Graduate College of Social work on a very cool partnership! We are continuing to add more artisans from other states as well. We are growing our Houston artisan pool by working with Ms. Servin, she is spearheading this new adventure.

She herself grew up in Guanajuato and now works as a custodian for a local school district. She has always wanted to create clothes and we are excited that she will display her newly made clothes (while earning a higher wage) at Tierra. We, of course, want to continue to attract people into our little store. We want to continue to share the story more than anything.

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BB: I heard you were hosting an event! Can you tell us about that?

YM: Yes! El Grito de Dolores is the event we are hosting for Mexico’s Independence Day! We want people to come and visit the plaza, artisans, Tierra and eat really awesome Mexican food. We will also have Ballet Folklorico and music by the wonderful DJ Gracie Chavez. We want people to be entertained but also to recognize and celebrate diversity! So if you are available, come and shout, “Viva” on September 15, 2017 from 6pm- 10pm.

And be sure to keep up with Tierra de los Artesanos

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