PILSEN — When artist Chelcie Laggis attended Bucktown’s Renegade art fair last summer, she didn’t expect it to get a trip to Ecuador out of it.
At the fair, Laggis’ sister bought a bag from a company called Suspiro that sold bags made by weavers in Ecuador.
A weaver herself, Laggis noticed the bags were hand woven and began talking with the woman running the shop. That woman was Veronica Buitron, a native Ecuadorian who started Suspiro in 2012 as a way to develop fair trade weaving practices in several of Ecuador’s smaller villages where weaving is still an active industry.
“It was kind of like a very lucky, right-place, right-time thing,” said Laggis, 27, who graduated from the School of the Art Institute with a concentration in textiles in May.
After that meeting, Buitron — who doesn’t weave herself — asked Laggis if she’d like to come to Ecuador for a month and teach advanced weaving techniques to the workers. Laggis, who has her own weaving company, Elytra, now plans to fly to Ecuador in April.
She and Buitron also plan to launch a $15,000 Kickstarter that would fund an update of the workers’ studios, construction of a natural dyeing facility and creation of an education network that would allow weavers to learn different techniques.
“That’s really the important thing for us, the people in Ecuador,” Laggis said. “The product just happens to be a bridge between their traditions and our modern-day marketplace.”
Suspiro’s Kickstarter officially starts around 2 p.m. Friday. In addition, Modern Cooperative — where Laggis works — will feature Suspiro’s bags at their shop Friday for Pilsen’s monthly art walk.
Purses and totes range from around $50 to $90 and Laggis, who will be on hand Friday to talk about details of the fundraiser, will also be selling her own hand-woven pillows. Some 60 percent of profits from all Suspiro purchases will go toward the Kickstarter.
Perks for those who support the Kickstarter include hand woven kitchen towels ($45), and hand-dyed zip pouches ($80) and tote bags ($100). For $750, Laggis will sit down with you and create a custom woven piece of your choosing.
“This actually means something to these people and it’s not just selling a product,” Laggis said. “I’m really passionate about social justice and women’s rights and so fair trade is kind of this natural marriage of the two.”
Modern Cooperative’s 2nd Fridays event will be at their shop, 1215 W. 18th St., from 6-11 p.m. Free beer and wine will also be served.