Former Tortoise member Shuko Clouse is back, making her highly anticipated Good Company return with a beautiful collection of artisanal goods from Mexico. This time she brings to us a curated selection of bags and baskets from Oaxaca (by far her top selling item!) lovingly led by her childhood obsession with weaving and baskets. Shuko will also bring her own handmade sashiko pieces plus a few small handcrafted works from Mexico—perfect for those looking for a one-of-a-kind Mother's Day gift. Catch up with Shuko by reading our conversation with Mano Del Sur down below!
ET: Welcome back, Shuko! This will be your second Good Company event at Tortoise. Can you share what you'll be bringing?
SC: My last event focused on the state of Chiapas mainly, and the indigenous people living there. With this second event, I'm going back to my roots–my childhood roots specifically. Since I was little girl I've loved baskets. Not only that, my mother loves baskets. I've been able to reach some talented basket makers in Oaxaca, so I thought it would be interesting to showcase exclusively baskets this time–but in a variety of styles.
ET: 'Baskets' is a really singular focus, but it sounds like we can expect different styles and they're quite special. Can you share a bit more about how they're made and used in Oaxaca?
SC: Everyone uses baskets in Oaxaca. Small baskets are used to hold tortillas, and when you go to the markets, you'll see people moving and holding their belongings in baskets. They're such a normal everyday part of life in Mexico, but when I bring these baskets here, they take on a more stylish and special appearance. Most of these baskets are made in multi-generational household, where the men collect the palm material and the young women weave them. They're mostly made from palm, but I also have a basket made from carrizo, a type of reed.
ET: Do you use your baskets everyday? How do you use them?
SC: Yes. I use a basket every time I go out. I use baskets as clothing hampers. I store sweaters in my large lidded baskets because they naturally repel bugs. I'm totally overrun with baskets in my house [laughs]! But through this process, I've reaffirmed that I'm really fond of baskets. Maybe it's their handmade quality... or the fact that when I was little, I received a small picnic basket and it was my most favorite object. No matter where I go or whatever country I visit, I'll always get a basket when I'm there. The baskets I've found in Oaxaca though, are the best I've found anywhere else.
ET: It sounds like this is really strong passion of yours, and it might signal a change of direction for Mano Del Sur as you near your five-year anniversary. Where do you think Mano Del Sur is headed?
SC: This year we'll be focusing on baskets, but because baskets are becoming more rare as a craft, the future really depends on the craftspeople. I'm hoping that the artists I found will continue to make their beautiful baskets, and if they do I'll be able to continue bringing baskets to Mano Del Sur. It will be five years in September since I started Mano Del Sur, and up until now I've focused on different artisans in the hopes of preserving their respective craft, but I think now I'm interested in focusing on what I love and what I'm drawn to the most. There's a Japanese phrase, 好きこそももの上手なれ sukikoso momo no jouzuninare, which means that enjoying something is the key to mastering it. And since I love baskets so much, I feel like I can master this [laughs].
We can feel your mastery already, Shuko. Tortoise community, please join us May 5th - 7th, Friday to Sunday, to celebrate Cinco De Mayo with a special double feature event presenting Mano Del Sur and Casa Ysasi. The event will be sponsored by Madre Mezcal and tacos will be sold outside on Wade blvd by one of our favorite taco vendors. We think you'll have fun – see you there!