The molas, molitas and mola gifts I offer in my shop come from the Kuna people of the San Blas islands. They end up in my store through several means. I offer pieces that range from learner's work through to the exquisite. My emphasis is on the "superb" and "exquisite", highest end of the mola quality gamut.
That written, through all the ways items in my store come to be in my store and whatever their mola "quality", there is -- still and always -- a single, strong, common thread running through every piece I offer for sale. The acquisition, display, description and handling of every single "thing" has to reflect my unwavering respect for and love of both the Kuna and the art of the mola. This is what makes something a *Molagirl* mola (or molita or patch or gift... )
My respect for the Kuna and the art of the mola means that I search out quality pieces and pay top dollar (read "right livelihood") prices. I try to go on two buying trips a year and have great buyers scouting out pieces for me all year long. This is who buys, how I buy, how I sell and what is given back...
Me (with my family's help when I'm lucky :o), Llori (pictured in the middle of the second photo), Diego and Sister Nelia.
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As a buyer...
If any of these special conditions ever apply to a piece in my store, I will let you know. Beauty and "special" are in the eyes of the beholder.
I approach all of my buying as a collector. Every mola and mola item is hand picked and I buy what I myself would collect. If a mola has a seam that isn't perfect, if it's cut at the corners, if the background is two colors because this is all the Kuna had on the island to make her clothing... I notice and worry and fret about all of this. I always remember that my worries are other people's love.
I pay well for the molas and mola items I purchase. I appreciate the Kuna's art. I appreciate the time it takes them to make a mola. I appreciate their expenses of material, thread and zippers (and how long and far they have to sometimes travel to acquire these). And the molas I buy are panels of a blouse. It wasn't just the mola that was made but the blouse as well. And this is part of the expense and the time for the Kuna. So... I pay top dollar to the Kuna for the quality I want to collect and sell to others. And, in return, the Kuna also shop from other family members or friends for me given that they know my tastes, and that I am willing to pay for the quality I am looking for. It always feels as though we help each other this way.
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As a seller...
Much care and time goes into the making of the molas and mola items I sell. Much care goes into their buying. And I take analogous care as a seller. Before selling a mola I wash it, de-thread it, iron it and photograph it. I catalogue and store it by category and this is also how I present it to you. When I sell a mola I package it with care and speed because I always imagine myself waiting anxiously at the other end (and I know how picky I am and how much I look forward to my own packages :o) And I always look forward to hearing the reactions from my customers when their package arrives.
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When traveling to the islands, I am often reminded of how much many "other" of us take for granted. Fresh running water, electricity, eye and health care, education, the availability and accessibility of "things"... all of these are more difficult in this particular archipelago. And, for a community that is a source of such beauty in our world, I try to do my part to give back as I can.
If you've read the Eyeglasses article you know that I buy eyeglasses for the Kuna (and if you haven't now you do :o) I also send school supplies and have set up a medical fund for the Kuna's on Mulatupo. I love this project (I really do believe in health care for all, as this mola says) and I haven't yet run out of money in this account. I feel good that I am working to do my part, as are you...
All of the money for this comes from money I save from the sale of molas and mola items. It is my way of giving back. And you are helping. Not only do the Kuna receive top dollar for their art (which helps them to increase their standard of living), not only is Kuna art taking its place in our world through your care of and for it but part of your money is also going back to help provide the community with care that many of us take for granted. This is all good.
For those of you who have asked how you can contribute directly to my efforts, it is now possible to donate money via PayPal. Please see here for this.
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