Just like the aroma of a freshly brewed cup of coffee in the morning, the hand-made pieces from the ladies of Café Igarai bring us back to our memories of the plantations of the São Paulo countryside. Coffee beans painted on porcelain with realism and subtlety, the branches of the coffee trees loaded with fruit and flowers delicately embroidered in napkins and tablecloths, framed scenes of farms and drawings inspired by the birds that live on the farms and blended carefully and poetically. The colors tell us the story of growing the coffee: white, brown, black and earthen tones that come from natural vegetable dyes using straw, coffee and leaves of trees of the coffee plantations like Mulberry, Ipê, Jacaranda and others, all typical of the region around Igaraí, a rural village in Mococa, 260 kilometers from São Paulo.
The great surprise of the line of products from Café Igaraí, however, occurs when one looks in the faces and sees the hands – strong, marked, and calloused – of the skilled craftswomen responsible for these unique pieces. Today, needles, thread, scissors, cloths and brushes, take the place of the tools what they carried until recently: the hoe, the shovel, and the straw baskets to hold the beans into which, bare-handed, they harvested the coffee.
The project Café Igaraí currently brings together 13 women. Most of them are ex-farm-hands or from families that work in the coffee and have picked up the skills of embroidery and crochet from their mothers. Into this pool of raw talent came designer Renato Imbroisi and his team from São Paulo. In two separate workshops with him they learned to paint and fire porcelain and perfected their sewing and embroidery skills. His greatest contribution however, was taking their own simple designs that embodied their local identity and incorporating them into something that has modern commercial appeal in the market.
The coffee theme comes directly from the collective experience of the group and from the individual stories of each producer of the pieces. The result is a reflection of the local craft traditions and of the simple rural hospitality of the coffee farms of São Paulo. The initial organization of the project in April 2006, was supported by SEBRAE, São Paulo, a government agency, and from the community of Igaraí, which included the local authorities and some of the local coffee farms, like Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza. Today, well organized, the group is on its way.
Café Igarai brings, for these women and their families, extra income, improved self esteem, new friends and new places to see. At the same time it fosters the recovery of traditional knowledge and craftsmanship. Every day it gives them material and emotional satisfaction as well as preserving a part of history.
It would be an exaggeration to say that the coffee runs in the veins of these ex-farm-hands, turned craftswomen; but, undoubtedly, it is planted deep in their hearts.