Lula Mena, founder of design enterprise Lula Mena, still remembers the advice her grandmother gave her: Do the best with what you have. As a mother, whose career in design consulting career offered her important flexibility, Lula wanted to offer the same opportunities to rural women in El Salvador.
She did just that, founding the social enterprise, Lula Mena, in 2013, with a mission to transform lives of vulnerable women in high-risk areas by linking their heritage skills with innovative design. Lula Mena now employees over 100 women in four different communities, and has continued to expand each year.
Lula Mena’s handmade products range from beautiful handcrafted copper and crystal jewelry to naturally-dyed and handwoven throws and hammocks. The Ibu Movement has carried many of their eye-catching earrings and throws, including these beautiful examples below.
In June of 2022, Lula Mena submitted a grant proposal to the Ibu Foundation to fund training-sessions to create a new line of clay jewelry and home goods. Over the past several months, this clay-making project has taken shape, and the women have accomplished significant milestones. Here are a few of the highlights:
Clay Workshops: Lula hired two master artisans to lead a five-month training. Ibu’s funds aided in the purchase of equipment and supplies for the trainees, including a kneading table, a furnace to separate clay pieces, brushes and paint, and ceramic kits. The women learned the processes of settling the mud, kneading the clay, and incorporating the pinch technique to mold the clay with fingertips to give shape and consistency. They also took classes on decorative techniques—working on design and precision with brushes—and learned to use a lathe machine to mold plates, bowls, vases, and glasses, as well as how to create specific finish and design effects by polishing the clay surface with sponges or sandpaper.
Creative Outcomes: The women caught on quickly, and have produced a remarkable array of clay art pieces including earrings, vases, sculptures, and clay ornaments.
Community Engagement: This project fostered a sense of togetherness within their community, and they were able to hire six new women at Lula Mena. In addition to adding this line of products to their website and store, Lula Mena is also curating an art exhibition to highlight pieces created from these training session
Many of the women have found healing and personal growth through clay art, and Lula Mena has been able to provide more job opportunities for a new community of Salvadoran women. Learn more about the project here.
As Ibu customers and donors, your support makes it possible for projects just like this to take place, and for talented women to share their art and creativity with the world. Thank you for being an essential part of the journey!