Watch: MINNA Teams Up With Oaxacan Artisans to Weave the Ethical Home Goods of Our Dreams
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Watch: MINNA Teams Up With Oaxacan Artisans to Weave the Ethical Home Goods of Our Dreams

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By Jen Woo
We follow founder Sara Berks on a recent production trip to see how she works with family-run workshops to create dreamy textiles.

Between Oaxaca, Mexico’s cobblestone streets, colonial buildings, and agave fields, and Chiapas’ lush rainforests and highlands freckled with Mayan archaeological sites, there stretches a strong, unifying weaving tradition—a common thread in the indigenous culture that inspires locals and global visitors alike.

It’s here that MINNA founder, Sara Berks, meets with the artisans working on her latest collection. To celebrate the launch of the Hudson, New York–based brand’s new website, we followed Berks on a recent production trip to learn more about their story and process.

An artisan hangs dyed threads in Oaxaca that will make up MINNA's new textile collection.

An artisan hangs dyed threads in Oaxaca that will make up MINNA's new textile collection.

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Wild Geese Rugs in Peach echo the landscape in color and composition.

Wild Geese Rugs in Peach echo the landscape in color and composition.

MINNA partners with robust, artistic communities in Mexico, Guatemala, Uruguay, Bolivia, and Peru to produce ethical, handmade home textiles that meld centuries of tradition with contemporary design. Long-used patterns deeply embedded in each culture are used as a jumping-off point for her styles—as well as her creative journey. 

Sara Berks leads a seven-person team that’s majority queer and female based in Hudson, New York, relocated from Brooklyn in 2016.

Sara Berks leads a seven-person team that’s majority queer and female based in Hudson, New York, relocated from Brooklyn in 2016.

Grid Oven Mitts and Potholders are made in Chiapas.

Grid Oven Mitts and Potholders are made in Chiapas.

Shop MINNA Kitchen Textiles
MINNA Shapes Runner - Blue
MINNA Shapes Runner - Blue
Complete your dining room table with our shapes runner in blue! Looks great on a dresser or book shelf, too. Handwoven in by a family-run cooperative of weavers in Mitla, Mexico.
MINNA Grid Oven Mitt - Gold
MINNA Grid Oven Mitt - Gold
MINNA has expanded our subtle and elegant grid pattern collection to include all of your kitchen staples - napkins, towels, oven mitts, potholders, and aprons! Grab everything in the same color, or mix and match colors and stripes to liven up your kitchen.   Our oven mitts are the perfect...
MINNA Stripe Apron - Apricot
MINNA Stripe Apron - Apricot
MINNA's new Spring inspired collection includes all of your kitchen staples - napkins, towels, oven mitts, potholders, and aprons!  Grab everything in the same color, or mix and match colors and stripes to liven up your kitchen.

Six years ago, Berks left her job in digital design to freelance, generally burnt out from the agency world and seeking a change. "I wanted to be able to see and touch and feel the things I was designing," says Berks. "I taught myself to weave, mostly to explore as an art practice. I really fell in love with the technique, the process, the fibers. My designer brain wanted to start making physical products, not just one-of-a-kind pieces, which led me to start looking into artisan production." 

"I really fell in love with the technique, the process, the fibers," says Berks of first learning to weave.

"I really fell in love with the technique, the process, the fibers," says Berks of first learning to weave.

Each MINNA piece is carefully made by hand. 

Each MINNA piece is carefully made by hand. 

While visiting Oaxaca for the first time to take a rug weaving workshop, she met two families that she’s since worked with for five years. Her rug weaver, Luis, and cotton weaver, Arturo, are both based there. They’ve become family, and those relationships are her favorite part of her job. She was connected to artisans in other countries via social enterprise or NGO-like organizations: they’re partners that she also tries to meet to form a personal connection. Oaxaca, as the launchpad for her business, has a special role in MINNA’s story, however, and collaborations there are run a bit differently. 

The Cubitos Rug in Green highlights a bold, geometric pattern.

The Cubitos Rug in Green highlights a bold, geometric pattern.

An array of looms allows weavers to work in tandem.

An array of looms allows weavers to work in tandem.

"Production trips are usually a whirlwind—early mornings, long, bumpy, windy car rides, multiple layers of language translation, colorful textiles, and the best food I've ever eaten," says Berks. "[In Oaxaca], I’m spending more time with the families...We drift in and out of working together, looking at the looms, looking at colors, samples, designing new ideas, et cetera." But part of the process is just catching up on life and what’s happened in the past six months, playing with the kids, and sharing meals.  

Some of the craftspeople behind MINNA goods.

Some of the craftspeople behind MINNA goods.

Shop MINNA Bedding
MINNA Grid Pillowcases
MINNA Grid Pillowcases
Our Texture Pillowcases are handwoven by a family run workshop in the village of Larrainzar in Chiapas, Mexico and expertly sewn together by a workshop just outside of San Cristobal.
MINNA Texture Duvet Cover
MINNA Texture Duvet Cover
Our Texture Duvet Cover is handwoven by a family run workshop in the village of Larrainzar in Chiapas, Mexico. Woven in panels and then expertly sewn together by a workshop just outside of San Cristobal.
MINNA Stripes Euro Sham - Clay
MINNA Stripes Euro Sham - Clay
Our Stripes Euro Shams Clay are handwoven by a family run workshop in the village of Larrainzar in Chiapas, Mexico and expertly sewn together by a workshop just outside of San Cristobal.

Production trips in other places, Berks describes, are more jam-packed and work-filled. In Chiapas, she visits one to two communities every day and works closely with production coordinators. "We are usually looking at new samples together, making sure textures and patterns are coming out correctly, and generally checking in. The face time is so important, and I think builds a better working relationship." 

Berks designs each pattern and product based on how it will be made. With so many variables in texture, color, and material, and with looms changing from country to country, region to region, and even community to community, there are countless options to consider.

Weaving techniques vary from community to community.

Weaving techniques vary from community to community.

"Certain designs and patterns are better suited to different loom types, backstrap woven techniques, knit techniques, and materials," says Berks. "It's really important for me to keep in mind the traditional method and original intent or style of a woven process."

"Certain designs and patterns are better suited to different loom types, backstrap woven techniques, knit techniques, and materials," says Berks. "It's really important for me to keep in mind the traditional method and original intent or style of a woven process."

In exploring a color palette, Berks sets herself up with visual or technical design constraints before experimenting with colors in drawn, painted, sketched, or woven swatches. "A lot of my earlier designs were based on my woven pieces, and now I use that as a way to explore color and textural interactions before sending them to the artisans," she explains. 

Artisans weave in a workshop.

Artisans weave in a workshop.

Working with dyed threads. 

Working with dyed threads. 

Shop MINNA Rugs
MINNA Symmetrical Mess Rug - Light
MINNA Symmetrical Mess Rug - Light
This playful, geometric rug makes a bold statement yet fits right in. Named for Sara's now defunct blog she kept in college. The wool is naturally dyed and extra soft.
MINNA Wandering Mark Rug - Grey
MINNA Wandering Mark Rug - Grey
Made by Wool Pedal Loom Weavers in Momostenango, Guatemala. High up in the mountainous region of Momostenango, Guatemala are three co-ops who weave our wool pillows, flat weave rugs and shaggy rugs. They use handspun wool dyed with sustainable, non-toxic dyes.
MINNA Dream Rug - Bright
MINNA Dream Rug - Bright
The Dream Rug Bright is handwoven by a co-op in Momostenago, Guatemala. The simple shapes are fun and cozy, adding something playful to every space.

Once a layout is ready, it’s sent to MINNA’s artisan partners, or it’s discussed in person to help determine the right materials. Berks may source dyed threads from a supplier, or choose raw materials to color with natural or non-toxic dye. From there, material gathering and the warping process can take a few weeks—and it may take up to three samples to get the design right.

A weaver at work. 

A weaver at work. 

The warm tones of the desert are captured in this piece.

The warm tones of the desert are captured in this piece.

MINNA’s new spring collection boasts new product categories in existing patterns, as well as an expanded color palette. The new site allows shoppers to pre-order bedding, for example, in an understated mix of stripes and grids. Rugs, throws, kitchen accessories, and other home items are available in a rich array of earthy hues and geometric patterns.

Rooted in traditional techniques that preserve crafts passed down from generation to generation, MINNA’s collection stitches together past and present, telling stories of its workshops and artisans from each country to a global, contemporary audience.

Editor’s Note: Take 20 percent off MINNA rugs and pillows with the code HOME20. The sale ends Sunday, June 30.

Related Reading: Watch: Inside the Studio of Designer and Materials Master Fernando Mastrangelo