A day in the life of a young artisan

Angie Flores López is one of the young women who collaborates with the Fundación Construyendo Sonrisas. She is 14 years old and lives in Naranjal de Sarapiquí, on Costa Rica’s Caribbean slope, with her parents and siblings. Naranjal is a quiet, rural community with a hot and humid climate. Its people are friendly and work opportunities are limited: pineapple or banana farms, or informal work. The people of Naranjal must find their own ways to get ahead.

Angie describes herself as a dreamer, and as a quiet, studious, friendly, creative girl who gets along with the whole neighborhood. She is in ninth grade, working hard to get good grades. Her favorite subject is math. Her goal is to become a professional, with not just one but three careers: she wants to be an architect, a lawyer, and a boxer.

The community of Naranjal. Courtesy of the Fundación Construyendo Sonrisas / El Colectivo 506.

She loves to draw. To draw, and to create. At least three times a week, she works on her crafts and art. She wants to help her family, achieve her goals and dreams, and be someone in life. The thought of a better life for her parents and siblings inspires her in every job she does: doll beds, bottle-top headbands, vases, key racks, purses, and other things, always with the guidance of her parents.

Angie with some of her pieces. Courtesy of the Fundación Construyendo Sonrisas / El Colectivo 506

Her day as a young artisan starts early: she gets up to make coffee for her siblings and parents, and they eat breakfast together. Later, Angie tidies up her home and starts studying. When she’s done with all that, she spends time making pieces, at least three times a week. She tries to start her work as an artisan at 10 am and work until 2 pm, since she depends on the sun to be able to finish and dry the pieces required. Sometimes, when she has a lot to do at school—for example, during exam periods— she can’t make time for her crafts.

She makes her handicrafts in her family’s house, a simple structure made of sheets of zinc and wood. Her favorite place to work on her crafts is a wooden plank that serves as an open-air table. At the moment, it works just fine, but in the future she hopes to improve her home and adapt a work space to her business.

Angie with her materials. Cortesía de la Fundación Construyendo Sonrisas / El Colectivo 506

On that wooden surface, she organizes the materials she is going to use: newspaper, glue, sand, badges, wool, thread and paints. Her tools include a cutter for sticks, glue sticks, and brushes.

Angie carefully selects her materials for the work session. If her job for the day is to decorate a vase with sand, she cuts off the edges, then glues on the painted sand. To paint the sand, she uses a paint bottle, then spreads it in a sack to dry, turning the sand so that no lumps form. Sometimes she chooses to cover the vases with eggshells.

Courtesy of the Fundación Construyendo Sonrisas / El Colectivo 506

At the end of the afternoon, she reviews the day’s work, studies and chores, eats dinner, and prepares to rest.

Making these crafts gives Angie great satisfaction, especially when people who buy her creations tell her how beautiful they are and how delighted they are with her work. To improve as an artisan and bring income to her home, Angie sought the support of the Fundación Construyendo Sonrisas, which helps her participate in craft fairs. Her friends and show their parents her works of art, and that helps her sell his handicrafts as well.

Angie in her school uniform. Courtesy of the Fundación Construyendo Sonrisas / El Colectivo 506

Why this constant work, in addition to her studies? Because Angie’s biggest goal is to make her enterprise successful enough that it brings well-being and food to her family. She wants it to create work opportunities for her father. In addition, Angie wants to take care of the environment through her creations: with each piece, she and her family are recycling newspaper, cardboard, soap boxes, bottle tops, and other materials.

With each piece, she works to bring that future of her dreams–her three careers and a better life for her family—closer and closer.

Stories using the “Directory 506” byline are a joint effort between the editorial team of El Colectivo 506 and the entrepreneurs and organizations that participate in our national directory of rural tourism. This piece was created thanks to the inputs of the Fundación Construyendo Sonrisas: we invite you to get to know this initiative and the artisans it represents here. You can also make a donation to the Foundation through Amigos of Costa Rica, here. Support for the Foundation’s artisans helps them earn a living, and 10% is invested in community needs, as a way for the children to collaborate with their communities. For more information about Directory 506, send a WhatsApp message to 8506-1506, or email us at [email protected]

Angie with her father. Courtesy of the Fundación Construyendo Sonrisas / El Colectivo 506