Piel Acida is an artisan based organization located in the urban city of Bogota, Colombia. The organization was conceived in 1995 by Ana Piedrahita, an entrepreneur from Bogota. She was inspired by a handmade box from Uruguay made from dried orange peels. She experimented with the idea and was able to succeed in producing a wide array of unique and intriguing items from this very natural and sustainable material. Constant demand from the market and the potential of this innovative product lead to the formal registration of Piel Acida in 2000. Today Piel Acida works with artisan communities across Colombia, creating a wide range of contemporary and traditional crafts.
Piel Acida employs more than 12 artisans who work in their factory and approximately 30 more artisans that work from their home permitting women to help support their families while caring for their children. While Piel Acida employs both men and women, the majority of workers are women providing needed income-generating opportunities for women in Colombia. The artisans at Piel Acida participate in the decisions that affect their livelihoods, such as wage determination for the products they create. This involvement is vital as each is paid depending upon the number of pieces they produce in a month. Piel Acida makes certain that the wages paid are fair and exceed the minimum wage laws for Colombia. The organization also provides other benefits to its artisans such as accident and health insurance, educational assistance for children, housing loans, and time for recreation. The sense of security artisans feel with Piel Acida contributes to an aura of unity with the organization as they lend their experience and skills to create sustainable and viable products, helping to position Piel Acida as a dominate force in the fair trade market.
Apart from the artisans that Piel Acida directly employs, it also supports indirectly many others who are part of their supply chain for raw materials which include orange peels, tagua nuts, mazorca leaves, and wood. These natural materials are made into beautiful and innovative products by artisans at Piel Acida, as they seek to develop the artisan-based handicraft sector in Colombia.
For a short video about the history of Piel Acida, please click here.
Sustainable harvested tagua nuts are sliced into sticks and dyed rich shades of green and blue, then strung together to create this colorful bracelet, sure to brighten up any outfit. Tagua is the seed of an endangered species of palm trees that grow in the tropical rain forests of South America. When ripe tagua seeds fall to the ground and are sun-dried for 4-8 weeks, they become extremely hard and are ready to be carved and dyed.
Tagua is referred to as "botanical ivory" due to its resemblance to elephant ivory and ability to be carved in the same manner. Crafting tagua into jewelry not only provides income to artisans at Piel Acida in Colombia, it also provides incentives to protect and preserve the rain forests.
Tagua, also known as vegetable ivory, is a seed from an endangered palm tree that is found in tropical rainforests located along the Pacific coast of South America. Apart from being a renewable and natural resource, tagua shares many similar traits as elephant ivory, hence its name vegetable ivory. Colombia is second only to Ecuador in the production and exporting of tagua nuts.
These seeds grow in pods called cabezas, when ripe, these cabezas fall to the ground. The pure cellulose, milky substance inside is edible in liquid or semi-liquid (jello-like) form by both people and animals. It is high in protein and sold in fruit-stands along roadsides.The nuts are collected and sundried for 4-8 weeks before being processed. The circular grain of the tagua seeds makes it denser and more resilient than animal ivory, and an ideal medium for creating beautiful pieces of jewelry and other unique items.
The steps involved in processing a tagua nut include, cutting, polishing, carving and dyeing. The sundried nuts are cut / sliced into shapes as required for the jewelry. Any cracks or voids in the nut are filled with white glue. Then the tagua pieces are sanded and polished with a high-grit buffing compound. Holes are drilled into the surface to enable stringing for necklaces and bracelets.
Tagua can be dyed in various ways. The natural shades of rich browns and yellow are achieved by boiling/burning the nut in hot oil. The length of boiling time determines the depth of the hue. Fermenting unpeeled tagua in the rain is another alternative to achieving brown hues in nut. Colored Tagua is achieved by boiling the nut in water that contains either plant-based or commercial dyes.
Dependence on the tagua harvest encourages local artisans to protect and conserve the rain forest. In some indigenous cultures each member of a clan would be given a tagua nut to wear around their neck, believing that the wearer of the nut would be protected by the love of his family and friends.