The next step in this project’s development in the website that will represent Vala Bags and sell them. I know how to design websites, but I was hoping I could get collaboration from another Vala -someone who is the target market for the bags. I asked around. I asked on LinkedIn. Of course, everyone know a web designer, but I was looking for a Vala web designer.

I am still on the lookout and I’m sure, in the long run, I will find her. But the bags are waiting and I am supposed to be trying to fail. So tomorrow morning, I am heading into the woods, with no distractions, a laptop and the Flash Bible, to see what I can create.

By the middle of August, I hope to show you a website.

There are lots of wise words out there in the universe. Which words we need depends on who we are. It’s like there’s a medicine for each illness.

I have been blessed and cursed with a gift for strategy and ideas. So in growing this project, I spend weeks thinking about every development, researching possibilities, asking others, weighing possibilities. But the most important task is waiting on the shelf: selling bags.

I am doing this for 2 reasons: 1) it’s what comes naturally and 2) Despite all the passion and conviction I feel, there is a quiet undercurrent of fear of failing. Because that’s what strategy people do: try not to fail.

So when I heard these words from Michael Masterson in “Ready, Fire, Aim,” it was like medicine. The way to success is to try to fail as quickly as possible.

I know with all of my cells that this is great in every way a project can be great. I know that it provides value to every stakeholder, and can make a difference in the lives of thousands. In order to not fail, I think and dream and plan each tiny step, just to make sure it works – to give myself the best possible platform from which to leap.

But the truth is that these little things that I make perfect are probably not going to make or break it – especially since it’s the beginning and as I learn and grow, it could all change.

So I should try to forget about the platform and just leap.

Because if I’m going to fail, better fail as soon as possible. It would be worse to drag it out long and slow, while the bags wait for me to exhaust all possibilities. And while pushing the idea as fast and hard as I can, to see if it will fail, I will actually make stronger strides toward success.

The idea of trying to fail feels good. It releases me from my constant thinking and throws me into the arena.

So look out! You might find me knocking on your door with Vala bags for sale.

I finally found a producer of these. What a world we live in – one person can find a small company on another continent and form a business relationship with people she’s never seen.

I wanted woven hemp labels. But I learned that hemp is too coarse to weave, so they will be printed. They will have to be hand sewn onto the bags using the same fiber that the bags are made of – keeping it authentic and plant based.

One of the themes of this project is finding the balance between expected conventions of a luxury brand in the developed world and the preservation and celebration of an ancient original artpeice.

I think these tags will suit that balance.

Next steps: website development and packaging

I stumbled upon a research paper written a few years ago by a peace corp volunteer who was working with a different community of the same people that I am. She was also passionate about the bags they made, focusing on the relationship that they have with the plants they use to make them.

I have tried to contact the author but I cannot find a valid email. If any of you would like to learn more about the plants and the culture that come together to create these art pieces, read this research paper. It is long but it is real.

Thank you to everyone who gave feedback regarding the logos. I will keep them as they are, without burning the name into them.

When creating the logo and designing the button, I asked the Wounaan artists to make a flat sizable area in the middle in which I could put the brand name.

I want to keep the natural look and the 100% organic-ness of the bag, so I thought to use a woodburning brand.

I expected the burned color to match nicely as well. Now that my custom branding iron finally made it to me, I get to see what it looks like.

I am not sure if it’s just that so much time has gone by with the logos as they are, but I’m tempted to say that the bags look better without the name written on them.

The brand name will go inside the bags on the tags. Is that enough? The people around me tend to feel that the buttons look better simply as symbols: without the letters.

My objective is for the bags to look beautiful and luxurious. I need for people to easily recognize that it is a Vala bag.

Truthfully, there aren’t many bags out there that look like these anyway. Certainly none with a light-burst shaped, vegetable ivory button.

I am interested in opinions.

I have written previously about my struggles to find an expression of the feeling of this brand among the records of human culture. My failure to find what I was looking for lead me to two things:

1. An empty canvass from which to create something brand new that meant exactly what I wanted it to

2. The realization that human beings don’t have something they need. If after weeks of searching, I could not find ONE story of a female hero who makes a difference in the world and gets a reward, then that means most people have never heard a story like that.

We have heard dozens of tales of strong men, fighting big bad beasts in long and glorious battles. And those kinds of hero stories are important in our world as metaphors for a lot that we encounter in life. But there are so many people who give their lives working for what they think is right, making a difference because they feel it is the only right course of action, not because they are after the prize. We don’t have a word for that kind of person. We don’t have any legends that talk about that kind of heroism.

The sad part is that these are the people who make the greatest difference. These are the people we need more of. And they are not in our consciousness enough for us to give them their own word.

The Eskimos have 14 words for snow: a reflection that snow is important to them and on their mind. As soon as something has its own word, it becomes more crystalized in our consciousness.

So it seems my project to develop a brand has expanded. I want to create a social revolution. And I want these bags to be a part of it.

Buying one of these bags gives a woman the chance to make a difference. But the difference they get to make is not like slaying a dragon. It has to do with community, and problem solving and win-win. This project is about bringing consciousness to the existence of women change-makers, giving them the opportunity to make a difference in a new way, celebrating them and giving them the community of each other.

Since the canvass is clear, to express these feelings, I dug into Greek and Latin roots and pieced together a word that meant power and feminine. At the moment, it won’t sound familiar. But I hope that within the year, you’ll know what it means.

The word is Vala.

I will use the word Vala to describe women who make a difference in the world in a feminine way, taking into account community and interconnectedness, who aren’t in it for the glory. I bet you know a few Valas, too. Let’s talk about them and empower them and give them a word. If you see the need for more such people and you want to recognize them, refer to them as Vala. If you have a woman in your life that fits this description, call her Vala.

I will make my bags part of this social revolution: that is their brand identity. They are Vala Bags.

Here is the website I made for the Wounaan artisans who carved my vegetable ivory logos.

There are still a few things to polish, but you are free to peruse their creations!

I recently received the photographs that were taken with Amy, a former professional model who is dedicating 3 years of her life to service. Part of that service was in the same community that makes the bag. She loves the bag project and vowed to help me. She and her friend Jenny, a professional photographer, took these for me. Here is a sample of some of the photos I got.

fair trade handbag

I realized when I saw the photos, that not only does the project benefit from the glamorous displays of the bags, but even more so from the creativity of their minds- minds that are not mine. Sometimes it feels like little me is trying to make such a huge impact on women and on the world, that I just need energy and input and points of view from other women- to help me carry it, to feel like it really is the work of a community. Amy is the target market for these bags and she tells me that women like her will relate to these photos. That is such precious information: I got market research, and professional photos all in one.

I tried so hard to find the perfect symbol. I researched legends, dug for stories, looking for something that already had the meaning that I was trying to create.

woonan artisans tagua logo

And just as I seemed to hit rock bottom in desperation, I got a lightning flash realization: in creating something new, I can’t look for it among things that already exist.

logo handbags fair trade tagua seed

I can’t say that I found this symbol -it found me. It is powerful. It is feminine. It is natural. It looks beautiful on the bags.

The Woonan artists carved each one of them by hand and, at my request, instead of using the usual craft paint to add color, they used one of their natural dyes from boiled cocobolo wood.

It will not be complete until the name is placed on it (in the center), but we are off to a beautiful start. So far each part of the bag is handmade, fair trade, and 100% environmentally responsible, organic plant material.