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The Story Behind Arteli

We uncover Colombian traditions and inspirations behind beloved brand Arteli

Arteli is a one-of-a-kind brand with an incredible story and approach to sustainability. We wanted to spotlight the brand’s designer Juan Camilo Meisel and learn more about his inspirations and what lead to the creation of  Arteli. We were also thrilled to have the opportunity to interview one of his artisans, Jeimy Angulo who shares stories about herself, the weaving tradition and her passion for handcrafting these incredible pieces of art.

Could you tell us little about yourself and what lead to the creation of your own line?


Juan – I grew up in Barranquilla, Colombia, a beautiful city in the North Coast of the country. When I was very young, I used to spend Summers at my grandfather’s farm, which led me to develop a strong passion for nature. I was exposed to nature in its purest form by exploring the farm from dawn to dusk. I always saw my mom making her own clothes, accessories and working closely with artisans to create beautiful pieces for her and her friends. When I was 18, I went to Boston for school and started traveling a lot. I noticed an increased international awareness for sustainable fashion and handmade bags throughout the years, which always reminded me of my old days exploring nature and watching my mom sew and weave together with artisans to come up with wearable art pieces. It always intrigued me why I was not seeing Colombia’s artisans beautiful work on the streets of the world. Then I realized that it was because they didn’t really have access to the international fashion market, and that was when Arteli was born.




The Arteli bags are made in Colombia, for those of us who have never been could you set the scene of the country a little?


Colombia is a fascinating country with beautiful beaches, stunning landscapes, delicious food, fun nightlife and ecstatic people. For many years we were affected by violence and insecurity brought by drug cartels and guerrillas, but in the early 2000, we had a great president, Alvaro Uribe, who helped us turn the country around on the right direction. I invite everyone to set aside any prejudices about insecurity and visit Colombia. If you do, send me an email (jc@shoparteli.com), I’ll tell you where to go. The only risk is wanting to stay.


Canasto Bag In Blue

Traditional artisans are a huge part of the production, can you tell us a bit about how they work?


We have formed a close relationship with female artisans in the small town of Usiacuri, located in the North Coast of Colombia, who are now the magical hands behind Arteli. By working with such talented artists, we have been able to intersect the highest detailed hand creation processes with the highest quality natural materials. The making process begins with raw Iraca palm tree leaves, dried with earth’s most powerful element, the Sun. Then, the dried leaves are dyed using vibrant colors, which are extracted from various natural elements. This entire process takes approximately three weeks. After this, artisans begin to work their magic, carefully weaving the leaves together to form these gorgeous pieces.



What does “Arteli” mean? What is the personal significance to you and how did you come up with the name?


Arteli is the word Art, combined with the first three letters of my mother’s and grandfather’s last name, Elias. When I first thought about it, it was a no brainer. I knew it was the perfect name for a brand that is all about art and nature.




Canasto Bag In Blue

Could you tell us a little about yourself?


Jeimy – My name is Jeimy Angulo, I am 35 years old and I live in Usiacuri, Colombia with my two kids and my husband. During my free time, I like to get creative. I use my free time to think about what else I can build with my hands and natural resources. I think about new shapes, styles and materials.



How did you learn to weave, is this a tradition you have been familiar with for a long time ?


Weaving is a tradition that has been passed along by generations in my family. My grandmother is one of the people that introduced weaving to the town. I used to sit down next to her and watch her weave the entire day. She wouldn’t let me help her at first because she said that needles were too dangerous for me. I always wanted to learn, so when I was older, my mom and grandmother taught me how to weave. It was easy for me because I grew up with this. This was my childhood. Now, I am waiting for my kids to grow up so that I can teach them the same things that my mother and grandmother taught me. I want this beautiful tradition to be passed for many more generations of my family.


Canasto Bag In Blue



Could you take us through a work day and the making of an Arteli handbag?


My work day starts really early in the morning with an Iraca palm tree leave selection process. Here, I choose strong and big leaves that are ready to be transformed into art. The leaves have to be dried with the sun for a few weeks, so after the selection process, I start working with leaves that have already been dried a few weeks ago, some of which have been applied natural colors.  I also separate the long leaves from the shorter ones because they are used for different parts of the bags. I then start hand weaving the different Arteli bag styles that we are currently selling, or I try new things and styles that I thought about during my free time. Creating handmade bags from Iraca palm trees is an extremely manual and detailed process.


What does working with Arteli mean to you?


Working with Arteli is one of the best things that has happened to me, my family and the entire community of Usiacuri because Arteli has been able showcase our artisan work all around the globe. Arteli has created many job opportunities for women of the community who are now head of household. The fact that Arteli is helping us get international recognition for what our ancestors have created, and we dedicate our life too, means the world to us.