Martha Medeiros created the Glance from the Hinterland Project aiming at taking social assistance to one of the poorest regions in Brazil, the Northeastern hinterland. As a result, the project gathers well-intentioned people and takes assistance to those in need. The first stage of the project happened in September 2014 and counted on Artefacto’s significant help, which helped with the fund raising by selling a special cushion line, designed especially for the project. In addition to Artefacto, Fundação Oftalmológica Dr. Rubem Cunha, led by doctors Marcelo and Rosana Cunha, also contributed.
The doctors joined the group with some employees and they all left for the hinterland to assist more than 400 people, with ophthalmology consultations, glasses prescriptions, donation of eyeglasses, sunglasses, eye drops and ophthalmologic medicines. The group also counted on Luiza Trajano, Magazine Luiza’s CEO, who was there in person to visit the communities, help the action and give lectures with entrepreneurship tips and consultancy. Companies Johnsons & Johnsons and Dudalina also took part in the action and donated health and hygiene kits and gifts.
In a partnership with Fundação Oftalmológica Dr. Rubem Cunha, actions start by bringing assistance to more than 300 people with eye problems and, soon, it will offer solutions for dental problems and will act in the prevention of breast cancer.
Martha Medeiros, the designer from Alagoas which became a synonym for luxury by bringing Brazilian lace to a new level could not be happier and full of hope. In the first days of October, when she officially launched her project, Glance from the Hinterland, the designer met again with her past and made a dream come true: transform, with innovative, efficient actions, the destitute Brazilian hinterland – a region which, by the way, she knows very well. And those who imagine that her intrinsic relation with these communities occurs only because the Northeastern region is her homeland are mistaken. “I started out of need and because I knew I could not do a good job only with occasional help,” says Martha, with her characteristic fast speech, without realizing that the project is nothing more than a humanitarian evolution of the ideals that she carries deep-rooted with her.
In order to understand what she refers to as “need”, we must go back in time, when Martha started exchanging experiences with lacemakers about the handicraft that consists of the art of intertwining lines – currently there are more than 400 professionals under her guidance, many of them by Sao Francisco River. The learning has always been mutual: the designer showed them new paths and made them understand that they had a relic made by hand. As for Martha, she was surprised on some occasions when she found unique laces – and she insisted on reconstructing the stitches and enhancing them, aware that they were precious works of art. With such close relationship, it could not be any different: she got emotionally involved with each one of her lacemakers and fought for a better payment for the class.
“I have called water trucks to take water there and even hired attorneys to help with marriage issues,” Martha says, laughing. She was starting to get restless, wanting to look for solutions that could be permanent, and not only palliative. It was natural, then, that she had the desire to make something more concrete, something that can help professionalize each one of these communities and expand the expectations of people that undergo sufferings that are unthinkable in richer parts of Brazil and, at the same time, live in one of the most fertile areas when it comes to culture and handicraft.
When she decided to work with lace, Martha knew about the challenges she would have to face. “I went after what I believed in. It was hard work, but I was able to remove the “tablecloth look” from the pieces, I showed that there are other possibilities to work with lace,” says Martha. To this end, she deals herself with about 350 lacemakers that live in different communities situated by the Sao Francisco River. “I don’t feed them, I show them how to fish. I want to leave them a legacy.”
At the beginning, the women resisted. But with time, Martha was able to show that if a product does not have quality, it does not sell. The designer, who took courses on lace in France, started to take them pieces of information, teach new techniques and showed them that they had something precious in their hands. “I brought back original stitches and the nobleness of lace, the ones brought by the European nuns during colonial times, which ended up getting lost with time. I offered a quality material and taught them how to make the lace have no seamy side.”
In the first community that she started visiting, at Pontal da Barra, known as the lacemaker district, she noticed that the women used torn fishing nets as base for the filet lace. “The result was too rude, thick. I asked them to make the stitches smaller, gave them new threads and they realized it was possible to make their work more sophisticated,” she says.
From then on, Martha started a 30-day journey in the Northeastern hinterland, visiting important communities in Alagoas, Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte, Pernambuco and Paraíba. In São Sebastião, in the rural area of Alagoas, Martha found the Bilro lace. On Ilha do Ferro, a village in the municipality of Pão de Açúcar, by São Francisco River, she found the delicate, exclusive Boa Noite lace.
All the communities that provide Martha with her raw material are organized and guided by Sebrae, and she does not work with middlemen. “It is not simply a purchase and sale relation. I insist on being next to them, teaching all I know, so that they can be proud of what they do. When I arrived there, I saw that the younger generation was ashamed of wearing lace. Today, when I show them famous artists wearing my designs, with the lace that they made, I see their proud faces,” says Martha.
In addition to showing that it is possible to improve the lace, Martha teaches the lacemakers all new stitches that she creates. It is important to point out that, despite all this, the pieces made by these lacemakers are not Martha Medeiros’s exclusivity. “They are free to sell to whoever they want. With all the knowledge that I took to them, today their lace is more appreciated, and they can sell it for a better price.” Martha is the patroness of a lace school located at Morro da Mariana and she buys from 30 ladies all their Bilro lace production.
The Renaissance lace is the main lace used in Martha Medeiros design, but it is not the only one. Martha also works with lace from different regions in the hinterland, maintaining the traditions of each community alive with their lacemakers and for the future generations. The laces are the following: Bilro lace, Filet lace and Boa Noite lace. In addition to authentic Brazilian lace, Martha also uses in her designs French lace, used only by haute couture designers outside France. As a result, her work gets more diverse, with more comprehensive possibilities when designing each piece.