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Plush bags by Abby Juan. Photo by Geoff Palomino.

Market Exchange: Abby Juan

By Brian Rojas

For this series, we are highlighting local Santa Monica artisans that are part of the Market Exchange project, initiated and facilitated by the artists Cog•nate Collective. Market Exchange is a collaboration between Santa Monica artisans and Cog•nate Collective that creates platforms for empowerment by establishing alternative economic forms of self-determination for local crafts people and small businesses. This collaboration is dedicated to honoring the richness of artisan production in Santa Monica towards developing a community-envisioned and community-directed marketplace that will amplify the works of local artisans and artists, while providing sustainable economic opportunities. You can learn more and purchase artisanal products at marketexchange.18thstreet.orgIn this post, we highlight artist Abby Juan.

Abby Juan was born and raised in Santa Monica, California. Abby creates plush bags and purses to support groups working for social justice and equity. Sewing has been passed down to Abby from her grandmother to her mother and finally to her. She began sewing and handcrafting plush bags and purses a year ago. During this time, the Black Lives Matter movement took hold across the nation following the murder of George Floyd, which is when Abby decided to launch her business. She felt she could do more than just post about the protests on social media. Abby decided to produce these bags and give the proceeds to the movement as well as other communities. She realized how much need is really out there, and engages with her community closely to determine how she can most effectively donate in order to make an impact on the issues she cares about.

Plush bags by Abby Juan. Photo by Geoff Palomino.
Plush bags by Abby Juan. Photo by Geoff Palomino.

Interview Highlights with Abby Juan

Abby has embraced this spirit of outreach in joining the Market Exchange collective, and appreciates the knowledge-sharing and support she gets from the multi-generational group of artisans.

As a younger member of the group, she had this to say: “I’ve learned to, I don’t know how to say it. I’ve never really interacted with other people with the same cultural background as myself. So they’ve definitely shown me a different side to things and their artistic abilities as well. Just with the work that they do. I think that it’s good, it’s like amazing. I really appreciate how each and every one of them, you know, is dedicated to it. They’re really dedicated and they put a hundred percent effort into it and it’s just really beautiful things that they put on display for others to see and a good representation of women of color.”

Plush bags by Abby Juan. Photo by Geoff Palomino.
Plush bags by Abby Juan. Photo by Geoff Palomino.

Abby also sees the group as a supportive mechanism in helping build her own confidence in her beliefs, and how she expresses them. She values the intergenerational flow of knowledge and support she is experiencing through the Market Exchange project:

“As of right now, I see it as an example for others that, you know, with day and time now, politics don’t always align. And I think it’s very difficult to be influenced by others and brought down by others, that it can be hard to give your own opinion on something without starting an argument. And I just think that everyone should see that your opinion is valid and you should stick to what you believe in. It’s just an example for the generations to come as well, especially because I have younger cousins and nephews, and I really want to show them that you should keep pushing towards things that you really want.”

Plush bags by Abby Juan. Photo by Geoff Palomino.
Plush bags by Abby Juan. Photo by Geoff Palomino.

You can learn more and purchase Abby’s handmade bags at marketexchange.18thstreet.org.

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