Meet Kytzia and Yoyo, the vivacious duo who are breathing new life into Mexican folk art
Colorful pompoms dangling around her neck, and a large camel hat to her head, Kytzia smiles at me with the most infectious smile, through the camera on a Zoom call. I can’t help but smile back and I continue to, during the whole interview. Kytzia passionately tells me about her friendship and partnership with Yoyo and how Ubuntu Market came about. As I sit there listening and watching this exceptional young woman, one thing becomes very clear, Pompoms are so cool!
In 2015, Kytzia Bourlon and her best friend Yoana Cortes were being pulled away by their friends while the two were strolling around the markets of Oaxaca City, unable to leave the colorful stalls behind. Eventually, their friends gave up and told them to meet back at the hotel. But in that moment, without Yoyo and Kytzia even realizing, something amazing had started.
Born and raised in Mexico, Kytzia and Yoyo have been best friends since kindergarten, and have always been bound by an insatiable love for arts, crafts and design, collecting artisanal wares throughout their extensive travels together. They work in perfect symbiosis, and one could be excused for not knowing who is who at first. Both exude passion, optimism and bountiful energy through their words, clothing (which obviously includes a lot of pompoms!) and ever-smiling eyes.
During that day in Oaxaca, watching the varieties of crafts, handmade jewelry, textile, and ceramics, and speaking to the artisans themselves, Kytzia and Yoyo realized that what they wanted to do more than anything else was to bring the magnificent handmade crafts of Mexico to the rest of the world.
Soon after that trip, while the two were living in NY they started hosting pop-up markets at friends’ houses, offices, restaurants.
"Every event was truly a collaborative effort: the whole community was coming together to buy these beautiful objects, learn about their origin and their makers’ lives.”
This is, in essence, what Ubuntu is all about, and why Kytzia and Yoyo chose Ubuntu Market as their name. Ubuntu, an ancient philosophy common to many African countries, is based on the belief that we are all interconnected, and that our real strength as human beings lies not in the individual, but in the community that surrounds them. Ubuntu means sharing and taking care of each other, knowing that what I give today will get back to me tomorrow in the form of a supportive, strong community around me.
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What started as pop-up markets around NYC, and later various US locations, quickly evolved into interior decoration, when in 2017 they were asked by MAXA, their camp at Burning Man, to decorate seventeen vintage RVs and fill them with handmade Mexican craftware.
“We suddenly had to order huge quantities of everything, and we realized we had a very real opportunity to affect the lives of dozens of artisans back in Mexico”.
One of their products, their magic pompoms, really took off. At the beginning, they were just being used by the two as decoration, giving their stalls a uniquely Mexican feel. Very soon, however, people started showing an interest in them and Ubuntu Market suddenly had orders for hundreds of pompoms at a time.
“Up until then we had one Pompom maker, Samuel, but now we needed to scale operations and asked his whole family to get involved. Today, we have four entire families producing pompoms virtually non-stop”.
Before long, Kytzia and Yoyo started exploring the real meaning behind the pompoms’ success. How could these apparently simple objects resonate with people from Mexico to Switzerland, from the US to Sweden? Was it because people loved their soft versatility? Was it their colors brightening up any room or outfit?
It became clear to them that pompoms are the physical embodiment of Ubuntu. I am because you are: we are all interconnected and the actions we take every day affect us and the rest of the world in equal measure. The pompom necklace reminds us of just that: each pompom is a person, and they are all connected by a thin but strong thread of wool.
Today, Ubuntu Market has expanded its craft stock immensely, dealing in anything from wool and textile products, to metalware and wax products, and currently employing over twenty artisans and their families full-time.
The artisans are what make Kytzia and Yoyo’s work so meaningful. “The power and energy of holding a handmade craft object in your hands is unparalleled. Buying a machine-made candle holder online just doesn’t compare.”
When you add to that that by buying their products you are directly affecting the lives of makers and artists around Mexico, good karma is assured. Most of the artisans who collaborate with Ubuntu Market are sustenance farmers, have all built their own homes, make their own clothes, and live with very little by Western standards, perpetuating centuries-old traditional crafts that would otherwise die out.
“Yet whenever we go there to collect a big order or simply to scout around for more talent, we always end up being invited to the artisans’ homes for sumptuous lunches and to meet their whole families. Our artisans are honestly the wisest, most inspiring life teachers, and the true demonstration that Ubuntu is the way to go”.
We’re incredibly excited to be collaborating with Ubuntu Market on a uniquely Mexican collection of crafts and wares from around Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Michoacan. Stay tuned for exciting updates and new products released soon!