Designing Woman – Business Owner and Designer of Handmade Jewelry Launches New Line

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Shari Zarin, co-owner and designer of Altiplano, has launched a new line of handmade jewelry and bags for the fall inspired by traditional Mayan crafts and contemporary fashion trends. With her own fair trade workshop and with other cooperatives in Guatemala, Shari designs and produces a line of handmade jewelry, handmade bags and accessories. In celebration of the launch of her new fall line, we sat down for a chat with Shari about her inspiration, her community and how she manages the sometimes tricky business of working in two countries.

Shari Zarin

Shari Zarin

The more direct inspiration for my work is drawn from Guatemala, and in particular, the rich tradition of weaving that is so prominent in the Mayan world.

Altiplano co-owner, Shari Zarin, has launched her new line of handmade jewelry just in time for fall. Zarin, who has her own fair trade workshop in Guatemala, designs and produces Altiplano’s handmade jewelry, handmade bags and other accessories.

The new line of jewelry is inspired by a variety of things, including nature and native Mayan crafts. Zarin says, “Mostly my connection to the natural world feeds my soul, which in turn, of course inspires my work. Perhaps my garden is my greatest muse. I love the thrill of working in a medium that has a mind of its own. The more direct inspiration for my work is drawn from Guatemala, and in particular, the rich tradition of weaving that is so prominent in the Mayan world.”

In addition to her inspiration from nature and the Mayan culture, Zarin is also inspired by contemporary ideas in fashion. “I do read fashion magazines and design blogs to keep abreast of trends, but mostly, I am inspired by street fashion - real people and their personal creative expression.”

Zarin’s new line of jewelry features pieces made from recycled materials, including beautiful fabrics that are handwoven and worn by Mayan women and men. To keep in line with this season’s trend, many of the items are created with a geometric design in mind. When asked about her favorite item from the new fall line, Zarin says, “I especially like the V-Tube bead and leather necklace. It is the most on-trend piece in the collection and uses the glass beads so effectively. I love the mix of materials, bronzed leather, and the different looks you get from the different lengths. I think it also the most unusual piece in the collection.”

All of Zarin’s hard work and creative designs are even more remarkable due to the fact that she is a working mom. Balancing a home life while running three businesses in two separate countries doesn’t come easy for anyone. “It's a lot of work, and takes many hands to make it happen. We are blessed with an amazing and invested staff both here and in Guatemala”, says Zarin.

Zarin feels that including her children in the business has helped to give them a global perspective that is difficult to get in Vermont. “I have three amazing children who have grown up in the heart of the business. I think this immersion with the Mayan culture has very much influenced who they are today. They know poverty, and the simple life, and I think they found gratitude at a young age. They also seem to have a strong work ethic, having been brought up around so much work.”

Read the full interview with Shari at and visit the Altiplano website to see the fall collection.

Altiplano is a small family-owned company based in southern Vermont and Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Working with many cooperative groups, small family businesses, and their own fair trade workshop, they are committed to creating innovative products that support indigenous communities and the environment. Co-owned by John von Wodtke and Shari Zarin, Altiplano has been supporting fair trade and social justice since 1988.

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Shana Silverman

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