An unassuming garage on Artesian in Wicker Park is where the nascent, online home goods retailer Agave Supply lives. The passion project of local furniture artist Eddie Huber, Agave Supply features fine, handmade baskets, pottery, rugs, and much more from traditional artisans from around the world, focusing firstly and foremost on Mexico.
“After college,” Eddie says, “I spent 6 months backpacking through Mexico and I truly fell in love with it. I feel like Mexico is such an amazing place for the arts. I want to remind people, to cut through all the Trump rhetoric about Mexico, that it’s a beautiful, wonderful place. I want to get people excited about Mexico, too.”
After spending the past 6-7 years making and refurbishing mid-century furniture, Eddie realized that in order to expand his business, he’d have to involve logistics that didn’t appeal to him. “I’d have to get a huge truck, drive all around, and the details of pricing and the time it takes to source and make these things, it just didn’t make any sense.”
Instead, he decided to turn his love of travel and handicrafts into a new business plan. He booked a trip to Mexico and spent a couple of weeks traveling through the countryside. He found himself around Oaxaca after a long spell of “detective work”, as he describes it, finding things that he loved and then trying to figure out where they came from and who made them.
“What’s cool about this region of Oaxaca,” Eddie explains, “is that there are lots of little towns that specialize in their own crafts. There’s a basket town, this weaving town, a red clay pottery town, a black clay pottery town…there’s so many wonderful things to see.”
He decided to stop first, by a remote village that was known for their wool work. “When I got there,” he recounts “I asked around, and finally came across a little sign that said ‘women’s weaving cooperative’. I knocked and no one was there. I came back a week later, knocked, and the door opened and they welcomed me with open arms. They didn’t even know who I was or that I was coming!”
Impressed with their technique and designs, he asked if they had time right then and there to design something with him. “I took an afternoon and all in Spanish designed 2 pillows and 2 rugs. I said, ‘What if we took this stripe from here, but used this color, or what if we took this pattern and put it on this background…’ we just drew it all out on a piece of paper. It was so exciting.” The results of that afternoon are 2 pillow and 2 rug designs that are currently being prototyped on the loom and will soon arrive on the site.
All of the textiles are woven on traditional looms, and the cheery, bright colors are created from natural sources as well.
“They showed me how they do it,” Eddie holds out his hand for demonstration. “The reds are made from these little bugs called cochineal that flock to the nopal leaves. They’re like a quarter of the size of a ladybug. They took one and crushed it into a stripe on my hand and it was a bold, bright red. Then they took another and crushed it and mixed it with a little slice of lime and it became bright, hot pink. Then they crushed another and mixed with this powder, maybe calcium? And it was this deep, beautiful purple. They gather moss to do the greens, marigolds for the yellows, and pomegranates for the browns. Blues are made with indigo.”
Eddie’s excitement about the talent and hard work that go into each product is palpable. Not only because he loves beautiful, high-quality things, but because ultimately, he explains, “these artisans use the money to live of course, but they also pump a lot of that money back into their community and makes everyone’s lives a little better. So it’s more than just about me.”
You can follow Agave Supply on Instagram, @agavesupply.