For Over the past 8 years, the Artecer association in Paripueira, Maceió (AL), has been gathering women from the community to learn and develop clothing. The women work with Singeleza lace, and are supported by the Sebrae, the Brazilian support service for small enterprises.
Most likely originating from Portugal, the lace is made with a needle, a toothpick and thread. It’s history is one that spans through the 20th century; Jeane Valentim dos Santos was taught how to make it by her grandmother Luzinete, who in turn, learned the process from a Portuguese nanny who arrived in Brazil after World War One.
A delicate fabric that can be used to detail pieces of clothing, or simply as raw material. Commonly used in dresses, skirts, beachwear and often decoration, it is considered the intangible cultural heritage of Alagoas.
Those who visit Alagoas find a small shop dedicated to the material, run by Jeane. Most of the collection is made up of American games, napkin holders and vase covers. But there are also blouses and beachwear. The collection holds a variety of stock, from napkin holders to vase covers, blouses to beachwear.
At the back of the house, the artisans gather every day to work while they chat. According to them conversation and laughter serve as therapy, while the sale of their products makes them financially independent. During the pandemic, the lace had the power to change the course of their lives for the better.
Transforming the community with a material
In partnership with Sebrae, the Sindivest-Alagoas Clothing Trade Union is offering free classes in sewing and pattern making. They are supported by the Federation of Industries of Algoas and Senai - National Service for Industry.
But the proposal goes further: "The women from the region of Paripueira are shellfish harvesters and during the low shellfish season they are out of work; hence our idea to teach them how to make lace,” explained Francisco Acioli, president of Sindivest.
In addition to the classes, Sindivest will buy the products for the association's stock. "It is a joint effort between Sindivest, the Federation and Senai, besides the partnership of Sebrae,” said Acioli.
The course offers training and fashion information in order to add more value to the work. On top of reviving the shop space, the course has 15 machines on loan, allowing the women to work and earn an income.
At the moment there are 10 women taking the courses, but the goal is to have 60 women working including the shellfish harvesters. "We also intend to catalogue it, make a book and teach people how this type of lace is made, to maintain the tradition," said Acioli.
Lace as financial and emotional support
Among the lace-makers is Cícera Rodrigues, who has lived in Paripueira for five years.
Away from her family, having moved there with only her husband and children, she became depressed. Searching for a way to overcome the feeling of sadness, she took the course and learned how to make the lace.
“I made a stock and started selling,” she told FashionUnited. After having undergone an operation and ordered to rest, she began making lace more seriously. It brought her to the stage of financial independence, and raised her self-esteem.
Today, Rodrigues is a lace instructor. “I would like all the women here in Paripueira to believe in the lace, but many still don’t. I come here at night to work and this has helped me a lot, including in the raising of my children. I don’t want to leave here any more and I want to organise myself and help Artecer grow, because it has always been my dream to work with fashion; to apply lace on linen, poplin and other fabrics.” She shared with FashionUnited a piece of beachwear she made for a tourist.
The most exciting story is that of 16 year old Rayane Laís Rosa who found in the lace classes a reason to face the difficulties encountered during the pandemic, with online sessions.
"I had anxiety crises and my aunt and cousin brought me to learn; today I can say that Singeleza has changed my life a lot. I am in the second year of secondary school and I have been feeling better, calmer, following the online sessions with more resourcefulness and understanding," she explains.
Rosineide Rosa, Rayane's mother, has been making Singeleza for over 7 years. 4 months ago, after a break, she returned to lace again.
"I come in the afternoon and evening and today I am much better because here we get together and make the lace while chatting and laughing, which makes us calmer; what we need at the moment is to be able to sell and earn more,” Rosa says to FashionUnited. “It is an art that is handmade, and as an art it should be valued.”
This article was originally published on FashionUnited.BR, translated and edited to English.