Name: Julie Wagne
Location: San Francisco, CA
Occupation: Co-Founder, Petel
Growing up in Kansas, Julie Wagne had wanted to be a teacher. These days, as the co-founder of Petel, she’s educating by example. Her non-profit fosters a thriving partnership between artists, designers, and weavers in West Africa and San Francisco here in the United States. This union between those who make handcrafted textiles and local craftsmen creates one-of-a-kind items that help to continue the practice of hand-weaving and preserves artisanal traditions.
She met her partner Ibrahima when both were working with the Peace Corps in Mauritania. Their similar zest for the Pulaar language and sharing tales of their international adventures nurtured a love that not only helped to bring about Petel but also led to the genesis of their family. Today the two live with their young daughters in San Francisco, where they are teaching them different languages as well as how to further contribute to the world in unique and thoughtful ways.
As a parent and non-profit founder, Julie has to rely on a virtue that doesn’t exactly come easily…with a laugh she cites her largest challenge to date as “the extreme effort it requires for me to be patient.”
But the persistence has paid off.
With their commitment to providing resources to tribal villages and communities, and their promise of exceeding fair wages, Petel’s mission has helped send children to schools, given security to families, and protected the cultural heritage of the Fulani people that inspires their textile creations.
The name Petel comes from the Fulani word meaning “little spark.” Because it comes from the language shared among their tribal weavers, it seemed natural to use a word that is both vibrant and inspiring. “It is our dream that this “little spark” will ignite a fire of hope, inspiration and self-sufficiency through craft among the Fulani in West Africa,” Petel’s mission statement declares.
Between being energized by her love for the Fulani and her husband, Petel’s future is bright. Last month alone they were a part of The Progress Workshop for a Pop-Up and the San Francisco Remodelista Market, and they have been covered by the San Francisco Chronicle, organized a Kickstarter, and are establishing two women’s cooperatives in Mauritania.
“I would love to continue to find ways to be artistically creative while helping artisans in West Africa,” Julie adds.
While no day is ever typical for her so it’s hard to describe her template for success, Julie passes on this crucial piece of advice that has fueled her since her early days in Kansas. “If you want to do something, do it. Believe in yourself and keep going!”
We think that’s great advice! For giving back to the creative communities that means so much to her, we think that Julie Wagne is a Cool Girl!