CASEM, the Cooperativa de Artesanas de Santa Elena y Monteverde, is a non-profit artisan cooperative dedicated to enhancing the economic and social well-being of local women artists.

The CASEM store and workshop, situated within the heart of Monteverde, is a showcase for unique, locally produced handicrafts. These handicrafts include decorative wall hangings, ceramics, clothes, bags, jewelry, toys and wood carvings.

The CASEM Co-op – which was originally a part of the Cooperativa Santa Elena, but is now fully independent – was established in 1982 by a group of eight women artists, with the goal of using their creative skills to improve the lives of their families. Initially working out of the kitchen of one of their founding members, the women have now turned the organization into a flourishing community enterprise. CASEM has nearly 100 current members.

CASEM’s objectives are to offer employment opportunities to local women and to provide training in production and diversification of arts and crafts techniques. They also work to promote the understanding of business operations in order to help generate extra family income and, more importantly, build self-esteem and encourage community participation. To this end, proceeds from sales have been used to finance artistic and business management training, as well as workshops in confidence building, problem solving and conflict resolution. Members receive 65% of the sale price of all products while the remaining 35% is invested into the cooperative’s facilities and educational programs.

In 1987, as part of a joint community effort, the current CASEM building was erected on land that was donated by the Cooperativa Santa Elena. The building houses a store, gallery and workshop space for members. Every year, volunteer groups (hosted by Global Volunteers) from Europe and the United States come to work with CASEM. Their improvements include murals, mosaics, gardens and gallery fittings.

CASEM is open Mon-Sat from 8 AM to 5 PM, and on Sundays from 10 AM to 4 PM. Visitors may see local artists at work in the workshop, and can be confident that any purchases made are going to support an essential community enterprise.

For more information about CASEM, please call 2645-5190.