We are excited to announce that DEED was once again selected to work with Pangea Advisors, the pro-bono consulting group of Columbia Business School’s International Development Club. DEED had the pleasure of receiving support from a Pangea team of students in spring 2014, which resulted in a series of business plans for the sale of artisan products as well as international courses that could be taught by our artisan partners. Our current challenge is to learn how to market those craft products, while still committing to DEED’s principles regarding fair wage and collaborative design.
While DEED has established various collaborations within Guatemala and Colombia, we have worked the longest (since 2008) with two artisan groups in San Lucas Tolimán, Guatemala: Ajkem’a Loy’a and BARCO. Together, about 25 Mayan women have participated in student-led workshops and various prototyping and design charrettes. Moreover, they have successfully fulfilled small orders, which have been exported to and sold in New York. Throughout the process, DEED has remained committed to our principle that the artisans be the designers of the products they make. Whereas other artisan projects often bring in external design expertise, we work to ensure that the artisans gain the design knowledge they would need to be able to create, innovate, and keep up with ever-changing market changes and interests.
Nevertheless, even though both of these Guatemalan groups weave beautiful handmade scarves grounded in traditional craft, they face a saturated artisan marketplace within their own country, which includes competition from false copies made in China. Our goal, with the help of the Pangea team, is to bring these scarves to a global market while also ensuring that the artisan groups are adequately compensated.
Interested in this project? We invite you check out the scarves in the University Center, which are on display as part of the exhibition highlighting the new Social Practice minor available to undergraduates!