Collab: Artisan Futures

Spring 2018

How might we better support indigenous artisans and their families past the current generation of makers? With the craft sector being the 2nd largest employer in the developing world, and with a majority of artisans living in poverty, this question is both critical and urgent. After an introduction to the global artisan sector, grounded in myriad case studies, students will create projects that promote a more equitable and just artisan sector. Working in collaboration with the Ixchel Textile Museum in Guatemala City and other strategic partners, that include companies, as well as artisans, student projects will cover a range of topics including, but not limited to, the issue of financial sustainability while striving for fair wages, the digitization and archiving of artisan techniques and technologies, as well as questions of digital fabrication and future capacity-building for artisans. There will be an optional Spring Break trip to Guatemala, which will ensure student projects are grounded in meaningful user-centered design methods. Building on 10 years of the DEED Research Lab (, the course will guide students through methods of community collaboration with a focus on social justice. The course is open to all graduate students at The New School, and advanced undergraduates with permission of the instructor.

Students will work individually and in groups to create ideas that reimagine the future for, with, and around indigenous artisans and their craft. The course is structured through a typical design process. Readings, research and writing assignments will complement design projects.

In New York City, Guatemala, and via Zoom, students will have the opportunity to meet with various stakeholders. These include staff from the Museo Ixchel in Guatemala City, Mercado Global in both NYC and Guatemala, and myriad other individual supporters, company owners, and academics who are experienced in the indigenous artisan sector. They will serve as both advisors to, resources for, and critics of, the ideas that emerge throughout the semester.