Artisan groups in Caldas, Colombia

Summer 2012

A feasibility study trip in collaboration with the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales (UAM) and the Centro de Desarrollo Artesanal de Caldas. During this ten-day project we were based in Manizales, and together with a class of design students from the UAM, visited three towns through Colombia’s coffee region to meet with artisan groups and practice Human-Centered Design.


In the capital city of Caldas, an event with several speakers inaugurated the project. Here, we gave a presentation entitled “Design, Innovation, and Craft without Borders: the Case of DEED” which was very well received. We met five artisans – each from different towns within Caldas. The crafts they made included dried palm weaving, basket weaving, silver & gold jewelry, silk thread weaving, and sheep’s wool weaving.

Rio Sucio

In this indigenous reservation we met with CISLOA, a community of indigenous artisans who weave baskets and accessories using dried palm leaves. We focused on trying to understand their dreams, the objectives of their group, and in particular how they thought we might work together. This was the first time DEED worked with a group inside a native indigenous reservation.


In the center of this bustling town we met the artesans of ASEDAN Punto y Seda – silk-spinners and hand loom weavers. While they create original designs and work with great skill they aren’t yet the full-time artisans they aspire to be, and all rely on other jobs to make a living. We met with just four of the ten women in the artisan association, but had two extremely productive sessions in which we were able to establish joint goals and objectives and map out our next steps.


In the sombrero capital of Colombia (and birthplace of the “Panama Hat”) we met with artisans who handweave traditional Colombian hats using iraca palm fiber. Through interactive design exercises we established a dialogue amongst the group. Through this the groups became aware of their core strengths and were enlightened to their underlying potential, and creativity. The majority of the group members were women artisans, who had never participated in, nor had access to, certain aspects of the hat making process and business. DEED encouraged exploration where many (if not most of the women) began to exude confidence and even engaged in parts of the process which they had never thought to participate.

Artisan Groups

  • Cooperativa Artesanal de Aguadas


  • Alicia Brindisi, New School for Public Engagement, International Affairs
  • Dominque Howse, New School for Public Engagement, Urban Policy and Analysis
  • Lindsey Jochets, Parsons, History of Decorative Arts and Design
  • Daphna Lewinshtein, New School for Public Engagement, Nonprofit Management
  • Rashid Owoyele, Parsons, Transdisciplinary Design


  • Cynthia Lawson, Associate Professor of Integrated Design, Parsons
  • Fabiola Berdiel, Director, International Field Program, The New School

Special Thanks / Partners

  • Artesanías de Caldas
  • Universidad Autónoma de Manizales


  • Crowdsourced by the Students via
  • Artesanías de Caldas
  • Universidad Autónoma de Manizales

Resources and Links

Blog Posts

When in Colombia…

by Rashid Adetokunbo Okikiola Owoyele, DEED ’12 This has been my first trip out of the US and I am feeling so blessed to have had this opportunity. Though my

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Mind, Body, Spirit, & Gratitude

By Lindsey Jochets, DEED ’12 What is human composition? Is it a scientific interpretation of the body; oxygen and breath, or the unification and movement of atoms to form blood

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Day 3: Anserma

What a fantastic day. Although never made explicit, the big difference between yesterday and today was our group agreeing that we should have “demonstration of entrepreneurial spirit” as a criteria

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Day 2: San Lorenzo

Our town visits started today with an afternoon in San Lorenzo, about 2 hours from Manizales. In true plan-all-you-want-but-this-is-real-life-style, the plan we finalized yesterday evening with the student team had

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Town (and craft) hopping

And we’re off! We’ll be town-hopping through Thursday. Our first stop is Rio Sucio, in which an artisan association in an indigenous reserve focuses on weaving baskets and accessories. Then,

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Debriefing and team dynamics

We’re not sure what is the exact formula, but we are, each time, impressed and pleasantly surprised, by the fantastic team dynamics our students engage in when participating in our

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Day 1: Manizales

Most of the DEED student team has arrived in Manizales and the project has been kicked off with a bang (and an activity-filled day.) An event with several speakers inaugurated

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Colombia – here we come!

We are thrilled to have been invited by colleagues in the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales to join them in early June and develop a collaborative DEED program in the beautiful

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