TH Eco-Action: Bridging Cultures Through Design — RISD Students Finish Their Sustainable Design Workshop In Guatemala

weaving class.jpg

And so the intrepid team of RISD design students have made it safely back to Rhode Island after their exciting and intensive field trip to Guatemala. It has been very interesting to follow their progress courtesy of Chelsea Green. Below Chelsea tells us about the last few days of the workshop and how a Guatemalan design student read about their project on TreeHugger and managed to find them in their studio. Oh how we love connecting people! It will be interesting to see how the Bridging Cultures Through Design project develops back in Rhode Island and what comes out of their learning experience with the local artisans of Lake Atitlan. We hope that Chelsea and the RISD gang will keep us up to date with their very worthwhile project and we look forward to seeing some beautiful, sustainable and marketable products in the end.Thursday, February 9
Before beginning our final day of weaving at the Cojolya Association of Maya Women Weavers we were given the opportunity to visit a local home in Santiago Atitlan to see first hand how weaving is fits into daily life. Along with a courtyard backstrap weaving set up in process, we were able to view some huipile work featuring outstanding bird embroidery typical of Santiago Atitlan.

trad bird embroidery.jpg

After our final morning of weaving we were given our individual backstrap weaves, mats and tools to take home to continue our practice. This was especially exiting for the Textiles majors of our group. Kathryn Maresca hopes to give a presentation of this ancient technique to the Textiles department upon return.

Many of the weavers were unable to make it to the studio due to rough chop on the lake this afternoon. We continued to work on prototypes as well as specifications for new designs that have been inspired since arrival. We had the opportunity to meet further the exporter Ian Gonzales as needed.

In addition, we were visited by Alexandra Gutierrez, a Guatemalan industrial design student who is currently studying at University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She read about us on Treehugger and tracked us down in our studio to check out the progress. She is currently working on her undergraduate thesis and hopes to also work with local Guatemalan materials and processes. It was fantastic to discuss the project with Alexandra and see the potential opportunities that we were inspiring for her future work.

Friday, February 10
This was our last full studio day in Panajachel. It was a rush of finalizing prototypes, drawings, material selections and samples. Adjustments were made to the last backstrap weave samples being worked on by weavers from San Antonio Palopo.


In the evening the class had met to share thoughts on the progress of the project, as our site work here in Guatemala comes to a close, as well as to set intentions as we move forward. We shared laughs over some of the 'happy accidents' that arrived during this collaboration. We all noted the important role of laughter throughout this process. It served to fill in the gaps in communication.

Brittany Kleinman noted that the most striking part of working here with artisans has been seeing the "direct connection to the objects that they own." She added, "When something is needed they grow it or make it by hand".

Saturday, February 11
In the morning we broke down the studio and prepared for our departure. We reviewed final of prototypes with a group of crochet artisans from Lake Atitlan area. We then traveled three hours through farmlands back to Guatemala City.

Sunday, February 12
We used our free morning to visit the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in Guatemala City to view artifacts of Mayan culture. This was followed by a final market excursion to note designer products available locally.

boarding boat.jpg

This project has left us all feeling overwhelmed by what we have been able to accomplish in such a short period of time. It is difficult to tell what the results will be at this point as we have learned that projects of this scope take time to fully develop. We are very confident that the ideas, collaboration process and prototypes have inspired many opportunities. We hope that these opportunities lead to long term sustainable income for the communities that we have collaborated throughout this project. We look forward to staying in close contact to our tireless and enthusiastic project director, Mimi Robinson, who is still working away in Guatemala, as well as the exporters who will be helping to develop the designs for market. via RISD design student Chelsea Green ::RISD Design Students Go To Guatamala ::RISD Students' First Impressions Of Guatemala ::RISD Students continue Guatemalan Sustainable Design Adventure.