Artisan Future

The research journey that led to We Weave We Design project.
Having a rich cultural heritage and numerous talented weavers, Guatemala has attracted small and large organizations overseas to develop the business with its textile industry. In partnership with Mercado Global, we researched and identified a series of issues in the collaboration model that threatening the sustainability of the indigenous artisan cultures. The research was mostly done over a week in Guatemala in 2018, where we conducted field research in the organization’s worksite and the artisan community. In a participatory design research workshop, I used cultural probes to engage artisans in conversations about their lives, culture, short and long-term goals.
4 Months
Abdul Barbhaya
Mariana Gonzalez
Megan Willy
Tina Qi
Course Project
Mercado Global
My Role
Ethnographic Research, Workshop Design, Workshop Facilitation, Data Synthesis
Secondary Research & Case Study

To better understand the ecosystem of the craft sector in Guatemala, we collected information of different scales: from policies made for benefiting exportation to detailed analysis of different business models. We synthesized the information on this ecosystem map.

Key Insight:
we couldn't know the voices of the artisans from accessible information. We identified this lacking as an important "missing piece" in our ecosystem map.

Field Research
Community Research Workshop

We conducted 2 workshops separately with 2 groups of artisans in San Jorge, one of the villages around Lake Atitlán. In the activities, we gained a holistic understanding of their lives, culture, short and long-term goals.

"the magic bag" activity: At the workshop, Artisans teamed up and picked a question card without seeing from the tote. In a given time, they discussed the question and either wrote or drew their answers on the card. They shared back their discussion in the ending session.

"time capsule" discussion: Except for asking questions about their status quo, we also brought the lens of future in the research in order to know their expectations about the future of their community. We introduced a fictional scenario where they are required to put 3 stuffs in a “time capsule” to send to their future generations.

Key Insights
  • They are proud of the knowledge of weaving but they don’t want their kids to be artisans.
  • They can’t design the textile but they get a sense of achievement when they design on their own.
  • Income generation is their first priority for weaving.
  • They hope their work be recognized and valued.
  • They heavily rely on middlemen.
  • Some artisans want to have their own business.
  • Artisans with high literacy level or Spanish speaking artisans have better opportunities to get on the Board of Directors.
Problem and Opportunity

Major Problem Area

artisans are losing their creative ability due to
the current production model.

Under this model, they no longer design patterns that reflect their identity and culture, which used to be the main source of artisans' creativity.

Opportunity Area

design through cultural expression
Most social enterprises who work in the craft industry use the red part of the system to fulfill their mission of empowering artisans. They focus on income incentive and education more than culture preservation and design training. We were hoping to embed artisans' traditional "design through cultural expression" process to the current production model, in order to empower artisans through a more holistic empowerment model.

Check out We Weave We Design project to see how we solve this problem >>>