Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Giving aid to artisans to preserve crafts of the third world

Many art forms in the under-developed world are under constant threat of vanishing due to lack of access to materials or a market to sell from. A story in The Washington Times highlights a business that helps to bring these crafts to the marketplace. Artecnica travels to the under-developed world to find artisans whose crafts are worthy of an international market.

For our snippet, Designer Tucker Robbins from Artecnica mentions a charity that they cooperate with. Reporter Kim cook tells us about Aid for Artisans.

He cites the group Aid to Artisans (ATA) as having done good work in Honduras, Guatemala and Peru. The nonprofit organization, which also has had projects in Iraq and elsewhere, tries to create economic opportunity for artisans in regions where craft traditions are at risk, often where civil strife has taken a toll, particularly on women.

Many of its products are sold online, including beautifully worked iron bowls and screens forged by artists in Haiti's ironcraft center, Croix de Bouquet. ATA has worked with them on their techniques, and helped them devise better ways to purchase raw materials and market their wares.

ATA's Colleen Pendleton says red tape can make it difficult in some places to get ATA projects off the ground, but so far no country has rebuffed them.

She points to Artecnica as one of her group's most successful partnerships: "In 2002, Artecnica founded Design With Conscience, a program that promotes self-sustaining communities of skilled artisans in underdeveloped countries. They've invited talented, internationally known designers to team with them and with artisans in need around the world."

Former Colombian journalist Marcella Echevarria has started the design firm SURevolution, which brings Indian and Latin American handcrafts such as textiles, baskets, ceramics and an array of fashion pieces to the luxury marketplace. Earthy black La Chamba pottery is made from the mica-rich clay of the Colombian hills. Velvety smooth bowls are turned out of rosewood stumps from carefully managed forests in Bolivia, by workshops whose earnings help raise their community twice above the country's poverty line.

"When you think about it, embedded in textiles, metals and ceramics you find the DNA of us as world citizens. We deserve to know about the techniques, materials and craftsmanship, because they're the carriers of our identity," Miss Echevarria says.

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