Working with artisans internationally: learn everything you need to get started at our Fair Design Bootcamp

Do you love to travel to distant locations? Appreciate beautiful craft work? Want to (as corny as it sounds) make the world a better place? Then creating a cross-cultural collaborative design project might be your dream job. Our recent SBA InnovateHER finalist VOZ does this with beautiful results and now CFDA finalist Brother Vellies is collaborating with artists in Ethiopa. 

So I know what you're thinking: That sounds amazing but how do I start? This Saturday Daphna Lewinshtein will be covering all the basics and answering your questions at our Fair Design Bootcamp.  (January 16, 2016 from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM). An independent design strategist for artisan enterprise, Daphna's background includes a BFA in Ceramics as well as a graduate degree in Nonprofit Management with a specialization in Design for Social Entrepreneurship.

She is currently working with a group of traditional Bangladeshi embroiderers in NYC and will be relocating to Burma, in early 2016, as a consultant to an artisan business incubator. 

How did you first learn about / get interested in fair trade?
I have always been a maker so this is partially why. But also I have always been interested in the people who makes everything we use.  I think most people think that most objects we have are made by machines and robots and don't realize that human hands have touched everything.  I think by putting Fair Trade on things it makes you step back and think about the person who made your object, coffee or whatever it is.

Then later I had the opportunity to hang out in a giant ceramic factory in China for 2 weeks and everyday I was amazed.  The ceramic that were being made were normal plates, bowls and all other serving, basically all the dishes we eat off of.  How they were made -  I would do the same thing and it would be called artisanal when I would make it.  But the workers weren't looked at like that and were getting very low pay, and some of the health conditions were terrible.  

What are some of the biggest misconceptions people have about it?
Fair trade has to look hippyish! Also there isn't enough awareness in general. I was a tech in a ceramics lab for product design students and I was shocked!  No one knew what fair trade was or was taught by the school to source ethically.

What do you find most challenging?
Well first, there are just so many certificates out there and it is so hard to keep up with them.

Then there is the challenge of relaying the value of an object - that a human took alot of time and skill. The value of another country, background, race basically there is no difference between a person in the developing world making a product and a developed world.  This is currently something I am researching and other artisan brands have expressed the same issues. 

I'm sure people's expectations of things being cheap because of fast fashion doesn't help. But hopefully that's changing as well.

Do you think there's a shifting awareness about the importance of fair trade and any thoughts on how it will change moving forward?
I do think there is a big movement towards better and fair working conditions.  More consumers are starting to ask where and who made my stuff.  But it is still a small percentage of the population, this is just due to the economics and geography.  There is a small shift happening with big company's and trying to make labor practices better.  And many big company's are moving into the artisan sector. So we'll see...

Interested in learning more? You'll leave the class with:

  • A better understanding of Fair Trade
  • Techniques for effective collaborative design
  • Next steps for securing an international design collaboration with artisans

Saturday, January 16, 2016 from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM