Workshop Description

Pilot March 2019

After coordinating, planning, and developing a workshop plan, our team traveled again to Guatemala in March 2019 for a week of workshops with 15 women artisans from around Lake Atitlán from the communities of San Antonio and Santiago. We met with the two groups separately over the course of 4 days for 3 hours each group per day. The workshop sessions were as follows:

Section 1: Historical & Cultural Context

Lecture of the history and culture of Guatemalan textiles

A lecture was delivered by an anthropologist who works at Museo Ixchel in Guatemala City. The content covered the origin of weaving culture in Guatemala, the evolving of textile style through history, the function of textiles culturally, and the significance of symbols and color in the patterns.

Discussion session & fellows cultural object sharing

A casual discussion was held after the lecture, where student fellows and artisans had conversations about the lecture, design and weaving culture. Each student fellow presented an object that represents the culture they come from. Through this activity, artisans knew more about student fellows, trust was developed, and they saw examples of cultural objects.

Section 2: Reflection on the message they’d like to pass on & cultural object sharing

Artisan cultural object sharing

Artisans shared the stories and meaning of the object to each other and to student fellows.

Documenting and grouping

A worksheet was used to collect the stories. Artisans and student fellows all participated in the activity. In addition to using words, drawing was also encouraged. After filling out the worksheets, there was a grouping exercise: objects were categorized based on prompts like color, origin, emotion, and meaning. This activity aims to echo the concept that culture is shared values and experience.

Introducing abstraction

Student fellows shared their understanding of the process of abstraction to artisans by giving a presentation about the different emotional connotations of color, the gradual abstraction of reality in artmaking, and the significance of symbol and color in Asian textile design.

Expressing emotions exercise

Following the presentation, artisans reacted and expressed their connection to the topics discussed from their own craft. They also completed an exercise about emotions and how they might depict happiness, sadness, and anger with images and colors. Then they shared these with the larger group.

Section 3: Design using a progressive step framework

Structured/controlled activities to a free activity of complete agency over design and color

Textile product design

The artisans then individually designed their pieces on paper, the Santiago Atitlán community designed belts and the San Antonio community design bracelets individually. These designs were inspired by the activities that took place beforehand.

Collective decision making

After each artisan’s design was complete, we put them together and presented the significance behind their creative decisions. The Santiago Atitlán community decided to make a collective design putting each design together into one belt to then be woven. The San Antonio community decided to choose 1 design per artisan to be woven into a prototype.


Section 4: Product making

Weaving of the chosen designs

After deciding upon their final designs, artisans spent hours weaving their final pieces.

Celebration and documenting

Finally, each artisan recorded the meaning of their design, took photographs with their work, and a final celebration party with lunch was shared by all!

Participation by all

Each member of our 4-person team participated in these, two facilitating and translating while the other two presented the steps of abstraction and documented with photography. All participated actively in discussions and exercises in hopes of creating a more non-hierarchical relationship with the artisans. Our intentions were to be as participative and as flexible as possible with a nature of sharing our design process in an adaptable way to the personalized workshop plans which changed slightly for each of the communities we worked with, and careful of asking about their design process at each step of the way. Our intention was never to impose western notions of the design process, but to create a space for cultural exchange and mutual learning. We started each session with a simple group warm-up activity to get to know each other better and create a more relaxed atmosphere of play and also to play a game that was typical of their culture.

The non-profit’s site leaders were also active in the workshops and participated with the artisans and fellows. Some of the women from Santiago Atitlán aren’t able to communicate in Spanish, so the leaders helped in translation from Kaqchikel.