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The site is extremely thorough and has plenty of information about everything but here are a few questions I would ask Benita Singh:

1. How do you pick, choose and seek the different suppliers that you work with? 

2. Do you ever make sure that the suppliers you work with are child labour free ? Do you ever get involved in the quotes that the suppliers give?

3. Why do you think people would prefer to use your website as opposed to going to a showroom themselves and getting the feel of a material instantly instead of waiting for it to be delivered by Source4Style?

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http://amt.parsons.edu/2012/04/11/6729/

An MFA DT student creating a web based thesis about collaborating hand-weaving artisans and ‘creative interneters’ (she calls them that)

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When I read this reading my first impression was immediately: Okay so she managed to help a community in need even though they were not doing something that was part of their culture and that seems alright because they were in a poor state. But after thinking about it I realized that it was unfortunate that the Native Americans had to work on something that was not a part of their culture, just to earn money. The thing is though that they had a choice. They could have chosen not to work with Miss Carter. Then again, Sibyl did just what a lot of the organizations are doing today - the difference is that they do not change the crafts completely. Some might but most are all about cultural preservation.

Maiwa works with a lot of co-ops and their main goal is to help better the lives of the craftsmen and provide them with fair wages. It seems as though their secondary goal is to preserve crafts and maybe change them a little to fit the buyers who are mostly from the west. And here that was the goal too: income generation, in a way she was preserving a craft, just not the craft of the Native Americans.

The article makes it seem like Sibyl was a savior, the conditions were worse than horrible and she helped them out plenty. If the craftsmen and people of the village were reaching a point where it was producing lace or surviving with attempting to sell beads — it would be better that they produce lace that may not be their indigenous craft. I do agree though that the interest and appeal of an organization lies in the idea that the people creating it are ‘authentic’ (exoticism) and promoting their craft as much as they can. Sibyl could have tried to promote the beadworks of the Natives and maybe that could have been successful.

I think that if Maiwa was first looking out for the wages of their craftsmen and making sure they get fair wages - I would not be surprised, but I’m not sure it would be worth it at the cost of them producing something that wasn’t about them or their culture. I feel like there wouldn’t really be a point of handcraft then - why have it when you can just get it machine made. I don’t think anyone would want to buy an Indian Saree made by a Native American for example - the whole exoticism and authenticity and worth of the garment is lost. Especially in today’s day and age where people seem to care more about who made it and where it came from and if it is worth the large amount that they are paying. They want to know that their garments are real and authentic. Although, if Maiwa made their craftsmen create things that were not a part of their culture at all and cultural preservation was completely out the window - it would totally change my opinion of the company and even the founders of it because then it would just seem like any regular company that is trying to make a sell and they get their garments stitched outside the country they sell them in - any and every company today does that! 

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- The website says, “preserving Mayan culture and revitalizing Mayan communities” Other than the weaving process, in what way is the culture preserved ? Do you use any traditional patterns from Guatemala ? Who designs your garments? Does the weaver have a say ?

- Are all the pieces produced only by using the back strap weaving or has Good of Conscience explored other weaving techniques ?

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What lead you to create Odegard Inc ? Were you drawn to the idea of helping promote handcrafted traditions, the idea of helping the people themselves (and stopping child labour etc) or was it your interest in textiles ? Also, would you say that work for you are working just for financial reasons or that they enjoy their craft (are comfortable with not running the design aspect of their work) ? 

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1) Is Maiwa Handprints a Fair-Trade Organization ?

2) What is their ‘Mission Statement’ if any.
3) On what basis have they picked the co-operatives that they work with and are under the ‘Maiwa Handprints’ label?
4) On what basis do they pick the products that they want to sell in their shops ?
5) How involved are they in each co-operatives business model ? Or are they at all ?
6) Is there a permanent and regular commitment to these co-operatives ? And are they involved in the personal lives of the artisans in any way (do they contribute to their lives) ?
7) What is the history behind starting Maiwa ? How and why was it founded ?
8) In what ways does Maiwa preserve or interpret the craft skills and traditions of the textiles and the artisans ?
9) What kind of marketing strategy does Maiwa have ? How do they reach out to their consumers ?
10) Also, how does Maiwa communicate the needs and consumption patterns of the consumers in the west to the Artisans ?  

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Designers Meets Artisans outlines an approach guiding the interaction between designers and artisans. The fact is that crafts remain mostly “an activity cast in predominantly rural matrix” whereas the markets that these are sold in are urban and the artisan is not directly in contact with the consumers and so does not really have knowledge about the aesthetic and socio-cultural requirements of the consumers either to design accordingly. So designers are the obvious mediators and interveners, they are the middle men between the artisans and the consumers. They channel the needs of the consumers towards the artisans and the traditions of the artisans to the consumers. Here, the designer of course is not the one who takes creative charge, it is the artisans who create and the designers may change a few things depending on the market that they are selling to but the real designing is done by the artisans. They are not like designers in design companies today that are the ones who really create and take control over all creative decisions which is not the case with the designers who work with the artisans.
The approach that the designers have to take is more whole with relation to research and knowledge about production. As opposed to a regular designer and producers relationship, in which the designer does not go to the factory or oversee the production process. Also, the regular designing is done with relation to problem solving, while here, the designers duties are more about intervening in the artisans design - but not in a dictating manner. Here, designers dig deeper and help artisans produce, they know about the details of material use, the process of creation, and often they bring the artisans together too. When designers hire producers, to them it is solely about the end result and they are not so involved in the production process. 
In this case, designers work with craftsmen for a much longer period of time. For example, as the reading says, when a design school takes up a project like this with artisans - they make sure that it is an ongoing process, it is continuous so that there is a meaningful intervention. So that the continuity of the design school towards the project would be more meaningful and beneficial. This is not the case for designers and clients always, they make work with each other for a short period of time, clients may pick up and take their business elsewhere at any point - they are not as obligated. Even when or if the design school wants to consider taking on a partner such as an NGO, there is plenty of consideration and thought put into the process - more so than when a designer may take on a new partner or freelancer while working for a client. 
Clients when working with designers in the end have an upper hand, and behave in a superior manner more often than not. Here, artisans are treated as partners not just skilled laborers, there is no inferior-superior order at all even though there is often a language divide. There is also an increased effort on behalf of the designers to communicate with the artisans. To build an understanding they learn to communicate with the artisan and create their own language with them, even if its not the conventional way of communicating - more of an effort than a designer would make towards a producer. They also protect the artisans and their traditions with relation to technology. They intervene and try to implement newer technology only if it solves problems or helps the artisans, its not about the latest technology. 

In the end, there is a difference between a designer working with artisans and an everyday designer working with clients/producers. There are some similarities too but mainly in the approach of designers intervening with artisans they work on a more personal, deep level, with an understanding of manufacturing and a higher level of communication with the artisans.

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Q’ero textiles are created with keeping a person in mind, meaning that each one is unique, has a specific way of being created and is for a specific use. The people of Q’ero in Peru have deep connections with the things they craft, to them - each type of spinning or weaving means something, it has a significance. For example, the typical yarn that is Z-spun and S-plied is called “pana” or left and those in the spun and plied in the opposite direction are called “lloq’e” or right and they signify the path throgh which one accesses pratical magic for example the power of healing and is said to be feminine. So, in Q’ero this yarn would be wrapped around ankles and wrists fro protection or around people who are injured or diseased.

This particular community is driven towards producing local crafts mainly for the locals, they are made and customized for each person. Although they create clothing and other things that are traditional — they can also have the ability to create things outside the Q’ero style and can weave anything that they might require. The problem with changing their “living tradition” would be that they probably would not be able to produce and create the crafts the way they do today. With the detail description in the article about the manner in which the weaving and warping is done — ATO’s taking over this community may help them economically but I’m not too sure that that would be what they want. To convince these people to create for people outside their community would be difficult because for them, concepts such as mass production, standardizing and creating more western styles is foreign. They seem to be set in their own ways and have deeply rooted beliefs and emotions in each piece that they make. The idea of ATO’s trying to help the Q’ero people on a global trade level sounds impossible. We have been talking a lot about men and women working together, and here, in this community the men and women seem to be working together easily and in harmony, and maybe an ATO coming in would ruin that too by separating or changing their work dynamic. Another important problem with the introduction of ATO’s would be that they would want to separate people into different skills sets, according to what they are best at (even though today the Q’ero people no matter which is their stronger skill - they can spin and warp - whether they are boys or girls) so that the level of efficiency is high and the craftsmen gain the most financially. They would also be creating crafts for people they have never met, they do not know about - which seems to go against what they do daily. They take the time to create each piece, they are not rushed by anything or anyone and as I said earlier they make them unique and according to the person they are creating for.

Even though they would be able to westernize their crafts and create modern clothing with the textiles they weave, I don’t really think they would be happy doing it. As mentioned in the article, they even create caps (that was probably introduced by Europeans) for men and children. So, I do think that having an ATO there would not really be possible because their craft as Martina Quispe Apasa says that it would be like giving “her arm”, each piece is a part of them, their are still traditions and ideologies that are very prominent in relation to their crafts so changing their minds and attitudes towards global trade, I think would be extremely difficult.

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There is clearly a deep association of women with textile work. They are the women who are developing textiles to export them by using local skills and materials. These ATO’s and co-op’s are created in places such as Nepal to help the local artisans have a better life. More often than not, the man of the family usually leaves the house to either find work as maybe a road-builder, driver in India or a trekking guide in Nepal or the men often even abandon the families, leaving nothing for them to survive on. So, these ATO’s are a means of providing a lifestyle, an education and preventing things like child labour. Since crafts and textiles have always been made for household use - they have always been a means for women’s livelihood. Rachel MacHenry talks about 2 cooperatives, Association for Craft Producers of Nepal (ACPN) and Dupgyal Community Carpets Cooperative that promote and invest in women moreso than men.

ATO’s choose to work with women because it has been successful in the past, with them not using up the money for themselves, but maintaining the household, looking out for their children and their education. They look out for all aspects of the families lives, which is universal for mothers all around the world. For years women have been working with intricate materials and textiles, and are always known to be crafty. They can also multitask well by balancing their craft production activities with domestic responsibilities and in the case of rural producer, agricultural work too. They take responsibility for not only themselves, but the health of the children and their education and of course the general standard of living. Many cooperatives also provide community support in the form of loans, accidental and emergency funds and educational opportunities - just like the Grameen Bank.

ATO’s also provide flexible hours to the women which allow them to carry out other activities. MacHenry clearly states that the women who live there not only want to improve the society and their standard of living but they also care and take great pains in making sure that their products are sustainable. In the Pokkhara area, the co-op jobs are the most attractive, they are the most high paying and they are respectable jobs too that provide safe conditions for women and they begin to feel confident - to carry out small things like taking public transport alone. The women and their work with ATO’s uplifts the society as a whole and so ATO’s seem to prefer to invest in women more. The organizations mentioned earlier both employ low caste women - and often when working together, barriers break down between castes and ethnicity, they share similar reasons for working in the co-ops and this also brings in a more forward thinking approach to the society. Even though they often need permission from their spouses to work and family members may frown on this forward thinking or husbands may not give them permission, but all in all there is a sense of self worth among these women and an improvement in their status in the family. 

Till today girls are often left uneducated as the family only wants to educate the son or forced to move to a place where they would become prostitutes. But mothers who work at ATO’s make sure that all their children (whether son or daughter) gain education. They put their daughters though schools so that someday they can also grow up and work the way their own mothers do. Giving girls and education would give the girls control over their own lives - without which they would be forced into things like prostitution. One of the important elements of the ATO’s is sustainability and care for the environment - and the women who work in these organizations are equally concerned about the environment and they give special importance - as farmers growing raw materials, as artisans producing textiles and as mothers caring for their families’ health. If the organizations were male dominated, in these kinds of social situations, the women would be exploited or mistreated. Another reason for women being such a large part of the ATO’s is that they are provided with safe conditions and flexible hours which is not the case for any job. These women today are concerned about not just themselves, but their families, their societies and general uplifting from their current poor situations just like these ATO’s whose main aim is the improvement of the living conditions, health, education and lives of people in these third world countries. As MacHenry also said “These women are involved both in substantially altering their own economic conditions and in actively shaping new social attitudes and spaces for themselves and their daughters.” I do think that the exclusivity of women in ATO’s and other organizations is beneficial, but men as artisans at the same level as working women should also be given a fair chance, and maybe somehow the organization could make sure that the money is used towards the family as a whole or for the children’s education, etc.

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Chapter 1 from “Social Responsibility in the Global Market” begins by introducing Fair Trade and on the “businesses that market cultural products from developing countries into the United States through a system of fair trade” (pg.4). The organizations are called Alternative Trade Organizations or ATO’s and the products that they trade are all the products that consist of the artisan’s local traditions, aesthetics and culture. The main goal of the ATO’s is to create fair trade in such a way that artisan’s are paid a fair amount of money, giving them as much as possible as opposed to paying them for “cheap labor”. The ATO’s are determined to improve the lifestyles of the artisan’s and give them an improved standard of living. The authors then go on to talk about the “socially responsible” part of this trade, which means that when decisions are being made, they keep many things in mind such as natural resources and local traditions, making sure the workplaces are safe and favorable for the artisans and workers are paid fairly. I do think that the goals of fair trade and the ATO’s are successful in sustainability and fairness to the artisans and they are extremely necessary especially after so many companies that we all know and buy from on a daily basis have underlying issues of human rights and exploitation, and the artisan’s do not get their dues.

One of the concerns that do arise about Fair Trade is the manner in which the consumers might react towards these products; they wonder whether the artisan’s who are creating the products might be treated badly and under exploited conditions, so fair trade allows a peek into the “past impacts, present initiatives and future viability in the global market.” (Pg. 9) Which is important because consumers always want to know that when they are paying for something that is handcrafted, one of a kind and is from a developing country – they want to make sure that the artisan’s themselves are being treated well and getting the rights and money they deserve as people have seen and read about exploitation of workers in developing countries. From the artisan’s side of things, since they only have a limited knowledge about foreign tastes and liking, their experience is mainly limited to local and regional trading and so it is always easy for the traders trading for the artisan’s in the foreign market to pay the artisan’s much less than they deserve and easily get away with it. The author points out that there is also a large need for the artisan’s to get cross-cultural help and knowledge so that they can create products that will sell to the consumers that they are trying to sell to.

For example, a company called “I Owe You” or “IOU Project” (http://iouproject.com/) was presented to a class that I was in last semester – it is a company that creates unique apparel that is traceable back to where it started from, by exactly whom it was created. The material is called “Lungi” textile, which is hand woven and they use locally grown cotton to create the lungi and so it is a 100% sustainable. They have a fun and interesting marketing video that tells you about the company briefly which I found helpful and the idea that you can not only know from where you artisan is but also his/her name and also the name of the retailer selling it to you is a clever way in which consumers can be a little more sure about the organization and worry less about exploitation. The apparel is mostly a plaid kind of texture and when shown to the class, most of the students reacted by saying that they would buy the products because of the stories and to help out these artisan’s but when it came to the look and the fact that everything was plaid, that is what they did not like so they probably wouldn’t spend 125$ on a plaid shirt.

It is not only the knowledge provided to the artisans about cross-culture, but also the manner in which the products are marketed to the consumers. The must be well in informed about the ATO and its intentions, as mentioned earlier so there is no misunderstanding and they feel confident to buy the product. The authors place a lot of emphasis on the business strategies of the ATO’s while maybe they could realize that consumer demand would be a better way to get people from around the world to feel confident and make them want to buy these products – it is not only the marketing of them but also maybe their design aspect – keeping in mind of course that the cultural identity of the artisans and their traditions stays intact and they do not end up being another mass produced company like Zara or H&M.