Adios Peru, que le vaya bien.

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As I wrap up my time in Peru, I held a final design workshop in partnership with Green Design Link; this time we focused on the basics and held a session on color theory. Though the artisans work with color every day, only one of the attendees had any exposure to color mixing, i.e. yellow + blue = green.

 Photo courtesy of Adrienne Chaille

Photo courtesy of Adrienne Chaille

In my experience, understanding and commanding color is one of the most essential ingredients in developing exceptional design. Moreover, multi-color design is a fundamental characteristic in many Peruvian handcrafts and in all of their textiles.

  Photo courtesy of Adrienne Chaille

Photo courtesy of Adrienne Chaille

 In this workshop, we introduced principles of color including creating their own ruedas de colores.

  Photo courtesy of Adrienne Chaille

Photo courtesy of Adrienne Chaille

Once the artisans had some hands-on time playing with pigment, and an understanding of color mixing, they had the grounding to be introduced to the idea of pantone colors. They didn’t need to become experts in color theory, but only to have enough understanding of why clients can be so specific about color choice, and how as the makers they needed to pay more attention to color subtlety.

 Learning to recognize the difference: warm vs cool neutrals.

Learning to recognize the difference: warm vs cool neutrals.

One of the largest needs and opportunities for these artisan groups is to better understand and communicate with their partners, networks, and clients. (We even did some communication prototyping with the artisans. More on that soon!) For example, it is not uncommon for an artisan’s work to be returned without pay, or purchased at a discount, when mistakes in the design, such as improper color use, take place. Thus the ripple effect of this deeper knowledge of color is twofold: it both grows their credibility with clients, by delivering the right designs, but also enables them to be better designers themselves. It is incredibly exciting that an introduction to color theory, an arts principle, can have a direct impact in bettering these artisans' business relations as well as their creative abilities.

 Color and material swatches for design and development.

Color and material swatches for design and development.

The craftsmanship in Peru is overwhelming. There is such a rich opportunity for these artisans to share their work globally, but I believe there are a few design details that have to be better understood in order for them to be more successful, and that critical thinking and foundational knowledge will further empower them. Their own work is often a repeat of what they’ve seen before, or what they were taught. By teaching the artisans to tap into their own artistic sensibilities, a little design boost, and their craft abilities, we can support meaningful improvement, both economic and to their well-being.

  Alone we are invisible, together we are invincible. 

Alone we are invisible, together we are invincible. 

With the Peruvian phase of the Creative Nomad project coming to an end, 

I’ve started reflecting on what I’ve personally learned from this artisan project, the opportunities I see here, and the implications for creativity and arts education.

The artesanos I’ve encountered exemplify the ability to think with their hands, deeply look at and feel objects in order to recreate - and evolve - them. These artisans show how mastery of craft is essential for fostering innovation and helping them improve their knowledge, processes and interactions can have a significant impact to their world.

In the United States, the maker movement is exploding as educators and parents recognize the need and opportunity for students to learn, think, and create through their hands. This deep skill in making will enable our students to not only develop creative, impactful, solutions but will ensure they are grounded in real-world constraints. If we are going to prepare our students for an increasingly complex reality riddled with challenges, I believe they will need to harness this mastery of craft, in combination with rigorous academic understanding and critical thinking.

Finally, I have an offer and an ask:

If you want to brush up on your color theory, or teach your own mini-workshop, you are welcome to borrow the worksheet here.

Green Design Link is trying to do more of these creativity and design trainings in the future, and plans to launch a mobile design lab in order to reach artisans in communities further away. They are working to connect artisanship to entrepreneurship. I believe in the great work this team is doing, and want to help them expand their reach. If you know of anyone who might be interested in partnering with them and of any funding opportunities, please send them my way.

Elysa FenenbockComment