Design and trend are just as important in fair trade retail as in any other kind of retail; except for that fair trade is faced with the challenge of finding ways to incorporate the latest trends into ancient crafting techniques. This challenge is good, though. For many designers, getting creative to solve the puzzle provides a sense of achievement. Translating tradition into trend is a unique opportunity to do something entirely new, in an old way.
Boston-based designer Jill Rosenwald saw a great opportunity to bring new style to the potters of Peru and leaped at the chance to work with these skilled makers. She had to learn firsthand about the techniques and processes used by the potters in order to incorporate their skills into her designs. Learning that many Chulucanas pots are fired with mango leaves to achieve the black color was valuable information as she transformed imagination into inspiration.
“[We’re] using the crafts of Peru and the traditions of Peru, but bringing new energy,” explains Rosenwald.
Trend forecasting has predicted that black and gold will be an important color combination in both home décor and personal accessories through the next few years. Rosenwald has also been faced with a great demand for more metallics from clients of her personal pottery studio in Boston, so she knew that ceramics pieces that incorporate metallics are becoming increasingly important in the current American marketplace. With this in mind, she dreamed up some unique designs for vases that are meant to create dramatic statements in the home.
“What we tried to do is sort of weave together, so to speak, the different techniques that you already had onto the traditional pottery to update it. So one of the things we’re adding is this gold leafing onto the Chulucanas pottery. And we’re using a very simple, straight-forward stripe, which is very popular, it’s a trend.”
She explains how although the techniques of Chulucanas pottery yields a high-quality product, the marketplace is quick to overlook quality in favor of something exciting and new. “What I noticed about Chulucanas pottery was that I felt like it had beautiful qualities that are easily forgotten because they got repeated over and over again. So the marketplace is going to look on those old techniques and not really see them as beautiful anymore. So what we’ve tried to do is just twist what was being done and bring in these combinations of different techniques. That’s the innovation. That’s what brings new life to the collection.”
Jill knows that Allpa is fortunate to have a great customer base already in place and she believes they will be delighted with the new designs she’s come up with. If you’re interested in reading more about Jill’s trip to Peru and her experience working with the makers she met there, check out her blog.
Ten Thousand Villages has been working with Allpa since 1988, and has been thrilled with the enthusiasm that their workshops have for exploring new designs and trend advice from people like Jill. These kinds of collaborations and exchanges of learning are some of the most exciting outcomes of fair trade relationships. Watching something new emerge from the meeting of two cultures is beautiful to watch.
Jill Rosenwald, in her own words: