Bridging Cultures through Design

Mimi Robinson innovates in the fields of artisan development and education

Imagined, begun and directed by Mimi Robinson, Bridging Cultures through Design was developed to create and promote artistic exchanges between students and artisan communities around the world.  Robinson, a versatile international design consultant for the past decade, has brought her years of experience to the formation of an approach to product design that has brought together a wealth of eclectic impulses — the irreverent sensibilities of students and the cultural depth of artisans. 
The project, done in collaboration with Rhode Island School of Design's Industrial Design Department, and supported by Aid to Artisans and Guatemala’s Agexpront, involved 9 students studying industrial design and textiles and Guatemalan artisans. In the beautiful town of Atitlan, perched next to a volcanic lake in the highlands of Guatemala, students worked side by side with traditional Guatemalan weavers and crafters to create new products. 
The students returned with renewed respect for the handmade and their own roles as designers. As one student wrote, “We have to remember that our learning experience is the livelihood of these women artisans.....that these women are hoping to sell their designs so they can sustain their families.” The ten days they spent in Atitlan, Guatemala were truly collaborative. The students were amazed at the skills they found and the weavers were impressed at the originality of the students’ designs. The new products were also eased into development with the support of experienced exporters, La Casa, La Casa de los Gigantes and Agexpront, who promote Guatemalan crafts.  
The products appeared in the U.S. market in August 2006 at the New York International Gift Fair at the Agexpront and ATA booths. ATA and industry professionals are convinced that the infusion of young talent is a strong element in maintaining and enlivening the art and the lives of traditional Guatemalan artisans. The collaboration with Bridging Cultures through Design, and its association with RISD and other potential educational institutions, enriches the field of artisan development.  
Please contact Mimi Robinson at mimir1@mindspring.com for more information.

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