Jan 28th, 2020, 06:15 PM

Sustainability: A Talk with Patti Carpenter

By Claudia Gunter
Patti Carpenter at AUP on Jan 22, 2020
Impact Both Home and Abroad: Carpenter & Company on Global Handmade Crafts

Patti Carpenter, founder of Carpenter & Company spoke at The American University of Paris on January 22, 2020. In a wide-ranging talk, Carpenter spoke to the intricacies of supply and demand in the interior design business. The American textile specialist spoke about the demands of cultural and economic sustainability in developing countries. Her brand, Carpenter & Company, is a textile production company that works with highly skilled artisans from developing countries. Partnering with these producers, Carpenter & Company helps talented artisans such as weavers, ceramicists, and beaders get their products onto the global stage.

“Artisan and craftwork is the second-largest work source in the developing world next to agriculture,” Carpenter elaborated.

By providing a channel for these artisans to make a living from selling their products both on a national and international scale, Carpenter & Company helps communities sustain centuries-old craft traditions. Preserved for future generations, crafts such as embroidery, dyeing, and weaving are able to maintain their prominence and importance to local economies in the developing world.

Carpenter’s company travels to countries such as Guatemala, Nicaragua, South Africa, and Vietnam, working with international artists on business projects that last for 24 to 36 months. The company helps craftswomen, and sometimes, craftsmen, to develop sustainable business models that allow them to ship their hand-crafted goods across their regions and to export markets abroad, principally in the United States and Europe.

However, over the last decade, there have been big changes in the industry, as global foundations have decreased their funding for projects focused on international aid programs for artisan crafts. “There’s been some big shifts. It’s not an easy thing to get into…There are more countries that are hiring me directly.”

Patti Carpenter Speaking to AUP Students

Impact in this sector depends not only on giving artisanal crafts better practical business sense. Like Carpenter, other groups, such as international development organizations, help producers in developing nations get their goods to market globally.

The company also consults on-trend consulting to the highly regarded and Paris-based Maison & Objet, the largest interior design trade show in the world. Carpenter provides color and trend forecasts to the market predicting the trends—some derived from the artisans themselves. It’s true that giving artisans from the developing world a platform like Maison & Objet to showcase their goods has a broad and positive economic impact for both the producers and consumers.

“Instead of going to work for the local hotel in town, kids in artisan families have a viable means to sustain themselves economically,” said Carpenter.