Jan 26th, 2020, 09:37 PM

Let's Make the Artisan Market Relevant

By Sofia Quintero
Image Credit: Unsplash/Raul Cacho Oses
"Do Well by Doing Good" – A conversation with Patti Carpenter

On January 22, global trend ambassador and designer Patti Carpenter invited AUP students to the Quai building to discuss how to "Do Well by Doing Good." Her talk focused on her experience with the artisanal markets of developing countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia, where she has made handcrafted products relevant for home decorating enthusiasts and big buyers in America.

Carpenter was born in Washington D.C. in 1955 and was exposed to the artistic world from a young age because of her parents' careers. During her open panel discussion, she spoke about her beginnings in the fashion industry 25 years ago, with big names including Ralph Lauren and Oscar de la Renta. Carpenter went on to talk about why she decided to transition to working with women creating one-of-a-kind art pieces in developing parts of the world. She recognized widespread interest from American buyers in this area, not only because of the nation's capitalist nature but also because big department stores like Neiman Marcus are able to attract millions of customers from around the globe. 

Patti Carpenter. Image Credit: Housetipster

Colors, patterns, embroidery and beading have always been important to cultures in Latin America and Africa. With products ranging from skirts, vases and ponchos to tablecloths and napkin-holders, Patti Carpenter has spent the last couple of years creating micro-enterprises, booming these countries' economies on a local scale. She began collaborating with Aid to Artisans in 1995, an organization that generates "economic opportunities for artisan groups around the world where livelihoods, communities and craft traditions are marginal or at risk." Their mission is business training, market access and product development. Carpenter focuses on the latter and is also a design consultant, often helping with the costing, pricing, designing and selling processes.

The most significant motive for Carpenter's work is the importance of economic and cultural sustainability. She sees the potential in craftsmanship in small villages and goes on to export the products to boutiques, stores and museums that will sell them at much higher prices. This exchange has become beneficial for both ends. The men and women who create these designs are able to sell them at high-end costs and make comfortable livings, and those who buy the products can decorate their homes and accessorize their outfits in pieces that are unique and trend-setting. 

Image Credit: Unsplash/Jean Vella 

Carpenter deeply inspired AUP students with her involvement in countries including Bolivia, Egypt, Tanzania, Guatemala and many more. Her work has become incredibly significant for these communities. Not only have these artists created a business for themselves, but their products are receiving the recognition they deserve. Culturally important patterns and weaving methods that have been in their histories for years are being preserved and now acknowledged around the world. With hope, the artisanal industry will continue to grow and make a name for itself in the global market.