(Editor’s note: As a departure from i+s’ usual Inspiration format, the following is an account of product development from the designer’s own point of view.)
I have developed several design collections in Guatemala over the last two years. As part of The Antigua Project, an independent project led by Rebecca Welz, artist and professor at Pratt Institute, I learned more about the indigenous culture in Guatemala, and began to weave.
Working alongside the master weavers from the artisan’s guild Asociacion Gremial Guatemalteca de Artesanos Agregarte, I was able to understand the value of preserving indigenous cultures and their practices, and also discover the experimental use of traditional techniques, such as the art of the backstrap loom.
The first line I developed, the Algodon Bedding Collection, is all made by hand with the centuries-old technique of the backstrap loom, a tradition dating back to the Mayans that has been passed on from one generation to the next. Together with weaver Marleny Hernandez Guaran, I created the 2016 edition in the gray and green palette, inspired by the landscapes of Guatemala during the rainy season.
This year, Guaran and I worked in collaboration with Babel, an Argentinian brand, to create woven covers for its hydroponic kits. Inspired by Babel’s logo, I designed a woven pattern exclusively for the brand, applied first to the Hana selection.
Weaving is not the only artisanal skill in the region; I also worked with local metal fabricators and woodworkers. For 2017, I collaborated with a silversmith in the development of Volcancitos, a set of collectible boxes handmade out of brass and silver, each representing the topography of a volcano in Guatemala.
Understanding how objects are made is vital for a designer. In current times, it is also important for users to know where their products come from, and understand the cultural value often embedded in them.
Aldana Ferrer Garcia is an architect from Buenos Aires, Argentina. She obtained her Masters of Industrial Design at Pratt, and was a pioneer in the GID program, where she learned a research-driven and human-centered approach to design. Her work has been featured in a number of prestigious design publications and journals.
Photography courtesy of Aldana Ferrer Garcia