The Rubin Foundation will provide funds and expertise to develop a group of woven products combining traditional techniques and motifs with contemporary aesthetics. The goal of this commitment is twofold. Initially, it is to transition expert weavers, working cooperatively as La Flor de Xochistlahuaca, from making only traditional clothing to adding products which will appeal to a broader audience, thus increasing the amount they can earn and sell. Once a line of products is developed, the second aim is to market them both within and outside of Mexico.
Textile designer Maddalena Forcella will make monthly visits to Xochistlahuaca. She has begun working with co-op members to determine the products to be developed, ranging from pillow covers to table runners, shawls and bags. Together, they will work on patterns, fabrics, colors and design to combine traditional motifs and techniques with contemporary design and color palettes.
Monthly visits will also be made by Ana Paula Fuentes, former Director of the Textile Museum of Oaxaca, Mexico. In addition to working with the weavers on product development, she will be responsible for marketing and publicity. She will help the weavers apply to national and international fairs, take their work to exhibitions in Mexico City and explore additional avenues for sales. She will also work with the weavers to establish consistency in the quality of their work as well as consistency in pricing.
In November 2013, the cooperative will participate in Feria del Arte Festival, which showcases indigenous art, in Chapala, Mexico where they will debut their revitalized products.
Throughout this process, the Foundations will cover the salaries and expenses of the textile designers and provide funds for purchase of materials necessary to develop prototypes. Furthermore, the Rubin Foundation will lend money to the cooperative so that they may hire spinners turn convert the cotton they grow into yarn which will then be utilized for weaving products.
Step 1: Training Co-op Members
April 2013 - April 2014
Maddalena Forcella and Ana Pala Fuentes will provide co-op members with training on design, patterns and general product development. Both Maddalena and Ana will make monthly visits of several days to the co-op.
Step 2: Marketing & Exposure Push
November 2013 - December 2013
Products produced by the co-op will be publicized. Ana Paul Fuentes will help weavers apply to fairs and new markets. Major events under this step include: (1) Apply for the International Folk Art Market, Santa Fe (September), (2) Participate in Feria del Arte (November) and (3) Exhibit the co-ops work at the Textile Museum of Oaxaca (December).
Step 3: Long Term Goals
April 2014 - April 2016
The long term goals of this commitment will be ongoing. Specifically, they are to: (1) Improve tourism in Xochistlahuaca by increasing international recognition for the co-op, and (2) Increase the number of co-op members based on the level of increased international demand for the co-ops products.
Xochistlahuaca is the fourth poorest municipality in the state of Guerrero and the 16th poorest in Mexico. Almost 33% of the municipality's population earns less than the minimum daily wage. The economy is based on subsistence agriculture, livestock, handcrafts especially textiles and ceramics. While the main economic activity in Xochistlahuaca is agriculture, weaving and other handcrafts play an important economic role as oftentimes farming is not enough to meet subsistence needs.
La Flor de Xochistlahuaca officially became a cooperative in 2001. At the time, 37 weavers joined together to maintain a place to work and sell their products. In addition, the co-op offered workshops to children and young adults of the village and neighboring areas in an effort to maintain the member's natural dying and backstrap loom weaving traditions. The co-op is not very well-known as most of the weavers are older and do not have any access to new technologies like the internet or ways to contact new clients, markets, and outlets. In spite of all this, their traditional work is recognized in Mexico and outside Mexico by collectors, museums, and experts. Florentina Lopez de Jesus, the head of the cooperative has won a number of awards and was acknowledge in the book 'Grandes Maestros del Arte Popular Mexicano' published by Fomento Cultural Banamex in 1998. However, as Florentina is aging, she is less able to travel and promote the co-op's work.
Today, participants in the co-op range in age from their 20's through 80's. More than half of the 37 co-op members are single or widowed and weaving is their primary, if not sole, source of income. Much of what they create is huipils, traditional dresses worn by women in the region, but without a big audience outside of the area. Co-op members want to modify their products so that they can reach other markets and increase their incomes. Younger members of the co-op are particularly supportive of such change as they are aware that if they do not adapt to the new trending contemporary market, they will lose their textile traditions along with their income.