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Home 9 News & Events 9 Rubin Foundation Awards Grant to R.I.S.E. Artisan Fund

Rubin Foundation Awards Grant to R.I.S.E. Artisan Fund

For Social Design Project in Rural Mexico

January 10, 2022, Brooklyn, NY

The Marvin and Sylvia Rubin Family Foundation announced that it has awarded a grant to R.I.S.E. Artisan Fund to fund a textile project led by Maddalena Forcella and Ana Paula Fuentes, social designers based in Oaxaca in southern México.

The designers will be working with 26 indigenous weavers in San Bartolo Yautepec, a Zapotec village in the highlands of Oaxaca. Using back-strap looms that predate the arrival of Spanish colonialists, the Zapotec weavers produce fabric with intricate brocade motifs. The fabric is then used to create huipiles, traditional Mexican garments. “For us, these are some of the most beautiful huipiles in México,” Fuentes said. “But unfortunately the weaving tradition has been disappearing little by little, mainly because of the lack of markets. Many women have stopped weaving.”

Women cleaning yarns

Weavers from the Zapotec community of San Bartolo Yautepec in the highlands of Oaxaca, Mexico, prepare cotton yarns for dying with natural dyes as part of a series of workshops sponsored by the Marvin and Sylvia Rubin Family Foundation. © 2022 Ana Paula Fuentes

The social design project aims for more than creating new product designs, but also to create positive impact for the weavers and the community, explained Fuentes. While the designers aim to transform traditional textiles into contemporary design, elevating the textiles for contemporary markets, they also aim to enable the weavers, most of whom are women, to establish their own enterprise and build their own market relationships. “What is transformational about the social design process of Ana Paula and Maddalena is how they engage with these communities and transform the design process for creating value,” said Stella Rubin of the Rubin Foundation.

Women Preparing Dyes

Weavers from the Zapotec community of San Bartolo Yautepec in the highlands of Oaxaca, Mexico, prepare natural dye using coconut husks as part of a series of workshops sponsored by the Marvin and Sylvia Rubin Family Foundation. © 2022 Ana Paula Fuentes

This is the third social design project in southern Mexico with this team that the foundation is supporting. “We are bringing together all the weavers from San Bartolo who are interested in working together to learn new dying techniques, new design concepts, as well as working as a team for material sourcing, quality control, organization management, promotion and merchandising, reaching out to new clients and fulfilling orders,” explained Fuentes. If the weavers chose to develop an enterprise together, the artisan group will develop logos, branding and marketing strategies. Ultimately, she said, “We want this new group to thrive and to have a sustainable business without having to compromise their lifestyle and their community and family commitments.

Developing natural dying skills and other sustainable practices will be a core component of the community workshops led by the two designers. Those artisans who don’t already know how to dye will be taught to dye natural fibers with dyes made from native plants like indigo, marigold, oak, guava and palo de Brasil. Cotton and silk fibers as well as the dye materials can be sourced from communities within the region further strengthening the local economies and creating economic opportunities in Oaxaca.

Established in 2005, The Marvin and Sylvia Rubin Family Foundation focuses on social, medical and educational programs in the United States and abroad with an emphasis on working with women.

R.I.S.E. Artisan Fund was created by Realize Impact and Sprout Enterprise® to invest in early-stage enterprises creating sustainable livelihoods for rural communities with few economic alternatives. Sustainability is a key investment theme of the fund. Named one of the Transformative 25 Funds in 2021, R.I.S.E. Artisan Fund has been recognized by Integrated Capital Investing for transforming finance to benefit people and the planet.

For more information, please contact Ellen Fish at ellen [at] sproutenterprise.net or visit: R.I.S.E. Artisan Fund www.riseartisan.fund Madda Studio www.maddastudio.com

This article was produced in collaboration with the Magazine's Content Partners.

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