G. Wadhwa

University of Wisconsin at Whitewater (UNITED STATES)
Ancient handicraft techniques are passed down through generations. In many societies across the world they still play an integral role in daily life. Handcrafted fabrics are worn as head scarves, aprons, and attire. Handcrafted baskets are used to carry produce, bread, poultry, fish and even babies. These products are unique and often personalized to each individual’s taste and preference. They have been a source of livelihood, heritage, and creativity. They have also been a point of interaction and sharing of ideas. Presently, these traditional crafts are being marginalized due to urbanization and industrialization. Artisans are abandoning crafts in favor of more lucrative professions. There is imminent danger of traditional crafts becoming extinct.

The presenter and his students conducted projects aimed to sustain traditional crafts, provide a continual income source for the artisans and thus improve their economic status. Collaborations were also sought with businesses to become part of this co-creation process. During these transnational design outreach projects, students, artisans and businesses co-designed and co-created products with artisans in India, Peru, Kenya, and China. Product development and design dissemination workshops were conducted for the artisans in their villages.

Working as catalysts, students created a new range of products by combining the natural ‘imperfections’ of handicrafts with the ‘perfections’ of the industrial machines. These products had the benefits and efficiencies of machine-made products along with the heritage, storytelling, and individualized distinctiveness of traditional handcrafted products.

The presenter will share the co-creation and co-design process used during the above projects through case studies and examples. He will construe: impact of the projects on society, working on cross-cultural design teams, navigating the requisites of multiple stakeholders, storytelling as a design strategy, and balancing hand-made craft with machine-made precision to create unique products.