We are a project who works with a group of women on behalf of ten families from the indigenous community of Santa Fe de la Laguna, Michoacan. With the Purepecha women potters, we collaborate and develop handmade clay products. We are truly proud to be in NY NOW and that one of our designs was selected for the special section: Sustainability, design for a better world® display at NY NOW.
We are a local NGO, Transdisciplinary Network for Sustainable Development (RETDES for its initials in Spanish), and in this sustainable pottery project, we have an impact on almost 100 people, kids and elderly included. The goals we are aiming to are the improvement of their health by training them in lead-free techniques, clean and efficient technologies, dignified work and payment, and women empowerment. Our objectives match up with six SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) from the UN: No Poverty, Gender Equality, Affordable and Clean Energy, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Reduced Inequalities, and Responsible Consumption and Production.
To reach the progress the artisans have achieved, we have combined their millenary traditions and processes with new and more efficient techniques. The usage of clay remains the same as their grandparents did, in fact, they are rescuing their ancestors’ molds and improving their functionality. They extract the clay from the community’s mines like their lineages did. They traditionally use a lead-containing glaze called “greta” that harms their health. The “greta” allows them to fire at lower temperatures. That is why we needed to introduce new technology and processes to the community.
The new method begins as an addition to the traditional management of the clay, we show them how to formulate and use lead-free colors and glazes.
Then, the best solution was to redesign their traditional kilns because this allows us to keep the ancient pottery techniques but with the improvement of reaching the right temperature to melt the lead-free materials. Also, the sustainable usage of wood and the reduction of direct exposure to smoke.
Our NGO aimed to maintain the correct usage of wood instead of changing their firewood ovens to gas ovens, because of the price of the gas, sometimes it gets unreachable for the artisans. This doesn’t happen with wood. The design allows the local mason to replicate it with the materials they can get in the community.
All the new things the group is learning can be shared with the community, turning the project into something replicable and for the welfare of the whole community.
Another part of the project is to enter a fair trade network since we respect their ten principles: Creating Opportunities for Economically Disadvantaged Producers, Transparency and Accountability, Fair Trading Practices, Payment of a Fair Price, Ensuring no Child Labour and Forced Labour, Commitment to Non Discrimination, Gender Equity, and Women’s Economic Empowerment, and Freedom of Association, Ensuring Good Working Conditions, Providing Capacity Building, Promoting Fair Trade and Respect for the Environment.
This exhibition is the first one where our artisans will participate, they have overcome a lot of barriers to get here, from the language (Spanish is not their native language) till learning to use the new lead-free pigments and kilns. This is one of many reasons we are truly proud that one of our designs was selected for the special section: Sustainability, design for a better world® display at NY NOW, February 3-7, because we are not just representing Mexico, but we are also going in the representation of all the indigenous potters and rural women from all the country, seeking opportunities for new horizons. If you want to watch the pieces you can find us in the 3775 Booth in the Artisan Resource.