To go on a family road trip was not necessarily the easiest way, nonetheless to strengthen the relationship between the artisans we collaborate with was our priority, we had to start with the right foot. Antonio had previously visited five times in search for the right workshop to do business with. With every visit, he faced a new learning curve, until finally understanding local sociocultural dynamics for business. Theirs is a family business and so is ours. So we set out for the 3 hour road trip with our mother (also an industrial designer), my brother and I, with my 5 year old kid who tags along.
As we arrive, we see a small town of stone craftsmen and women where at every corner we can witness their talent, as well as everything they are lacking when it comes to basic quality of life. Improvised workshops in the back of their homes, no running water, too much dust, with stray dogs everywhere you turn. At first sight we could easily only focus on what is lacking, but when you take the time to zoom in you can glimpse their close knit family bonds, where they help and support each other while finding joy in the simplest things, such as a highway traced on dirt soil.
We meet the master craftsman and his wife, his children and grandchildren at their home. My brother introduces all of us. We share a glass of Coca-Cola (that we brought because they love it) to break the ice and as refreshment in such hot weather.
We take the opportunity to take some photos, content creation - as you know- nowadays storytelling being crucial to convey the story behind our project. The craftsmen keep on working as fast as they possibly can to be able to finish the production of objects we came here to get.
Trust takes time to build, being used to people that just want to take advantage of them without paying a fair price for their hard work, we find ourselves face to face with quite a challenge. In addition, local politicians almost never keep their promises, leaving them with a lot of skepticism in general towards outsiders.
Showcasing the value of their talent, fair trade and our creative proposal being our goal, we proceed to explain to them that we intend to share the sales profits fairly among all. Distrust manifests itself, we face it with our only shot, honesty and full transparency. We are also hard workers, we are also taking many chances, we are following our convictions, we have a vision and have invested a lot. In other words, we are in this together. Its full trust, or no business at all at this point.
But, how can we go against so many centuries of exploitation of the poorest for the profit of the rich? Even if we are far from being rich and that we share the same cultural origin and language, in their eyes we are we are still privileged foreigners with degrees and resources who belong to another class and who live in Canada.
We take the time to explain as best we can our vision, values and practice at the studio. We then continue with the whole process of the project, from ideation to the final sale, including the production, packaging, transportation, import procedures (funtimes!), marketing, etc… as well as the percentage that the boutiques take on each sale (most of them 50% !) .
Transparency works wonders, and after the dance of negotiations, trust finally takes a seat alongside us. We are in business, we take a little break around another glass of Coca-Cola.
Next, Canada customs papers… good thing trust had already been established because everything is in english, and if you have never seen those documents, they can be quite intimidating and confusing. Good thing Antonio had done his research so we could be well prepared.
Finally, we roll up our sleeves and work side by side to package the more than 500 marble objects -big and small- that we must bring back with us.
After several hours working together, our kids playing together in their backyard, eating delicious traditional mole, and many glasses of Coca-Cola, we are finally done and ready to take on the trip back. Bringing with us such a meaningful experience, proud of what we accomplished, taking notes of everything we learned for what comes next…
Keep posted for: Innovating creative collaborations with artisans through international frontieres.
The case of “The Fundamental” collection process.