FOFA'S 2019 Product Innovation Workshop Inspires Young Oaxacan Folk Artists to
Stretch their Talents and Imaginations
"FOFA's point of difference is our emphasis on education
and building artists' knowledge so they can succeed."
For 11+ years, FOFA has launched programs that encourage young Oaxacan folk artists (artesanos) to follow in their parents', grandparents', and earlier ancestors' creative footsteps. The cornerstone of FOFA's efforts has been five competitions (concursos) open to artists 30 years and younger, in conjunction with MEAPO (Museo Estatal de Arte Popular Oaxaca). Since their launch, these concursos have been increasingly embraced by local artesanos and the Oaxacan community at large - in fact, the 2018 concurso saw a larger number of entries, including more first-time participants, than any previous competition. For more information about the 2018 event, please visit:
But FOFA's commitment to keeping Oaxaca's folk art traditions alive doesn't end after the prizes to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners and honorable mentions are given out. Recognizing that young artists need the tools to grow their vision and improve their technical skills, as well as run sustainable businesses, FOFA sponsors educational workshops (talleres) in artistic design and marketing for all prize winners and honorable mentions, as well as offering some one-on-one English tutoring to enhance their communications with foreign customers. As FOFA president and founder Arden Aibel Rothstein puts it, "FOFA's point of difference is our emphasis on education and building artists' knowledge so they can succeed."
New Product Innovation Workshop in 2019
This year, thanks to a generous grant from LADAP (Los Amigos del Arte Popular), a new emphasis on product innovation was added to the curriculum. The workshops were held once a month from February through July, for a total of six sessions, with students divided into three groups based on their particular craft: woven rugs and other textiles, carved and painted wooden sculptures, and ceramics along with other modalities. The aim of each workshop was the same: to present the young artesanos with creative concepts and design tools they can use to innovate their products, along with advice on how to assess market trends and have their work reflect them.
This October, the product innovation workshop will be capped off by an exhibit of student work at the Alfredo Harp Helu Foundation's Centro Cultural San Pablo in Oaxaca city, where the classes were held. The exhibit will feature the works of over 20 young artesanos who completed the course assignment with a finished piece of art that, in keeping with the workshops' theme, represents their cultural roots while also having a commercial goal.
An Exemplary Participant
One Oaxacan folk artist who enthusiastically participated in FOFA's 2019 six-month workshop and English language tutoring is Josefina Lazo Gutiérrez, a weaver from Teotitlán del Valle. Josefina won an honorable mention in FOFA's 2018 young artists' competition for a quechquémitl (a poncho-like garment dating back to pre-Colombian times) she wove that she dedicated to her daughters to commemorate the importance of staying rooted in their community and culture. To create the subtle color variations in her poncho, Josefina used woolen yarn that she naturally dyed from plants that her family grows.
This year, designer Even Morales ran the group for textile artists. He also helped develop the product innovation curriculum. Even says that Josefina was one of his most enterprising students, because she was willing to "go out of her comfort zone."
The type of loom she uses has certain built-in configurations that initially were limiting, posing a challenge for Josefina. Eventually, she was able to bring her design concept to reality,
incorporating woven patterns and color variations she hadn't tried before.
Josefina calls the piece she completed for the workshop "a little night" (una nochesita). A neutral-toned border provides contrast to the nocturnal shades, woven from wool dyed with natural indigo. The marbled thread pattern which she innovated for this work represents her biggest design accomplishment; she says it reminds her of "the movement of a hummingbird."
If you are moved by the story of Josefina Lazo Gutiérrez, and would like to support FOFA's ongoing educational programs for young Oaxacan folk artists, please consider making a tax deductible donation. Follow the link to our website, and find out how you can help keep the rich cultural traditions of Oaxaca alive: