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Talk: Lessons from a Learning Community of Potters in Oaxaca

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Graham Foundation

4 W Burton Pl

Chicago, IL 60610

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A talk by Kythzia Barrera Suárez, Diego Mier y Terán, and María Bautista Leon

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Kythzia Barrera Suárez and Diego Mier y Terán, directors of Innovando la Tradicion, have dedicated their lives to unlearn contemporary design practice and the paradigms of modern society through the work of indigenous and rural potters of Oaxaca, Mexico. Together with María Bautista they discuss about the Learning Community of Potters, a space for exchanging knowledge from a centuries-old craft that is rooted in a culture of balance, community, and close attention to nature.

Innovando la Tradición is a collective and multidisciplinary nonprofit that seeks to revitalize traditional pottery in Oaxaca, Mexico to bring visibility to the profound knowledge of this centuries-old craft. The organization positions pottery as a tool of economic stability, cultural development, an agent of social cohesion, and a source of inspiration in the construction of new paradigms for a more balanced relationship with the world. This mission is realized through workshops, courses, and skill exchanges to share the work of master potters and pass on the discipline to younger artisans. Colectivo 1050º is the commercial arm of the nonprofit Innovando la Tradición, and sells the products that are handmade in Oaxaca by traditional potters and designers. The company operates on principles of fair trade, with a strong emphasis on ecologically sound practices.

María Bautista León was born into a Mexican family dedicated to pottery and she considers herself as potter since the age of eight. She has shared this ancestral wisdom with other people who have an interest in learning how to mold and create with their hands through this noble activity. Additionally, León has collaborated on the project Mujeres y Maíz (Women and Maize), which builds paths for food sovereignty and good living alongside women who sell corn products like toasts, tortillas, and tamales.

Kythzia Barrera is an industrial designer, and cofounder of Innovando la Tradición and Colectivo 1050º, organizations that support the development of pottery communities in Oaxaca, Mexico. Barrera’s work strengthens the bridges between art, craft, and design to foster social and human change. Honesty and open disclosure from the conventional and privileged designers position shapes an essential part of Kythzia's creative leadership as Head of Innovando Tradición and dynamic CEO of Colectivo 1050º. She holds a master’s degree in social and sustainable design by The Design Academie Eindhoven, Netherlands; in addition to having completed postgraduate coursework in ceramics at the School of Art and Design Helsinki, Finland; and in crafts and design at Kyoto Institute of Technology. She previously served as sustainable design professor at Centro and Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico.

Diego Mier y Terán is cofounder and director of Innovando la Tradición and Colectivo 1050º and is interested in the social and ethical dimension of design and its power as an agent of change. He holds a master’s degree in type design from Royal Academy of Art, The Hague, Netherlands. Terán teaches across many universities in Mexico and previously ran the Workshop of Utopias at the Universidad Iberoamericana which prepared students to challenge the conventions of contemporary society and design practice.

Image: Innovando la Tradicion archive

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Graham Foundation

4 W Burton Pl

Chicago, IL 60610

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