Oax-i-fornia is the product of eight years of creative collaboration between artisans from Oaxaca, Mexico, and design students from California College of the Arts in San Francisco. Created by designer Raul Cabra, the project started as an academic program but has evolved to produce distinctive new contemporary objects that artisans can take to market. The deep exchange of skills that takes place between the design students and artisans is evident in the work, which is grounded in craft from the region but is taken in surprising, non-traditional design directions.
The students and teachers live together in Hacienda de Guadalupe. The Hacienda itself was a project in reviving the rich history of Oaxaca by restoring a dilapidated structure into an oasis where students live and work for a semester.
One example is the Oaxacan artist, Esperanza Martinez. She grew up spinning silk and weaving—spending up to one month to produce one rebozo, or shawl. When she worked with Oax-i-fornia, she explored the “luminescence of the material” and began to produce intricate jewelry and other pieces from the cast-off silk cocoons she had collected since childhood. The work is displayed in the first photo and is a perfect example of the melding of old traditions with the fresh eye of a talented design student.
It’s fantastic to see how the Oax-i-fornia students are pushing the boundaries of the objects artisans have been making for decades. And also to see a project based on deep, open-ended cross-cultural collaboration bear fruit.