Learn about the Artisans

Sirigu Women's Organization for Pottery and Art - Ghana


The Sirigu Women’s Organization for Pottery and Art (SWOPA) in northern Ghana is an NGO that supports local women in creating and marketing traditional art. In this community, whose history is primarily communicated orally, the adobe-like buildings have been painted to tell stories. Sirigu storiessirigu1 are told through the motifs and symbolism of the artwork, whether wall decorations, canvass painting, or calabash decorations. Aside from their beautification purposes, all the motifs represent real events in the community. PAMBE Ghana’s Global Market has an excellent selection of artwork featuring paintings on canvass (strip woven and treated cotton).

Sirigu stories are told through the motifs and symbolism of the artwork; whether wall decorations, canvass painting, or calabash decorations. Aside from their beautification purposes, all the motifs represent real events in the community. A complete wall decoration will usually have three main motifs; Akuyana-nii (Akuyana’s cattle), Zaalinga (calabashes in an intersected woven fibre), Aminziah Zuvaaka (Aminziah’s hat).

Wanzagsi/broken calabash:calabash Calabash is a gourd fruit commonly found in Sirigu. After it has been harvested, dried and deseeded, its hard shell is used for fetching water and other household chores by the women of Sirigu. When a woman dies, a calabash is broken to mark her physical separation from her community, and a piece of it buried with her with the belief that she will use the calabash in the next world.

net1Zaalinga/net: Traditionally, the zaalinga is a net used by women in Sirigu to store their calabashes to prevent them from falling and breaking. The fibre used to weave this net is derived from the kenaf plant, which grows widely in the area. There are two varieties of the design: Zaalin nyanga, which is said to be the female design, and Zaalin daa, its male counterpart.


UPAVIM - Guatemala

upavim1UPAVIM is an acronym for Unidas Para Vivir Mejor, "United For A Better Life." This group of women lives in a squatter community named La Esperanza (“Hope”) on the outskirts of Guatemala City. Before being accepted as a working member of the cooperative, each woman must complete 32 volunteer hours. As a member, she must continue to volunteer two hours per week. For these women artisans, craft work is fit into a daily routine of child care, housework and volunteering in other programs at the UPAVIM community center. In addition to personal income, the artisans use money from the sales of handicrafts to run a Montessori Infant Education Center and Alternative Elementary School.

uvapim3In 1988, UPAVIM was organized to offer much needed health and educational services within this community, where many families had fled from Guatemala’s civil war and overpopulation in the capital city. Since then, the organization has grown to include income generation programs, including handicraft training and production, a bakery, a soy product production, medical clinic, pharmacy, medical laboratory, growth monitoring program and tutoring program for families with limited choices.

• This craft program employs 88 women who are working for their basic human rights and dignity.
• Many of the artisans are widows or single mothers; at UPAVIM their children are taken care of in the Children’s Center while the mothers are working
• UPAVIM’s scholarship program supports up to 500 students yearly.
• The UPAVIM clinic represents the only affordable health care in La Esperanza.




Kork - Kyrgyzstan

In 1996 Gulnara Kyrdyrmyshova incorporated “Kork, Fiber Art Group.” At that time many artists faced unemployment and required a place to express their talents. Kydyrmyshova recognized this and quickly organized “Kork, Fiber Art Group” to provide local artists with an outlet to sell their works.

Kyrdyrmyshova’s focus has always been on the promotion of felt products; however she works with artists who are engaged in various mediums. “Kork, Fiber Art Group” has been providing artists in Kyrgyzstan for over 15 years with a place to promote their felt works, other textiles, and ceramics.

“Kork, Fiber Art Group” has helped to sustain interest in the arts, provide artists with employment, and kept the tradition of felting alive during times of severe poverty and economic depression. Kyrdyrmyshova and her associated artists have a deep interest in the encouragement and integration of traditional Kyrgyz design and patterns in their artwork as well as educating people about their history of felt.
In 2012 Silk Road Bazaar and Kork partnered to bring Kyrgyz crafts and design to a global audience.



Craft Resource Center - India

Craft Resource Center (CRC Exports Private Limited) helps informally organized artisan groups to develop self-sustaining businesses. CRC seeks to develop economic self-sufficiency for a vulnerable segment of society through traditional handcrafting skills. CRC provides marketing, design, finance and exporting assistance to a large number of artisan groups across India. CRC also provides raw materials, production coordination between groups and additional training. CRC considers artisans more important than products. This concern for artisans translates into a broader commitment to help others within the CRC network. Because of CRC’s coordination of craft production between different artisan groups, artisans have a high level of connectedness and cooperation. Artisan groups have been able to work together in partnership in times of need.



Palomas Oilcloth Designs

"We are seven women from Puerto Palomas, Chihuahua, MX who sew to support our families. With help from Border Partners, a nonprofit organization working in our community to develop economic opportunities, we started our own coop business in early 2009. We have worked hard to develop a line of beautiful products and hope that you will enjoy selling them in your store!”

Ludy, Maria, Challo, Socorrito, Bere, Martha and Juliana