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Collaboration crossing boundaries rooted deeply in tradition

Oaxifornia objects are collaborations between art and design students, professionals, and craft artists in Oaxaca using play and experimentation as the guiding principles for the final products. “The pieces are poetic and contemporary, but retain the roots of tradition in them,” says Oaxifornia’s director, Raul Cabra. Participants work together to dream up inventive uses for traditional materials and techniques, in part to counteract the “creative fatigue” that plagues new generations of craft artists–those who do not want to abandon their traditional crafts but do not want to repeat the work of their families.

Some of the iconic materials of Mexican folk art–carrizo cane, black clay, candles, natural fiber jewelry, and seed jewelry–form the basis for the collaborative end result. Carrizo cane has been long-used for the weaving of baskets, black clay for pottery, candles for celebrations and ceremonies, and jewelry that transforms natural products into adornment. Oaxifornia provides craftspeople, “a space to play, investigate and exchange points of view with designers and fine artists through active workshops in making.” These exchanges create new possibilities in folk art design by teaching new concepts, combined with traditional techniques, to create products that blend the past with the present.

Oaxifornia is a network of artists and craftspeople in Oaxaca as well as  art and design students and professionals from schools in Mexico and abroad. Over the last 15 years, Oaxifornia has worked with over 75 artisan families (around 350 individuals) and over 120 students, professional designers, and chefs, to produce a collection of over 500 objects. Artisans maintain ownership of the objects that arise out of their collaborations, which can bring their craft production into new markets. Oaxifornia’s works have been featured in many international exhibitions as well as in the New York Times and Conde Nast Traveler.