New Designs Bring New Opportunities for House of Design Pixan

Artisans at AMA worked with an international designer for a two-week product development workshop this February. As part of House of Design Pixan’s three-year project AMA approached Aid to Artisans, an organization that specializes in providing technical and marketing assistance to grass root artisan groups like AMAs, who provided this opportunity. As Mayan artisans the two primary barriers AMA’s artisans face are:

1) lack of innovative product designs to meet the needs of changing international markets

2) inability to access international marketplace.

Working with Miguel Calvo, a designer from New York who has knowledge of the US market and many original designs, has helped  AMA to overcome these obstacles. Together they  created a new line of home décor and personal accessory products, relevant to international customers, which will help provide a sustainable source of income for members of Pixan.

Through the workshop Pixan has been able to increase production capacity and quality to meet the orders from big-box stores like West Elm and Anthropology. AMA has been planning this workshop for the past year, and dreaming to have such an opportunity for much longer. Here’s a summary of the outcomes of this collaboration.

Activities, knowledge acquired and accomplishments

With the local and international market saturated by Guatemalan textiles, artisans learnt the principles of creative design so that they can develop unique products that would stand out in  the market place. They began by learning the theory behind product development and  the key stages of the design processes:

  • 1.     Investigation and concept development
  • 2.     Design creation
  • 3.     Production of prototypes
  • 4.     Team revision of prototypes
  • 5.     Production of final samples

Design Creation Principles learned

  • 1.     Perspective
  • 2.     Designs that can’t be easily replicated
  • 3.     Use of three dimensional products
  • 4.     Variations of the same product
  • 5.     Use of a combination of techniques
  • 6.     Use of recycled products
  • 7.     The element of surprise
  • 8.     Use of asymmetry
  • 9.     Uniqueness

Lessons learned

Embroiderers learned a new technique of design transfer by using a copy machine instead of re-creating the design by hand.

Artisans became expert at finishing, checking exact measures, and following the established quality standards.

Weavers became confident in their understanding of color theory and how to combine colors from the same family using the same color values.

20 new products were created, each to be expanded into collections by means of different color combinations, patterns and sizes. This included a variety of embroidered pillowcases and a collection of stylish and colorful key ring holders and dog leashes that hold hidden stories of the Maya were developed. Woven on back-strap looms, they are traditionally used as head wraps and connect a person’s energy with spiritual and physical realms.

Mod Pot holders to promote AMA’s healthy stove building program in rural Mayan communities are ready for local and export markets. AMA’s stoves extract smoke creating a healthier environment for the users and significantly cut down cooking time.

8 products will be sold on, an online store where buyers can interact with the producers via an online chat room. AMA will be featured in the next promotional campaign starting at the end of February 2013.

Interested in being one of the first to purchase our new line of products? Please contact

Check out the photos from this workshop by following this link: