The Block Project

Around the world, the fair trade movement has become the model for the promotion of ethical and sustainable business practices. I spent my past two summers working with fair trade organizations in both Ghana and Nepal, in which I was able to apply my design skills towards collaborative product development with low-income artisans. Through these experiences, I gained a sense of how design education can empower an individual.

When given economic opportunity through fair trade, artisans are provided with a new lens in which to see the world along with a sense of creative agency in their work. Inspired by these fair trade principles, I was interested in applying them on a local level. In order to do so, I developed a curriculum for a design workshop called ‘Block’ which focuses on the technique of textile block printing I learned during my time spent in Nepal.

I chose to teach my workshop at Saint Margaret’s House, a day center for women in downtown South Bend. After shadowing the participants and instructors of the established Silk Creations artist empowerment program run at Saint Margaret’s House, I implemented my block print workshop for seven weeks. On a bi-weekly basis I instructed a group of 25 participants, providing an introduction of basic design principles through lectures and activities.

I facilitated the development of each participant’s block stamps at each step of the design process, from initial ideation to carving and final textile application on tea towels. Throughout the entire workshop, I was able to see the women gain confidence in their abilities as designers via the development of their skills in the technique of block printing. I hope that my thesis project will, ultimately, lay the foundation for a design workshop program that is sustainable for years to come.