At TEDWomen, a visit with the Alliance for Artisans


Adela Callanaupa is with the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco, bringing traditional Peruvian weaving techniques to an outdoor bazaar at TEDWomen 2016. Photos: Stacie McChesney / TED

On a gorgeous San Francisco night, the TEDWomen community gathered to kick off our 2016 conference, “It’s About Time,” with an evening of global food, music and connection around ideas. On the terrace of the City View at Metreon, overlooking Yerba Buena Gardens, a dozen artisan groups have gathered from around the world to show off gorgeous wares — brightly beaded necklaces, soft-as-a-whisper scarves, cozy knits and woven straw bowls. The artisans at Wednesday night’s Global Showcase are here supported here by a group based out of the Aspen Institute, the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise, whose goal is to support artisan businesses by linking them to support organizations, corporations and foundations, government and multilateral agencies — and shoppers. 

As they explain: “The artisan sector is the second largest employer in the developing world, yet it is overlooked and under-resourced by traditional development efforts.” 

At the party, we met creators like Anyieth D’Awol, who brought beadwork from a group called ROOTS of South Sudan, founded in 2009 to empower South Sudanese women and youth through the preservation of traditional Sudanese arts and crafts. As part of their practice, ROOTS of South Sudan provides members with job skills, literacy and math training, and a safe environment for mothers and their children to work and learn. More than 60 women participate in the ROOTS Project Center, representing 17 tribes and supporting over 360 family members. 

Nilda Callanaupa Alvarez was here, from the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco, which promotes local weavers in the sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. The Center has spent more than 20 years promoting traditional textiles arts, now employing over 500 weavers.  

And Paula Mendoza brought her jewelry, which exemplifies the richness of Colombian gold and the power of emerald green. Ten years ago, studying with local artisans across South America and experimenting with different stones and metals, Paula fully submerged herself into the world of jewelry. Her jewelry supports 29 Colombian craftswomen, and is sold in partnership with 36 retailers around the world. You might have seen it, in fact, on Beyoncé.

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