Tag Archives: Chile

Back to Valparaiso



It was great to return to Valparaiso and spend time with some of its amazingly creative minds. We spent a day considering what a design for the south might be. The students are very interested in the way design relates to community and were making some quite seriously proposes for developing products that both created wealth and sustained local culture. But the Chileanness came out particularly when considering how to interpret their national dance, cueca, through design. Here is the future of Chilean craft and design!

Santiago shots

The opening of the South Project at Centro Cultural Estación Mapocho in Santiago de Chile. Arturo Navarro, the director of Mapocho, welcomed visitors along with the Craft Victoria director Kevin Murray and Minister of Culture Paulina Urrutia. They ended by reciting together Pablo Neruda’s Ode to Mapocho. The speeches were preceded by a rogativa, the tradition welcome from the Mapuche people. Afterwards, guests visited the opening of the Make the Common Precious exhibition and the installation by Elida Tesler.   

Exhibition opens

Make the Common Precious opened in Santiago tonight with great fanfare. The Chilean Minister of Culture Paulina Urrutia officiated at the opening, despite having just flown in from Spain that morning. She was given a personal tour of the exhibition and expressed great joy at the marvellous transformations that the makers had enabled. The opening included speakers reciting from a Pablo Neruda Ode the Estacion Mapocho, the venue of the exhibition. It seemed the perfect time and place. Pictured is the exhibitino designer Felipe Berguño, his mother-in-law the weaver Patricia Antunez, and Filipe’s partner the jeweller Guillermina Antunez who was South Project’s first artist in residence in 2004.

Chiloe looms

Chiloé is an island off the coast of Chile about the same latitude as Tasmania, though Chiloé is probably even colder and wetter than Tasmania. Like Tasmania, Chiloé has a resilient craft tradition. Borne of the mixture of indigneous Maphuche and Spanish traditions, Chiloé is a proud refuge of traditional folkore, manifest in is fantastic mythologies, thumping music and especially weaving. One of the first Chilote towns you encounter after leaving the ferry from Porte Montt is Ancud. Marcia Mancilla is a resident and has established a significant textile workshop called Kelgwo, after the Mapuche name for loom. There she works with Mapuche women using the traditional methods of weaving and experiments with different dyes to embue her works with the local grasses and barks. Her more sculptural creation incorporate grasses to create a warm reflection of the muted hues of the Chilote landscape. Her clothes are solidly woven making the most of handspun techniques and employing her own designs. Maria’s work can be found in Design for Valparaiso and on her website.  

Chiloé is quite isolated from the mainstream. It took me six hours by bus to reach my destination after leaving the closest airport. One venerable inhabitant described her town to me, with a smile, as the ‘fin del mundo’ (end of the world). With few riches and far from the entertainment capitals, Chiloé is a shining example of how the common can be made precious.

For an account of the South Kids story that was delivered to the children of a school in Quinchao, go to the Undercurrents post.

Valparaiso revisited

Valparaiso seems the perfect embodiment of Make the Common Precious. The port city is hardly well endowed financially, and suffers from particularly severe vertical challenges, but the people manage to give their city the feeling of a work of art in itself. The houses are painted bright primary colours. The stencil are is everywhere and most engaging. There is singing on the street and every second person seems to be carrying a guitar — I even saw a policeman with a regulation guitar over his shoulder.

There are two artists in Valparaiso who have lived in Australia. Diogenes Farro is a ceramicist who fled the Pinochet regime and lived in Sydney for 25 years. He returned home a few years ago and has just started the first ceramics course in the school of design at University of Valparaiso. He is with Patricia Gunther, who is Director of the school of design and has implemented some very interesting teaching methods for textile students working collaboratively with the traditional weavers of Colliguay, a town in the hills just north of Valparaiso. The second ex-Australian artist is Elena Gallegos, of bountiful energy whose textile map of the world will be on display for the event on October 7.

One of Patricia’s students Pitti Pelacios has opened a store Design for Valparaiso in one of the many charming nooks of the city. He has developed a distinctive weaving style that is in great demand. Her weaving accentuates the unspun qualities of wool as well as the use of intensive colours, including black. Her store also stocks many other interesting Chilean clothes and jewellery designers.

A current student is Maria los Angelos Colli, who is showing some of the work that she has been doing with the women of Colliquay. Textile artists in Chile seem to have an amazingly rich source of traditions to work with.P Perhaps there’s something here for a future Scarf Festival!

Fossicking for brass

 I met with the local exhibition designer Felipe Berguño today (he’s on the left with his associate Paola Azocar), how is also helping out with the Transversa exhibition. He is getting the exhibition furniture fabricated and is looking for something that will add that little bit of pretention to the exhibition. I explained to Felipe the signs that might be found at the entrance to bars with rules such as ‘No thongs’ (it took a long time to explain what a ‘thong’ was), or ‘No singlets’. Felipe looked quite bemused, which might be either that Chileans don’t have such items of clothing or that anyone would ever conceive of wearing them in public. Looking around Santiago, jeans seem the uniform of most locals. It is possible that class differences are more internalised that in a country like Australia, where there are visible barriers, such as bollards. We’ll see what they can find to put visitors to this exhibition in their place.

The next quest was to find someone appropriate to recite a verse by Neruda at the opening. In discussing this with Tomas at Centro Mapocho, he pointed out the poem that Neruda had written most specially for the building. Here’s the image of the display at the entrance. Neruda’s poem is almost embarrasingly passionate for a piece about a public building, but that’s Neruda for you. We had some interesting conversations about the difference between Neruda’s communist aesthetic and the equivalent in the English craft tradition, which is more Buddhist in style. Another case of tapping messages from either side of the wall.


 I gave a talk about Make the Common Precious at a conference in Valparaiso. Cicuirto Identidades Latinas is a moveable feast of talk about design and cultural identity that is traveling through Latin America. That day was also devoted to talk about Easter Island and new programs working with traditional artesans such as Andean crafts. There seemed enormous interest in what is happening with the Australian scene, particularly as it opens up possibilities for craft in the art gallery, which is quite a foreign idea here. In fact, there seems to be no word for a practice that fits between ‘arte’ or ‘diseño’ and ‘artesenato’, which is typically traditional and lacking innovation. Pictured were two very interesting speakers, both called Macareña. Macarena Barros Jiménez is a writes a column on handicrafts for El Mecurio and recently published Kume winotuaimi ruka mew (Blessed Return Home) about Mapuche crafts of the lake Icalma region. With her is Macareña Peña who has established a craft store which specialises in works from the Andean region. You can visit her store online here.

Language is an obvious barrier between the two craft cultures, but there seems much to be gained in tapping messages to each other from both sides of the wall.

Latin Identity event

In Chile, the exhibition Make the Common Precious will be featured in a conference on Latin Design:

What is Identidades Latinas? Circuito Identidades Latinas (CIL) is a non-profit organization which brings together leaders in the fields of design, entrepreneurship, crafts, arts, journalism and education to reflect on the impact of identity-based design. Since 2004 CIL has organized traveling workshops and seminars which take place in several Latin American cities. In those examples of successful and original cases are discussed by those who make design and reflect on it. These activities have generated a powerful network in America and Spain and have been the starting point for new projects. CIL is supported by UNESCO, Fundestarte (Spain), South Project (Australia), Zona Diseño (Chile), Latin American Design Network (Colombia), National design Program (Argentina) and the Institute for Social Development (Argentina), among others. Circuito Identidades Latinas 2006

  1. On August 21 the 8th Version of CIL starts in Jaraguá do Sul, Brasil. (More information at www.identidadeslatinas.org)
  1. As an independent organization we have been invited by UNESCO to organize a part of CREATE, a forum and a commercial fair focused on creative industries at Mercosur. CREATE will take place in Rosario, Argentina, from September 14 to 24. The 9ht version of CIL is called “Design, Identity and Development”. (More information at www.create.com.ar)
  1. CIL’s 10th version, “Traces of identity: Body, habit, habitat”, will take place the last week of September in Valparaiso and Santiago, Chile.

Welcome to Craft Unbound

The discovery of rare value in the most common of materials seems a particularly Australian quest. Eighteen newly emerged craft practitioners from across Australia demonstrate in their work how a source as humble as the supermarket can provide materials for even the most precious work of art. Materials include quartz, grass, ice cream sticks, indigenous timbers, plastic bags, cardboard packaging, styrofoam, books, blankets, skin and shampoo. In each case, a work of elegance and expressive power has been produced from extremely humble materials. The exhibition ‘Make the Common Precious’ demonstrates the creative potential of craft to transform materials through skill and imagination. This exhibition coincides with the publication of ‘Make the Common Precious’ (Thames & Hudson). Artists profiled in the publication are Ari Athans (QLD), Roseanne Bartley (VIC), Kantjupayi Benson (WA), Kate Campbell-Pope (WA), Lorraine Connelly-Northey (VIC), Honor Freeman (SA), Stephen Gallagher (VIC), Caz Guiney (VIC), David Herbert (VIC), Nicholas Jones (VIC), Nicole Lister (NSW), Sally Marsland (VIC), Paull McKee (ACT), Tiffany Parbs (SA), Anna Phillips (TAS), Fleur Schell (WA), Mark Vaarwerk (QLD), Damien Wright (VIC) and Louiseann Zahra (VIC).
This is a place for occasional news about the publication Craft Unbound: Make the Common Precious, the artists who are featured there and the exhibition touring to Santiago, Chile in October 2006. For more information about the exhibition, go here.