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Collaboration with the Chávez family: beginning of innovating tradition based on Kythzia Barrera's master's thesis

The family workshop chavez it was one of the few traditional pottery workshops that survived in the surroundings of the city of Oaxaca. They are incredible master turners, pioneers in lead-free enamelling and in using gas ovens. Despite their willingness to change, or perhaps because of it, they have gone through many difficulties. One of its main products is a bowl, the chocolate cup, as it is known in Oaxaca, which is a typical, almost ubiquitous object for drinking chocolate.

Márgara Chavez Family Mug. Archive Innovating Tradition, 2000

We met the Chavez family thanks to our teacher, the anthropologist Martha Turok, in the summer of 2005. At that time the family was in a precarious financial situation. The chocolate cup was sold for 10 pesos in the markets.

We started a collaborative project as a case study and with the desire to help to the family. We soon realized that a real designer-craftsman collaboration requires much more than good intentions.

Is it possible to put the cup in a time acceleration chamber and generate mutations that allow it to evolve and adapt to our modern world? Is it possible to transform traditional crafts and preserve its essence? Can crafts mutate, adapt to survive and feed Mexican design? These were some of the questions that started Innovating Tradition, when our director, Kythzia Barrera, did her master's degree in Social and Sustainable Design at the Design Academie Eindhoven, in The Netherlands. He took as a case study the Chávez family and the chocolate cup produced in San Martín Mexicapan.

“The chocolate cup, typical in Oaxaca, was one of our starting points. It was what triggered our love for clay, history and artisans.”

Kythzia Barrera