Tanya Aguiñiga is a furniture maker based out of Los Angeles and raised in Tijuana, Mexico. In 2010, she started a project called Artists Helping Artisans as a way to use artists’ resources to bring attention to marginalized craft communities. The goal of the project is not necessarily to create marketable products, but to form lasting relationships between artists and their artisan collaborators through cultural and skill exchange, Aguiñiga says.
Aguiñiga received her BA in Furniture Design from San Diego State University and her MFA in Furniture Design from the Rhode Island School of Design. She got involved with community empowerment as a member of the Border Art Workshop, an artist collaborative from Mexico and the US.
In 2010, Aguiñiga worked with Mayan women in Chiapas to create collaborative works and foster trade skills. The partnership culminated in multiple U.S. exhibitions showcasing the works of the region, their processes, and individual stories in conjunction with Aguiñiga’s own work. This year, she would like to revisit these women to collaborate on a stop-motion short film and book illustrating the history of the region’s craft.
Aguiñiga said she also hopes to secure nonprofit status and establish a board to be able to offer fully funded opportunities to multiple artists wishing to work with artisans worldwide.
2013 will have yet another project in store for Aguiñiga—a U.S.-based collaboration with the Native American community.
“For this project, I am looking to help Native American artisans have larger control over how their work is represented and sold through online merchants,” she says.
AHA would create partnerships with online marketplaces to designate separate categories specifically for Native American-made products, helping to distinguish the work from native-inspired pieces. Ideally, Aguiñiga says, the partnerships would organize workshops to teach artisans how to better manage their online presence using these newly established categories.
The world is taking notice of Aguiñiga’s efforts as she was recently named a United States Artists Fellow in the field of Crafts and Traditional Arts. She has been featured in California Home and Design and Metropolitan Home magazines, on PBS’s Craft in America, and KCET’s Artbound, among many other media appearances.
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