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Living Treasures
Innovando la Tradición—Kythzia Barrera and Diego Mier y Terán
Sep 30, 2023 (4:30pm)

Free; RSVP required

The documentaries in the Living Treasures series, led by the collective Innovando la Tradición, record the life stories and techniques of established potters from Oaxaca. Living Treasures highlights the memories and teachings of these storied potters—enabling the series to transcend individual stories to provide examples of the challenges that villages currently face and the strategies of resistance in response. Shown for the first time in the United States, the Living Treasures film screened at the Graham celebrates Doña Amelia who, at 95 years old, is the last traditional potter from Ixtlán de Juárez.

A conversation with Innovando la Tradición founders, Kythzia Barrera and Diego Mier y Terán will follow. Kythzia and Diego will talk about what they have learned by working with indigenous potters in Mexico, how it has shaped their practice and worldview, and their experience working in the interstices between design, community organizing, commerce and social practice. In describing the work of Innovando la Tradición, they write:

Clay is alive. We serve artisan communities by developing conditions for their well-being, agency and autonomy. We transform dominant narratives through contact with the soil. We generate care of our human, social and natural environment. We create bridges between the wisdom of the handmade and the world. We are and operate as a community. We learn and are transformed together. We maintain spaces for individual and collective creativity. We are proud of what we do. We are all clay.

This program is presented in partnership with the Chicago Architecture Biennial: CAB 5: This is a Rehearsal.

Innovando la Tradición is a collective and multidisciplinary nonprofit that seeks to revitalize traditional pottery in Oaxaca, Mexico to bring visibility to the profound knowledge of this centuries-old craft. The organization positions pottery as a tool of economic stability, cultural development, an agent of social cohesion, and a source of inspiration in the construction of new paradigms for a more balanced relationship with the world. This mission is realized through workshops, courses, and skill exchanges to share the work of master potters and pass on the discipline to younger artisans.

Kythzia Barrera is an industrial designer, and cofounder of Innovando la Tradición and Colectivo 1050º, organizations that support the development of pottery communities in Oaxaca, Mexico. Barrera’s work strengthens the bridges between art, craft, and design to foster social and human change. Honesty and open disclosure from the conventional and privileged designers position shapes an essential part of Kythzia's creative leadership as Head of Innovando Tradición and dynamic CEO of Colectivo 1050º. She holds a master’s degree in social and sustainable design by The Design Academie Eindhoven, Netherlands; in addition to having completed postgraduate coursework in ceramics at the School of Art and Design Helsinki, Finland; and in crafts and design at Kyoto Institute of Technology. She previously served as sustainable design professor at Centro and Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico.

Diego Mier y Terán is cofounder and director of Innovando la Tradición and Colectivo 1050º and is interested in the social and ethical dimension of design and its power as an agent of change. He holds a master’s degree in type design from Royal Academy of Art, The Hague, Netherlands. Terán teaches across many universities in Mexico and previously ran the Workshop of Utopias at the Universidad Iberoamericana which prepared students to challenge the conventions of contemporary society and design practice.

Image: On-site filming of the potter Doña Amelia for the Innovando la Tradición documentary series "Living Treasures," Ixtlán de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico, 2023. Courtesy Innovando la Tradición. Photo: Adrián Gutiérrez