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The public art project ‘ADDA-BAAZI’


v Adda Baazi. Public Art Project

The streets of Delhi are quite an experience to behold: incessant hooting, endless congestion and the constant negotiations of the auto-rickshaws, cars, lorrys and pedestrians trying to make the traffic madness work. But I find the pedestrians on the streets are where  the really interesting stories are.   For instance, a pattern we observed is that the majority of the public spaces are occupied by men. We see men standing about together having a chat and watching the street, or congregating around a teashop or a Paan stand. We see women too, but they appear to always be en-route to somewhere else. Seldom do we see women gathering together or gathering with men outside in social, public spaces  like on a bench outside of a neighbourhood market where they can read a newspaper, have a chat and a tea. We see men doing this.


Adda Baazi. Public Art Project

In response to this, Nupur and I decided to place women in traditionally male occupied spaces, like the teashop.  In doing so, we hoped to comment on as well as stimulate dialogue and introspection about complicity in perpetuating this kind of segregation in public spaces in Delhi.

What we did was we photographed groups of women in the middle of seemingly innocuous gestures like drinking tea, reading the newspaper or talking on a mobile phone. We then pasted these images on the walls of these male occupied spaces in CR Park, a neighbourhood in Delhi.

The response to the project in the areas where we pasted as well as at the art exhibition ‘where we showed the documentation of the project, has been interesting. The project did provoke some thought and a lot of dialogue. Many said that we were commenting on something that they hadn’t really noticed before. One comment however was that occupation of the public spaces was more of a segregation of class than of gender.

We named the project Adda Baazi. Adda Baazi is a Hindi slang word that refers to ‘hanging-out’ as a habit.


Adda Baazi. Public Art Project



Catch-up Post: The Planning Party

1 - PPP Banner


Hive Colab is the name of the office I worked at during the whole two months in Kampala. It’s a tech collaboration hub founded by one of my fellowship advisors, TMS or Teddy Ruge. As seen in the photo, it’s set up as a large open space with islets of desks spread throughout. It’s such a great space to work in because you never know who is going to drop in from which country, who you’re going to work with, and what projects you might discover. My colleagues range from coding nerds to serial entrepreneurs to mobile app gurus. A few weeks in, I found out that one of the creators of Winsenga, an award winning ultrasound app, was sitting at the desk just across me. The team, originally from Makerere University, had created this app to help reduce maternal mortality rates and most recently was awarded $50,000 by Microsoft. In the corner desks by the window sits my friend Anne Giuthu. She started a business in her early 20s, had it acquired by another company, is CEO of her second marketing company now, is deputy director of the marketing department at a university, and is a mother of one. Oh and she’s also only 25 years old.

Being at this space is how I easily got connected to my research partner, Joseph Wanda, pictured below. He doesn’t like having his photo taken so this is all you’re going to get.

Joseph Wanda

Joseph diligently taking notes in preparation for some epic field research.

He is serial researcher, having conducted all kinds of research for companies and universities, including Hive Colab. Once he came on board my research became a lot more concrete. I could finally determine what specific areas to sample around Uganda since Joseph knew the geography a lot better than me. Over the course of one week, we established a tentative schedule for 3 weeks of field research ranging geographically from central Uganda (Kampala) to eastern Uganda (Jinja and Mbale*). Kampala was a good starting point because we were already there and familiar with the place. We also knew of which slums to visit and could navigate ourselves around them because Joseph had done prior research in them. Jinja and Mbale were more foreign places to both of us but we knew we had to get out of central Uganda. One of the big reasons was to see if areas that were less industrialized with less access to media would have different perceptions of how they were represented in western media, if at all. Jinja and Mbale were less industrialized cities, both with large slums and many local NGOs present.

The blue poster seen above, and pictured below as well, illustrates the brainstorming process of my field research objectives. They were:

  1. To understand if the poverty-porn-is-bad argument is valid.
  2. To better understand how ‘victims’ of poverty porn want to be represented.
  3. To understand the effects of poverty porn on people’s dignity/self-esteem
  4. To understand African misconceptions of the west.

IMG_1435  IMG_1442

The planning process was more about framing the issue of poverty porn rather than about the logistics of travel and appointments, although that was quite a challenge as well. Thanks to the generous wall space in my room and the pack of Super Sticky Post-its I brought from home, I was able to do some visual mapping of the underlying aspects of the issue. Many questions came up during this process. Is “poverty porn” even the right term? Who are the main constituents of NGOs? Is donor dependency okay? Do the ends justify the means? How does a stereotype come to be?

Current Status of Project

I am currently back in New York, still scrambling to write catch-up posts on this blog and keep you guys up to date. It’s been difficult coming back to this bustling city and trying to process the past two months of adventures. Bear with me as I try to present the meat of my project in the next few weeks before school starts.

The next few posts will tell the stories from each of our sites: Kampala, Jinja, and Mbale.

Stay tuned and cheers,


*Mbale is pronounced em-balleh just fyi. 


HERS an art exhibition

It’s been a while I know, but we will be giving an update on the project soon. This post is to let you know that we will be participating in an art exhibition titled ‘HERS’ this weekend in Delhi.

We will be exhibiting  two works. One of the works  (still a sketch) is a series of audio pieces curated to illustrate the underlying drivers of the complexities of gender here.  The other piece is the documentation of a public art project that we are doing, the project comments on the largely male public face of Delhi.

In a future post we will upload images from the public art project and also excerpts from the interviews we have conducted.



exhibition flyer


Trip to Gamarra in search of materials

Eliza Squibb : Shipibo textiles

I needed to find materials for the needle felting workshop I had planned with the artisans of Cantagallo, and in Lima, there’s one place to go to get textile materials: Gamarra. A large area of pedestrian-only blocks dedicated to clothes, fabrics, materials, and a whole lot of other stuff, Gamarra is located in La Victoria district, a dangerous part of Lima’s risky downtown area. I asked a contact for advice and she gave me very specific directions for navigating this neighborhood:

 “It’s best to go in the morning when there are less people. Wear workout clothes, sneakers, nothing that would attract attention like a watch, expensive earrings or cell phone. Hold your money in a secure location, and wear an empty backpack to carry what you buy. Walk only on the well-transited streets and never go into a place that is more removed from the action. There are a lot of “jaladores”, people who will ask you if you need anything, ignore them, because they will take you to another place or drive you crazy. It’s better to ask where to find things inside of a shop. Good luck!”

I followed these directions to the letter. From my neighborhood, I took the electric train for the first time: For a full five minutes, I enjoyed a peaceful, fast, efficient means of transportation that took me straight from San Borja to Gamarra, traveling at about roof-top level over the packed and confusing highways. It was such a strange feeling not to be stuck in traffic, not to hear car horns blaring, I wouldn’t have minded riding around to enjoy it longer, but it was already time to descend back into the crowded streets and start my Gamarra adventure.

Sugar cane cart

As with so many places that I’ve been on this trip, I was dying to take pictures the whole time, but I’ve definitely given up on carrying my camera around with me. I would miss it too much if it got stolen, and I’ve gotten used to leaving the house with only a small amount of money and my cheap cell phone in my front pockets only. So, I stole some pictures off the internet to provide a visual.Image

The sights and smells were both overwhelming and tantalizing. Each step brought a new smell of food or, sometimes, garbage. The first thing I bought was some kind of cookie made entirely of slivered coconut. To wash that down, I bought was a cup of warm “maca”, kind of like diluted peanut butter, and according to the sign it was good for my brain, my stress, my anemia, my lungs, my tuberculosis, the malnutrition of my children, the decalcification of my bones, my menopause, my infertility, my sexual impotence, my hormones, and my rickets….(The internet is telling me that this powdered Andean root is what helped the Inca’s carry rocks up to Machu Picchu). My cup of maca came topped with a sprinkle of bee pollen and molasses, and while I drank it, I could observe what was going on in the rest of the shop, where powdered maca was sold as well as fruit smoothies made with quinoa. I watched a man methodically take live frogs out of an aquarium, peel their skin off, and place them in a glass measuring pitcher where they continued squirming in a transparent pile. Would they also be ingredients in a smoothie? I left to continue my mission before I could even begin to contemplate the medicinal benefits of that…

After asking where to find wool in a few shops, I found myself on the block of medicinal plants. Piles of cactus, fruits, herbs, and stacks of mysterious bottles lined both sides of the side walk. A few tables sold what looked like very recently killed snakes. I swear I saw a bottle labeled “Dolphin Love Milk” or maybe it was “Milk of Dolphin Love”. Some objects were so mysterious, I had no idea if I was supposed to eat them, wear them, burn them, or hang them up in my house to ward off evil spirits. Foods included every kind of fried/grilled fishes, meats, potatoes, corn, plantains, clams. Vendors had boxes strapped to their chest selling hard boiled quail eggs on toothpicks. There were enormous slices of papaya, pineapple and watermelon, and also, people walked around selling slices of cake off of huge platters, as well as ice cream cones that never seemed to melt (it looks like it’s whipped cream, not frozen?). I saw a few women on street corners selling small green parrots. If I started to feel my energy flagging, I was quick to treat myself to a fresh fruit juice and continue my search.

The next block over was filled with shops of traditional costumes, masks made of mesh, wool, and leather with glass eyes, props, and everything needed for traditional dance outfits: sequins, braids, beads, bells, feathers, buttons, and powdered dye. There were ikat scarves from Cajamarca for the marinera dance, ponchos, and woven blankets from Cusco at a fraction of the price that they are sold for in the Miraflores artisan markets. Some costume skirts were so packed with embroidery that they were more solid than cardboard and cost 500 soles. Image

I felt sure that in this textile heaven I would find what I was looking for, but after asking in several yarn shops, a stop owner explained to me that raw or dyed wool roving could not be found in Lima. I would have to go to Arequipa, an eight hour bus ride away, if I wanted to find unprocessed materials. Here in Lima, I was told, everyone wants brightly colored synthetics, no alpaca or sheep’s wool or anything natural looking. Those products look too much like traditional stuff from the mountains, “we have a complex, we don’t like anything that looks serrano”, the shop keeper explained. I guess what foreigners consider one of Peru’s finest exports, high quality Alpaca wool, looks too “rural” for most city-dwellers.

So, I made my way back to my favorite of the costume shops where I had seen something like a feather boa that was made of colorful bunches of alpaca wool. It is also a prop for some kind of dance, and it’s definitely too bad to buy something only to take it apart just for the materials…. but no wool, no workshop…

When I proposed the idea of the needle-felting workshop to Las Madres de Ashé in Cantagallo, they were very excited about the idea of leaning a new method for making their traditional patterns. With a new technique that bears similarities to embroidery and painting, they could expand their range of products to possibly include wool and silk scarves, shawls, or even blankets that might sell well in Lima’s winter climate. I wanted to be able to teach them a technique that they could continue to develop, and it was important to me to find an accessible, cheap source of materials, so that they could keep experimenting with the tools. Although the trip to Gamarra wasn’t a hundred percent success, at least I found materials to hold the initial workshop. In reality, the Shipibo artisan community moves around an impressive amount, traveling throughout Peru for craft fairs in different cities. If they like the technique enough, then they could possibly invest in wool when they travel to a city in the mountains.

I rarely expect a hundred percent success these days, and with this mind set, everything qualifies as an invaluable learning experience! I guess I could also try smearing myself with snake oil or drinking a bottle of dolphin love milk to see if that brings me success!


Taking the Forum out West

Ryan Murphy: World Economic Forum – Rethinking Personal Data Project

Downtown Seattle!

Checking in from the World Economic Forum, with an exciting two weeks since my last blog post and crunch time settling in as I finish up the summer.

As part of my work with the Forum, I am collaborating with Microsoft on project around cross-cultural personal data attitudes and behaviors and their impact on a potential recommender system, user agent and identity management system. My role as the designer in this work comes from the User Interface / User Experience (UI/UX) side, in laying out how such a system could play out as an interface and how best to engage individuals in the process of personal data use. Check out the image below for how this is starting to play out with a specific scenario related to Sweden.

Personal Data Management Interface - Scenario Example with Sweden

Personal Data Management Interface – Scenario Example with Sweden

As part of this project I had the great opportunity to go out to Redmond, WA to work in person with Microsoft’s Technology Policy Group. Redmond is an interesting “little” place, about 30 minutes outside Seattle and home to Microsoft’s 60,000 person campus (headquarters). I stayed in Bellevue, a beautiful town in between Redmond and Seattle, giving me the opportunity to check out a few different places around the area. In my three days there, I was able to get over to downtown Seattle and check out the great sights (Space Needle!) as well as enjoy some delicious Washington coffee. Regardless of the great sights though, the trip was most beneficial because of the work I was able to do in person with Microsoft. In a world where we are so digitally connected I still see tremendous value in face-to-face meetings.

Microsoft showing off their latest products

Getting a test run at some of the new Kinect technology


Being on the West Coast already, I was able to hop down to San Francisco and the Bay Area for a few days to work on some RISD related initiatives. I had the great fortune of staying with a friend in Palo Alto who showed me a fantastic time.


Iconic Golden Gate Bridge

Back in New York things are winding down with only a week or so left, though I will certainly remain busy finishing things up. RISD all-nighters, critiques, and final projects have certainly prepared me well to hammer out the work, so no worries there!

Until next time,

Ryan Murphy


Lombard Street in SF!


Space Needle in Seattle!


Ferris Wheel along the coast in Seattle!




Interview with Leonida Maldonado Agustín

On one of my last days in Pucallpa, I asked Leonida to explain her textile techniques and patterns for an interview. My only request was that she describe processes in the way that she had been telling me informally while we worked together. As the interview unfolded however, she took the opportunity to speak about larger issues and challenges that face her fellow artisans and members of the community. While I had sometimes heard artisans talk about personal hardships, shortage of money, illnesses in the family, I hadn’t heard the larger issues of over-population, over-fishing, deforestation, lack of educational opportunities, addressed in such a direct manner.

Please excuse the unprofessional quality of the footage, there were numerous interruptions! Audible interruptions during the footage include mototaxis passing in front of the house, and the hand that appears in from of the camera belongs to Leonida’s four year old daughter, Grace. The youngest daughter, Faviola, wakes up from a nap, and also makes a later appearance in the interview. Both daughters are recently recovering their energy and smiles after being sick with bad fevers. They are both a bit underweight for their age, and often my plans with Leonida were postponed due to visits to the clinic. Leonida’s older daughters, Mary and Liz, are also mentioned. Of course, just as Leonida describes how much concentration is required to make the kené patterns, we were interrupted once and for all.

The interview is transcribed below in English. (The one word in Shipibo, Keraswe, which was shouted at Grace to make her be quiet, was translated for me by Carolina. Since she did her linguist profession such justice in the translation, I am compelled to share it with you (I will always be a nerd for language):

ke- comes from “kexa”, meaning “mouth”

ras- must be an abbreviation of a verb like “cut off”

we- is the imperative

First, I collect bark and cook it for about four hours, it needs to boil well. Then, I take it off, so it cools a bit, no, it needs to cool a lot, not a little, it needs to cool off well. The next day, I have to start dyeing, about eight times, according to how we want the color, right? Sometimes more, ten times makes it darker, eight times is like this more or less, and six times is a bit less, it depends on how a person wants the color to be. When it’s dry we take it and paint it (Grace! get down!), and we paint it with special clay, and we take this clay from the river, from the river bank, we take it and in a bucket, we mix it up, and then we paint our patterns with it. These patterns come from our ancient culture, and sometimes from ayahuasca (Grace! Don’t touch, my daughter, don’t touch!), from ayahuasca and also from our ancient culture. So we paint, and when we are finished painting and it’s dry, we wash it and it stays a black color like this, and no one can explain why when we paint like this with special clay it turns black. That’s just how it is! White cloth is done with a different bark, and we only put a little bit. (Be quiet Grace!) We paint with that bark, and we cook it as well, and then we put clay on it, and this one we pour clay over all of it, and when it’s washed it also stays black, with white, and that’s how we work.

But sometimes, we make quite a lot, but sometimes we don’t have a market that we can sell to. We are looking at this time for someone who could support us, someone who could support us from over there, because here, we don’t have, how can I explain to you, we’re not professionals and that’s why we work this way because our grandmothers showed us how. So, from our culture, this is how we make a living, because sometimes we don’t have a profession or any schooling. Before, in the past, we never studied, only our mothers would show us how to embroider, how to paint, how to cultivate crops, how to fish. Before, there were no people, but now a lot of people have moved in from other places, Mestizos [general Peruvian population] most of all, they moved in, they made nets to catch fish, and now in the lake there’s barely any fish. And we used to produce plantains, they fumigated it, and yucca, nothing. In this way, we have to search for a way to raise our children, right? Now, raising a family is difficult because everyday prices get higher for food, clothes, soap to wash things. People cut down the trees, and there’s no place to plant seeds, any person can move in, and we don’t have land to use.  Now that they’ve fumigated the ground, it doesn’t produce plantains or yucca, and all the fish have been taken out with nets, and there aren’t any left. Before, when I was that small [points to four year old Grace], I remember there was fish here, when the river was low, ooooo, enough that I could fish with an arrow! Now you can’t do that, and for this reason, we’ve devoted ourselves to doing this more, showing our children, as my mother showed me, and my mother’s mother showed her, and now I have to show my daughters, and that’s the way that it is. Sometimes, people think that we have food, but sometimes we fall short of food because we don’t have money, now everything happens with money, without money you can’t live, you have to struggle. And when there is money, I have to buy only something to eat. When there isn’t, or there’s only a little, we fall short. It’s much worse for those who have more children, they suffer, and for those who don’t know how to paint, they suffer as well. Sometimes, when there are tourists, they come and buy from us, and recently we are getting by, more or less. If they don’t buy, we’re fucked! You’ve seen my grandmother, right? My mother is suffering, she wants to buy medicine, and so when she buys medicine, how does she buy food? We fall short. This is why sometimes we want someone to support us or export our work, this culture that we have, this art, more than anything. This is as much as I can explain to you! Any time that you can come or tell your friends and your contacts that could support us, we could export. At the moment, I’m happy that you showed me [how to use the sewing machine]. We don’t know how to operate, for example, I never learned how to the use the machine, I only embroider by hand or paint, that’s all, but no one comes to show us or support us. I’m glad that you showed me, I’m very happy with you. I’ve dedicated myself to this because I never studied, my mother never said to me, “Go study, I will support you”, because my mother also never had that opportunity. When we were kids, my father passed away, and because of this, my mother didn’t have the possibility of taking care of us and sending us to school. That is why I never studied or finished middle school or anything after that. That’s why I’ve dedicated myself to this, what else do I know? Sometimes I see my community members, even though they are suffering, not eating, walking all the way, they manage to get an education and a profession, some of them, others don’t have these things. For this reason, I told my daughters, Liz and Mary as well, that I wanted them to study and become professionals, but I didn’t have the opportunity, and so it’s just stayed this way. I feel terribly for my daughter, she didn’t finish school, she only had one year left, but she dropped out.

I don’t want [the patterns] to be lost! Some people don’t care, some members of my community don’t want to do anything, but I do, I don’t want it to be lost. But I don’t have, how can I tell you, I don’t have a camera, right? Sometimes I would like to take pictures of what I make and keep them like a book or a catalogue, so I won’t lose my designs. But I don’t have this, and I don’t know how to take pictures. It would be beautiful, right? I could take pictures and and make myself a catalogue so I wouldn’t forget my patterns. At the moment, I make patterns, I sell them, and if someone comes back another time, I have to think hard about it to make the pattern again, little by little. I used to not know how to make patterns, I would always call to my mother, “is this good or bad?”, [She would reply], “Yes, you’re learning, just work on it”, and that’s how I learned. That’s how it is. I invent at times, I look at the patterns and invent them, I have them in my mind, I have to think about them. We have to concentrate to make the patterns.ImageTeresa teaching me how to paint patterns with bark as we work on the bag project.ImageSewing lesson in Adelina’s workshop.ImageLeonida with the bag that she sewed on the machine.ImageGrace the Intrepid in her hammock!


Great government meeting today!

This post needed to be written today because earlier I was in a meeting that became incredibly eye opening, inspiring, and could create incredible potential for Detroit to transform itself into a leading center for green and blue infrastructure development and experimentation.

Today, along with my manager and our Green T project consultants, I met with Korey Hall.  Korey was here to represent US Senator Debbie Stabenow and their interests in urban agriculture as an effective productive use of urban land that can’t easily be repurposed for any other type of development.

Senator Stabenow is Chairwoman of the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. She is also a member of the senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.  Korey and Senator Stabenow therefore have a big interest in urban agriculture projects in Detroit that can become examples throughout the state and region.

Not only did we talk about the Green T project’s potential for Detroit, but it’s potential as a catalyst for other types of green and blue infrastructure projects.  We had the chance to explain to Korey the process of stormwater remediation and how it can become a more natural process in an urban environment.  How it can become a benefit to the people who live there, the waterways, as well as the stormwater treatment facilities, and a money saving project for the city.  We also discussed the phytoremediation potential of agricultural projects and how it can help bring value back to vacant, toxic land.  Much of what we talked about was new information for Korey.  It was eye opening and reassuring to see that there are people in government who are informing themselves about these things.  After this meeting, its become apparent that many of these projects won’t receive funding or much support from government or private grants because they are misrepresented.  It seems that much of the government or entities that would be able to distribute funding to this type of project don’t see the projects as viable.  But viable to most eyes means that a project would become a money making process.  Unfortunately most projects like the Green T couldn’t be implemented without large initial investments and they wouldn’t become profitable for many years.  However, if city has land that is vacant, toxic, and monetarily worthless, then nobody can or will use it for anything else but agricultural and landscape architecture projects.  In situations like the current condition on the Eastside of Detroit, Korey and Stabenow do believe that green infrastructure projects and urban farming can be used as a powerful tool for neighborhood stabilization.  Improving the lives of the citizens is worth the investment.  My faith in the federal government is low and has been for quite a while.  The meeting with Korey today revealed a bit of hope for me and has put in a great mood for the weekend!

After mentioning mass stormwater remediation and waterways above, I thought I’d share this photo I took a little while ago.  It’s a canal in the southeast corner of Detroit.  Michiganders and Detroiters are constantly using our greatest natural resource, fresh water.  These docks in the canal are attached to the backyards of single family homes.  Although homes like this are only a small fraction of the city, it’s a resource and amenity that most major cities don’t have.  We need to recognize the value and do everything we can to maintain healthy waterways.

2013.7.1 _ Detroit canal

2013.7.1 _ Detroit canal

Another thing that we spoke a bit about today was the possibility for the federal government to fund blight remediation projects in the LEAP district.  Very soon there may be federal money coming to Detroit [that are not grants] for simple things like facade remediation and demolition. This is one building on the Eastside that I would love to see preserved and taken care of!  If I had the means, I would preserve this one myself…

2013.8.1 _ eastside abandonment

2013.8.1 _ eastside abandonment


BARK, CLAY, COTTON, WOOL: The elements of Shipibo textiles

Eliza Squibb : Shipibo-Konibo textiles

My days in Pucallpa quickly fell into a comfortable rhythm. Waking up early in the calm, white rectangle of my mosquito net, eating breakfast in San José, and then heading to Yarinacocha to wait for a car to San Francisco. I got into the habit of calling Teresa from town to ask what groceries she might need for the day: maybe a fish, a new kitchen knife, a papaya or pinapple. I did my best to help out, although I was liable to mess up her requests and once brought bananas, thinking they were plantains. Almost every day, Teresa and her sister Adelia (both great-grandmothers!) brought their textile projects to the porch of their mother Anastasia’s house, because her health has been deteriorating lately.Image

Teresa sits on a piece of foam while painting a textile with bark dye, and Adelia faces away while painting with clay slip. Anastasia relaxes in a rocking chair. I would usually sit and work pitifully slowly on a small piece of embroidery. There was a constant flow of conversation in Shipibo, with many relatives stopping by to sit and chat, children, grandchildren, teenagers arriving and departing and needing attention, and traditional healers coming to help Anastasia. I loved being able to observe all this action while being mostly ignored, although almost everyone would check on my embroidery from time to time and pass judgement on how well I was advancing.ImageWe sat under the palm from roof, held up with a structure lashed together with wire, and full of mysterious rustles and chirps of bats or birds.Image

In a house across the yard, Ebelina, a cousin or in-law, would usually work on her embroidery in a hammock while her toddlers played nearby.ImageAnd now for the technical information! Or actually, some vague information on what remains an incredibly mysterious process: Shipibo natural dyeing techniques. I started out full of questions, not understanding the actions that I was observing. How was the dyed fixed? Why didn’t they boil the cloth with the dye? Why didn’t they hang the dyed cloth on the clothesline to dry? A little bit of patience, observation, and simply doing as I was instructed led me to a better understanding… ImageFirst, corteza, bark is collected from three different trees and boiled in the evening for a number of hours. The next day, the arduous dyeing process begins. Fabric is soaked briefly in the dye, wrung out a little, and then laid as flat as possible on the ground to dry. Why? Here comes the magic: As the sun dries the fabric, it darkens and sets the dye, so that the sunny side of the fabric becomes a few shades darker than the back. ImageTo get the fabric to the desired shade, it is soaked and dried in the sun a total of eight times, which usually takes two days. This dyed cotton cloth (usually bleached muslin) is called tocuyo. Dyeing, as well as other textile projects take place in the midst of all other daily chores, such as washing laundry, tending to children, cooking lunch over outdoor fires or indoor stovetops, and chasing chickens away from the cooking lunch. ImageOnce a fabric is sufficiently dyed with bark, it is painted with barro especial, a clay slip that is grayish white in color. Here comes more magic: When the clay touches the dyed cloth, it turns it jet black almost immediately, and once dry, the clay can be rinsed off, but the black remains permanently.ImageAdelia works on a complex and meandering kené pattern using a stick tool to move the clay across the fabric.ImageTeresa works on a  different variation that involves painting kené with bark dye onto an un-dyed fabric. ImageOnce this pattern dries, the whole cloth can be rinsed briefly in clay slip, and then immediately rinsed with water. The clay instantly turns the pattern to an indelible black. ImageImageAdelia puts the final touches on a large embroidery that is used as the traditional patterned skirt called a pampanilla. She uses colorful wool thread that costs a lot less than cotton thread, and the loosely woven, white cotton base cloth is called cayamasu. Behind her, the house is also decorated with kené patterns. Most women around the age of Teresa and Adelia wear black wrap skirts and tee-shirts while they are at home working, but when they head into town to get groceries or sell their crafts, they dress in vibrantly embroidered skirts, colorful frilled blouses, and an immensely heavy, white beaded belt.ImageTeresa is about sixty, and Anastasia, her mother, is around seventy-two, but their hair is kept a glossy jet black with the use of another natural dye, the fruit of the huito tree that was also used in the past for painting semi-permanent kené patterns on the face and body. Teresa’s palms and the tips of her ears were usually black from hair dyeing, but I saw no one use this for body tattoos while I was there.

For anyone who is interested in further information on natural textile dyes of the Amazon, there is a great article on Yanesha culture and natural dyeing that can be read in both English and Castellano. The Yanesha are a different indigenous group from the Shipibo-Konibo, and their traditional dress and patterns are distinct. They use an amazing, colorful range of natural dyes as well as native Amazonian cotton. This article also highlights the potential of textile art for increasing cultural visibility as well as providing an economic outlet, which is the focus of my research as well:


Update from the Green T demonstration block:

Update about the demonstration block:  The trees have been cut down.  There are several tires onsite and multiple other pieces of large trash that weren’t visible before.  If there weren’t any tires on the site, I would’ve been surprised!

2013.8.1 _ demonstration block tree removal

2013.8.1 _ demonstration block tree removal

Tires are the most common form of trash that you’ll see dumped on vacant land throughout Detroit.  Why?  Why not?!  It only makes sense because first of all, it’s the motor city.  Rubber is not easily recycled.  It can’t be incinerated.  It’s not very easy to breakdown.  Garbage companies don’t often pick them up to haul to the dump.  People don’t know what to do with them so they are often lying around Detroit in lonely piles.  With a little bit of searching, it often isn’t hard to find piles containing a few dozen or even over a hundred.

I’ve been long fascinated by the endless possibilities associated with the reuse or recycling of tires.  As a designer, I’ve considered the qualities of the material quite a bit.  Thick rubber can be very strong.  Thin rubber is malleable.  Waterproof.  Durable.  Flammable.  Black [neutral].  In Detroit, they are abundant and free.  This summer opportunity has presented me with an ideal opportunity to create a project that can utilize the unwanted tire as the focus material.  It is a symbol of Detroit’s economic rise and decline.  They are now discarded and forgotten just like many buildings and land parcels throughout the city.  How can the tire which has become detritus, be re-purposed and given new life?  It microcosm in the world of adaptive reuse within this city.  If successfully reused, I see the tire as a small piece of inspiration for other, larger scale projects throughout Detroit.  Projects that will consider new uses for every type of old material, building, and infrastructure.

Monday morning, our Green T team met with the general manager and the superintendent of engineering for the Detroit Water and Sewage Department [DWSD].  Exciting and informative!  DWSD controls wastewater collection and treatment within the city of Detroit.  They have an enormous task to manage all of it as well as try to figure out how to scale the operation down.  As Detroit’s population shrinks, the need for water management also downsizes.  It will be a difficult task to plan for integration or de-integration of the DWSD infrastructure into GI projects because they don’t have a comprehensive plan of the entire system.  I am surprised to learn that they don’t have an overall map or guide of the infrastructure and its flow directions.  We do know that the majority of surface water in the LEAP district ends up in the ‘Conner Creek Detention Basin’ which is located on Jefferson Ave at the South edge of the LEAP district.

2013.8.7 _ conner creek basin pumping station

2013.8.7 _ conner creek basin pumping station

Any surface water remediated in the area lightens the load at the local catchment basins.  If there is enough change to an area, there is potential to completely remove the entire local catchment basins and disconnect them from the sewer infrastructure.  This in turn would lighten the load on the ‘Conner Creek Detention Basin’ and ultimately at the main DWSD water treatment facility downriver [9300 W. Jefferson Ave].   Less water at the treatment facility means less money spent at the facility.  Detroit is a massive city in terms of land area.  Green infrastructure projects therefore could have a huge impact on the environment and cost savings for DWSD and the City of Detroit.  In the midst of a financial crisis, the city must consider these GI options!


Research, Research, Research!

No A/C + heat wave = research by the pool

No A/C + heat wave = research by the pool

Whether we’re in a coffee shop, in our apartment or by the pool, Keela and I have been scouring every nook and cranny of the Internet for its information on election design this summer. Through our contacts and mentors, we’ve gathered a never-ending pile of documents, reports and papers to pour over. While the physical evidence of strong design in elections in this country may be limited, we have certainly been kept more than busy with all of the literature surrounding it.

The organization, legislature and history of elections is so full of intricacies; it is difficult not to get sucked down every rabbit hole we stumble upon. Each article we read points to other papers, each paper points to more studies, and on and on. We have to tread a fine line, as we want to become EXPERTS on everything related to our topic, but we also know our time is limited.

While the sheer amount of material to sift through seems daunting at times, it is comforting to know that we are not the only ones that realize our election systems need improvement. It also seems, however, that there have been countless analyses, surveys, and audits performed without anything to show for the work. Virtually all of the reports Keela and I have read have only recommendations to show for all of the work. Sometimes I feel my engine revving impatiently and want to start designing in response right away. I have to remember, however, that our research, as stagnant and overwhelming as it can seem at times, is crucial to the process and long-term goal. We have to be patient, and have faith in the fact that we will eventually have the opportunity to enact tangible change in Rhode Island, and that this change can possibly serve as a model for other states and their towns and counties. As we think ahead to the designs our research will eventually inform, I know they will only be as successful as the research it stands on. So, for now, we’ll keep on reading 🙂