“There Will Always Be a Hunger for Beauty”

John Kerry 
addressing the Artisan Enterprise forum.

These were the words of Secretary of State John Kerry, addressing the Artisan Enterprise: The New Startup Economy Forum at the State Department on September 10. Hilda Roque Perez and Antonia Callañaupa Alvarez traveled to Washington D.C. to represent The Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco (CTTC) at the forum. The Alliance for Artisan Enterprise, hosted by the Aspen Institute, is a collaborative effort of more than 60 members working together to promote the full potential of artisan enterprise around the world. CTTC is fortunate to be a member.

Hilda reflects, “it was important to know and understand that the economic might of the artisan sector is valued at 32 billion dollars and this economic impact is not always recognized, though leaders realizing the strength of the sector are starting to develop strategies to unleash its full potential. Every country around the world has a creative artisan sector that contributes to its cultural heritage, generates income, creates jobs, and sustains ancient techniques and culture essential to healthy and sustainable development.”

If the artisan economy globally were a country, it would be the fourth-largest economy in the world, according to research from the Inter-American Development Bank. Behind agriculture, artisan activity is the second largest employer in the world and often the primary means of income in the developing world.

John Kerry eloquently expressed what we in ATA have witnessed with CTTC: “Consumers today care more and more about where something comes from, who produced it, under what conditions they produced it. And that’s good, and we urge that. People also care about quality. So there’s a big difference between a shirt that’s knocked off in a factory and the kind of clothes that are woven by hand and can be worn for a lifetime. And what’s important is as it gains this economic foothold, it’s also gaining a kind of spiritual foothold, impressing people, having an impact, and conditioning peoples’ thoughts about what they ought to be buying or what kinds of things are really worth valuing”.

On September 11th an Innovations Workshop took place at the Aspen Institute, where participants worked together with a value chain toolkit to better understand how their organizations were growing and where they are going. When Hilda and Antonia presented CTTC’s example they were surprised at how far ahead CTTC is in areas like sourcing (“the quality of our materials”), making (“our weavers’ quality”), and selling (“we live in a tourist city so we can sell our products”).

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