Haiti Design Co. was founded in 2014 with the goal to bring about sustainable development through design, training, and job creation. HDC houses and partners with production teams working in many types of artisan crafting, including leatherwork, sewing, jewelry making, aluminum casting, metal work, weaving, beadwork, horn & bone, tailoring, and shoe making. They work to provide consistent employment in-house in order to give job training and stability to individuals in vulnerable situations, as well as raise up artisan leaders to succeed as independent entrepreneurs in the community.
We had a chance to connect directly with their founder and creative director, Chandler Hamilton Busby.
Read her full Q&A below:
Tell us a little about you & what you do:
Haiti Design Collective is an artisan workshop and training center based in Port au Prince with artisan teams through out the country. We focus on stable job creation, while providing education, wellness, and business start-up opportunities for our artisan communities. We connect designers and retailers looking for transparent, ethical artisan-made products with teams able to bring their vision to life. We also host designers and makers looking to share their skills and experience through fellowships with our artisan teams.
Where is home for you?
I'm originally from Texas, but moved to Haiti with my husband in 2012. What is your preferred medium?
I'm inspired by the resourcefulness found in Haiti and that plays a huge role in the strategy behind our design and material sourcing. Our design mantra is "Waste not, want not", and is very much a collaborative effort to use methods of production turning the otherwise discarded into unique accessories. We work with a wide range of materials and techniques from textiles, leather, horn & bone, sand-casted aluminum, recycled steel, and beadwork. Have you used our material before?
Luckily I have! We had the great pleasure of hosting Emily Katz in our workshop in Haiti for a macrame seminar back in 2015. It was such a fun and inspiring trip! (Read Emily Katz's Blog about her time with HDC - Macramé in Haiti: A Travelogue)Does the place you come from affect your work?
My personal style for sure has a heavy influence on the aesthetic of our brand. I myself am not Haitian, but have the honor and privilege of getting to live in Haiti and find inspiration from the rich culture and landscapes. While all of our product is made in Haiti and using 90% local materials, our product doesn't necessarily reflect the style of traditional Haitian artisan work, but instead is more along the lines of clean, modern Caribbean. I'm inspired by the natural elements of Haiti and rich textures found through-out the country. I like to let the materials and textures speak for themselves, but always have subtle, playful details to highlight the craftsmanship behind the piece. It is a great honor to have the opportunity to share our products and experience of Haiti with the international community, and hopefully share a new perspective on a country that has been portrayed by the media in a very limited narrative. What was your process in becoming an Artist/Designer?
I've always been drawn to apparel design. At a young age one of my favorite memories was constantly cutting and pinning fabric on my mom's antique dress form to create new shapes and styles. I studied apparel design and retail merchandising in college and felt passionate about seeing the fashion industry used for the greater good. Around this time I made my first trip to Haiti and new that would be my path. What is your design inspiration?
I'm inspired by truly thoughtful design. Products and clothing that honor the maker, inspire the user, and respect the earth are the only ones worth making, in my opinion.
Describe your personal style:
Easy and functional. I'm drawn to textured, natural fibers and natural color palettes. What is the most inspiring piece of advice you ever received?
I believe this is applicable anywhere in life, but especially in my line of work in Haiti, someone once told me it's important to have "tough skin, and a soft heart" and that has always stuck with me. It's a reminder for me to not take things personally, and to strive to seek out compassion and empathy even when life beats you down. How do you define yourself or your work?
Living in a place with great need can be very overwhelming. You can work yourself bare and find it still isn't enough. Early on I learned that I'd have to redefine what success means to me and to my organization. Our measure of success can't be boiled down to revenue, units sold, or even to number of jobs created. But instead, our measure of success must have a more holistic approach- it's about creating opportunities for individuals who have suffered from great economic injustice to pursue their dreams, and create opportunities for their children to pursue their dreams as well. It's a challenge, but a constant goal of mine to work towards living out my true authentic self, and giving those around me the freedom to do so as well.
Who is a design icon that you look up to?
My true design icon is probably my best friend and college roommate, Annie over at @am_creativeco. Over the years I've also always looked up to and admired Donna Karan and her work at Urban Zen to promote the soulful beauty found in artisan made products. And it was such an honor and joy to be able to make products for her with our teams in Haiti.
What is the last great book/podcast that you read/listened to?
The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron is one of my all time favorites. It opened my mind to the intersectionality of spiritualism, creativity, and purpose.
Any advice for up and coming artists?
For artists, entrepreneurs, free-lancers, anyone taking the leap to venture out on your own- Just move one step at a time and don't constrain yourself to a box you've created. Too often we are inspired, we have an idea, and we become married to that idea; but it's on the journey that we learn, evolve, and new ideas are birthed. We can't be too loyal to the labels we put on ourselves in the beginning. Keep a flexible mindset and just keep doing the work and see where it takes you.
What has been the biggest obstacle for you creatively?
Looking for inspiration online or via Instagram ha. I too often make the mistake of seeking out inspiration in the wrong ways and getting overwhelmed with too many options or possibilities. For me, my best work comes from limited resources, quiet space, and habits that encourage me to harness that creative flow.
Introducing our new Haiti Bead Plant Hanger Pattern! This pattern was inspired by and designed specifically for these beautiful handmade beads. Download now:
Today, December 6th, we are donating 10% of ALL SALES ON MODERNMACRAME.COM to HDC's new initiative, the HDC FAM: HDC FAM is a global community dedicated to standing in to help fill the gaps for the artisan families at HDC. They believe that providing a stable job is the first step on the pathway towards stability. Providing holistic employment is a vital and dignified way to give sustainable support for families to, first and foremost, have the opportunity to stay together. The HDC Fam contributes to artisan wellness programs, as well as providing micro-business start-up loans, emergency gifts & services, and specialized educational opportunities.
Find more information about Haiti Design Collective on their website and instagram, and learn more about HDR FAM! Stay updated with Modern Macramé's future events, tutorials, sales, artist features, etc. by signing up for our Email Newsletter!
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