Xenia’s trip with Aid to Artisans to El Salvador, Part 1

Xenia writes us:
Last December I traveled to El Salvador with Aid to Artisans and ceramic designer Jill Rosenwald. We were commissioned to work with the artisans of La Palma to design a new line of decorative products for the North American market.

The artisans of La Palma are known throughout Latin America for producing wood objects decorated with naïve, folkloric images. The La Palma style was created by El Salvadoran artist Fernando Llort who came to this mountain village in 1972 to escape the political unrest in the rest of the country. Inspired by the setting and people of La Palma he developed a simple iconography of birds, animals, trees, adobe houses, and religious themes that the people of La Palma are still using to decorate wooden crosses, nativity scenes, ornaments and various other decorative and functional objects.

Typical La Palma imagery found on a door.

Jill and I had 5 days to develop preliminary designs for new products and another 5 days on-site to complete them. We were commissioned to create at least 3 collections and at least 15 new items each. The finished products were presented a month later at the New York Gift Fair. Fortunately we had some help from local designer Raquel Giron and local marketing coordinator Iris Huezo who translated for us and generally took care of us.

We e-mailed our designs ahead and wood blanks were prepared from our sketches before our arrival.

Besides creating new designs, I tried to introduce hand painting techniques that would make the artisans’ work more efficient. For their present line of products the design is drawn with a black line and the colors are filled in by hand. This is a very laborious and time consuming process. I tried to use some of the same techniques I use in my own line. First paint a background color, then add the rest of the elements on top. Try to use simple dashes, dots and brushstrokes as much as possible to make the designs easy to reproduce repeatedly.

The workshop we worked in:“El Madero de Jesus”.

Leti working on one of the new designs.

Monday: Xenia’s trip with Aid to Artisans to El Salvador, Part II


  • Fascinating! What an interesting experience to go through. I like the mural on wooden door. We’ll be back for part II.

    June 11, 2010
  • I second helen’s comments! This sounds like a fascinating experience/project to be part of.

    June 11, 2010
  • I love the work created here! This must have been an amazing experience.

    June 14, 2010

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