Museum Design Summit 2017

The Alchemy of Design: Exploring Materials + Methods from Global Cultures to Tech Trailblazers


“Alchemy is a process that changes or transforms something in a mysterious or impressive way.”
– Merriam Webster dictionary

On the cold and blustery last Friday in February, 100 people gathered on Museum Hill to watch the Pojoaque Pueblo dancers perform the Butterfly dance. This dance serves as a petition for rain, good health and long life for all living things. The Butterfly symbolizes beauty and contributes to the pollination of plant life. On Monday, storm clouds gathered, and over the course of the day it rained, hailed and finally snowed. Some would say it was a weather front, here in Santa Fe we call it alchemy. The dancers called the clouds and they came.

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For those of you who spent three days in Santa Fe attending the second biennial Museum Design Summit you now understand better what alchemy means and why it happens so often here. For those of you who weren’t here, we invite you to come back in November 2018 to see for yourself.

As is our tradition as hosts of the Museum Design Summit, we gathered together leaders in design, manufacturing, retailing, fashion and media retailers in Santa Fe at the Museum of International Folk Art to explore various components of the design process.  The choice of the museum as the venue for the Summit is very intentional.  West of the Mississippi, the collections of our four museums are unrivaled in their depth and breadth. The 30,000-piece ethnographic textile collection at the Museum of International Folk Art alone is one of the top ten in the world. The 20,000-piece pottery, basketry, ceramics and bead work collection at the Museum of Indian Arts is equally renowned. We want to share this extraordinary design resource with a select group of industry partners. And that this material represents not just the region’s cultures, but the world’s, we feel it is our duty to initiate meaningful conversations about how it can inspire great design. It is towards this end that we conceived of the Museum Design Summit and why we invited you to join the conversation.

L to R: Kourtney Morgan and Nellie Cohen of Patagonia, Paul Makovsky of Metropolis Magazine, Deborah Keiser of Sundance Catalog, audience members asking questions.

L to R: Kourtney Morgan and Nellie Cohen of Patagonia, Paul Makovsky of Metropolis Magazine, Deborah Keiser of Sundance Catalog, audience members asking questions.

In 2015, we looked at how global cultures and museums inform and inspire fashion and interiors – in the process we discussed the ethics of appropriation. (See the article in Interiors & Sources Magazine). In 2017, we decided to look at the nexus of technology and tradition.  Some may consider these two concepts at opposite ends of the spectrum – one fast and about the future, and one slow and about the past. At the Museum of New Mexico Licensing program we see them as two sides of the same coin, each contributing to innovation and collaboration. The speakers we invited showed us just how true this is in their respective business worlds.

L to R: Elissa Murry of Wolf Gordon, Khristian Lazzaro of West Elm, attendees examining rugs at the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, Cary Vaughan and Jenna Wilson of Ace & Jig

L to R: Elissa Murry of Wolf Gordon, Khristian Lazzaro of West Elm, attendees examining rugs at the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, Cary Vaughan and Jenna Wilson of Ace & Jig

Content ranged from the evolution of design and materials through historic trade routes, the role artisans can play in product design and how new materials are re-shaping our lives, to how sustainability and technological innovation drives design trends and the opportunities that new plant fibers present for product design. See bottom of post for the complete list of speakers.

Stay tuned for updates on the connections and partnerships made at the Summit. And we hope to see you in 2018!

One of the hands-on workshops making tie-dyed indigo tote bags with Nigerian Master Indigo Dyer, Gasali Adeyemo.

One of the hands-on workshops making tie-dyed indigo tote bags with Nigerian Master Indigo Dyer, Gasali Adeyemo.

The inspiring list of speakers:

Cary Vaughan & Jenna Wilson, Co-Founders of Ace & Jig
Deborah Keiser, VP of Supply Chain, Sundance Catalog
Jackie Dettmar, VP of Design & Product Development, Mohawk Group
Kourtney, Morgan, Lead Designer + Nellie Cohen, Worn Wear Program Manager, Patagonia
Lora Smith & Joe Schroeder, Big Switch Farm + Adele Stafford, Voices of Industry
Paul Makovsky, Editor, Metropolis Magazine
Pamela Kelly, VP Licensing & Branding, Museum of New Mexico Foundation