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Patti Carpenter began with a traditional design education and over twenty years worked with top fashion designers. The 80's and the 90's were a creative time on Seventh Avenue, but that changed. Patti became more focused on "the numbers and best-sellers" rather than on inspiration and design. After a New Year's Eve in Brazil, where she threw flowers into the ocean, counted her blessings and asked for guidance, Patti returned to New York City and volunteered with Aid to Artisans, a non-profit group that promotes craft businesses in developing countries.
Within a year, Patti had made the first of many trips to Africa and Central and South America, where she was impressed with the handwoven and embroidered textiles. In 2006 Carpenter + Company was born with a mission to produce inspired, hand made, decorative items that support cultural and artisanal sustainability. Patti believes in the positive exchange between high design and the artisans with whom she collaborates.
It is Patti's confluence of naive and new geometric graphics which make traditional, culturally-rooted products much more sale-able in Western markets. "I am always reverent and referential to all the original work. I am looking to maintain their art form by giving it a more modern look -- just by tweaking the colors or scale to make it more appealing to a contemporary customer. When one walks down the street of Bamako, the capital of Mali, you see men and women strutting in Djbella or BuBu of crisp cotton. In Mali they beat the starch into the fabric so the stiffness dissipates very slowly. The textiles are opulent as they explode in colors and patterns on city or rural street, but how can we honor this in a Western home? Well I thought pillows, napkins and all things table top. And it worked."
Patti's efforts have helped the people she employs in unexpected ways. During one of her trips to Bolivia she noticed the men in the families sewed all the Carnival costumes and had a flair for embroidery, but these talents had to be shelved as the men left their villages to follow work as migrant farmers. Patti wanted to unite men and women of villages into a team that could sustain the family and the artwork. The result is alpaca pillows and scarves, expertly embroidered by the men and then hand finished by the women. The work is adorned with designs Patti has taken from tribal, traditional and modern images.
Today Patti no longer rubs elbows on Seventh Avenue with fashion world moguls, but is so much more fulfilled from her work.
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