Hybrid Identities:
Crafting Chicanx Objects

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2022 Thesis Exhibit which explores a complex subject of identity. My presentation activates an exhibition space to cultivate community experience and interaction, where I invites the audiences to sit on chairs crafted from experiences of my own non-linear identity, providing an opportunity for mindful discussions that contemplate ancestry,memories, and hybrid identities. Each chair is purposefully labored over; woven, wrapped, painted, deconstructed, and embroidered in resistance of decoration as “women’s work”,“craft”,or “bad design”.

Materials: Metal, spray paint, cord, embroidery, wool yarn, and beading


Growing up in Los Angeles, CA to Mexican American parents, and a city made up of roughly 1.2 million Mexican Americans, the largest ethnic group in the city, I felt confused about which identity I should be representing to people.  
This is something I have battled with for most of my life, and through my studies and work I was constantly searching for answers through Chicanx literature, classes, women’s studies, art history, etc.My family has also been a huge influence, and I look to the past of their own upbringing in Northern Mexico, and along the U.S. -Mexico border, to help guide my questions and research.


While reflecting on themes of identity, I often contemplate being a female chicanx designer, and the lack of visbility for people of color within the history of design. Society typically views non-westernized and cultural artifacts as historical, rather than modern or contemporary, and are not typically found within academic design courses. Historically, design has also excluded craft as authentic design, and traditionally favored non-decorative and minimal objects as “good design” due to easier industrial fabrication. When did a eurocentric and westernized influence take over traditional design and making methods? Why was craft seen as “tacky”? More importantly, I wanted to connect my own hybrid identity of being both Mexican and American within these initial questions.


I began by exploring historical and modern handcraft and materials from Mexico, which have inconspicuously contributed to contemporary and modern design.
Moreover, there is a definitive timeline of European colonial settlers establishing handcrafted goods as imperative design during the 17, 18th and 19th century for trade, profit, and establishing territory on indiginous ( Aztec/MesoAmerican) land. During this era, indigenous people were not allowed to create their own work for profit or livelihood. Spanish colonizers created guilds that prohibited craftsman from producing goods not meant for consumer or government profit. Additionally, colonizers wanted simple goods without decoration for a broad consumer reach and manufacturing process.

Mexican decoration as a form of cultural activism, was initiated in Pueblo communities during Spanish colonization. The ornate and vibrant materials used in techniques such as dying, weaving, ceramics, clothing  were disregarded in a newly colonized, Eurocentric, and pro-industrial society. Rejecting these “new” ideals, indigenous guilds were secretly formed to celebrate, trade, and pass on techniques of traditional craftsmanship.

Over centuries, Mexican communities have adapted traditional and contemporary material forms, and visual expression, as an act of indigenous resistance against a Westernized economy. Importantly, craft work mostly was, and still is, considered “women’s work”, therefore positioning Mexican women at the foreground of craft resistance by using specialty skills, such as weaving and embroidery.

Similarly, in the late 1930’s, there was a revival of Mexican influenced design. Female artists, such as Cuban designer and activist Clara Porset, along with other female designers from the early 20th century, either lived or frequently visited Mexico for inspiration of culture and materials. This included Bauhaus members who fled Nazi Germany during World War II and were ultimately exiled to the states to begin a new life. Additionally, it is within Mexico where most of these designers’ gathered materials, created shopping markets to highlight Mexican craftsman(which had never been heard or done before), and worked closely with indigenous craftsman to help produce these modern goods. Essentially, arts and crafts culture in America was picking up momentum within white middle class communities, causing an immense opportunity for people to travel from the U.S. to Mexico, or vice versa, to sell goods. However, these imperative design methods and objects are rarely, if at all, highlighted within design history. More importantly, during the industrial boom of new methods and materials, many were brought to Mexico for incorporation into existing practices of traditional goods.


Conceptually, I am influenced by a rasquachismo framework that celebrates “bad design", decoration, and craft as a means of empowerment in a capitalist society, which typically suppresses complex identities.

While growing up, we used folding chairs for family parties, and it eventually became a symbol for community and gathering. However, I was worried friends might see it as “tacky”. However, it is something all identities and cultures use worldwide. Whether it's being sat on at a million dollar wedding reception, or used to gather in a circle in my backyard with family, by using ready-made folding chairs, not only am I faciliting a resistance toward “good design”, I also draw upon a vernacular which unites the “in-between” of other intersecting communities, and welcomes all identities to congregate. Similarly, using craft and decoration as a form of resistance, not only  challenges modern design, but also the complexities of identity through object design.


My ongoing interest in design activism has also motivated me to create an inclusive final project that forces social conversation regarding Mexican-American culture and complex hybrid identities within society. My current work, combines both a digital ecosystem, as well as physical interaction with my designed objects. I have thoughtfully assembled an activity sheet and that can be activated both in person, and virtually as a pdf, so as to further a dialogue on the experience during, and after, my exhibit.

The folding chair activity sheet invites participants to sit with my identity, while they contemplate and draw their own identity on an image of a folding chair. People are welcome to download the activity sheet, which they can either print or digitally decorate at home. After, the participant can choose to share their identity with me via email for documentation. Specifically, I want to encourage people to use these toward community building, healing, and awareness in a world that doesn’t always allow room for these conversations.