Designing for a Living World: Paulina Reyes
When she was invited to participate in “Design for a Living World,” Paulina Reyes was a senior designer for Kate Spade New York, designing handbags that often reflected the personality or aesthetic of particular places, like Florida and Los Angeles. But the process for making these handbags began in the Guarayo indigenous lands in Bolivia and led to collaboration with local artists—a far cry from her New York office, where, Reyes says, she had “every resource available.” But in Bolivia, “I was able to connect that world in New York with a world that’s in the middle of nowhere with people who have never been outside of it.”
Reyes worked with women in the community to weave a palm called jipijapa, which forms the body of her handbags and is the material she says she felt the most engaged with. She also worked with a family of five brothers to carve medallions out of a dense wood called morado, or rosewood, a labor of love and stubbornness. The brothers were at first hesitant to work with the material, but Reyes convinced them to try, and together they carved the striped wood into the shapes of flowers, which then required only a light wax to finish it. The result is a beautiful handbag with deep connections to its materials.
Design for a Living World will be exhibited at The Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, through November 13. More information is available at fieldmuseum.org. A related photo exhibit is also on display at the Lurie Garden at Millennium Park (luriegarden.com).