WantedDesign Presents Hors Pistes

A creative residency combines the talents of European designers with the artisans and craftspeople of Burkina Faso.


When collaborative projects succeed, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. That’s exactly the thinking behind Hors Pistes, a globe-trotting, cross-cultural residency program founded by French product designers Marie Douel and Amandine David in 2013. For each iteration of Hors Pistes, their program focuses on a specific part of the world and its regional artisanal techniques, and imports designers from elsewhere to live and work in select local artisans’ studios for a month at a time. The goal of their program is to combine the talents of unlike professionals— a plastic-bag weaver from Burkina Faso, for example, with a product designer from Marseille—to spark a sort of alchemical reaction. “It’s kind of a laboratory where everyone mixes their practices and cultures together, and then we see what happens,” David says. “It forces them to break from their normal habits and come up with something that’s unexpected.”


In Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, Douel and David found an ideal starting point. “All the workshops are open on the street, so we were able to meet craftspeople who wanted to diversify their work and also share their own knowledge,” says Douel. After a successful run in 2013, which gathered a group of designers, graphic designers, photographers, and local artisans, the team followed up with a second program in Banfora, a city in the country’s southwest region, where six designers from France and Switzerland worked together with local palm weavers and Tuareg jewelers from Niger. At WantedDesign Brooklyn (May 17 through 23), the new forms that emerged in these open-air studios, despite language barriers, heavy rains, and a lack of electricity, will be presented. These include Argentique, a collaboration among Paris-based designer Valentine Dubois, Ouagadougou-based artisan Emmanuel Ilboudo, and his workshop of aluminum casters, who together created a series of trays imprinted with the textures of local vegetation. Another highlight is Brassée, a collaborative line of silver rings and bracelets by Nigerian jeweler Mohamed Bididane and Strasbourg jeweler Annie Sibert.

With Greenland in their sights for their next project, the Hors Pistes team is open to a world of possibilities for the future. “We’re looking for artisans with very traditional and specific knowledge, which could be anywhere. Maybe we’ll go to Japan one day, or France,” Douel says. In French, “Hors Pistes” translates roughly as going off track, or leaving the beaten path behind. They can’t be sure where they’ll end up, and that’s the beauty of it.


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