Listen: St. Paul Crafts Program for Hispanic Women

MPR’s Mark Zdechik reports on the local program Manos Creativas, which has developed a creative hand project and work forum for Hispanic women in St. Paul.


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MARK ZDECHLIK: Manos Creativas members carefully arrange bright colored craft projects on a banquet table, preparing for yet another opportunity to sell their work. The group's leader, Julie Goldstein, is overseeing the exact placement of each item with an eye on presentation.

JULIE GOLDSTEIN: We have hand-painted T-shirts. And we also have some hand-sewn tote bags and some paper flowers which one of the women is going to be demonstrating how to make those later. And we also have something called canastitas, which means little baskets.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Two years ago, Goldstein started Manos Creativas with a grant from the St. Paul companies. After spending a decade helping Hispanic people in the United States as a social worker and legal advisor, Goldstein decided although she wanted to still work with Hispanic immigrants, she wanted to be involved in something more creative. She says the creative hands project is designed for Hispanic women with little or no English abilities, many of whom are elderly or have recently arrived in the United States and are in need of contact with others. Goldstein says Manos Creativas provides a forum in which the women can learn basic craft skills and have the opportunity to make money selling their creations, all the while socializing and learning important leadership skills.

JULIE GOLDSTEIN: How that has worked so far is we have tried, whenever possible, to hire women from within the group to teach a new craft skill. I think we've only had an outside teacher who was a sewing teacher come in once, and that was at the very beginning. So the leadership skills are developed through teaching a craft for about an eight-week cycle.

MARK ZDECHLIK: In the two-month cycle Goldstein is referring to, the women meet twice a week. At the onset, they learn a particular craft, whether it be basket-making or hand-painting T-shirts. Then as a group, the women produce multiples of their project, which they then market at street fairs and other informal venues. Through Goldstein, a Manos Creativas member with a broad smile says the group is teaching her craft skills. She also says it's a place where she can find camaraderie.

JULIE GOLDSTEIN: Because they teach us how to make different things. And that helps us. Yes, it's important, because there are things that we don't know that the other women teach us. And it's important to know this.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Goldstein says none of the members has expectations of cashing in significantly through the sales of craft projects, which she admits have been less than brisk.

JULIE GOLDSTEIN: I didn't realize how difficult it is in this country and in this economy to market handmade items. I think most people, the American buying public, tends to go to Target or Kmart, and they will pick up a factory mass produced T-shirt, probably in many cases for more than we're selling the hand-painted ones.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Nonetheless, Goldstein says the group is learning how to better market its handmade goods and that sales or no sales, Manos Creativas is bringing people together. This is Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio.


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