The International Folk Art Market | Santa Fe is a non-profit with a flagship event of an amazing market which sees 20,000 people come to buy the work of 150 folk artists from around the world. The revenue raised by the artists (who often work in co-operatives) helps to preserve folk art traditions and strengthen and support communities in places as diverse as Ecuador and Mozambique, Uzbekistan and Timor Leste.

I’ve worked with the Market on website and content projects for years, and for the tenth anniversary market this year, I suggested we produce a video series about some of the artists, looking at the impact of the Market or introducing artists that were new this year. We wanted to stress the personal success stories that underpin the Market but that can sometimes get lost in the scale of the event. Visitors get the chance to meet and interact with the artists, and take home an object created by hand with skill and passion, while the artists take home money they earned from sales to individual people.

The budget was extremely tight – I could only spend five or six hours on each of the five videos we planned – and the technical constraints were also daunting: we couldn’t go and shoot interviews with the artists. In two of the cases, however, we could source amateur video that Market employees or supporters had shot when they were in-country (those for the SEWA co-operative in India, and La Mega Cooperativa de de Saraguros in Ecuador). That left a co-op in Pakistan, a vodou flag maker in Haiti and a master basket weaver in the south of France with no video footage. I proposed using Skype to record video sessions, supplementing all the videos with lots of still photography.

Language issues were another constraint. Fortuantely the Indian and Pakistani representatives of the co-operatives spoke good English, as did Blaise the French basket maker, and we could find volunteer translators for Haiti and Ecuador. (One of the amazing things about the Market, and why Santa Fe is such a perfect place for it, is that it’s somehow not surprising that there’s a creole speaker in town who wants to help.)

The schedule called for one video a month from March up to the Market in July.

1) Lila Handicrafts

The first video I made featured the Lila Handicrafts cooperative in Pakistan. We arranged the Skype video chat with Surendar Valasai from the co-op and while the quality of the footage wasn’t great, Surendar gave us some great insight the effect the Market had had on the co-op and more broadly on the lives of women and girls in the Sindh province.

In the interests of keeping to the budget, I edited the piece down quickly using Surendar’s quotes only, and while this version was OK, but didn’t really tell as compelling a story as it could have. We decided a voiceover script could give a concise background to the story, with the best of Surendar’s quotes giving us the immediacy we wanted. Surendar’s bare-looking office in the video was a little distracting, so we supplemented the images of the great quilts made by the co-op with Creative Commons-licensed images from Flickr – often from other non-profits and aid agencies.

The revised version was much stronger, and even we went over budget (I did the second edit for free), we had a template for how the others should work.

2) SEWA

The second video was built using footage that a Market employee had shot while on a visit to the co-operative in India. She’d interviewed Rena Nanavaty from SEWA in a dark and noisy hotel lobby using a consumer video camera and no external microphone. The answers were great, but the video quality was just about OK, and the sound quality dreadful.

Final Cut Pro X tidied up the audio to an acceptable level, but again we scripted a voiceover to tell most of the story, using Rena’s quotes to add color and show the real people involved. We also sourced a range of images, and (as we’d done with Surendar) added subtitles to make sure Rena’s excellent but heavily accented English was clear for everyone. The edit was quicker this time (although finding appropriate royalty-free music always takes a lot longer than you expect) and we were very happy with the result:

> Join us next week for Part 2 of this piece, where we track down a Haitian artist on his cell phone in a cafe, and look at the lessons we’ve learned from doing these micro-budget high-impact pieces