About Handwork Studio
The Handwork Studio team consists of experienced Canadian designers Munira Amin and Rachel MacHenry. With ongoing connections in Pakistan, India, Nepal, Haiti and now Peru, the studio provides design services for artisan-based production. Through a network of specialized craft and technical associates, the studio offers design consultation to a variety of artisan focused enterprises including government trade facilitation offices, import and design companies, artisan organizations and international development institutions. Handwork Studio is committed to design innovation through socially and environmentally sustainable methods.
Handwork Studio Team
Rachel MacHenry: Design + Artisan Development
With over twenty years of international experience in product development within the artisan sector for both public and private sector clients, Rachel brings exceptional depth and knowledge to the field. Most recently, she has led the product development team for BrandTrade’s PCTBI project in Peru, developing a design platform to showcase four emergent brands through extensive artisan-made collections. She has also developed collections with artisans in Haiti, Nepal, Indian, Pakistan, Bangladesh and elsewhere, and is currently involved with a natural dye research project in India, creating a line of naturally dyed materials for designers.
Rachel collaborates with artisan communities, working to sustain traditional skills and researching bio-regional materials such as plant dyes and local fibres. Her work has been available through Holt, Renfrew & Co., Selvedge UK, Takashimaya, Barney’s Japan, Anthropologie and other prestigious retailers, and is in the permanent design collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London UK. Rachel MacHenry is a graduate of Central St. Martin’s, University of the Arts, London, UK. A former Studio Head in Textiles at Sheridan College, she now teaches at OCAD University, Toronto.
Munira Amin: Design + Artisan Development
Munira Amin has more than two decades of experience in artisan product development. She is a specialist in artisan training and artisanal production methodologies. She has worked on numerous Social Design projects and developed product ranges both for regional and global markets.
More recently, in 2015/16 she worked on the PCTBI trade-based program with BRANDTRADE in Peru, conceptualizing, designing and developing an extensive product line for global markets in partnership with artisan communities in four regions of Peru. She has also initiated The SEWAN Project (Indigo), in Pakistan. The SEWAN project is a platform that brings together artisan production with contemporary design to create new product lines for global markets. This income-generating project focuses on sustaining artisans while supporting skills and traditional production methods in Pakistan.
Munira Amin is a graduate in product design from the National College of Arts, Pakistan, a former faculty member at the Pakistan Design Institute and a founding member of Design Collective, Karachi. She is now based in Toronto.
Ruth Wickremesooriya: Design Support
Born and raised in the UK, married to a Sri Lankan and now living in Toronto, Ruth is an emerging designer and weaver with a heart for ethical and sustainable design. She is the 2017 winner of the Abury Design Experience, an international design competition, which saw her travel to Ethiopia to develop a capsule accessories collection in partnership with the artisan weavers of Sabahar. She values weaving as a connecting point between cultures, and has learned and taught alongside weavers in Albania and Sri Lanka, as well as Ethiopia.
Alongside her personal design work and technical support for the Handwork Studio team, she teaches weaving workshops at local Toronto store Eweknit and regularly collaborates with Upper Canada Weaving to produce handwoven cloth, some of which has been seen on the catwalk of Toronto Fashion Week for the Peggy Sue Collection. She is a graduate of woven textile design from Loughborough University, UK, recipient of the esteemed Worshipful Company of Weavers scholarship and past exhibitor with Selvedge Magazine at their London HQ.
Samina Mahmud: Design Support
Samina Mahmud has over 20 years of experience in supporting livelihood initiatives for rural artisans in Pakistan. She is experienced in on-the-ground project management, including livelihood development projects, and in providing technical leadership in diverse areas including economic development and livelihood initiatives, household economics and community resilience, poverty reduction, skills training, and access to credit for vulnerable populations.
With a strong design background and extensive marketing experience, Samina’s practice spans working with established textile manufacturing and fashion businesses as well as with startups. Recent projects include a UNESCO initiative presenting the regional embroideries of Punjab in the form of art installations at the Alhamra Art Gallery, Lahore, Pakistan, highlighting the talent and potential of the artisans and their contribution to the economy. Through 2019, she led the planning and implementation of community Facilitation Centres in rural areas of Pakistan to support the economic activities of women artisans, creating hubs of production and advisory services to support the marketing of handmade products produced by rural communities. She also has worked extensively to support artisans in creating linkages to local and international markets, participating in international trade fairs to promote the work of Pakistani artisans including NYNow, the Las Vegas World Market, Index Dubai, as well as taking part in trade fairs in Pakistan. She has also contributed further to preserving artisanal heritage through organizing the 2018 interactive European Union conference, “Gender Equality through Preserving Cultural Heritage”, where stakeholders mapped out the future course for local artisans.