An Interview with Mexican Economist turned Textile Designer Carol Schoch
Written by: Arianna Meschia for The Nopo
The minute Carol connects to our Zoom call, it’s clear we’re going to be friends. Her gentle smile and bright eyes sparkle with contagious enthusiasm and a genuine willingness to share everything about her past and present work. This Mexican-Swiss economist-turned-designer-turned-entrepreneur has had a truly inspirational life… And in many ways, she’s only just getting started!
Growing up in Mexico, Carol decided to study economics to try to address some of the socio-economic disparities she saw around her and spent most of her successful career working on development programs for the Central Bank of Mexico.
“I’ve always loved my job, but about six years ago I started feeling like something was missing. The usual routine of getting up, going to work, going home… It just didn’t make me as happy as it used to.”
This general dissatisfaction made her take a hard look at her life, which eventually led to the brave choice of leaving her high-powered career in economics to turn to something completely different that had, however, been with her for a long time: Mexican arte popular. She spent two years traveling around the country to find her lost purpose again, learning about different regional crafts, speaking to artisans and makers’ communities to understand their processes and the often ancestral history behind their products.
During her travels, she accumulated handicrafts from various disciplines: ceramics, pottery, textiles, and more. She started selling to her friends and close network but encountered some fierce resistance to the idea of completely uprooting her life and career to sell artisanal wares.
“My friends thought I must have lost it - they couldn’t understand why an economist would drop her job to start working with artisanal crafts! So I tried selling to boutiques and shops, but it never really took off, because they often had specific needs for certain wares, colors, or styles.”
Carol then started a Facebook page to expand her reach, and the internet worked one of its little miracles. Interior designer Carolina von Humboldt, who was in Mexico at the time, saw her page and fell in love with some of the products Carol was selling.
The two collaborated on some residential interior design, and soon von Humboldt was asking for items Carol had never even imagined she would work with, such as blown glass lamps.
Through this partnership, Carol had the chance to expand her horizon beyond textiles, which she had been dealing with until then, opening her eyes to the huge variety of crafts she could work with and the tens of artisans she could give exposure to in doing so.
What had initially struck Carol about textiles was the complex process of making the fabrics, going from shearing the animal to crafting a single string of wool, or making natural dyes from the pigmentation of plants, insects, and flowers. The rich iconography of the textiles is also striking: each indigenous community has its own imagery and patterns, which craft a beautifully intricate language that’s been passed down from mothers to daughters for centuries.
In fact, the process of weaving acquires an almost meditative nature for the women artisans, who have to do it in bursts of a few minutes a day, sandwiched between their duties as mothers and wives. Weaving then is the way in which women, especially in remote communities, express themselves and their inner world, while carving space and time for themselves from the demanding nature of their roles as mothers and wives.
“When you buy an embroidered cushion or a curtain that was made by hand by one of these women weavers, you are not just buying an object. There are hundreds of years of history, religion, mythical traditions, creativity, hopes, and fears woven into it. You’re letting a piece of someone’s life and culture into your world.”
This intercultural crossing between centuries-old tradition and modern design is very important to Carol, which is why she often co-designs with her artisans and takes great pain to explain to her clients the real value of what they are buying.
After six years of traveling, discovering new crafts, and meeting artisans, Carol has a fair few projects under her belt and is not intending to stop anytime soon. She likes to work slowly and only when a project truly speaks to her heart, finding the best artisans and the crafts that most fit that particular concept.
“The best part of my job is seeing the pride and joy in an artisan’s eyes when they hand over a finished product after we both spent so much time conceptualizing and designing it. I again feel connected to that passion I had lost in the last few years of my professional life.”
We’re incredibly excited to collaborate with Carol to bring you her unique vision of Mexico, a blend of traditional designs & patterns with modern, minimalist interior décor. Check out her shop and let yourself be transported to a side of Mexico you didn’t know existed!