Refugee Artisans of Worcester (RAW): Helping Local Refugee Artisans

Welcome to our page! Our interactive qualifying project (IQP) was to work with a Worcester nonprofit organization called Refugee Artisans of Worcester (RAW) to develop adapted, custom crafted weaving looms for refugee artisans from Bhutan and Nepal. Specifically, we adapted large American floor looms to become more portable, user friendly, and ergonomic for the refugee artisans.

Our Sponsor     Student Researchers     Project Description     Goal and Objectives       Project Summary     Final Report    Final Video

Project Sponsor: Refugee Artisans of Worcester

Refugee Artisans of Worcester (RAW), is a Worcester non-profit organization that provides support to local refugees, with a special emphasis on their art and identity. RAW was established in 2010 after co-founders Ellen Ferrante and Joan Kariko met with two recently resettled refugee weavers from Bhutan. RAW seeks to empower refugees to create indigenous crafts that draw on their cultural traditions and are able to be marketed to the public. The refugee artisans can benefit from the increased income and move toward economic self-sufficiency.

Check out their website here.

Student Researchers:

Our IQP team is comprised of Jingyi (Betty) Liao, Haozhe (Percy) Jiang, and Andrew Jalbert.


The picture was taken on the first day the team started modifying the first loom in Higgins Lab. Team members, from left to right, are Jingyi (Betty) Liao, Haozhe (Percy) Jiang, Andrew Jalbert, and loom construction advisor from WPI, Russell Lang. All of us were excited and nervous about the first day of work. This picture was taken by our sponsor, Joan Kariko.


Betty was using a handsaw to cut a piece of wood.


Percy was using a miter saw to construct the part of the loom.


Andrew was using a power tool to drill a hole in a piece of wood.

Our Project

The goal of our project was to work with participants of Refugee Artisans of Worcester (RAW) from Nepal and Bhutan to help preserve their cultural identity through developing adapted, custom crafted weaving looms. The adaptions we provided to these looms will be extended to future looms for new members of RAW.

Goal and Objectives

In order to develop our loom adaptations, we focused on the following six objectives:

  1. Understand the role of weaving in the artisans’ lives and how it helps to preserve their cultural identity.
  2. Identify the loom qualities sought by the weavers.
  3. Analyze where improvements could be made to current looms to match the needs of the weavers.
  4. Develop an approach for adapting looms that meet the functional requirements of the weavers.
  5. Prototype the loom adaptation to evaluate their ability to best meet the needs of the weavers.
  6. Determine the best ways to communicate loom adaptation considerations and procedures.