Award: Artist Research & Development Grant
Discipline: Multidisciplinary Arts
Project Collaborator(s):

City/Town: Tucson
Year: 2018
Artist Website:

My focus for this project is on culturally inspired art, but my ultimate goal is to create significant change in the Mexican cacao market by assisting in bridging the gaps and encouraging collaboration with cacao producers and artists.

Though chocolate originated in the region, 70% of the cacao consumed in Mexico today is imported. Through her work, chocolate artist Juliana Desmond aims to inpire no less than a fundamental reimagining of the Mexican cacao market by encouraging collaboration between cacao producers and artists.

A skilled sculptor and ceramicist, Desmond discovered that she could make food-safe silicone molds for giving shape and form to chocolate. Upon further exploration with her new medium, she found a simple, inexpensive piece of equipment for creating thermoformed molds that is small enough to take on the road.

With her Artist Research & Development Grant, Desmond will venture deep into the Mesoamerican birthplace of chocolate with her portable mold-making equipment to research and archive Mayan textile designs in the form of chocolate bars. She’ll visit communities particularly noted for their embroidered textiles and interview the weavers to reach an understanding of the symbolism behind each design and the customs that shaped them. Her research will inform not only the chocolate molds, but packaging design, as well, resulting in a marketable and educational product.

Along the way, Desmond aims for a fair exchange of ideas, art, and culture. By sharing her own knowledge and leaving behind innovative, yet simple technologies for mold-making she hopes to help members of the communities she visits create viable and sustainable economic opportunities.


Prior to 2013, Juliana exhibited her ceramic sculptures in various art galleries and shows in Tucson, including Raices Taller, Solar Culture, Sculpture Resource Center, and Galactic Center.

In September 2013, Juliana and her business Jupiter’s Dream were featured in the Huffington Post in an article titled “MAC and Crowdfunding Turn Vision into Reality for Local Small Businesses in Tucson, AZ.” She’s had her chocolates available in several shops in Tucson, including Maynard’s Market, The Tucson Botanical Gardens, New Life Health Center, and Dolce Pastello Bakery. She now works part time for Desert Bloom, where she is developing their new line of chocolates and herbal formulas. She designed their chocolate molds, product packaging, and marketing materials for their new product lines that are scheduled to be available this fall.

Banner photo: Cactus chocolates by Juliana Desmond.