A Once in a Lifetime Experience

Kate with Demesia and Augustin

BBC presenter Kate Humble with Demesia and Augustin

Calling this a once in a lifetime experience is probably understating it.

In January of this year, Threads of Peru was offered the unique opportunity to collaborate on a film being produced for the BBC, a film that would showcase the Andean lifestyle to reveal the full glory of its vast beauty and uncompromising harshness.

For five days, the crew from Indus Films, including BBC presenter Kate Humble, myself and a small team of Apus Peru staff braved the cold, rain and occasional snow to catch a real glimpse of what life was like for the alpaca herders in Chaullaqocha, one of Threads of Peru’s partner weaving communities. We were hosted by weavers Demesia Sinchi Echame and her mother-in-law Alejandrina Puma Churata while they and their families opened up their lives to us.

Kate with Demesia and two of her children, Luz Brenda and Maria Milagros

Kate with Demesia and two of her children, Luz Brenda and Maria Milagros

Weaving in Chaullaqocha

Weaving in Chaullaqocha

The film in question is a three-part series entitled “Wild Shepherdess” and examines the state of traditional herding practises throughout the world. Part 1 features one of the most traditional herding communities in the world in a remote corner of Afghanistan; Part 2 is centred on Peru, a country in transition yet steeped in history, where alpaca herding has been practised for centuries. The series culminates in Australia in Part 3 where modern sheep herding is practised with state-of-the-art technology and cutting edge science.

Chaullaqocha opens Part 2, arguably the more complex of the three Parts. The tension of competing worlds is palpable as Alejandrina, Demesia, her husband Augustín and his brother Tomás discuss in turns the hardships they face trying to raise their families on subsistence farming in Chaullaqocha and their hopes for a better future for their children. But there hangs in the air a wistfulness for traditions and a way of life in danger of being lost.

Demesia's daughter, Luz Brenda, carrying her brother Huayna Isaiah

Demesia’s daughter, Luz Brenda, carrying her brother Huayna Isaiah

The struggle of these families to balance traditional culture with the need to adapt to a changing economic picture is a metaphor for the entire country. Peru has one of the fastest growing economies in South America and is seen as a country ripe for investment, and poverty rates have been dropping in recent years. But for a country built on the legacy of a great empire – the mystery of which still defines the country in most people’s minds and sustains an $2.2 million tourism industry – how do you reconcile such pervasive cultural roots with newly emerging economic systems, infrastructure and global influences?

This dynamic balance is at the heart of what Threads of Peru is trying to achieve, and it is poignantly captured in Wild Shepherdess.

Kate before a herd of alpacas in Chaullaqocha

Kate before a herd of alpacas in Chaullaqocha

Wild Shepherdess with Kate Humble, Episode 2, Peru aired on BBC on June 28th 2013; check for repeat airings on your local networks or YouTube.

More from Threads of Peru’s Master Weaver Collection!

Following up from our last blog post about the Threads of Peru’s new Master Weaver Collection, we’d like to present another weaver whose work is featured in this collection.

ANGELA MILO HUALLPA

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Angela lives in the small community of Totora on the route towards the Lares hotsprings, although she originally hails from the province of Paucartambo, a region renowned for their alpaca textiles. Angela started weaving when she was just 10 years old, and had mastered the craft by the time she was 15. She moved to Totora when she got married, and there raises two children of her own. She also recently adopted a young girl from Paucartambo whose family was unable to take care of her. Both of her two older children, a boy and a girl, are learning to weave.

Angela, seated with her son in the Calca plaza.

Angela, seated with her son in the Calca plaza.

Angela was taught how to weave by her mother, and her mother, in turn, learned from Angela’s grandmother. She raises a herd of about 30 alpacas, and spins her own wool. Her spinning is so fine that it is on par with machine-spun yarn! The result is work that is of unmatched quality.

Angela enjoys weaving, particularly the creative element that comes with designing a finished product, and creating the pallays, or woven designs.

This one-of-a-kind stunning runner was handwoven by Angela and is on sale in both our Eco Market or Ebay stores!

This one-of-a-kind stunning runner was handwoven by Angela and is on sale in both our Eco Market or Ebay stores!

Angela’s skill is expertly portrayed in the two alpaca scarves and table runner featured here. With her fine spinning, these scarves are soft and supple and drape wonderfully around the neck. The natural alpaca colours and intricate, finely woven designs look great on both men and women.

To see more of Angela’s work, come check out Threads of Peru’s Ebay and Eco Market stores today!

World Fair Trade Day 2013!

That’s right everyone! On Saturday, May 11th, the world will come together to celebrate the contribution that Fair Trade makes to alleviating poverty, fighting climate change and curbing economic crisis. From Norway (where they will be trying to break the record for most people to fit into an oversized pair of underwear) to Kenya (where the Kenyan Federation for Alternative Trade will be planting trees), governments, NGOs and individuals will be doing their part to raise awareness.

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Threads of Peru was based on and continues to hold true to the principles of fair trade. Through the web and international sales, we seek to connect indigenous Andean weavers of Peru to a global market for their craft. We buy hand-woven textiles directly from the weavers at fair market value. The weavers themselves set this price and we receive no discount. This way, the weavers have their wages up front and they make their own decisions about how to invest it.

Secretary for the Rumira Sandormayo weaving association, Juliana Huaman Quispe, enjoying a natural dyeing workshop!

Secretary for the Rumira Sandormayo weaving association, Juliana Huaman Quispe, enjoying a natural dyeing workshop!

Once purchased, Threads of Peru resells the textiles online with a markup that will cover maintenance and administration. Beyond these costs, all other profits are invested back into the communities through projects, which are carried out in cooperation with the community members. Among the activities that we take part in, we support marketing projects that will help guide the weavers in creating products that appeal to modern consumers, while complimenting and preserving their traditional methods of weaving.

Some of the beautiful textiles featured in our "Home" collection. Check them out online!

Some of the beautiful textiles featured in our “Home” collection. Check them out online and make your World Fair Trade Day purchase!

By purchasing from us, you will not only be directly supporting the preservation of the ancient Peruvian weaving tradition and the women who practice it, but will also be contributing to the global fair trade movement. Visit us online to learn more about our work or browse our Ebay (http://stores.ebay.ca/Threads-of-Peru-Store) and Eco Market (http://www.ecomarket.com/stalls/threads-of-peru/) stores to take your pick of our wide selection of hand-woven Peruvian textiles! Also check out the World Fair Trade Organization online at http://www.wfto.com.

Join us on ChatBasket today to meet our special guest, Indigenous clothing!

As all of you avid Threads of Peru followers well know, this week we have been busy bees down here in Cusco for our sales week on ChatBasket.com. Meeting with the weavers from Rumira Sandormayo and Chaullaqocha, we have been reporting online live from Ollantaytambo to answer questions and comments from our customers and interested parties from around the world. It has certainly been exciting and we’re looking forward to these next two days that our products will be featured on this innovative shopping website.

And today we have even more exciting news – a special guest in our chatroom this afternoon! James Roberts, representative of Indigenous clothing in Santa Rosa, California, will be joining us online to chat about many important topics that are central to our and their mission – organic clothing, fair trade and eco-friendly, low impact production.

Indigenous Clothing began much as we did, but slightly before our time – with founders Scott Leonard and Matt Reynolds making an unforgettable trip to South America in 1993. After discovering for themselves the uniqueness and timeless beauty of the knitting and weaving traditions, they decided to pioneer a business model that supports the artisans of their clothing and the environment. It’s an inspirational story that we’re looking forward to hearing more about today – we hope that you will also join us to hear their comments and questions.

For more information on Indigenous clothing, please follow this link to their website – http://www.indigenous.com – or link to their Facebook page from ours!

ChatBasket is fast approaching!

In our last post about the Threads of Peru chat week on ChatBasket.com, we gave you the 411 on this new and exciting sales opportunity. But just in case you’re in need of a refresher, let’s quickly run down the who, what, where, when and why!

We have been invited by ChatBasket.com to be part of their new online shopping site – where customers can chat with the producer of the product on sale. That means that for the first time, we are able to directly connect the weavers of Rumira Sandormayo and Chaullaqocha with their supporters and customers abroad. Throughout the week, we will be online and in the company of women from both communities to receive your questions and translate their answers about anything from their daily life in the Sacred Valley to the ancient iconography woven into each textile!

Juana Quispe Machaca carries her young daughter in a traditional manta.

Juana Quispe Machaca carries her young daughter in a traditional manta.

It’s no easy feat to coordinate having the weavers available online – let alone the translation from Quechua to Spanish to English – which makes this week particularly special for us and for all our Threads of Peru followers and friends. Two of the weavers from Rumira Sandormayo who will be available during our chat on Wednesday, Juana Quispe Machaca and Fani Quispe Cjuro, as well as ourselves are looking forward to connecting with you on ChatBasket!

Fani Quispe Cjuro makes a skein of yarn to dye during our workshop last June.

Fani Quispe Cjuro makes a skein of yarn to dye during our workshop last June.

For more information on ChatBasket.com and to visit our online profile, please follow this link: http://chatbasket.com/sellers/profile/threads-of-peru. You may also register to be notified via email when we are online and chatting by clicking on the blue “Tell me when Threads-of-Peru is chatting!” box at the top right corner of our page.

Another Week, Another Master Weaver!

Continuing in our series of posts introducing you to Threads of Peru’s new Master Weaver Collection, this week we are featuring the work of Andrés Sallo, a Master Weaver based in the heart of the Sacred Valley.

ANDRES SALLO

Originally from the highland community of Concani, Andrés’ mother began teaching him to weave at the age of 12. Initially, the family wove simply for their own personal use. But at the age of 18, and after winning a weaving and spinning contest, Andrés began weaving for sale.

Master Weaver, Andres Sallo

Master Weaver, Andres Sallo

He is now 40 years old, with four daughters, all of whom he is teaching to weave. He and his sister both participate in the weaving association in his adopted community of Huaran. There in the heart of the Sacred Valley he leads and guides the rest of the group, passing on his skills and knowledge to still more weavers.

Andrés is an innovator, continuously honing his craft, developing new product ideas and new colour and design combinations. He is committed to the exclusive use of natural materials, including natural dyes.

Andres treats us to an explanation of his exquisitely woven pieces in our exclusive Master Weaver collection.

Andres treats us to an explanation of his exquisitely woven pieces in our exclusive Master Weaver collection.

Andrés has provided Threads of Peru with two traditional pieces: an expertly-crafted chuspa or coca leaf bag, and a manta. Called lliqlla in Quechua, a manta is a traditional carrying cloth, used to carry a variety of items – from potatoes to firewood, plants harvested for dyeing, and even babies! The greatest heights of artistic expression and technical accomplishment are showcased when weaving mantas, as this is the last stage of a weaver’s education. Both items feature intricate designs and natural dyes typical of the region where he lives.

We are also featuring a stunning cushion cover made by Andrés.

A detail of the intricate designs and vibrant colors on Andres' traditional poncho.

A detail of the intricate designs and vibrant colors on Andres’ traditional poncho.

Visit our Ebay and Eco Market stores to view all of Andrés’ work!