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!

Ever wanted to speak with a Threads of Peru weaver? Now is your chance on ChatBasket.com!

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On behalf of all of us at Threads of Peru, we would like to extend an invitation to you – our friends and supporters – to take part in our featured sales week on ChatBasket.com! From Sunday, April 28th to Saturday, May 4th, our team – scattered throughout Peru, Canada and Australia – will be online to chat one-on-one with you about everything from our products to our goals for the future. And there is more! We have coordinated with weavers from both of our communities, Rumira Sandormayo and Chaullaqocha, to meet with us in nearby Ollantaytambo to take part in all the chatting fun. With the help of one of our guides from Apus Peru, we will translate all of your questions from English to Spanish to Quechua and back again, giving you a unique opportunity to connect with the TOP weavers from the comfort of your own home.

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But perhaps you are asking, “What exactly is ChatBasket.com?” Kicked off just this year by an experienced team of entrepreneurs in San Francisco, California, “ChatBasket.com is an e-commerce site that allows customers to chat live with the artisans who made the products for sale.” Their vision is based on the idea of bringing personal interaction to online shopping – to connect you directly with the artisan whose product you are buying. All of the products featured on ChatBasket are hand-made and sustainably produced, truly one-of-a-kind treasures from around the world. By facilitating the personal connection between producer and buyer, this innovative approach to online shopping sets traditional artisans in developing countries apart from the middle-men and mass production of retail sales. To learn more about ChatBasket, chatting online during our sales week and why this is an opportunity you definitely should not miss, check out the short video below or visit ChatBasket.com to see what’s already happening online!

ChatBasket Launch Video

We will be periodically posting reminders on our blog and Facebook page over the next few weeks to keep you in the loop! We also hope that you will check out  the TOP profile on ChatBasket.com and sign up to be notified when we are available online to chat during our sales week – just follow this link!

Threads of Peru ChatBasket Profile

Arrival of Master Weaver collection!

We have just received a few select pieces from locally recognized Master Weavers to begin our new Master Weaver Collection, a collection of one-of-a-kind pieces of exquisite quality.

Threads of Peru is interested in supporting and promoting the work of Master Weavers as they are important knowledge-bearers in the Quechua textile tradition. The dedication that these weavers have made to their craft has helped not only to keep it alive but also to strengthen and revitalize it. Through their example, others begin to appreciate this cultural tradition and decide to learn to weave or improve their skills. All of these individuals are very passionate about traditional back-strap loom weaving and take time to pass on their skills and knowledge to others.

Over the next few weeks, we will be introducing you to these Master Weavers and their work, including a few pictures from a textile photo-shoot in the beautiful Sacred Valley location of Huaran.

DANIEL SONQO

Master Weaver, Daniel Sonqo.

Daniel Sonqo (sonqo means “heart” in Quechua) is an experienced weaver from the community of Parobamba, high up in the mountains in an area referred to in Spanish as the “eyebrows of the jungle”.  He has been weaving since childhood and attributes his early interest in the art of weaving to his mother. Daniel began to sell his work in 1990 after the political climate in Peru became more stable. His works are highly regarded and well-known in the Cusco region. Daniel says that he tries to conduct all of his work with honour and is dedicated to sharing his knowledge to improve the weaving techniques in other communities. Daniel is extremely passionate about natural dyeing techniques and hopes to one day share his knowledge by writing a book.

Judy Svenson and Daniel Sonqo discuss a textile while founder Ariana Svenson, taking notes, looks on.

Daniel shares his expert knowledge with Judy Svenson (left), TOP founder Ariana Svenson (front) and the women of the Chaullaqocha weaving association.

Daniel has produced an intricate, multicoloured bedspread, an incredibly soft and warm baby alpaca poncho, and a striking table runner, as well as a traditional manta which features iconography from the region.

Visit our Eco Market and Ebay stores to view more of Daniel’s work!

http://stores.ebay.com/threadsofperustore

http://www.ecomarket.com/stalls/threads-of-peru/

A traditional Peruvian poncho, handwoven by Daniel. All product information available on Eco Market!

A traditional Peruvian poncho, handwoven by Daniel from baby alpaca fiber. All product information available on Eco Market and Ebay!

 

Threads of Peru welcomes new Project Coordinator, Dana Blair!

Sarah Confer and Dana Blair happily pose with the latest TOP purchase - a colorful chullo from the Pitukiska community. Soon to be available online for your purchasing pleasure!

Sarah Confer and Dana happily pose with a member of the Pitukiska weaving community and the latest TOP purchase – a colorful chullo. Soon to be available online for your purchasing pleasure!

Dana Blair joins the Threads of Peru team with years of experience studying and traveling throughout South America. Recently having graduated from the Pennsylvania State University in May 2012, she holds a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and History, disciplines that have allowed her to indulge and expand upon her interest in sustainable development and indigenous heritage in Latin America. Before taking up residence in Cusco, her travels included six months studying International Relations in São Paulo, Brazil, pioneering research on traditional ceramics making in the Bahian Recôncavo, Brazil and working as a field research assistant at the Chavín de Huantar archaeological site in the state of Ancash, Peru.

Dana deeply shares the values embodied in the work done by Threads of Peru and is thrilled to have the opportunity to be part of this important project. For sustainable, and more importantly, equitable development to happen, it must begin with the infrastructure already in place. Her work in Peru taught her that the ingenuity and master craftsmanship of Peruvian artisans are the building blocks. All that was lacking were resources and a few bright minds. By providing and developing those resources, she is motivated by her strong belief that we can achieve sustainable growth in Peru without having to leave behind its vibrant cultural heritage.

Setting off on a four-day trek deep into the Mapacho River Valley to oversee natural dye workshops only two days after arriving in Cusco, Dana is confident in her ability to hit the ground running as the new TOP Project Coordinator. She sends her saludos to family and friends, especially in her hometown of Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania, from her new “home” in Peru!