The most culture-shocking moment for me was when we were received in Rumira Sondormayo in the cold rain with a welcome dinner which consisted of a plastic laundry basket filled with about 20 types of potato; boiled and whole, accompanied with one hard-boiled egg; warm and still in the shell. As a special treat, we were also offered a dish of salt to add to the food. So there we all were, cold and wet. Eleven of us sat huddled in the darkened interior of a mud brick hut munching on the potatoes and eggs. And honestly, I have to admit, it was one of the greatest tasting and most memorable meals of my life.
2) What inspires you to work for Threads of Peru?
As a designer, I’m inspired by the idea that design thinking can be applied to any set of problems to the benefit of the situation – not only that, it MUST be applied. Even if the people involved are not “designers” as a profession. Design is the key to human beings figuring out how to move from a situation that they’re not satisfied with, to one that does satisfy them. Threads of Peru requires that we think about everything from human dynamics, to business management, to marketing and graphic design. The range of issues and the challenges they present – all aimed at the preservation and promotion of indigenous culture in Peru – is what I find so interesting.
3) What’s your favourite Peruvian food?
4) And your least favourite Peruvian food (and why?)
Not so much a food, but a drink – coffee. It’s very difficult to find coffee prepared the way I am accustomed to (and addicted to) at home.
5) In your opinion where is the best spot in Cusco for visiting?
The restaurants and Churches surrounding the Plaza de Armas (Central Square) in Cusco are nice to visit, and I love the square at night; the way the city lights of the residential area are visible on the mountainsides above – like stars. Also the San Blas area, which is within walking distance of the Plaza, is full of interesting shops and local art and crafts.
6) Describe the happiest/most touching moment you have experienced in the communities?
For me, it was the first time we went to the communities, which the culmination of a design class project in Canada. Eleven students made the journey, and to finally find ourselves there with the weavers in the mountains for the first time was an experience I’ll never forget. It was snowing heavily for a while, and it was beautiful.
7) Your strangest/funniest moment from living in Peru?
Trying really hard to communicate in Spanish to an elderly woman at the market about spices I was looking for, and having her suddenly get exasperated with me and huff, “No Ingles! No entiendo!” (Until then, I thought I was doing pretty well…)
8) Biggest achievement so far?
For me, it has been to see the whole structure set up; from weaving workshops and buying in the communities, to the online store and the vast internet information site, shipping and positive customer feedback from all over the world. It has required an incredible amount of work and creative energy to set up all of this infrastructure, and to see the structure finally functioning end-to-end is a great achievement for so few people to have built.
9) Finally, whats the main thing you wish to achieve in the next five years?
To be a fully self-sustaining organisation. To see the women’s sewing skills improve so that we can introduce more contemporary product design to our inventory, which will require more complex sewing.