Archives for posts with tag: peru

Apologies — Isa and I have been very bad with sharing stories and photos from our long-lost trip to Peru in early December.

Aside from the obvious favorite spot (Machu Picchu), by far the most rewarding part of the trip was getting to take a tour with Annie and Emma from Awamaki up to Patacancha, where they work with women for the weaving project.

A couple of years ago (pre-Textile Arts Center and in a hurry to get out of a bad job) I was planning to spend 6 months in Ollantaytambo volunteering with Awamaki. Time passed, and suddenly Textile Arts Center was starting, and Awamaki moved to the back burner. Then, one day in October, Tara St. James of Study NY emailed me to introduce Annie to us. Tara had been work as a mentor to a new project, Awamaki Lab, where a fashion designer would spend a few months in Peru to create a capsule collection using traditional Peruvian designs, with the goal of training local women for production (and eventually design, as well)

I was so happy to be put back in touch with the organization, and thrilled that someone had taken the initiative with such a project there, that we immediately made plans to spend plenty of time in Ollantaytambo when we went to Peru. Annie generously let us join a tour, taking us up into the mountains — far from paved roads, toilets, electricity — to Patacancha.

(from the road, drive to Patacancha)

(standing in the valley, at Patacancha)

We were shown what Awamaki had set up for the community of families (several small structures; the first working toilet in the area) and went through their processes of spinning, natural dyeing and backstrap weaving. The group of women, who ranged in age, then each took out their individual work, from which Awamaki places orders to sell in the Fair Trade store in Ollanta.

Starting with our wait at 6am in Ollanta’s main plaza, we got to see the inner workings of the small town. While Ollanta is quite touristy, being one of the main stops in the Sacred Valley, getting to see the more day to day operations of the people in Ollanta, as well as neighboring village, was absolutely incredible.

(5am, Heart Cafe in Ollantaytambo)

And NOW… Annie, Awamaki Lab, and Nielli Vallin get to share their hard work at their launch party/pop up shop.

Join us, and many others, to celebrate the launch of the first capsule collection by Nielli Vallin tomorrow night:

January 20, 7-10PM

208 Bowery St, 2nd Floor (between Prince + Spring)

Tali Weinberg is an awesome fiber artist, weaver, dyer, blogger and TAC’s friend living in Brooklyn. Tali’s work entitled “The males have wings while it is the females whose bodies are crushed to extract their red dye. But red is also the color of the sun” is about cochineal.

Cochineal is a tiny tiny bug that lives on cactus throughout most of all Central South America and that yields a beautiful red dye when crushed. Cochineal has been used as a dye for almost 2000 years by Precolumbian peoples. As a dye it has the extraordinary ability of shifting is color from orange to purple, just by changing the pH of the dye bath, from acidic to more alkaline, respectively.






Women collecting cochineal in Peru , from the cactus (left) and cochineal bugs dried (right) – images courtesy of Turkey Red Journal

Different shades obtained with cochineal with different mordants and pHs

(image courtesy of Jean Dean’s Wild Color)

However, Tali’s work isn’t only about cochineal. As Talis describes it “This particular piece refers to the maquiladoras (sweatshops), the violence against women they have fueled, and existing alternatives – and it relies on your participation to be complete.”

(images courtesy of Tali Weinberg)

This woven blanket was part of  a show to raise awareness about violence in Juarez, Mexico, in September. It was showed again this month in Queens, at Thalia Theater.

For several months Tali dyed ten thousands of yards of organic cotton, silk and wool with cochineal and used it to weave blankets and pillows. Here’s the video that documents all the process:

“This process of making contains a dual metaphor. It is a visualization of the violence that often lies behind the products we consume (even objects made for our own comfort and security). It is simultaneously a visualization of an alternative: a hand production process that brings together producer and consumer and that has thoughtfully considered the network of people and materials that make up the production of this particular object of comfort and intimacy.”

Cochineal was used extensively in Peru during the Precolumbian and Colonial times and his still used today in traditional fiber arts, as Owyn and I had the chance to see while there. And the process of dyeing today with cochineal in Peru, or the one that Tali used, is still the same that produced this red and vibrant color 1000 years ago:

Detail of coca bag, Peru, Moche culture, 5th-6th century, Metropolitan Museum of Art collection. The image is also the cover of Elena Phips’ overview on cochineal distribution and use throughout the world “Cochineal Red – The Art History of a Color”, published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2010.

(image courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art)

After 10 amazing days, Owyn and I are back from Peru.

Beautiful landscapes? Check. Cultural shock? Check. Tasty and  (sometimes) scary food? Check. Overdose on back-strap woven and knitted textiles? Check check check.

We mainly raced through Lima, Cusco, Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, trying to take the most of the experience in the few days we had. I personally had a cosmic moment when looking to the Machu Picchu from the Huayna Picchu mountain. For the first time since I remember, I had no thoughts in my mind but being mesmerized about what I was seeing. We didn’t have the time to go through the photos yet, neither everything can be told in a single post. But please keep your eye on future posts…

Today I want to tell you about one particular textile/cloth. In every place we went, we kept seeing women wearing square woven mantles as a means to carry everything, from handwoven textiles to sell, food and snacks, and their babies. They would simply bundle and fold the mantle and knot it across the chest. Simple, easy and efficient.

(images courtesy of google images search)

A while ago, I came across a tutorial video from Evergreen Warp that explore the same idea – how to make a bag from a square meter of fabric, just by knotting (Owyn posted their wrapping gifts techniques last week).

How versatile can actually a square fabric be! Really, from scarf to bag to baby carrier to little blanket.. And how meaningful can it be, if you weave it yourself like the Peruvian women.

1:28AM and Isa and I are patiently waiting for 3AM get on the damn plane.

For 10 whole days we will wander through Lima, Cusco, Ollantaytambo, Titicaca.. (!) We can’t wait and promise to have lots of pictures, stories, and textiles to share when we get back. And lucky us, we will get to meet some conservators and meet the great people at Awamaki.

Until then, enjoy some guest blog posts and fun!