The Club de Artesanas is meeting once a week in Independencia with Doña Maxima at the helm. All will be surprised and pleased when I return in 3 weeks with Bozeman friend, Marian Leishman. Marian was raised in rural Montana and can quilt, sew, crochet, knit, and fix anything. The list of projects she can spearhead exceeds the time she can stay, but if she doesn’t sleep and if she quilts, sews, crochets, and knits nonstop producing samples the women will be able to do new projects long into the future without assistance.
Amanda Smiles, founder of Ruraq Maki, sent us the funds that will allow the need for an industrial sewing machine to become reality. Ruraq Maki organized a fundraiser and thanks to Paxti’s Pizza Hayes Valley who donated 10% of sales for a day we will soon be finishing some of the woven products in house. My hopes are to buy the sewing machine upon my return to Cochabamba so I’ll have Marian’s “fix anything” expertise to help me put it together and get it operating. Amanda will be arriving in Independencia in August which will be her 4th visit. She teaches jewelry making classes and picks up the Ruraq Maki order. Ruraq Maki sells the products from Amanda’s work with the Yanamilla Prison Project in Ayacucho Peru and Independencia at: https://squareup.com/market/ruraq-maki
The big news for May was the annual Weave a Real Peace (WARP) conference in St. Louis. It is a gathering of kindred spirits who talk about the need for the preservation of textile traditions and helping artisans from communities in need. Talk is great but this group TAKES ACTION as a group and individually working with craft revival projects in the U.S. and abroad. Kelsey Wiskirchen, a WARP Board member and a 2011 volunteer in Independencia, organized the event. Katie Simmons has visited Independencia 3 times to do research for her master’s thesis. She sells Independencia weavings through various venues in Cleveland
and last year she held a fundraiser to help us get to the Tinkuy Weaving Conference in Cusco. She is on WARP’s Board of Directors and volunteers her time to manage WARP’s social media networking.
Selina Petschek volunteered in Independencia last year and was a Helen Brown Memorial scholarship recipient allowing her to attend the 2013 WARP Conference in Manchester, NH. She is in Argentina wrapping up her junior year of university. She and her mother will be traveling to Independencia in July so she can dance in the Fiesta del Virgen de Carmen with me. Because it will be vacation, the chicas will be knocking down the door when we’re not dancing to get Selina’s help on crochet and knitting projects.
Alli Tolbert, who was a PAZA volunteer in 2011, flew to Ecuador last week as a Peace Corps trainee. Peace Corps training lasts 11 weeks and each newly sworn-in volunteer is posted to a site for 2 years. I’ve had flashbacks to that memorable day I flew to Bolivia in 2006 with my fellow Peace Corps trainees. I’m so proud of Alli for making the commitment. It is a life changing experience and the Peace Corps network is forever.
Alison Walsh who was in Independencia working with us through my last few weeks before this trip made good use of the resources in our library. She wrote from Peru to say she felt she was living the books she’d read which were written by weaver Nilda Callañaupa, Director of the Center of Traditional Textiles in Cusco. She also said she was taking a dyeing and weaving class and the teacher was very interested in the weaving techniques used in the chuspita Alison had made in Independencia. The volunteer program plagiarized a Peace Corps objective which is to offer cultural and technical exchange, and it was exciting to read how Alison is taking it onward.
The social consciousness of the volunteers has me riding high with hope for the future. The WARP Conference was inspiring and oh such fun to catch up with so many who make the PAZA activities possible. I am so thankful for the Peace Corps, which led to PAZA and the incredible people it has brought into my life. Dorinda Dutcher, May 17, 2014