The short visit to Independencia to check on the PAZA activities allowed for faces to be put to names and tales that hadn’t been communicated in video chats to be told. Arminda and Deisy, the 2 new Club de Artesanas (CdA) who joined last February were engaging and enthusiastic. They didn’t know how to weave the traditional Andean motifs last February and were selling straps to fill PAZA weaving orders by June. They earned additional income by helping out with Spinning Week measuring and knitting the Spinning Week 2nd place prizes which were vests. They willingly taught knitting machine workshops in Huancarani, which although paid was something the 2 Club members they had replaced didn’t want to do. Training local trainers has been an objective of the Club since it began in 2010. Although initially afraid that they’d shame their team, both did well during Spinning Week. During the visit, PAZA resources for kids were taken out of storage just in time for the summer vacation. There were up to 9 kids a day (including 3 boys) working on embroidery projects or drawing which pleased the moms.
Knitting Workshops, Huancarani
Doña Maxima shared her tale of participating in a fiber arts skill exam in September given by the national government. Her son carried PAZA´s short demo leaning frame loom (2 notched poles) to the sports arena. Max headed down the steep incline with an aguayo on her back that held her lunch, weaving and crochet supplies and a warp rolled between the 2 cross pieces which she would attach to the loom poles. Her large collection of handspun wool yarn in a wide range of hues and tones from local plant dyes and cochineal was used for the warp. Synthetic yarn was used for the weft and the crochet project.
She proudly related how the examiner kept returning during the timed weaving exam to ask about the natural dye process. Max has been teaching PAZA´s natural dye workshops since 2008, although at that time was learning alongside her students. She participated in weaving demonstrations in 2013 and 2017 at the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales de Cusco´s (CTTC) Tinkuy International Weaving Conferences where she answered questions about her weaving techniques. However, at her first Tinkuy experience in 2010 she was so shy that she clammed up and almost slid under the dinner table when asked a question about her weavings.
During the weaving exam, other weavers tried to lure the examiner to their work. None were weaving with local natural dyes, but with synthetic yarn, ironically trying to call the examiner´s attention to “the techniques of their ancestors”. Max´s ability to WOW the examiner with such a knowledgeable professional presentation can be credited to her hard work and her self-confidence developed through the years. To have been highly praised by a representative of the national government was unexpected but well-deserved. To be recognized in front of her peers for the work in which they have harassed her for political reasons was empowering. It was a feel-good moment and merits being shared with all of you who have supported the PAZA activities through the years. There´s been no word from the government about the exam results, and Max was vague about its purpose.
Doña Maxima and Arminda Checking out Dorinda´s Spinning Week FB Threads
A rather disturbing tale concerned a weaving order inquiry from the local cultural center. The Huancarani weavers didn´t even debate declining the order for 150 full-size ch´uspas (shoulder bags) to be completed within a month at a price of $15 a bag. The weavings made of natural dyed handspun yarn (most spun during Spinning Week) are cut to make 3 ch´uspas. The shoulder straps are than woven and each bag is assembled with a rolled border. The final touch is 2 to 3 pompons on the bottom. Each ch’uspa is roughly 40 hours of labor. The weavers set the PAZA price annually and it is $80. In 2007, at PAZA’s first craft fair with the weavers, the ch’uspas were crudely assembled and priced at $6 – $8.
Thank goodness that Doña Narciza hitched into Independencia to show off her just completed aguayo of natural dyed wool. The trip was against her husband’s wishes, as the rains had finally begun, and they needed to plant the corn crop the next day. It was no surprise that the combination of her vast stash of natural dyed fiber from all her experimenting with color, her eye for combining color, and her high-level technical skills created a stunning piece of art. Her daughter is trying to figure out how to make a living selling hand-made fiber products in Cochabamba. It would be wonderful if she could find a Bolivian market for the traditional weavings. The fate of the aguayo was unclear but it was headed to an event the daughter was attending in La Paz.
PAZA teaches skills which enable mothers to earn income to care for their families.
There are many stories to be told about the November visit, weavings to sell, and 2022 fundraising to be done since PAZA did not receive a grant for the year. PAZA responsibilities fall on Dorinda whose priority has been caring for her parents to keep them in their home. Another trip to Bolivia begins next week, which will add to the tales to be told. More weavings will be arriving in the U.S. including ch’uspas and a new dimension for DYI projects that needs to be evaluated (51” x 7”). Sales of the weavings are tentatively scheduled for April. Inquiries can be made prior to that at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you, Lyn, for your stalwart support. Thank you, Rob, for your support of indigenous weavers and your efforts on the front line of Covid. Thank you, Emily, for your continued support of Max and the women of Independencia. More tales to come. Dorinda Dutcher, February 2, 2022