Fiber Arts Skill Building

Huancarani Weavers Giving a Natural Dye Demo and Exhibiting Their Weavings at the Last Collaborative Craft Fair with a Bolivian NGO and the Independencia Local Government, 2009

In early 2007, the Huancarani weavers zeroed in on Dorinda, the newly arrived Peace Corps volunteer to Independencia, Bolivia. They knew that a foreign marketing partner was key to receiving a fair price for their traditional weavings. PAZA began that year as a Peace Corps project in collaboration with the weavers and foreign supporters. For years, Doña Maxima, her family, the weavers, Club de Artesanas members, and Dorinda participated in craft fairs in Independencia, Cochabamba, and La Paz until the expenses outweighed the benefits. Sales over the past decade have been through PAZA’s marketing efforts in the U.S. Alas, after all these years, the weavers still don’t have direct access to a market, nor can they rely on a steady income from sales.

Doña Maxima at the PAZA Booth, Cochabamba Craft Fair, 2013
Feria de la Chirimoya, 2015, Independencia, Doña Maxima Selling the Weavings, and the Club Chicas Selling the Jewelry and Cakes That They’d Made

One goal of the Club de Artesanas since its founding in 2010 has been to kindle the entrepreneurial flame by teaching skills that will lead to income generation through local sales and services. Between 2010 and 2018 foreign volunteers taught skill building workshops in knitting, crochet, sewing, jewelry making, and millinery. PAZA provided soap making, sewing, baking, and floor loom weaving workshops.

Kelsey, the First Club de Chicas (now Artesanas) Volunteer, Taught the Chicas How to Sew Their Skirts from a Pattern. After High School Graduation, Two of the Chicas Went on to Earn Income Through Sewing. Photo from 2010.

Between 2013 and 2016 the local government gifted treadle sewing machines, knitting machines, fabric, and yarn to the Organizaciones de Mujeres in rural communities. Instruction on the use, care, and maintenance of the equipment was not included. PAZA and the local Centro Cultural Ayopaya (CCA) have been teaching workshops in Independencia and the CCA has helped many of their students purchase knitting machines. PAZA is the only entity to take it a step further by training local trainers for rural outreach.

The Club members have not realized a local market for their Club project products. However, they have sewed, knitted, and crocheted clothing for their families while improving their skills with each project. The women began last year knitting school uniform sweaters for their children on the knitting machines. Vilma, Doña Maxima, and Arminda are earning income by teaching knitting machine classes in Huancarani this month.

Doña Deisy´s Club Projects Included Knitting Her Daughter´s School Uniform Sweater and Sewing the School Smock, 2022
The Club Members Designed Backpacks and Bags to Sell Locally, but Discovered that Locals Preferred the “Made In China” bags, 2019

The 5 communal Huancarani knitting machines were brought to the Club workshop in March for repair in preparation for the workshops. The cases hadn´t been properly secured so the knitting machines were filthy and beginning to rust. The Club members cleaned, oiled, and repaired the machines. Care and maintenance of the machines is the number one topic on this month’s workshop agenda. This is the second series of PAZA workshops in Huancarani. If the Huancarani weavers want future workshops or knitting machine repair, they will be responsible for paying the Club trainers.

Doña Justina Participating in PAZA Knitting Machine Workshop, 2023
Doña Felicidad and Doña Cirilia Knitting Long Sleeve Sweaters, 2023

Fifteen years ago, the year-end grade school exhibition was a riot of color of crocheted afghans, shawls, and embroidered tablecloths. Today, most of the exhibits are painted tablecloths. In 2014, the Club chicas designed and sewed evening dresses for a high school fashion show. This year the school district couldn´t find a sewing teacher. As each generation moves further away from the young developing fiber arts skills the ability to meet a basic need is lost. PAZA’s Club de Artesanas provides the atmosphere and opportunity for learning and refining fiber arts skills and keeping them alive.

7-Year-Old Anabel Loves to Embroider and PAZA Provides the Means and Environment, 2023
9-Year-Old Sister Maria Liz Prefers to Crochet and is Learning to Weave Traditional Motifs, 2023

PAZA´s bank account indicates that this blog posting must be a fundraiser. Please use the donate button on the blog website to help PAZA to continue purchasing project supplies, provide the twice a week Club workshops, and offer other activities such as the Huancarani knitting machine workshops. Expenses for 2023 are estimated at $6,300 with 20% of that being Spinning Week costs. So far this year, PAZA has received $960 in financial support. Thank you.

Jhoselin Crochets Clothes for Herself as Club Projects and is Learning How to Weave
Doña Eulalia, a Huancarani Weavers Joined the Club Last Year and Has Learned to Crochet and Knit Sweaters by Hand and on the Knitting Machine

A special thanks to Lyn, Claire, and Rob for your years of continued support. Thank you to Laverne and WARP for getting the word out about the weavings for sale. Mil gracias to the 15 of you who purchased weavings over the past month. Your added donations will go towards Doña Maxima´s Sunday wages so that she can open the PAZA workshop to meet with the Huancarani weavers who are in town for market day. Dorinda Dutcher, May 8, 2023.

Thank you from Maria Liz, Emily, all the Club Members, and the Huancarani Weavers for Supporting the Acquisition and Preservation of Fiber Arts Skills

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