Club de Artesanas

PAZA in Transition

April Dye Day

April was a frenzied bittersweet month for the Club de Artesanas (CdA) members and the weavers of the Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani (CAH). Emotions were held in check by the need for action to vacate PAZA headquarters within 3 weeks. Two dye days and a soap making day were squeezed in as well. Doña Maxima and Doña Antonia wasted no time in locating another space a block away which they had repainted and with the help of Doña Beatris and Vilma turned into CdA´s new workshop/store. The goal is for the space to be used to create products that will sell locally. Doña Maxima will hold regular hours two mornings a week so local women wishing to learn how to weave can learn on a drop-by basis. She will continue to open the store on Sunday mornings for the Huancarani weavers.

Breny Explaining Changes

PAZA held a meeting in Huancarani on April 4th to answer questions about the abrupt change in routine with Dorinda moving to the U.S. and Doña Maxima taking on the leadership role. A million thanks to Breny Ugarte who miraculously managed to hitch a ride from Cochabamba to Huancarani in time to facilitate and translate the Spanish to Quechua. There were tears because the weavers haven´t realized that they don´t need constant foreign influence to carry on. Faces brightened as Breny explained the bonus program for master weavers to teach younger women to weave. Each weaver present promised to teach 1 younger weaver. Doña Casimira was so excited she stated that she will not retire from weaving after all and will teach as well.

Maribel Proudly Displays Her 1st Faja

The following Sunday Maribel, who at 21 is the youngest CAH weaver, arrived at the PAZA workshop/store with teen Angelica in tow. Angelica is the 1st bonus program student and is learning to weave from her partner´s aunt. Maribel had brought in a yoga mat strap and wanted to show Angelica how to work with Doña Maxima in turning in a weaving for payment. Maribel left with the CAH file of paperwork in her bag and the responsibility to keep it up to date. Dorinda had fulfilled the Secretary role at the request of past CAH Secretaries who had not had the opportunity to learn to read or write.

The Chicas Working Cross Stitch on Bags with Rebecca, 2017

The CdA women, chicas, kids and past members spent time reminiscing about the volunteers which made taking down the “Volunteer Photo Wall” a fun affair with laughter instead of tears. The photos were fairly divvied up. The cross stitch projects with Rebecca and embroidery work with Surya were mentioned by all of the chicas. Emily broke out in song with the chorus of “La Cucaracha” that she had learned from José a volunteer from Mexico. Stories of Amanda´s 5 years of jewelry making workshops were shared between the women, chicas, and kids. Emily and Linneth took home the puppet making materials from Profesora Judy´s class.

Lizeth Learned to Sew a Quilt with Marian, 2014

Although much of the CdA equipment and supplies went to the new workshop, some was divided between CdA members. Veronica and Nelva each took home one of the portable sewing machines. Of the 5 original CdA chicas, 2 of them are making a living by sewing. They learned at school but used the CdA sewing machines on a regular basis to make their own clothes. Reyna, who spent her senior high school year as the trainer for the CdA chicas is loving life and sewing for a company in Argentina. Lizeth, who wandered away from the Club her junior year and migrated to the city after graduation put in an appearance at the CdA workshop for the first time in 4 years and said, “I am buying an industrial sewing machine so I can work at home, I learned so much here, thank you.” Gabriela, who is studying hair styling in the city, was a CdA chica trainer her senior year. She dropped by for a plier set so she could combine jewelry making techniques she learned from Amanda, founder of Ruraq Maki, with hair adornments she learned how to make from volunteer Michelle Burdette in 2015.

Vero, Nelva, and Jhesica Selected 4 Sewing Patterns to Take Home

The word “democratica” was used many times as the chicas divvied up jewelry making and art supplies. Jhesica received the silkscreening supplies donated by volunteer Surya and the hair adornment supplies. Being cousins and neighbors, she and Nelva worked out an arrangement for sharing Nelva´s sewing machine. Dorinda and Doña Maxima´s will be shopping in Cochabamba next week for a new portable sewing machine for the workshop.

Group Photo, Huancarani, April 2018

The biblioteca (library) was PAZA´s pride and joy. Many of the books had been purchased or donated by the Peace Corps when the Bolivia program closed in 2008. Because the majority of the books were in English concerning development project themes 4 heavy bags and 2 box loads were lugged back to Cochabamba to a former Peace Corps volunteer who works for a youth service learning program and who also has ties to Biblioworks in Sucre. Many children´s books written in Spanish had been donated through the years. Some of those books went to the new workshop and some were divided between the CdA kids whose interest in reading has been sparked by those books. May ownership encourage them to continue to open book covers and disappear into the tales within.

The monthly blog postings will continue with Vilma being the Independencia news correspondent. Thank you Lyn Lucas and Dorothy Thursby for continued support as PAZA works through this transition. Dorinda Dutcher, April 21, 2018

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Preservation of a Weaving Tradition

Lizeth Learning to Warp, 2011

Preservation of their weaving tradition weighs heavy on Doña Máxima and the Huancarani weavers. Many of the ageing weavers taught their daughters as they were taught but only 2 have daughters who live in the area and weave today. The educated youth of the past few generations have fled to the cities upon graduation of high school to pursue more options in life then the brutally physical farmer subsistence lifestyle.

Today´s Club Chicas Learning to Play Scrabble

When PAZA began the Club de Chicas in 2010 the goal was to teach teens to weave. PAZA was selling at craft fairs in Cochabamba three times a year and the teens were motivated to weave to sell. None pursued the craft after high school graduation. The current chicas in the Club don´t even pretend to have an interest in learning to weave. Although many fiber arts and other skills have been taught by volunteers and visitors through the years to Club members and the weavers of Huancarani, the preservation of the weaving tradition remains one of PAZA´s 3 main objectives.

Doña Casirimira at Her Loom, 2010

Preserving the weaving tradition is reaching a critical point. Last month Doña Casimira, formerly a prolific weaver, declined an order confessing that she is no longer up to the physical demands of weaving. All is not lost! Doña Maxima has been approached by young mothers moving into the new neighborhoods springing up in Independencia who want to learn how to weave. The women are so young, semi-literate, de pollera (traditional skirt), and desperate for a means to earn an income to care for their kids. They have moved from their farms to a town that can offer them no work.

Doña Casimira may not be able to weave but she can teach and pass on her wealth of knowledge. PAZA is going to test a bonus program to encourage the master weavers to teach the young women. There will be a bonus paid to each master weaver who works with a younger woman to the point where the new weaver meets the required quality for the yoga mat straps.

Club Dye Day Last Week

The Club de Artesanas is going to undergo major changes to get back to its objective of helping the ageing weavers preserve their textile tradition. The current teen program will end on April 6th. The future changes will be 100% in the hands of Doña Maxima and the 3 remaining core members who are all weavers. They will divide their time between teaching weaving and working on a new product line of fiber arts products other than the traditional weavings that can be sold locally. If they lead, others will follow.

PAZA will continue to pay rent for workshop space evaluating regularly to be able to phase out as the entrepreneurial efforts of the women allow. The space is important because it is also a gathering place/refuge where the women can meet to talk, laugh, support each other, and cry. Doña Maxima will take over management and ownership of the equipment and supplies. Her wage will be reduced to 2 half days in part because the young mothers wanting to learn to weave can’t devote whole days or even whole mornings to attending. The wage reduction is also a compromise between motivation to spark her entrepreneurial streak and to keep the momentum going.

Breny and Don Enrique Modelling Poncho and Aguayo, 2009

These young mothers who are so desperate to find a means to care for their children can be the key to the sustainability of the weaving tradition. Making it all work will take the finesse of a Quechua speaking Bolivian professional. It is serendipity, that Breny Ugarte, who has worked with Doña Máxima and PAZA since 2008 came forth to say she will help because she has other work she will be doing in Independencia

Doña Narciza Weaving, 2014

All looks good on paper, but only time will tell how PAZA will evolve with 100% control of the Independencia activities being under Doña Maxima and the weavers. Future PAZA fundraising requests will only happen upon receipt and approval of funding needs from Doña Maxima, or if the bonus program breaks the bank. Dorinda hopes to return to Independencia for Spinzilla 2019 and to pick up weaving orders hopefully with the team´s new TNNA sponsor who has yet to claim that title. The weavings will continue to trickle to the U.S. thanks to friends traveling between Bolivia and the U.S. Help with sales especially the yoga mat straps is needed. The blog will continue with short monthly updates as to how all is progressing in Independencia, and expect the unexpected. The change is scary, but it will be incredibly empowering for so many rural Bolivian women. Thank you. Dorinda Dutcher, March 29, 2018

A Time of Change

Meeting With Weavers, Huancarani, 2007

PAZA can be divided into 2 distinct phases reckoning back to its birth as a Peace Corps development project in 2007. The project objectives were the same that the weavers of Huancarani had stated as their needs at their first meeting with Dorinda that year.

  1. Preserve the weaving tradition
  2. Rescue natural dye techniques
  3. Access to a foreign market

Rural Workshop#5, Doña Maxima Teaching Color Coordination for warp, 2009

Phase #1 ran from 2007 through 2009 and was a time of collaboration and partnerships forming then falling apart. The Peace Corps left Bolivia in 2008. Dorinda carried on the work on her own partnering with Doña Máxima and they created a series of 5 natural dye workshops in 5 rural communities, barely keeping a step ahead of their students. The local government provided the transportation. A Bolivian non-profit organization began working in Independencia in 2008 and supported the 2 three day intensive dye workshops that grounded those interested in knowledge of local dye plants and the mordanting process.

Phase #2 began in 2010 when all local partnerships ceased due to petty local politics in Independencia. There were a few sleepless nights for Doña Maxima, the weavers of Huancarani, and Dorinda on how to move forward. The Club de Chicas (now Club de Artesanas) rose like a phoenix out of the ashes. Dorinda´s attendance at a Weave a Real Peace (WARP) Conference that year opened the door to a network of support that has flourished into friendships through the years.

1st Craft Fair, Cochabamba, 2009

Phase #1 sorted out the local players. Phase #2 has run for 8 years and has been a focus on training through activities and experiences. Volunteers have offered workshops on all sorts of fiber arts activities. A dye pot failure is just a challenge to be turned into a success. More Huancarani weavers dye small batches on their own for the unique colors they desire in their weavings. Doña Máxima and her daughter Zoraida participated in numerous craft fairs, taking home buyers´ comments to share with the weavers. There was a phase of product design through those years so there would be something new on the vendor table. The weavers formed their first Spinzilla team in 2014, and came to understand the responsibilities of team participation with each passing year. Doña Maxima attended the Tinkuy International Weaving Conference in 2010, in 2013 she did a weaving exhibition, and in 2017 she stood on stage along with Huancarani weaver Doña Justina and made a presentation. When it was over it left PAZA in a state of “now what?”

Volunteer Selina Teaching a Knitting Class, Huancarani, 2013

Change is scary and for PAZA it always comes as the evitable conclusion following sleepless nights. As Maria said in “The Sound of Music”, “where a door closes a window opens”. Forget about a window because the upcoming changes for PAZA will blow open many a door of possibility. Phase #3 will begin in late April. All the years of training in fiber arts skills need to be turned to entrepreneurial efforts. Doña Máxima and the Club women will step up into leadership roles and Dorinda will make a graceful exit and relocate to the U.S., specifically Bozeman, Montana. After a 11 year hiatus it is time for her to go back to work for a wage, and a foreign market for the weavings can be better

Breny Talking With the Weavers, Huancarani, 2010

pursued from the U.S. Long time PAZA collaborator, Breny Ugarte, is a native of Independencia but a Quechua speaking professional with experience working with development projects for women. She is ready, willing, and able to help Doña Maxima and the core Club members leap into the entrepreneurial phase. The traditional weavings don´t sell in Independencia, so having a line of fiber arts products that will sell locally can help more women earn an income. PAZA is leaving the Independencia based activities in good hands.

The Camaraderie of Spinzilla Spinning Week, 2014

There is no word in the English language that can express the deep sense of gratitude to you for your years of support and friendship. It is the goal of development projects to turn the project over to the beneficiaries. PAZA worked without a timeline and the training phase was allowed to run its natural course. Thank you. Dorinda Dutcher, March 29, 2018

Fiber Arts February

Jhesica With a Water Color Portrait She Painted

Annual registration for the Club de Artesanas (CdA) is in February after the women and teens settle back into Independencia following Carnaval. The CdA chicas lost teen trainer Abigail who now lives with a family in the city providing child care part time and attending high school. Jhesica who will turn 16 this year has begun her second year as a teen trainer and was thrilled to receive a wage increase.  Each of the 3 teens from last year invited a younger friend to join and many bring young siblings so there is a lot of youthful exuberance on Saturdays.

Adviana & Her 2 Youngest During 2017 Spinning Week

The CdA women will miss Adviana who has been a devoted member since 2012. She and her family migrated to the city during the vacation. She entered the Club as a timid 17 year old mother and through the years she learned to weave and was completing orders regularly to earn income to care for her 3 little ones. It was mainly because of her that the waiting list was added so more spinners could enjoy Spinzilla Spinning Week in 2017. She begged to spin, but not being up to speed with the older women the wait list was implemented to accommodate and encourage her and 2 other young spinners. May her self confidence that grew through the years of CdA activities and with the support and friendship of the other Club women enable her to transition successfully to life in the city.

Surya, Teens & Their Siblings Posing with Printed T-Shirts

Club attendance was low in February because of women and teens spending much of the month in their rural communities. That allowed Surya, the visiting artist, to work one on one with Club members as well as with groups. Doña Máxima learned to embroider in primary school and on her first embroidered piece working with Surya she learned new stitches but her designs continued to be just outlines. On her second piece she made the leap to use newly learned stitches to fill in her designs and kept then kept stopping to admire and show off the results.

Dye Day Results

Surya taught two of the teens how to use the sewing machine, including using the instruction book as a resource when there is a question or problem. Nelva had finished a beaded embroidery piece under Suyra’s tutelage which she sewed into a bag. Veronica learned to sew by making a small shoulder bag with a button closure and a zippered pencil bag. The teens also learned about perspective in drawing and had fun with water colors. Suyra had brought all the supplies to teach screen printing and worked with the teens for 2 months ending with the final project of a printed t-shirt.

Surya at the Loom

The weavers of Huancarani began dropping off skeins to be dyed as rainy season is dye season. The Club held a dye day to take care of the accumulating skeins from the Huancarani weavers. The dye pot of suyku leaves produced light and dark greens skeins. Fresh turmeric root had been purchased from a sidewalk vendor in Cochabamba in October, and although roots were beginning to sprout once mashed up one dye pot of vibrant orange skeins was produced. The turmeric pot was mixed into the fifth dye bath of cochineal to dye skeins a rich dark orange.

Embroidery Projects… Notice Use of Weaving and Thrums on Surya’s Piece

Surya taught a batik workshop to Vilma and Doña Maxima and they experimented on cotton cloth, silk scarves, and cotton t-shirts with varying degrees of success. The leftover dye pot of the turmeric and cochineal was almost exhausted so further experimentation will take place with stronger dye pots on the upcoming dye days.

Doña Maxima´s 2nd Work with Filled-In Designs & Another of Suyra’s Fun Contemporary Pieces

Surya, is the second volunteer in 8 years to take advanced classes from Doña Maxima and complete a weaving on the loom. She is the first volunteer to weave the cloth, strap, and border to assemble a ch´upsita (small shoulder bag). It is surprising there are not more weavers who have visited to take classes with Doña Máxima to learn traditional Andean weaving techniques. Surya taught embroidery stitches and worked on her own pieces for an exhibition at the Kiosko Galería in Santa Cruz Bolivia beginning on March 15th. She cunningly incorporated an end piece of her weaving and used the thrums as embroidery threads, which was a tug of war with each one because of their rough texture. However, the results were stunning with the natural dyed wool blending together for a natural looking portrait.

Surya Explaining How Her Visit Influenced Her Art Which Will be Exhibited

The PAZA order that will be traveling to the U.S. the end of April is almost complete. It is a bit early to be without an order for the weavers, so any preorders for the woven cloth which are the fajas (70” x 5” bands, $38), weavings (63” x 9.5”, $68), zippered pouches ($16), zippered pouches with a wrist strap ($17), or yoga mat straps ($22/$23) will enable additional orders to be placed over the next 2 months. The sizing may seem odd, but the weavers work in centimeters not inches, well except for Doña Dionicia who at 86 years of age gets away with using hand spans instead of a measuring tape. The weavings that are 63” x 9.5” were sized to be cut up to make 6 zippered bags. If you need a different sized weaving for a project you may place a special order. Contact Dorinda at dkdutcher@hotmail.com for further information or to place an order. Dorinda Dutcher, February 27, 2018

Kicking Off The Year With Arts & Crafts

Embroidering, Drawing, and Painting with Surya

Embroidering, making piñatas, drawing, water coloring, and the Fiesta de Don Jorge made for a busy January for the Club de Artesanas (CdA). Under the tutelage of artist-in-residence, Suyra de Wit, the CdA women, teens, and kids were all thrilled to spend the 2nd month of the school vacation busily occupied with art projects. The first project Surya introduced was embroidering a design of choice. The embroidery of flowers as a required project at the local primary school has been replaced by fabric painting. The 3 girls completed their embroidery and with help from Suyra made small shoulder bags to showcase their work. The teens chose to use beads from the jewelry making kit to embroider their designs. The intent focus of the 2 boys over their embroidery hoops was a surprise. Doña Maxima commented that she liked the textural possibilities by combining known embroidery stitches with the new stitches she learned from Surya.

3 Happy Girls with New Bags

Preparation for the Fiesta de Don Jorge began a week prior to the annual all day party. Three Club families had birthdays during the month so a total of 4 piñatas were made. The layering of the paper mache over the balloons went quickly because it was the 2nd year of piñata making. Thanks to Surya’s help, the fringe decor was an improvement over last year. PAZA provided for the piñata filling which included toothbrushes and pencils along with the sweet and salted treats.

Making the Piñatas

On the day of the Fiesta the library and workshop overflowed with everybody working on masks and crowns. Lunch was everybody´s favorite festive dish, “Pique Macho”. Piping hot French Fries are piled with bite-size chunks of meat and sausage in a savory sauce. The diner adorns his or her heaping plate of yumminess with hard-boiled egg, onion, tomato, chilies, and in the kids case a lot of ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise.

Fiesta de Don Jorge 2018

Doña Máxima and Vilma peeled and cut up 13 pounds of potatoes with knives – peelers and cutting boards are not local culinary techniques. Doña Máxima headed to the outdoor cooking lean-to to start a fire for frying the potatoes and Vilma headed indoors to cook the meat on the gas range. There was a bit of a lull after the meal. Everyone rallied for games and worked up an appetite so they could enjoy the 3 layer chocolate and lime birthday cake. Don Jorge will turn 88 in February and hopefully the photos and best wishes will reach his Kansas mailbox this year.

Jhesica Sharing Her Work with Veronica

Saturday mornings were reserved for the teens to work on their drawing skills. Surya is a portrait artist and noted that they had not learned to sketch a big picture but focused on small details. She started the classes with timed drawings of self-portraits, followed by instruction, and ended the class by letting the teens watercolor for their enjoyment. Surya’s work may be viewed at www.suryadewit.net.

On Sunday the 14th an emergency meeting of the Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani (CAH) was called at the PAZA workshop. A new President needed to be elected to replace Doña Cirila who did not meet the requirement of being a member for 2 years. She took it upon herself to go in search of the CAH members in town for market day and managed to gather up a quorum of 14. Her mother, a founding member, won the election and hesitantly took on the responsibility after Doña Cirila promised to help her. Maribel, Secretary and the youngest CAH member, ran the meeting as the most senior Board member. It is heartening to observe younger members taking an active role in the organization.

Waiting for Quorum of Weavers to Gather

The school year begins on February 5th, and that means high stress for mothers to come up with the cash to purchase school supplies. PAZA always has a weaving order so the weavers can count on income in February. During the last 3 Sundays in January most of the active weavers stopped by the PAZA workshop inquiring or dropping off an order. Doña Eulalia sighed as she commented on the ever increasing list of school supplies as her 4 children move through primary into secondary school. The weavings will be in the U.S. the end of April and need to be sold to keep the PAZA rotating fund for the weaving orders rotating. Thanks to the use of the weavings in Laverne’s Waddington’s workshops PAZA sales have changed from a myriad of products of our design to selling the cloth for you to design and cut for your own creations. The fajas (traditionally belts) are 70”x4.5”, wider weavings that we use to make the zippered pouches are 63”x9.5”, and straps (size used for the yoga mat straps) are 74”x1.5” or a bit longer at 78”x1.5”. There will also be zippered pouches, yoga mat straps, and a few ch’uspas (shoulder bags). Inquires can be sent to dkdutcher@hotmail.com.

Thank you Dorothy Thursby and Susan Long for kickstarting 2018 with your continued support of the weavers and teens.  Dorinda Dutcher, January 28, 2018

October Fun, Fun, Fun

Vilma Juggling Her Spinning Week Results on Measuring Day in Sanipaya

October was a super month. The Cloth Roads team Warmis Phuskadoras placed 27th out of the 70 Spinzilla teams. The Bolivian spinners spun 70,390 yards, all with drop spindles. The annual celebratory feast and prize awarding ceremony will be held in Huancarani in early January. Shawls are the prize for all of the Huancarani spinners. Doña Máxima will be purchasing the shawl material in Cochabamba and the Club de Artesanas (CdA) members will be crocheting the borders thus personalizing each shawl. Vilma, a skilled crocheter, was tasked with crocheting a sample to determine the labor cost and the amount of yarn needed per shawl. Her timid response was a wage of 25 Bs.($3.60) per shawl. After much discussion about the time and skill required PAZA upped the wage to 60 Bs. ($8.65).

Rebecca & the Chicas

Australia has come to Independencia. The year started out with Laverne Waddington’s visit to teach weaving workshops. She is from Australia but has made eastern Bolivia her home. The next visitor was Australian Cheryl Cartwright who was a great help in measuring the 70,390 yards of Spinning Week yarn. After Spinzilla, the women and teens spent a week working on cross stitch projects taught by Rebecca Rich. She lugged the workshop supplies and wonderful chocolate treats from Melbourne to Argentina, Peru, and finally Bolivia. The chicas adored their new friend. They showed up during the CdA weekday afternoons as well as Saturdays to work on their projects and hang out with Rebecca. She brought out a world map at least 3 times and all grew to feel a familiarity with that world so far away. You can read Rebecca’s visit report on the volunteer page of this blog.

Huddled in the Entry on an Inclement Day

An observation that Rebecca made early on was that Doña Antonia would probably make fewer mistakes if she had glasses. Rumor has it that the women will not wear glasses because glasses are associated with being educated, which most of the rural women are not. PAZA handed out about 2 dozen reading glasses a few years ago, but there wasn’t any encouragement to continue. Shockingly, Doña Antonia agreed that she needed glasses and actually wore them thus dramatically improving the quality of the butterfly she was cross stitching on a bib for her granddaughter. PAZA will invest in more reading glasses.

Doña Justina´s Chuspa Will Debut at the Tinkuy Parade

Preparation for the Tinkuy reached a feverish pitch by the end of the month, although the planning began in June. Doña Justina dropped by most Sundays to practice her part of the presentation. One Sunday she brought the ch’uspa she had just completed to wear in the Inauguration Parade. Doña Máxima practiced the presentation 3 times a week with the PowerPoint photos and without them at home. She spent her spare time during the day at her loom and worked on her beaded tulmas (braid adornments) at night. The local carpenter took forever to finish the simple leaning frame loom so that Vilma could get started on sewing a carrying case for the loom, flag pole, and the banner pole. Her results created a panic because the length was unmanageable. The preparation provided many a challenge, but, whew, the work is done, and all that is left is to enter the magical colorful whirlwind that is Tinkuy.

Readying Orders and Weavings Going to the Tinkuy Sales Table

The CdA will close for 3 weeks, allowing Doña Maxima a breather following the Tinkuy. She plans to spend a few days in Cochabamba to make the purchases for the Spinzilla prizes and enjoy her daughter Zoraida´s 4 month old baby girl. Yes, 8 year old Zuni finally has a sibling! Many have met Zuni who as a toddler spent long days playing in the PAZA sales tent at Cochabamba craft fairs. Dorinda is headed to the U.S. after the Tinkuy and will return to Independencia in late December. She will be accompanied by volunteer Surya de Wit who has been considering a visit to

Bibs & Bags

Independencia since 2013 when she was an artist-in-residence for Sustainable Bolivia. Surya draws, paints, and uses textiles in her art. The teens are excited about an opportunity to progress with their drawing skills. The women are curious about learning new dye techniques.

Thank you Rebecca for your kindness and generosity. Thank you Lyn Lucas and Dorothy Thursby, we look forward to seeing you at in Cusco where you will finally get to see for yourselves the results of your years of continued support! We are so excited about seeing everyone at the Tinkuy! Dorinda Dutcher, October 30, 2017

Spinzilla Prep & a Magical Dye Pot

Loading Up the Molle Leaves & Passengers

September was a month of preparation for Spinzilla Spinning Week and for November’s Tinkuy International Weaving conference in Cusco, Peru. Doña Máxima made a trip to Cochabamba to order the banner for the Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani (CAH) that will debut at the Tinkuy’s Inauguration parade. She and her daughter Zoraida also shopped for 2 shawl samples so that the Spinzilla participants will have some choice in this year´s “All Win 1st Prize”. They learned that the shawl vendors will have little or no inventory until next June when winter rolls around again. Spinzilla always offers a number of problem solving opportunities for the team, and one solution is to buy material and have the Club de Artesanas (CdA) members crochet the borders and add the fringe for a per shawl wage.

Dye Day #1 Results

In the midst of all the preparations for future activities the Club members started an amazing dye pot that just kept on giving. It began with a quick excursion to a lower altitude to collect the leaves of molle trees. Doña Máxima´s husband drives a student transport truck and because it sits idle between the early morning pickup of kids from a rural community and their midafternoon drop-off back home he was agreeable to driving the Club members for 50 Bs. ($7.20). There had been a few days of brief but intense rains that had washed the landscape free of the gritty tan dust that swirls and coats everything during the dry season. Time for bright yellow skeins was running out because the leaves do not yield dye during the rainy season will begin soon. It was a cloudless day so rather than begin the dye pot that afternoon the leaves were put to soak so the afternoon could be spent at the river washing and drying fleece in preparation for Spinzilla Spinning Week

2 Techniques for Washing Sheep Skins

Two days later the Club women fired up the dye pot and the molle leaves simmered scenting the air with a heavenly fragrance. The yellow resulting from the 1st dye bath met expectations but the possibility of a 2nd dye bath looked grim. Doña Antonia saved the day by offering to return from lunch with some dried turmeric root. A relative living in a tropical area of Bolivia had gifted fresh roots to her and she had dried them after the Club used them for numerous dye pots in 2013. The simmering turmeric added its exotic spicy scent to the air and the resulting color was a burnished golden yellow. For a 3rd bath a bit of cochineal was added and the results were a burnt orange. Dyeing continued over 3 more days due to the need to spin more yarn to dye. Glorious vivid reds and red oranges emerged from dye baths 4 through 8 with the addition of a few more grams of cochineal, cream of tartar, alum and citric acid. In 10 years of dyeing such a magical dye pot has never before been experienced, appreciated, and so enjoyed.

Child Labor? Mom and Grandmum Observing Emily’s Washing Technique

The rains that washed the molle leaves also flushed the river which had almost slowed to a stagnation. Fleece and sheepskins were scoured at home in hot water. After lunch following the molle excursion the Club members headed to the river. Doña Maxima and Vilma took turns pushing their wheelbarrow that held 2 sheepskins, a black fleece, and a gray fleece. Doña Antonia was carrying white fleece in a bag of woven plastic in her aguayo on her back. Doña Rufina had a mixed black and white sheepskin and some laundry in her wheelbarrow. With some effort the wheelbarrows were rolled to a pool above the ford where teen boys were lovingly washing their motor scooters.

Navigating Heavy Load of Wet Wool Up to Road

Doña Antonia wet the fleece she´d brought and then laid it over a large boulder and pounded it with a stick. Doña Máxima, Vilma, and her 8 year old daughter Emily submerged their sheep skins and fleece one at a time to work through them with their hands to remove debris. The rinsed fleece and sheepskins were draped to dry over sun warmed boulders. Wheelbarrows were washed out, loaded up, and with a sense of accomplishment the group headed merrily homeward.

Mission Accomplished, Leisurely Walk Home

The following week, and last week prior to Spinzilla Spinning Week, the Club members began preparing coils of roving. Doña Antonia watched Doña Máxima shearing fleece off a sheepskin and decided she was unhappy with the fleece that she had washed. It had dried hard instead of drying soft like the fleece Doña Máxima was cutting away from the sheepskin. Doña Antonia decided that she needed to start over using a sheepskin instead of beginning the washing process with sheared fleece. Doña Beatris, who is in charge of the 6 Spinzilla spinners from her community of Sanipaya, happened to be in town. She was spending the Club day doing her son´s “home economics” project of making a table cloth by pulling threads in a length of cloth and weaving in a bright green ribbon. She said she had 2 sheepskins and offered to sell one to Doña Antonia after washing them the following day. Unfortunately, a neighborhood dog snatched one of the washed sheepskins from where they were drying outdoors, so Doña Antonia was once again in search a sheepskin.

Doña Máxima Shears While Doña Antonia Looks On

The preparation for Spinzilla Spinning Week is a lot of work for the spinners, but it is work they’d be doing anyway. As an event, it recognizes their life long honed skills as spinners and weavers. It has created many learning opportunities for the 25 women, most of who attended few if any years of schooling. These 4 years of empowering experiences would have been impossible without your support.

Thank you Rob Nash for reconnecting in such a supportive way from our carefree youth! The generous support of a former Bolivian Peace Corps volunteer must be acknowledged with gratitude and a hug. The well wishes as well as financial support from other Spinzilla participants goes a long ways in communicating a bigger world’s recognition of the rural womens’ ancient fiber arts techniques and skills. Thank you Sarah Linder and Elizabeth White for once again supporting the Bolivian team. Thank you Taevia Miller. Dorinda Dutcher, September 28, 2017, dkdutcher@hotmail.com