Cultural

Spinzillita Spinning Week Results

Spinning Week in the Andes

The unofficial Spinzillita Spinning Week in Independencia, Bolivia went off without a hitch. It is the 5th year the rural weavers have spent the first week in October spinning and eyeballing each other’s progress. For lack of a TNNA Spinzilla sponsor they could not officially compete.

Sisters Spinning Together, Doñas Maxima & Narciza

Mid-week Doña Maxima contracted a vehicle for the ride winding up the mountain west of Independencia, along the ridge top, and halfway down another mountain into Huancarani. Doña Justina had the 19 participants in that community organized for a photo shoot and evaluation of the yarn spun thus far. Being dry season, the rough track that serves as a road to farmsteads to the west was passable. A stop was made near the farmstead of Doña Narciza, Doña Maxima´s only sibling still residing in Huancarani, who was out and about with her goat herd. Backtracking to the central part of Huancarani, a large group of spinners were waiting at the soccer field. Spinning and chatting the group headed uphill together in search of Doña Toribia who was in a large meadow, and perfect picnic spot, spinning and watching over her flock of sheep.

Doña Toribia and Her Flock

On Monday, the day following the end of Spinning Week, Doña Maxima, Doña Antonia, and Vilma made the trip to Huancarani to measure the yarn spun. PAZA paid a wage to the latter 2 because help was needed for measuring. In the past, PAZA volunteers were on hand to help with the wearisome task of measuring out yard after yard of 2 ply yarn between 2 marks on a wooden table. Although the enthusiasm for Spinning Week has grown, the results were the lowest in 5 years.

Doña Antonia Measures While Vilma Tallies

In 2017, the Cloth Roads team Warmi Phuskadoras last official participation in Spinzilla resulted in 70,390 yards spun on drop spindles placing them in 27th place out of 70 teams. This year the yarn spun dropped to 54,524 yards, which would have placed them in the 24th place out of Spinzilla´s 38 official teams. Doña Maxima´s norm was well below past years because of travel days. She was probably exhausted as well because Spinning Week began the day after her daughter´s 3 day wedding and celebration in Cochabamba. She was 100% in charge during Wednesday´s all day trip to Huancarani which meant more work for her and less time to spin. This is the first blog posting where she is credited with the photos.

Mother & Daughter, Doñas Eulogia & Cirilia Upped Their Yardage Spun This Year

Doña Casimira had her 3rd win by spinning 3,852 yards. There were 3 first time competitors, all young! Maribel, who was spinning in her second competition, beat Doña Maxima. When it comes to hand spinning, it is the elder women who place highest. Their skill will be recognized and celebrated at their December 19th meeting and feast. The prize this year is a mesh shopping bag.

Maribel Spun 352 More Yards Than Last Year

By strict adherence to the Spinzilla rules, the event has offered the women opportunity to learn to problem solve and to work together as a team. This year 4 unregistered spinners did spin during Spinning Week. During a Skype call with PAZA, Doña Maxima asked 3 different ways if it was possible to get around the registration deadline to be able to give the unregistered spinners a prize. One of the spinners is her mother-in-law, who she prefers not to upset. Registration closed the end of July, the rules can’t be changed, and the PAZA budget is fixed. The PAZA suggestion was to ask the registered spinners to take up a collection to purchase mesh bags for the 4 extra participants, especially since they paid no participation fee as in years past.

This Year’s Winner, Doña Casimira Who Spun 3,852 Yards

The spinners say they are accustomed to Spinning Week and would be disappointed if it is cancelled. PAZA has not found a 2019 TNNA sponsor, and with the decline in participation in Spinzilla this year, its future seems uncertain. However, PAZA hopes to find a way to help the spinners carry on the Spinning Week tradition and celebration of their spinning skill. The key word is “tradition” these women are the last generations to live the ancient farmer subsistence lifestyle that intertwines spinning and weaving with self-identity.

Thank you Sue Brady, Patty Tompkins, Jenny Heard, and Rob Nash, the team’s Spinzillita supporters and friends for your generosity. PAZA is still raising funds to cover expenses for December’s annual meeting of the Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani and Spinzillita Celebration and the ongoing expenses of the Club de Artesanas in Independencia. Dorinda Dutcher, October 29, 2018

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The Warmis Phuskadoras Spinzillita

Photo Day, 1st Spinzilla, Huancarani, 2014

The Bolivian Warmis Phuskadoras Spinzilla spinning team has not lost their enthusiasm for Spinning Week although they will not be competing in the The National Needle Arts Association (TNNA) event this year. PAZA and Doña Máxima, Team Captain, have organized a local event. Registration took place during the month of August and 29 spinners signed up. Between now and October 1, the 1st day of Spinning Week, the spinners will be preparing fleece for spinning as there is no roving locally available for purchase. That prep process is labor intensive and includes wheelbarrows and the Palca River, click here to link to last year’s tale.

Rinsing Fleece After Hot Water Wash Over Fire

The spinning event will involve contracting a vehicle on 2 different days for the trip to Huancarani, where 21 of the participants will be spinning. A trip mid-week gives the spinners an excuse to congregate, socialize, and eyeball each other´s progress. Since childhood, they have vied with one another in their spinning and weaving skills and that competitiveness hasn´t lessened a whit. Doña Maxima is tasked with photographing during these rare opportunities to capture images of the evanescent farmer subsistence lifestyle. Monday, October 8th, will be Measuring Day and Doña Maxima will hire 2 folks to help with the exhausting job of measuring around 68,000 yards of yarn, one yard at a time. The spinners want every ball of yarn to be measured by the same method, so no niddy noddys or yarn counters can be used.

Heavy Wet Fleece to Transport Home

All 6 members of PAZA’s Club de Artesanas will be participating.This is the first Spinning Week competition for the two new members. They are young mothers originally from the community of Sanipaya, but now live in a new neighborhood in Independencia. Doña Maxima said their mothers are thrilled that their adult daughters are becoming more involved in their textile heritage. The 2 new Club members know how to weave using the embedded double weave technique employed to weave traditional celebration weavings. Since joining the Club, they have learned the pick-up pebble weave style of weaving used by the Huancarani weavers and in the PAZA weaving

Doña Claudia´s First Weaving Order

orders. Doña Máxima related that she is impressed with the fineness of the straps they wove to fill their first PAZA order. She was overdue for apt weaving pupils, she has tried to teach many teens and women who have been in the Club and lacked the interest to get over the initial learning hump.

As mentioned in the last posting, purchasing phuskas (drop spindles) in Independencia has become a problem since the last phuska maker died. Doña Maxima asked if phuskas were available for sale in Sanipaya. The spinners from Sanipaya responded no, that they buy phushkas in the city of Oruro when they go to visit family and sell their corn at the harvest fair which attracts vendors of all ilk. Fleece from highland Oruro is coveted by all the spinners because of the long fibers compared to the local sheep fiber.

Measuring Day, Sanipaya, 2017

Doña Máxima will be hustling back from Cochabamba to be in time for the start of Spinning Week in Independencia. Most of you who have visited PAZA in Bolivia have met her daughter, Zoraida, who resides in Cochabamba with her family. Zoraida and Luis will be married on September 29th. In attendance will be their 10 year old daughter Zunilda and her 1 year old sister Luz Ariana. Marriage ceremonies for rural Bolivians usually take place years after a couple has started a family, simply because the expense involved in feting the community for 3 days isn´t a priority. Because they live in the city Zoraida was able to reduce their celebration to 2 days without raising eyebrows. Zoraida weaves when she is in Independencia and has worked at all the PAZA sales activities in Cochabamba.

Doña Antonia Measures, Maribel Tallies, and Doña Justina Rewinds Her Yarn

Thank you Susan Weltman and Lyn Lucas for your continued support of the Bolivian spinners and weavers. PAZA funds will be wired to Doña Maxima next week to cover the expenses for the Club de Artesanas through the end of the year, the Spinzillita (Little Spinzilla) activities, and for the end of the year Centro de Artesanía (CAH) annual meeting and the Spinzillita celebratory feast and prize awarding to be held in December. Those expenses total $1,065 which is 44% of what is in the PAZA operating fund. Please consider clicking on the “Donate” button above to support this effort to help women to help themselves and their families through their fiber arts skills. The team is still looking for a TNNA sponsor for 2019. Thank you. Dorinda Dutcher, September 12, 2018

“Spinzillita” and Club de Artesanas News

1st Group Visited, Spinning Week 2017, Huancarani

What to do with no 2018 Spinzilla for the Bolivian team Warmis Phuskadoras? Spinzillita (“Little Spinzilla”) is the answer! Doña Maxima, who has been the team captain the past 4 years, mentioned in a Skype call to PAZA that the team would like to spin during Spinning Week. The social aspects of Spinzilla Spinning Week are important to the weavers and by participating they have had skeins ready for the dye pots when the dye plants become abundant a few months later during the rainy season. The participants who spin but no longer weave have yarn to sell, which PAZA and the producing weavers snap up.

Group 2, Huancarani, 2017

Going through the annual routine of registering the participants, spinning during Spinzilla Week, having photo day in Huancarani, and measuring the results is an excellent learning opportunity for all involved. It will be Doña Maxima´s first opportunity to be 100% in charge without PAZA´s direct influence. The rural spinners are all famers and because Spinning Week falls during a lull in the agricultural calendar they are in the habit of happily dedicating the week to spinning and socializing.

Group 3, Huancarani, 2017

PAZA has estimated a budget of $400 for the local event, which includes 2 trips to Huancarani, extra wages, a trip to Cochabamba for Doña Maxima, and the annual prize for each participant. The budget for the annual prize will be between $3 and $5 per participant and one suggestion was for a mesh shopping bag. The prize is important as tangible recognition of the participants´ spinning skill and a reward for participating.

All Met at Soccer Field, Doña Narciza Had to Bring Her Goats, Spinzilla 2016

PAZA is working on securing a sponsor for Spinzilla 2019, who will be able to send a representative to Independencia with Dorinda for 2019 Spinning Week. Spinzilla would feel more “international” to the weavers if they could meet and interact with their TNNA sponsor. There has to be a TNNA member out there whose sponsorship of the Bolivian team will enhance their business while speaking to its mission and values.

Doñas Julia, Alicia, and Maxima, Spinning Week, Huancarani, 2015

Thanks, yet again, to Laverne Waddington who mentioned the weavings for sale on her blog, they literally flew out the door. All that is left in the U.S. inventory are more than 50 of the yoga mat straps and a few belts and guitar straps. Over half of the sales funds received were returned to Bolivia yesterday along with the next weaving order. Getting the weavings from Bolivia to Bozeman is a work in progress, but hopefully something will work out in time for holiday shopping. There will be another weaving order placed in January to ensure that the weavers have money to purchase school supplies when the academic year begins in February.

Group 1 Visited, Spinning Week, Huancarani, 2014

Doña Maxima continues to work on Tuesdays and Thursdays as the trainer for the Club de Artesanas. She has taught 2 young mothers in the neighborhood to weave. The Club members have been trying to draw locals into the PAZA store/workshop to purchase the bags made from cloth and backpack material they have been sewing to sell. They haven´t received many customers, but there is interest in the backpack design Vilma sewed and that her 8 year old daughter is carrying to school.

PAZA sent funds yesterday for the Club to purchase backpack material and sewing supplies so the women can sew and test designs. PAZA will continue to support the project for production of a few backpack designs for the next school year. The abysmal quality of the “made in China” children’s backpacks sold at the vendor stalls during market day is a crime against the mothers who are so challenged in finding the cash to pay for school supplies. There should be a local market for quality locally made backpacks and pencil bags created by the Club mothers with their and their children´s needs in mind.

Doñas Antonia, Casimira, and Maxima, Huancarani, 2014

PAZA has done no fundraising for activities since early in the year because of the transition of turning all management of the activities over to Doña Maxima. She is doing admirably. The Club activities continue and she´s organizing for Spinzillita with the rural weavers. She is preparing to manage the 2nd weaving order entirely on her own, which means she has nobody to fall back on if a weaving must be rejected due to inferior quality. PAZA activities average about $200 a month and the upcoming Spinzillita is budgeted at $400. PAZA activities in Independencia continue to move forward and the time has come to ask for financial assistance, please consider making a donation. Thank you. Dorinda Dutcher, July 31, 2018

Keeping the Momentum Going

Club de Artesanas Booth, 2015 with Veronica, Doña Maxima, and Zuni

Doña Maxima and the weavers in the Club de Artesanas (CdA) have been managing quite well since Dorinda’s departure from Independencia in mid-April. There was a flurry of activity prior to Independencia’s Feria de la Chirimoya (Harvest Fair) in May to make a variety of bags using material on which they’d cross-stitched or embroidered designs. That provided the Club´s vendor booth with some lower priced items alongside the traditional weavings for the local sales opportunity. Many of the Huancarani weavers were in town to exhibit and sell their chirimoyas (apple custards), mandarins, and avocados for the judging. Although the fruit sold well, the bags and weavings did not.

Doña Antonia (in pink) Exhibited Chimimoyas in Booth Next Door

The women continue to meet all day Tuesdays and Thursdays in their new workshop/store. It is a good location, so the Feria gave them some exposure as to the variety of goods offered for sale. PAZA continues to pay Doña Maxima a half day salary for 2 days a week, but their routine is set so they meet for the full day. Two young mothers who recently moved into the new nearby neighborhood joined the Club, learned to weave, and are waiting for their first order. Their first orders will be for yoga mat straps until Doña Maxima determines that they are ready to move onto the larger weavings. The Huancarani weavers are feeling a sense of abandonment, so PAZA will place an order at the end of July to reassure them and to keep up the momentum that took so many years to build.

Yoga Mat Straps

Please HELP! You can help PAZA by purchasing a weaving(s) from the U.S. inventory. That inventory is tying up 62% of PAZA´s revolving fund for the purchase of the weavings. There are 67 yoga mat straps in stock, so if you attend yoga classes please consider purchasing one for yourself and a few to give as gifts or to sell to yoga practicing friends. Weaving a yoga mat strap is the entry level for new weavers to realize that they have learned a skill that will help them pay for the expenses of raising their children. The sewing of the yoga mat straps pays Vilma, a single mother of 4, a per piece wage. The yoga mat straps are available in 2 sizes. The regular size is for a 1/8” thick yoga mat ($22) and the large size for a ¼” thick exercise mat ($23).

Weavings and Fajas Available for Purchase

Those of you who enjoy working with the hand spun natural dyed woven cloth to make your own creations will be pleased to know that there are 19 of the fajas ($38) (70” x 5” bands used in Laverne Waddington’s classes), 6 larger weavings ($68) which are 63” x 9.5”, and 12 straps ($18) which are 74” to 78” long and 1.5” wide available for purchase.

There are also pillow covers ($27-$35), guitar straps ($25), camera straps ($13), belts ($17), zippered pouches with ($17) and without wrist straps ($16), wallets ($16-$17), ch’uspitas ($17-$25) and 4 gorgeous ch’uspas (traditional shoulder bags at $65).

The Zippered Pouches are 5″ Wide x 8″ Long

Please e-mail your order inquires to Dorinda at dkdutcher@hotmail.com for item specifics, as each weaving is unique and there are no 2 items alike. Your order will help determine what should be included in the weaving order that will be given to Doña Maxima to distribute between the weavers at the end of this month.

Angelica´s Strap (right side), Maribel’s is 2nd from right

The last order to leave Independencia traveled to the U.S. with a former Peace Corps volunteer living with his family in Cochabamba. There was a surprise inside the box, and that was the first weaving order, a strap, woven by young Angelica. Angelica’s childhood is not a happy story, and a number of Huancarani weavers had tried to help her learn how to weave so she could earn money for herself and her younger siblings. PAZA gifted dyed skeins well over a year ago to that group effort. She is about 16 years old, with little education, and moved in with her partner’s family some months ago where she is blossoming. Twenty-one year old Maribel who has made enormous progress as a spinner and a weaver over the past 2 years brought Angelica to the PAZA store in early April and proudly explained the procedure for receiving weaving orders and completing them for payment. That strap in the box signifying a young woman from Huancarani living the farmer subsistence lifestyle had joined the community of weavers who are desperately trying to sustain their weaving tradition and care for their families in a cash economy sums up why PAZA was created in 2008 and why we have to keep this momentum going!

Maribel at Home, Huancarani

Thank you Lyn Lucas for your ongoing support in this time of transition as Doña Maxima takes over full responsibility for the Independencia activities and Dorinda supports the weavers from Bozeman, Montana. This should be the longest stretch between blog postings because PAZA´s long distance working relationship seems to be finding its stride.

A hug and thanks to Marian Leishman, Katie Simmons, and Kelsey Wiskirchen who have all helped manage the U.S. based weaving inventory through the years. Thank you Chris Behr for helping out with that last order, and hugs to you and your family. Dorinda Dutcher, July 15, 2018.

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

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

The Weavings of February

Musicians in Bayeta Pants Sporting Chulos, Chuspitas, and Aguayos

There was just a week between the beginning of the academic year and returning to vacation mode for the week of Carnaval. The Independencia Carnaval parade and dance competition is the best time to view traditional weavings. The traditional clothing is loosely woven wool (bayeta cloth) pants for the men and polleras (skirts) for the women. Last July, when asked about what topics to include in the Tinkuy presentation the women of Huancarani began talking about bayeta and their youth that preceded purchased ready to wear clothing. The men constructed the looms and wove the cloth. The women spun cotton for the heddle strings, which was the only time they spun cotton. Finding an example of a loom to take photos has so far proven elusive because of the tradition of burning the possessions of an individual upon their death.

New Carnaval Entry, The Peaked Chulos are Not Local

The small chuspitas (shoulder bags) served as pockets for the men to carry coca leaf, which most still chew when working in the fields as well as being part of Andean rituals. The chuspitas for celebrations such as Carnaval are always woven with brightly dyed acrylic yarn often with embedded double weave designs on the bag and the strap. A few of the male musicians sported old fajas (belts) of double weave. The male musicians and female dancers all wore aguayos (square cloth for carrying loads on one’s back) and the majority of them appeared to be the 2 piece handwoven aguayos as opposed to the one piece inexpensive factory made aguayo. The competing rural communities had around 20 minutes to play the piercingly shrill music and dance in the plaza for the judges, authorities and spectators.

Warming Up to Strike

This year all were treated to a new entry. Five men walked into the plaza in traditional clothing playing instruments. One had a pile of purple, red, and pink dyed sheep skins on his back. Hmmmm, very curious….  After a short interview in Quechua with a radio reporter the man bearing the sheepskins hefted them onto his head. One of his companions unwound a coil of unskinned leather from his waist. It was like a whip except for the small basket woven onto the end containing rocks. After a few overhead lasso type swings the basket of rocks

The Strike

smacked into the sheepskins. When the rock slinger missed he took the sheepskins to protect his head so that his friend could demonstrate his skill aiming and striking with the rock ended whip. Slings were the preferred weapons of the Incas and today a braided llama fiber sling can usually be spotted in the waistband of a rural woman out pasturing her sheep. Doña Maxima remembers that when she was a girl in Huancarani  slings were one of the trade items that the highland traders would bring when they arrived with their llama trains to trade for corn.

With a Big Smile Doña Maxima Poses with Her Aguayo

During Carnaval week, Doña Maxima was thrilled to finally finish the aguayo she began 10 months ago in the hope that it would debut at the Tinkuy last November. The weaving was slow going and she lamented more than once that she wished she had begun with just one column of embedded double weave designs in each half instead of two. The photo shows the 4 columns of embedded double weave design with the decorative stitch that joins the two woven halves of the aguayo together. She learned the technique from her mother-in-law and sister-in-law when she moved into their house with her husband at age 16. She said they were a family of weavers and she felt obligated to improve her weaving to their level.

The 4 Columns of Embedded Double Weave

A local non-profit organization that had partnered with Independencia´s cultural center held their 1st Feria of Artesanía Nativa in the plaza last Sunday. In January free acrylic yarn was handed out through the Organizations of Women in many communities and the Feria was an exhibition and sales opportunity for the results of the weaving with that yarn. The brightly colored made in China yarn was considered “gold” when it first made its appearance and began replacing the handspun aniline dyed local wool. Now the bright happy colors are considered traditional for Carnaval and other celebrations so there is a local market. Four of the Huancarani weavers

Feria of Weavings with Acrylic Yarn, Doña Justina is Smiling at the Far Right

had a table including Doña Justina who went to the Tinkuy. Her sales technique on her home ground was much more animated and she was pleased to have sold a belt and a chulo (Andean knitted cap with ear flaps). One observation was the low number of participants which could be a stark indication of the dwindling number of rural weavers.

The non-profit organization had approached PAZA about collaborating, but there would have been an unrealistic expectation for PAZA to provide the market. Looking back on 11 years of sales and marketing successes and failures PAZA is wary of partnering with any organization lacking sales experience. It was heartening to see an effort being made locally to support the rural weavers. Dorinda Dutcher, February 26, 2018