Cultural

Spinning Week Prep and Other News

Spinzilla Spinning Week 2017, Spinners Met in 3 Locations on Photo Day

July is registration month for Spinning Week which will be held October 11th through the 17th in Independencia, Bolivia. The Team Phuskadoras Alegres (Happy Women Who Spin with Drop Spindles) has won the past 2 years which is the sum of the years that team has existed. The Team Warmis Phuskadoras (Women Who Spin with Drop Spindles) was formed in 2014 to compete in Spinzilla, the incredible volunteer organized international spinning competition that ended in 2017 (and that still tugs at the heartstrings).

The Warmis grumbled at the 2020 Spinning Week prize awarding ceremony because they wanted the 1st place prize of a pollera (skirt). Each spinner can sign up on the team of her choice under Captain Justina Vargas for the original Warmis team or Doña Maxima, Captain of the newer team. The 2021 first-place prize will once again be a pollera, and if there´s grumbling the spinners will have to figure out what they deem an equitable team assignment process for 2022.

Knitting Machine Workshops in Huancarani

In mid-May, Doña Maxima and Vilma traveled to Huancarani to meet up with weavers interested in turning the abandoned classroom full of sewing and knitting machines into a functioning workshop. The workshop was given a good scrub. A broken window had allowed birds to find a home and dust to blow in. Replacing the glass is a problem because it must make the long trip from the city. Broken windows are usually covered with tin or wood, but many of the women are near-sighted so good lighting is imperative. A couple of the participants dropped out because of poor eyesight.

Around 2015, PAZA purchased and gave away about 4 dozen pairs of reading glasses. Doña Dionicia wouldn´t wear them because she connected them with being educated. She grew up when rural Bolivia was still divided into land grants awarded by the Spanish Crown. The attitude of the hacienda patron of the Huancarani area was that education would be wasted on girls, and that taint of being undeserving lingers. Both Doña Narciza and Doña Justina had retained reading glasses because they use them for weaving and so were able to complete their knitting machine projects. When travel is possible, PAZA will deliver more reading glasses to the weavers.

Chulos and Tank Tops were the 1st Projects in Huancarani

The Huancarani workshops were planned as a series of four. Three were 3 held in June. There wasn´t any interest in sewing, but all completed chulos (caps) and tank tops or sweaters on the knitting machines. The participants brought lunch, but it was almost time to head home before the group would stop to eat. Because the workshops were productive and resulted in a tangible return, the women´s husbands were willing to take over shepherding duty on workshop days. Doña Maxima always traveled with one or two current or a former Club de Artesanas member to help with the training. Each workshop provided 2 to 3 daily wages.

There will be a 2nd series of knitting machine workshops in Huancarani. Now that the women have used their communal equipment they are motivated to meet with the Organización de Varones (Men) of Huancarani to arrange a formal agreement for use of the abandoned classroom. The women are aware that they need to participate in the annual municipal budget process that will take place next month. They know that PAZA operates on a shoestring and that local government financial support for economic development should be available to them.

Lunch

July is the coldest month of the year, so the Huancarani women asked that the next series of PAZA workshops be held in August. During July, the Club de Artesanas members in Independencia will meet twice a week to plan for the next series of Huancarani workshops and design the tank tops or vests that will be the 2nd place Spinning Week prizes. They are currently figuring out how to size a knitting machine project to a person´s measurements and incorporate necks into the design. Daisy knitted a sweater for her son and it was a big hit at school because it was a minature “man´s” sweater.

Although Spinning Week is 3 months away, PAZA always begins the fundraising effort when registration opens. Spinning Week expenses average about $1,000 a year and include transportation for 2 trips to Huancarani, 1 trip to Sanipaya, wages, prizes, and the annual feast. The participants pay 5 Bs. (73 cents) to register and provide lunch during Spinning Week gatherings.  Please consider supporting La Semana de la Phuskadora 2021. Spinning Week recognizes and salutes these last generations of weavers whose self-identity is so intrinsically tied to their spinning and weaving skills.

Thank you, Lyn Lucas for your continuing support and for the weaving order! Dorinda Dutcher, July 5, 2021

Fiber Activities in Independencia

Arminda’s First Club Project

The once-a-week Club de Artesanas workshops have been productive. The 2 new members are young mothers and have been sewing and knitting clothing for their families by hand and machine. They’re encouraged by their husbands to participate in Club activities, in fact Daisy’s husband hitched a ride into the highlands at 6:00am one morning to harvest the flower masiq’o for a Club’s dye day. The Club is going to return to its original 2 day a week schedule of activities with a workspace for school-aged progeny to do their homework, including sewing projects. As with textile programs in the U.S., the quality of the fiber arts classes in the Independencia schools has diminished along with the status of textile skills. At the annual expositions there are fewer functional crocheted, knitted, and embroidered textiles and more lengths of cheaply purchased synthetic fabric with a hand painted stenciled design and labeled “tablecloth”.

The 2 new Club members are from the community of Sanipaya, and although exposed to the traditional weaving techniques they had not learned to weave. It seemed that they picked it up quickly from the weaving members in the Club until Daisy confessed that she unwove a strap three times in tears and frustration before seeking help from Doña Beatris. After overcoming that initial learning obstacle, she was on her way to weaving at a quality standard fit for the foreign market.

Vilma and Daisy Building Knitting Machine Skills
Doña Beatris Warping for a PAZA Order

Doña Maxima has been meeting with the Huancarani weavers when they are in Independencia for Sunday´s market day. They´d requested a cochineal dye day in Huancarani, but that was put on hold while Doña Maxima recovered from gall bladder surgery. Feeling ready to face the bumpy winding up and down drive to Huancarani she and her daughter Vilma traveled to Huancarani last Wednesday. The workshop was held on Doña Maxima´s property where a couple of rooms have been built and water is available at a spigot. She and Don Julio would have been empty nesters this year, except her youngest son had to sit out his senior year due to Covid but will graduate in December. They are considering returning to farm life in their home community.

The dye workshop attendance was small because many of the weavers had doubled their handspun yarn to 4-ply to weave wool blankets. The skeins will be dyed in bright synthetic colors and woven without motifs. Because the PAZA weaving orders have decreased over the past few years and there is no local market many weavers found other uses for their homespun yarn. A smaller group meant higher quality dye results. The last dye workshop in Huancarani was about 5 years ago and the dye baths were so overstuffed with skeins that nobody was happy with the results. That problem was solved by charging the weavers 14 cents per skein to have their dyeing done by the Club de Artesanas members in Independencia.

The weavers’ most anticipated annual event, Spinning Week, was discussed. The sequence of events follows the original Spinzilla Spinning Week schedule. The budget is estimated, and registration takes place in July. The spinners have 2 months to shear or purchase and prepare their fleece before the event begins the 1st week in October. The biggest expense is the prizes. There are 2 teams and all members of a 16-member team receive the same prize. The original Spinzilla Warmis Phuskadoras team was mainly made up of spinners from Huancarani, and they have not won the past 2 years since the 2nd team was formed.

Grinding Cochineal in Preparation for the Dye Bath
Washing Skeins in Preparation for Dyeing

The first-place prize last year was a pollera (skirt), which all the spinners coveted. The complaining continues, because a few of the Huancarani spinners were on the winning team and won a pollera. All would give anything to have the loudest complainer and highest producing spinner back. Doña Maxima said they spent time remembering Doña Casimira. Doña Justina lamented there was no way the team could ever win without her life-long friend and neighbor. It was suggested that perhaps the teams should be divided by placing all names in a sombrero. As a name is drawn out, the spinner would be assigned to a team, alternating the teams. One restriction on the prizes, is that they must be items that the Club de Artesanas members can make in the PAZA workshop thus earning some income.

There are weavings that need to be sold in the U.S. inventory, including 3 ch’uspas. Click this link to the last blog posting with those details. Hopefully, the 2 PAZA orders waiting for pick-up in Independencia will be in the U.S. in time for holiday sales. The PAZA fund for purchasing the weaving orders is tied up in inventory, so being able to place another order with the weavers is dependent on sales.

Thank you to Marjorie, Rob, and Lyn for your many years of support! The PAZA activities have continued this year thanks to a grant. Spinning Week and sales costs are not covered by that grant so are dependent on donations, and those expenses average about $1,400 a year. Donations may be made by using the “Donate” button on the PAZA blog site. Thank you for considering support of the Bolivian weavers by purchasing a weaving or donating. Dorinda Dutcher, May 13, 2021, dkdutcher@hotmail.com

Doña Narciza with Her Weaving for PAZA´s February Order
Club de Artesanas, April Dye Day Results, Misiq´o Dyed Skeins (Orange) Behind the Cochineal Reds and Pinks

A Glance Back and Looking Forward

Marleny Earning Income Knitting the 2nd Place Spinning Week Prizes, Sept 2020

February is the beginning of the Bolivian academic year and has become the opportune time for the Club de Artesanas (CdA) annual registration. The Club was sorry to see Claudia and Marleny leave after bringing their 30-something perspectives and humor to two years of Club activities. Although they´d grown up around weavers in their home community of Sanipaya, they didn’t learn to weave until joining the Club. They were quick learners and within a year were weaving to a quality standard for the foreign market. Doña Maxima commented on the quality of Claudia´s weavings, that combined the fineness of the handspun yarn spun by Claudia´s mother and Claudia´s increasing weaving skill. They spent much of the past year on their family farms in Sanipaya, but participated in PAZA activities including Spinning Week, personal fiber arts projects, PAZA´s 1 weaving order, and earning income by sewing and knitting the Spinning Week prizes. Both women owned knitting machines and shared their skills with the other Club members so all could earn an income knitting the sleeveless tops that were the 2nd place Spinning Week prizes.

Maribel’s 1st Aguayo Woven with Help from her Mother-In-Law, 2019

For 2021, Doña Maxima and the 3 remaining Club members have welcomed Maribel, who was the youngest weaver in Huancarani. Maribel and her husband moved to Independencia so that their son Daniel could begin 1st grade. Maribel´s family lives in Independencia and she´d been a Club member for a few months before moving to Huancarani while she and her husband, still in their teens, tried to figure out life as a couple and as new parents. She´s received a lot of “press” in this blog because of her success story in becoming a weaver over the past 5 years. Maribel is the Secretary for the Centro de Artesanía Huancarani (CAH) fulfilling a much-needed role in writing and maintaining the legal records.

Maribel, CAH Secretary, Annual Meeting, Huancarani, 2020

The 2nd vacant Club membership was filled by Arminda, a friend of Maribel’s and a young mother of four. The members of the Club always have ongoing fiber arts projects and through the years they have knitted, crocheted, and sewn clothing for their children. Arminda comes from a remote mountain community close to Cochabamba, so has no family support in Independencia. She had no knowledge of weaving motifs and learned so quickly from Doña Maxima that she´s already been paid for weaving a strap for the February PAZA weaving order. She was thrilled with the payment which enabled her to buy school supplies for her eldest daughter. Arminda´s husband will not support a child he didn’t father, which unfortunately is all too common in the rural Andes. A PAZA weaving order is always placed in February to ensure the weavers have cash in hand to purchase school supplies.

Not Having Classes, Chicas Participated in Club Activities, 2020

Because of the Covid quarantine the Club members held only 2 dye days last year, and didn´t dye any skeins for the Huancarani weavers. The new Club members lack natural dyed skeins, but they are dyeing as this blog is being written. Yesterday suyku was collected from the higher elevations for dye pots in gold, bronze, and green. The 2nd dye pot was with cochineal with alum as the mordant for a hue range from red to pink. At the request of the Huancarani weavers a cochineal dye workshop will be scheduled later this month in that community.

Pouches, Fajas, Straps, and Yoga Mat Straps Currently Available for Sale

The Bolivian weavings that are in the U.S. inventory are available for purchase during the month of March. Inquiries may be by contacting dkdutcher@hotmail.com. The finished products include 5” x 8” zippered pouches ($17) ($18 with wrist strap) and yoga mat straps ($22 for 1/8” depth mat) ($23 for ¼” depth mat). The lengths of cloth available for weavers who’d like to create their own products are the 70” x 5” fajas ($41) used in Laverne Waddington’s classes and 78” x 1.5” straps ($21).

Spinning Week Prizes, 1st Place Polleras (Skirts on left), 2nd Place Blusas (on right), Huancarani, 2020

The weavers of the Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani held their annual meeting in January to approve pricing for 2021. They also feasted and held the Spinning Week prize awarding ceremony. Hopefully, travel is possible this year so that the PAZA orders can be picked-up and more photos taken and tales collected.

PAZA´s bank account reached an alarming low last year. It was difficult to ask for support for Bolivian weavers when the entire world was finding too much need close to home.

Today’s Dye Day Results

Thanks to the support of an old friend, PAZA received a grant for 2021 that ensures the Club and rural activities will continue. Funds will need to be raised for Spinning Week. The grant enables PAZA to purchase new workshop equipment including a 2nd knitting machine and to

replace two failing portable sewing machines. Thank you, Lyn Lucas, for your ongoing support; you were PAZA’s “rock” last year. Thank you to PAZA’s new friends in Anchorage for your interest and support of the Bolivian weavers. Dorinda Dutcher, March 2, 2021

In Memory of Doña Casimira

Spinning Week, 2015, She Won Spinning 3,330 Yards

PAZA has said a bittersweet farewell to Huancarani weaver Doña Casimira, who passed away of unknown causes in January. She had an indomitable spirit having outlived 3 husbands and at the age of 69 was living alone and working her farm. Some years ago, her adult children tried to move her to the Chapare, the tropical eastern side of the state of Cochabamba, but her roots pulled her back to the Andes. Late last year they tried again and took her to her daughter´s house in the tropics for a visit from which she would not return.

Happy with Natural Dye Workshop Results, 2011 (on left)

Doña Maxima broke the unexpected news and eulogized Doña Casimira by her skills as a spinner and weaver. They are the last generations who will describe each other in those terms, it is how they´ve identified themselves and related to each other their entire lives. Doña Casimira was one of the 10 founders of the Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani and hung in there during the 2 years it took for PAZA to facilitate the process to be established as a legal entity under the State of Cochabamba.

Spinning Week, 2014 (in middle)

She won Spinning Week 3 years out of 7 and ranked in the top 5 of the spinners the other years. In 2020, she came in second, spinning 4,541 meters which is her 2nd highest results. She was displeased about the Huancarani team taking 2nd place the past 2 years, and quite vocal about preferring a pollera (skirt) to the 2nd place blusa (knitted sleeveless top). The prize awarding ceremony didn´t take place until after she left for the tropics. The blusas were fitted to the recipient, a color of their choosing, and more work than the polleras, so in the end she probably would have been pleased with her prize. However, her remarks were enough to begin dialog about how to better mix up the teams for equitable strengths and weaknesses for Spinning Week 2021.

Laverne Waddington´s Workshop, Huancarani, 2017 (in pink sweater)

Her spinning was fine and consistent which resulted in her weavings being fine. She warped color combinations which were striking and unique. It was obvious she had a love for weaving, but it competed with the daylight hours needed for farm chores, so she was not a prolific weaver. Anyone who has purchased one of her weavings should hold it dear. She was born into a hard life the year before the Agrarian Reform ended the feudal system established by the Spanish crown. Although the world has seen many changes since 1951, that can´t be said for those living the farmer subsistence lifestyle in the remote corners of it. One can’t help but wonder how her talents and creativity would have been realized if she’d been born into different circumstances. Doña Casimira, you will be missed. May your well-deserved rest be in peace. Dorinda Dutcher, February 27, 2021

Often used photos of Doña Casimira weaving in front of her home, 2010

Spinning Week Tales

Doña Sebastiana, Mid-Week, Huancarani

The 7th Annual Semana de las Phuskadoras (Week of the Women Who Spin with Drop Spindles) began the first Monday in October The median age of the team Warmis Phuskadoras (Women Who Spin with Drop Spindles) is 57, and they all live in the rural community of Huancarani. Their spinning and weaving rivalries date back to pre-adolescence and have not mellowed with the years. Few have smart phones and the mountainous region makes for poor cell phone service so they can’t check in on each other virtually.

Gathering Mid-Week, East Side of Huancarani

In 2014, the first year of Spinning Week the spinners asked that a meeting be organized mid-week so that they could check each other’s progress. That mid-week check evolved from meeting at the church to a morning gathering on the west side of Huancarani, and an afternoon gathering on the east side. Spinners living on the west side with no shepherding responsibilities pile into the truck contracted by PAZA to head to the east side for a communal lunch and social afternoon before walking and spinning their way back home.

After the week of spinning, the measuring began in Huancarani. Doña Maxima, coordinated the logistics and contracted her husband to do the driving. Her daughter Vilma and Vilma’s 3 daughters rode along as well. Vilma was paid to work all day measuring and her 2 oldest girls who in past years were in school helped with the measuring and took turns tending their new baby sister. Maribel who is the youngest spinner and weaver in Huancarani was also paid to help out. Besides the 16 members of the Warmis Phuskadoras, there were 5 Huancarani spinners on the competing team, the Phuskadoras Alegres (Happy Women Who Spin with a Drop Spindle). The total of 21 spinners spun 49,148 meters (39”), but because the yarn was doubled, the measuring teams only had to measure half that amount. The measuring is done 1 meter at a time along 2 sides of the measuring table, or between marks on a wall or any available piece of furniture. It´s an all-day activity, but fun so those who can arrive early and stay until the end.

Doña Rufina, Right, 1st Place, Sanipaya

The following day the truck was again loaded up in Independencia with the measuring paraphernalia including the table and chairs plus beef to be cooked for lunch. There is no refrigeration in the rural communities, so the beef delivery was a treat for the 6 spinners in Sanipaya. Doña Beatris splits her time between her farm and her home in Independencia where her son lives to attend school. In 2014, when the Cloth Roads sponsored Spinzilla team Warmis Phuskadoras was formed, not enough spinners registered to fill the 25-member team.

Doña Casimira, Right, 2nd Place, Huancarani

Doña Beatris who´s a member of the Club de Artesanas said she had friends in Sanipaya who wanted to join the team. She has organized that group through the years; and hosts the measuring team at her home. The 2 newest members of the Club de Artesanas live in Independencia but have spent much of the COVID quarantine on their family farms in Sanipaya. They were there for measuring day, so by day´s end all of the Spinning Week yarn had been measured.

The results for each spinner were tallied on a notebook page, with a tally mark made for every 5 yards measured. Doña Maxima photographed each page with her cell phone and sent the photos to Dorinda in the U.S. to calculate the results. A photo of the results was returned.

Tally Sheet, 1 Mark for 5 Yards, 1 Square Equals 25 Yards

The team Phuskadoras Alegres won by spinning 42,748 meters (close to a yard). In 2018, the measuring was changed from yards as required by Spinzilla to the metric system used in Bolivia. Doña Rufina, from Sanipaya who is Doña Beatris´s mother came in first place for the 2nd year in a row by spinning 4,900 meters. The team Warmis Phuskadoras spun a total of 37,562 meters. Doña Casimira took 1st place on that team by spinning 4,541 meters. She has won 3 out of 7 competitions and her best year was 2017 when she spun the-all-time high of 5,072 yards. She admitted to taking a day off from spinning this year.

Measuring Day, Huancarani

Spinning Week will wrap up in December when all the Huancarani spinners receive their prizes after the annual Centro de Artesania, Huancarani meeting and feast. Between now and then the Club de Artesanas members are busy making the prizes which are polleras (skirts) for all members of the 1st place team and knitted sleeveless tops for the 2nd place team members.

Thank you Lyn Lucas for your ongoing support of the Bolivian weavers. The PAZA activities continue monthly and that comes at a cost. Please consider using the “Donate” button on the blog to support the activities that encourage the weavers to continue to spin and weave maintaining their textile heritage. Thank you, Dorinda Dutcher, November 14, 2020

The Spirit of Spinzilla Echoes in the Andes

Spinzilla, Huancarani, 2016

The two teams of Bolivian spinners are adamant that there will be a Spinning Week the first week of October. Few have flocks anymore, so instead of shepherding and spinning daily they depend on Spinning Week to spin a year’s worth of yarn for their natural dyed traditional weavings. Planning and thinking about La Semana de las Phuskadoras (The Week of the Women Who Spin with Drop Spindles) is providing a joyful distraction from civil unrest and COVID worries. The spinners have decided on this year’s prizes for the 2 teams, and they aren’t a repeat of past awards.

Petticoats Have Been Awarded Twice, Huancarani, 2016

The prize for each spinner on the 1st place team will be a pollera (traditional skirt). Each pollera takes 3-4 meters of material, depending on the number of pleats. The prize for the 2nd place team and abuelitas, who always spin but never want to register as a participant, will be a knitted sleeveless top. The members of the Club de Artesanas will make all the prizes, and they´re thrilled to be able to earn some income. The Club members have crocheted many tops as projects, but that´s not practical for income generation.

Club Members Have Wanted a Knitting Machine for Years. Reyna & Mary’s Crochet Projects, 2015

For years, Vilma, Doña Maxima´s daughter and long-time Club member, has been making polleras to sell so will serve as the Club’s trainer. She learned from her husband who had worked in his sister´s workshop in the city. Vilma began earning income by sewing polleras for rural women who had been gifted pollera material by the municipal government. Two new members of the Club own knitting machines which they bought through a development program run by the local cultural center. They will serve as the Club’s trainers for the other members. Doña Maxima has arranged for PAZA to purchase a knitting machine through the cultural center.

Distributing Gifts of Petticoat & Pollera Material, Pucara, 2009

She is borrowing a fourth knitting machine from the Organization of Mujeres de Huancarani, and that is a monumental step forward. The annual municipal budget has a line item for the development of women’s crafts.  In 2008, a Bolivian non-profit organization led the women leaders of all the municipal Organizations of Mujeres through the process to increase that budget substantially and spend it effectively. That one instance of training wasn’t sufficient for the women to continue being proactive in managing their annual budget. Over the next few years the budget decreased and government officials decided how the funds would be spent. All of the Organizations of Mujeres received treadle, electric, and industrial sewing machines and knitting machines, although electricity is still not accessible to all parts of the rural communities. For a number of years the members of the Organizations received material for polleras, blouses, and petticoats as well as synthetic yarn. What was never included was training to use the equipment. Much of it has sat abandoned for years.

Doña Maxima Eyeing Her Gifts of Material, Huancarani, 2010

Storage for the equipment belonging to the Organization of Mujeres de Huancarani is an empty schoolroom. Because of former President Evo Morales anti-foreigner rhetoric the Organizations of Mujeres quit working with PAZA in 2010, although Doña Maxima is a member. Today, the Organization of Mujeres in Huancarani is no longer active. Doña Maxima deemed that the time was ripe to start putting the equipment to use. She asked to borrow the knitting machine with the promise to return it and teach classes. Although PAZA´s objectives have always been to train local trainers and empower women through the fiber arts it is Spinning Week that has proven to be the perfect activity for meeting those objectives and reaching more women. Their current challenge is to determine how to safely hold Spinning Week in these times of COVID.

Doña Dioncia Sorting Out Snarled Yarn, Measuring Day, Huancarani 2015

PAZA and the rural women are eternally grateful for what began in 2014 when Cloth Roads sponsored the Warmis Phuskadoras so that the team could enter Spinzilla. Thank you to those of you who dreamed up and organized Spinzilla as well as to those who participated as sponsors and spinners. Laughter rings off the mountains as it continues in spirit as an extraordinarily fun week of spinning camaraderie in the Bolivian Andes.

The 1st Group of Club Chicas Learned to Weave. Of the 2nd Group, Only Veronica Attempted to Learn, 2017

How to encourage the Club´s chicas to advance their weaving skills has been under consideration. Zuni, Doña Maxima´s granddaughter, has expressed a desire to weave to sell now that she´s learned numerous motifs using body tension to weave narrow straps. All of the weavings that PAZA buys must be woven on a leaning frame loom. Last week it was decided that any of the chicas who complete their first project on a leaning frame loom to Doña Maxima´s satisfaction will receive a cash prize. Doña Maxima is working on the dimensions for that project and the amount to be awarded. As a girl, it was young Maxima´s spirit of competition with the other girls in Huancarani that motivated her to progress as a weaver.

Vilma Sews the Yoga Mat Straps & Pouches, PAZA Workshop, 2016

A belated thank you to all of you who purchased weavings in May! You helped to greatly reduce the inventory so that the funds collected were returned to Bolivia in July with a new weaving order. There are still zippered pouches ($17, $18 with wrist strap), fajas (70” x 5” lengths of cloth, $41), straps, (75” x 1.5”, $20), and yoga mat straps ($22 for a ¼” thick sticky mat, and $23 for a 1/8” thick mat) for sale. Hopefully, one day Zuni´s weavings will be in the U.S. inventory

An All Time Favorite Photo, Spinzilla, Huancarani, 2014

Meeting the Spinning Week budget is looking promising as $650 of the projected $800 has been received. Thank you Patty, Irene, Margaret, Constance, Rob, Sandra, and Sue for your generosity in these uncertain times to ensure that the expenses don´t impact PAZA´s other activities. Any financial support that exceeds Spinning Week´s budget will go towards the purchase of the knitting machine ($175), supplies for the training workshops, and the monthly operating expenses for the Club de Artesanas which are averaging $220 per month this year. If you’d like to support La Semana de las Phuskadoras and the Club, please use the donate button on the blog. Thank you. It was great fun going through the photo archives for this posting. Dorinda Dutcher, September 1, 2020, http://www.pazaboliviablog.com

Club de Artesanas & Spinning Week

The First Club Workshop was a Spinnig Class, 2010

The birth of the Club de Artesanas in 2010 was the silver lining following the politically motivated public humiliation of Doña Maxima, a local, and Dorinda, an American, which ended collaboration with the municipal government of Independencia. The partnership was a continuation of Dorinda’s time as a Peace Corps volunteer and was a program offering a series of natural dye workshops in rural communities and assistance in the sales of traditional weavings.

Volunteer Kelsey Introduced the Chicas to Sewing Patterns and All Made Skirts, 2010

Three of the original four chicas in the Club were interviewed in the first documentary listed in this blog’s sidebar. They all learned to weave, and although they had a sewing class in high school they made many of their clothes on the Club’s sewing machines and through Club crochet projects. The volunteer program began at the same time, and the exposure to foreigners and working on projects not otherwise available to them was empowering. They were 11 to 12 years old when they joined the Club, and turned their interest to other

Reyna with a Completed Club Project, 2013

activities around the age of 16. All of them graduated high school, which is notable due to the lingering belief that there is little value in education girls. They all left Independencia and two of them earn an income through sewing. Reyna was the only original teen who wore the traditional pollera and blouse. She earned a wage on Saturdays during her senior year as the trainer for the younger girls in the Club. After graduation she switched to jeans before moving to the city, and later migrated to Argentina.

For 8 years, the Club had a lot of foreign influence, and the time seemed right in 2018 to turn it over to Doña Maxima and the members. The Club members continue to meet once a week. Dorinda (PAZA) continues to fundraise to cover the expenses of rent, Doña Maxima´s wage, and the Club´s activities and projects.

Weaving Circle, 2020

Three new 30-something members have joined since 2018, and although they’d had exposure to traditional weaving all their lives in their home communities of Sanipaya, they learned to weave from Doña Maxima. Thanks to the generous support of followers of this blog who responded to the last blog and placed orders for weavings, an order and funds were sent to Independencia in July. Two of the new Club members have attained the quality standard required for the orders.

Doña Marleny Grinding Cochineal, 2019

The 3 day natural dyeing extravaganza during Dorinda´s April 2019 visit was an intensive learning experience for the new members. Because skeins were dyed for the Huancarani weavers all have enough dyed skeins for 2020. Cochineal was purchased in 2019, and ground in a grain mill in anticipation of another round of dye days during the rainy season of 2020. Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, that did not happen and the Club met virtually between March and late June.

Zuni Crochets, and Doña Bea Lays Out Her Cubrecama (Bed Cover) Pieces, 2020

In July, the Club began meeting again in the PAZA workshop with 4 to 5 women and 4 chicas in attendance. The time has been split between sewing and crochet projects and traditional weaving. Zunilda (Zuni), who is Doña Maxima´s 11 year old granddaughter and Zoraida´s daughter has shown the most interest in the Club activities. As a toddler and little girl she slept away many an afternoon on a makeshift bed under PAZA´s vendor tables at craft fairs in Cochabamba. Her family lives in the city, but they have spent most of the past 6 months in Independencia. Zuni has woven numerous narrow weavings to learn the motifs, and announced that she´s ready to weave to sell, and would like to earn 130 Bs. by weaving a strap. The weavings purchased by PAZA have to be woven on a standing frame loom because using body tension to weave tends to lead to uneven edges. To encourage Zuni to tackle the standing frame loom, and so that she can serve as an example for the other chicas, a price will be set and funds sent to purchase her initial attempts.

Doña Claudia Warping a Weaving for a PAZA Order

Two of the new Club members participated in La Semana de las Phuskadoras (The Week of Women Who Spin) last year. They were on the team Phuskadoras Alegres with the 6 long-time participants of Sanipaya. It appears that the event will eventually become a competition between the spinners of Huancarani and those of Sanipaya, which can be viewed in the far distance to the north of Huancarani. The team Phuskadoras Alegres won last year. It was the first time the original Spinzilla team Warmis Phuskadoras had local competition.

Zuni Weaving with Assistance from Doña Claudia

This year’s Spinning Week is scheduled for October 5th to the 11th.  Of the 2 teams of 16 spinners, there are only 3 slots remaining to be filled. It is the second time the event will be managed by Doña Maxima, Doña Justina, Doña Beatris and members of the Club with no foreign influence. The budget is set for $800, and the organizers are tasked with figuring out what to do about prizes this year. The recognition of the spinners’ skills through the tangible awarding of prizes is important. The participants of the first place team will win a prize worth 100 Bs. ($14.50), and the value of the 2nd place prizes is set at 30 Bs. ($4).

The Club´s Annual Fiesta de Don Jorge, 2019

Support for the Club de Artesanas and Spinning Week may be made by using the “Donate” button on the blogsite, https://pazaboliviablog.com/. Thank you Lyn Lucas for your unwavering support of PAZA that has allowed the Club to carry on through the years. Thank you and hugs to George Dutcher (Don Jorge) who’s been supportive in so many ways. Thank you and hugs to Joyce Dutcher for contributing to the “Family Fund” that is used exclusively for placing and purchasing the weaving orders.  Dorinda Dutcher, August 22, 2020

Rustic Loom Tales

Doña Narciza’s Passion for Weaving, 2014

Weavers in the Andean highlands enjoy the meditative comfort of their long practiced skill in quiet moments free of home and farm chores, children, and other distractions. Their rustic looms (leaning frame) are propped up outside against a wall for light and to accommodate the 12 foot length. If the space isn’t sheltered with an eave or a roof as in a 3-sided shed, then the weaver doesn’t weave during the rainy season. The looms are quickly and simply made by trimming and notching 2 saplings and cutting them to equal lengths of around 12 feet. There are few photos in the PAZA archives and most were staged because of the rare opportunities of finding a weaver at her loom. PAZA’s first visit to Doña Narciza´s home on the far east side of Huancarani wasn´t until Spinzilla Spinning Week 2014 provided a reason and it was possible because a crude road had been bulldozed to that area. She had 2 chuspa straps of llama fiber on her loom. You can see in her expression her joy in weaving, a passion established early in life.

Vanishing Sight of a Weaving in Progress, Kami, 2007

When one gets a glimpse of a weaving in progress, it’s most often a phullu (blanket). They are the easiest and quickest to weave, as the yarn is thick and there are no motifs. The handspun wool is dyed with cheap aniline dye and runs when washed. For generations, a rural woman’s reputation was established while a girl based on her spinning and weaving skills. There are no secrets in the small rural communities, so any woman known to not weave at the least phullus for her family was branded a sluggard.

Doña Maxima´s 2010 Weaving Is In PAZA´s Textile Collection

Weaving the finer weavings on the rustic loom requires upper body strength to beat down the weft with a “wichuna” which is a carved llama bone tool. Doña Maxima has struggled with health issues since prior to the birth of

Doña Maxima, 2013 Tinkuy, Cusco, Peru

her 4th child who turned 20 this month. In 2010, PAZA took photos of her at her loom weaving what was to be her last weaving for 3 years. Her recovery from minor surgery was slow and at times she was uncertain as to whether she´d ever weave again. Good fortune smiled on her and by 2013 she felt strong enough to weave and to travel. In November of that year she was invited by the Center of Traditional Textiles to do a weaving demonstration at the 2013 Tinkuy International Weaving Conference in Cusco, Peru.

Doña Margarita Had Set Up Supports for Her Loom, Chuñavi Chico, 2011

In 2011, a Bolivian nonprofit organization encouraged PAZA to pursue “Hecho a Mano” (Made By Hand) certification for the traditional weavings. The government certification process required an inspection, and it took 3 months before an inspector could make the long bus trip requiring an overnight to Independencia. PAZA was working with 3 rural communities at that time and Chuñavi Chico being the closest was chosen for the inspection site. It was a wonderful photo opportunity because the weavers had been asked to be at their looms for the walk through. The inspector, being city-born, was duly impressed with the intensive hands on process from sheep to weaving. Unfortunately, an inspection for recertification to ensure no mechanization had been added to the process was required every 6 months. The agency had neither the funding nor the manpower for a second visit to certify an eons old traditional “Hecho a Mano” craft.

With each passing year, there are fewer rural weavers further reducing the chances of getting a photo of a weaving in progress. In 2006, Dorinda purchased 2 used and faded phullus for $22 each to use as rugs on the cold cement floors from her landlady Doña Filaberta. She no longer wove, and the poles of her loom laid in a storage shed until her husband repurposed them to serve as a railing on the way to the outdoor water closet.

Faja in Progress, Doña Toribia´s Potato Storage Shed, Huancarani, 2008

Thank you to those of you who have inquired as to how the weavers are doing and what can be done to support them. During the weekly video chats with Doña Maxima she reels off a list of names of weavers who have asked if PAZA has sent a weaving order. Many adult children returned to the family farms prior to the national lockdown. Marleny, a member of the Club de Artisans, told Doña Maxima that her parents are accommodating her siblings and 22 grandchildren on the family farm in Sanipaya. Although the bartering system is still in common use, some staples and seed for next year’s crops will require a cash transaction. After 2 months in quarantine and the return of unemployed adult children and their families to the farms, there is little cash remaining in rural households.

PAZA would like to be able to send a weaving order by July, but must sell inventory already in the U.S. to be able to fund an order. Like so many supporters of artisans in communities in need around the world, PAZA was heavily relying on craft fair sales this year, specifically the Weave a Real Peace (WARP) Marketplace  which was scheduled for May in Bozeman. Dorinda was the 2020 WARP Meeting Planning Chair and continues with the planning for next year.

Weavings For Sale in U.S.

The finished products are zippered pouches ($17, or $18 with wrist strap) and yoga mat straps ($22 for 1/8”  sticky mat or $23 for ¼” thick exercise mat). The weavings for DIY projects are straps (78×1.5”, $21), fajas (used in Laverne Waddington’s classes and are 70” x 5”, $41), and larger weavings used for the zippered pouches (63” x 9.5”, $73). The total cost of the weavings is returned to Bolivia. Ninety percent of the cost was paid to the weavers, and they set pricing annually. Ten percent helps pay the rent for PAZA´s workshop/store and Doña Maxima´s wage on Sundays to open the store and attend to the rural weavers. Please send purchase inquiries to dkdutcher@hotmail.com.

Thank you Lolita for your recent PAZA support and thank you Ginny – enjoy the weavings! Dorinda Dutcher, May 21, 2020

Quarantine in Independencia

Doña Maxima & Vilma Collecting Suyku, 2019

In the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, March arrived like a lamb and roared out like a lion. When Dorinda bade farewell to Doña Maxima and the weavers following November’s Spinning Week, the plan was to reunite in April for the annual intensive dyeing sessions that takes advantage of the rainy season dye plants. Doña Maxima and the Club de Artesanas members did make a trip to the higher altitudes when the misiqó flower was at its peak and easily harvested in clumps and the suyku plant was still in bloom for a dye pot of the leaves and another of the flowers.

Produce Section, Sunday Market

Sundays are market day in Independencia, and Doña Maxima attends the PAZA workshop/store because the Huancarani weavers are in town. It´s always a good day for a WhatsApp video chat with Doña Maxima and maybe one or more of the weavers. During a call on Sunday, March 15th, Doña Maxima was aware of the Coronavirus, but her only comment on the topic was to report that because schools was cancelled her daughter Zoraida and 2 granddaughters had arrived from the city for an extended stay. A week later it was Doña Maxima who made the call due to heightened awareness and anxiety of the Coronavirus. She reported that Independencia was jammed with vehicles from the cities, filled with supplies and folks headed to their rural communities and family farms.

Sunday Shoppers on Market Day

On March 22nd Bolivia´s interim President Jeanine Añez, instituted a national quarantine through April 4th. The borders closed at midnight and a curfew was set. The curfew allows 1 person per household to leave the house for family errands between 7am and noon. The police patrol the streets and a steep fine for breaking the curfew is set at 1,000 Bs. ($144).

Katie’s 2011 Volunteer Year & Original Club de Chicas Above Road to Sanipaya

On Saturday, March 28th, Doña Maxima made a video call to express her worry that the trucks would not be arriving from the countryside with produce for Sunday´s market. Due to the quarantine, it was inevitable that there would be no Sunday market. In trying to accept that reality of this extraordinary time she did not want to believe the news until it could be verified from her own experience. She called from her home on Sunday to report that there was no Sunday market and that no cargo trucks had arrived with the vendors and produce. After a lifetime of Sunday markets, her expression asked, “How can this be?” It is fall in the Southern Hemisphere and the beginning of harvest. The impact of the Coronavirus may be devastating for the Andean agriculture based economy.

Sanipaya Road, 2008

The Club de Artesanas members formed a WhatsApp group a year ago, and used that method of communication to “meet” the first Tuesday of the quarantine and share their projects. Last week Club members, Claudia and Marleny along with their children headed on foot to their family farms in the distant community of Sanipaya. It´s a long walk up the mountains, along the range, and down into Sanipaya, so they could not have carried much more than food and beverages to sustain their efforts.

Farming in Sanipaya, 2019

Today, Doña Maxima´s daughter Vilma called to check in. Although the 2 families only live a block apart they have to maintain the curfew. She said that 3 local truck drivers have been given a special dispensation to haul staples such as rice, noodles, and cooking oil from the cities. They have not been able to carry sufficient gas canisters to meet the demand for cooking stoves. Vilma said some of her family escaped the curfew last night in her father´s truck to go to Huancarani to collect firewood and harvest potatoes on their farm. The other 2 items that are becoming scarce are gasoline and the telephone company´s credit scratch cards required for phone service.

Doña Maxima Helping Her Neighbor Mary with Firewood Load, 2009

Vilma stated that the city of Oruro is quarantined so tightly that, “not even a fly is flying”. Time will tell if the decisive strict lockdown measures of interim President Añez´s government were in time. On March 22, there were 22 reported cases of Coronavirus in Bolivia. As of today there are 132 reported cases with 9 deaths, although with such a large rural population without health posts it´s possible the actual figures will tell a different story.

Five years ago, neither Doña Maxima nor Dorinda had a smart phone (Doña Maxima got hers first). Both are thankful to be able to check on each other through a video chat. The resilience of humans will weather this crisis, and the silver lining is it has forced us to reach out to each other regularly connecting us with our humanity.

Passengers Offload and Slop Through the Mud on Narrow Corners

A huge thank you to Ginny Chrisenton a PAZA supporter who sent the following link of Noarly, a Dutcher motorcycle adventurer’s, foray through Independencia. Ginny spotted Doña Maxima in the video (it took Dorinda 2 viewings). There is footage of Noarly driving down the street past the Sunday market. Since Dorinda´s first visit in 2006, the dirt road from Independencia to the tarmac has been greatly improved by the widening of many of the curves. There are still 3 scary landslide spots. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jp_3z5dxWI&list=UUEIs9nkveW9WmYtsOcJBwTg&index=5&t=0s

Thank you to Lyn Lucas for your long years of support for the Bolivian weavers. Thank you Marjorie for you gentle hint that the blog was been idle much too long. And to Jane and her Angel a great big hug. And to all please be safe, Wishing You Good Health! Dorinda Dutcher, April 3, 2020, dkdutcher@hotmail.com

Spinning Week Measuring, Sanipaya

Plow Team, Sanipaya

Doña Beatris, long-time member of the Club de Artesanas, splits her time between Independencia and farming in her home community of Sanipaya. She has organized the Sanipaya based Spinning Week participants for the 5 out of 6 years that they´ve participated. Doña Bea was in Sanipaya when blockades were thrown up at the crossroads to protect the community the evening word spread that marauding motorcycle groups were moving through the countryside burning vehicles and public works built during President Evo Morales’s +13 years in office. The Sanipaya blockades were up for a week.

Carrying the Measuring Equipment to Doña Bea´s

The red Toyota truck with Don Julio at the wheel, Doña Maxima riding shotgun, and Vilma, Claudia, and Dorinda in the backseat was on the road to Sanipaya the morning after the blockades were lifted. The bed of the truck held the measuring table, chairs, short stools, a couple of men headed to Huancarani and Vilma´s husband. Sanipaya lies another 45 minutes west of the turnoff to descend to Huancarani. Not so long ago, Sanipaya offered schooling through high school, today there are only 2 teachers who teach up through 4th grade. Older students must study at one of the two schools in Independencia. Piles of rocks and downed trees that had formed the blockades remained on the road in 3 places with a path cleared for motor cycles and small vehicles to pass around one end.

Doña Maxima and Claudia Measuring

The measuring paraphernalia was quickly unloaded and carried across a path through a plowed field to Doña Bea´s house. Vilma´s husband trotted down the mountainside to join his parents in harvesting potatoes. Birds sang and flitted overhead under the sunny sky, the peaceful pastoral vista soothing after the long week of wild rumors and political tension in town.

Doña Bea Resting a Hand on 1 of her 2 Looms

Doña Maxima, Claudia, and Dorinda made up two measuring teams, and Vilma and Don Julio made up a third, as Doña Bea had a table that conveniently measured 1 meter in length. It was during the chatting, laughing, and measuring that the team “Sin Nombre” (without a name) became the team Phuskadoras Alegres (Happy Spinners of Drop Spindles). The gathering was all the more merry because it had been cancelled a week prior and the possibility arose that the yarn would have to travel to Independencia at some point to be measured. All the spinners like to keep an eye on the measuring and tallying as they rewind their yarn into balls or skeins. The Sanipaya spinners weren´t invited to compete in last year´s Spinning Week which was a transitional year from being a sponsored Spinzilla team to what is developing into a competitive local event.

Fava Bean Purchase

Doña Bea prepared a lunch spread of boiled potatoes, noodles, fried eggs, and a salad of thin sliced onions and 4 cans of sardines. After lunch, all helped move the furniture used for measuring to the truck. Doña Maxima did some grocery shopping. She purchased an aguayo full of fava beans from team member Doña Reyna. The truck headed downhill to load 100 pounds of potatoes purchased from Vilma´s in-laws. Claudia had run down earlier and was across the road on her family´s farm digging carrots. Watching her struggle back uphill gave some sense of the steepness of the mountainside.

Doña Bea´s mother, Doña Rufina, is a formidable spinner and has placed 2nd or 3rd in past Spinning Week competitions. In Huancarani and in Sanipaya the spinners talked about the help she gets from her husband. He does all the chores and helps her clean the debris out of the fleece and align it for spinning. For the first time she won first place. There was also talk of Doña Juana´s husband´s insistence in taking over her chores during Spinning Week. The team Phuskadoras Alegres spun 42,528 meters of yarn beating the team Warmis Phuskadoras by 6,137 meters.

Vilma Loading Up a Gift of Potatoes for Dorinda

Doña Maxima is worried about how she is going to break the news to the team Warmis Phuskadoras that they came in second, and the prize will be a sweater. Although Warmis Phuskadoras spinner, Doña Casimira won 2nd place overall, 3 strong spinners from Huancarani were on the winning team. There are going to be problems and discussion, but problem solving has become an important component of Spinning Week. The increase from one to two local teams was a big change this year, and the experience will be discussed and improvements made for next year.

2019 Champion, Doña Rufina, 4,944 meters

Thus wraps up Spinning Week 2019 in the Andean highlands. Thanks again to those of you who made it possible! Although Spinning Week is just 1 week a year, the expenses go on year round. The weekly meetings of the Club de Artesanas in Independencia under Doña Maxima´s management provide the organizational structure for Spinning Week. You are encouraged to use the “Donate” button above in support of the spinners and their efforts to sustain their weaving tradition. Thank you.

Dorinda Dutcher, November 25, 2019