In early 2007, the Huancarani weavers zeroed in on Dorinda, the newly arrived Peace Corps volunteer to Independencia, Bolivia. They knew that a foreign marketing partner was key to receiving a fair price for their traditional weavings. PAZA began that year as a Peace Corps project in collaboration with the weavers and foreign supporters. For years, Doña Maxima, her family, the weavers, Club de Artesanas members, and Dorinda participated in craft fairs in Independencia, Cochabamba, and La Paz until the expenses outweighed the benefits. Sales over the past decade have been through PAZA’s marketing efforts in the U.S. Alas, after all these years, the weavers still don’t have direct access to a market, nor can they rely on a steady income from sales.
One goal of the Club de Artesanas since its founding in 2010 has been to kindle the entrepreneurial flame by teaching skills that will lead to income generation through local sales and services. Between 2010 and 2018 foreign volunteers taught skill building workshops in knitting, crochet, sewing, jewelry making, and millinery. PAZA provided soap making, sewing, baking, and floor loom weaving workshops.
Between 2013 and 2016 the local government gifted treadle sewing machines, knitting machines, fabric, and yarn to the Organizaciones de Mujeres in rural communities. Instruction on the use, care, and maintenance of the equipment was not included. PAZA and the local Centro Cultural Ayopaya (CCA) have been teaching workshops in Independencia and the CCA has helped many of their students purchase knitting machines. PAZA is the only entity to take it a step further by training local trainers for rural outreach.
The Club members have not realized a local market for their Club project products. However, they have sewed, knitted, and crocheted clothing for their families while improving their skills with each project. The women began last year knitting school uniform sweaters for their children on the knitting machines. Vilma, Doña Maxima, and Arminda are earning income by teaching knitting machine classes in Huancarani this month.
The 5 communal Huancarani knitting machines were brought to the Club workshop in March for repair in preparation for the workshops. The cases hadn´t been properly secured so the knitting machines were filthy and beginning to rust. The Club members cleaned, oiled, and repaired the machines. Care and maintenance of the machines is the number one topic on this month’s workshop agenda. This is the second series of PAZA workshops in Huancarani. If the Huancarani weavers want future workshops or knitting machine repair, they will be responsible for paying the Club trainers.
Fifteen years ago, the year-end grade school exhibition was a riot of color of crocheted afghans, shawls, and embroidered tablecloths. Today, most of the exhibits are painted tablecloths. In 2014, the Club chicas designed and sewed evening dresses for a high school fashion show. This year the school district couldn´t find a sewing teacher. As each generation moves further away from the young developing fiber arts skills the ability to meet a basic need is lost. PAZA’s Club de Artesanas provides the atmosphere and opportunity for learning and refining fiber arts skills and keeping them alive.
PAZA´s bank account indicates that this blog posting must be a fundraiser. Please use the donate button on the blog website to help PAZA to continue purchasing project supplies, provide the twice a week Club workshops, and offer other activities such as the Huancarani knitting machine workshops. Expenses for 2023 are estimated at $6,300 with 20% of that being Spinning Week costs. So far this year, PAZA has received $960 in financial support. Thank you.
A special thanks to Lyn, Claire, and Rob for your years of continued support. Thank you to Laverne and WARP for getting the word out about the weavings for sale. Mil gracias to the 15 of you who purchased weavings over the past month. Your added donations will go towards Doña Maxima´s Sunday wages so that she can open the PAZA workshop to meet with the Huancarani weavers who are in town for market day. Dorinda Dutcher, May 8, 2023.