Cultural

Abuelitas Prepare Your Drop Spindles!

Spinning Week in the Andes

This month is the official kick-off of “La Semana de las Phuskadoras” (“The Week of Women Who Spin with Drop Spindles”) in Independencia, Bolivia. Registration opened on July 7th and will close at the end of the month. Spinning Week will be November 4th through the 10th, and for the first time 2 local teams of 16 will compete against each other.

History

Between 2014 and 2017, the ClothRoads Spinzilla team “Warmis Phuskadoras” were the only Latin American representatives. The Andean spinners consistently placed in the upper 40%, competing against

Mid-Week Check-In

spinners and spinning wheels from around the world. The Spinzilla founders organized the spinning competition as a way to raise awareness of the joys of spinning and to encourage a global connection of spinners. Thanks to the personal notes and financial support from spinners on other Spinzilla teams and PAZA supporters the Bolivian spinners learned of the existence of the big fiber world outside of their isolated mountain communities.

This year, the spirit of competition that goes back to childhood is going to reach new heights as the 2 local teams square off against each other. Their spinning and weaving skills are an integral part of the farmer subsistence lifestyle and are the core of their self-identity. It will be a competition where the “abuelitas” (little grandmothers) rule.

Annual Prize Awarding of Petticoats in 2017

Whether Spinning Week is international or local the spinners are adamant that the event be held annually. To help them recognize their merit in a tangible sense each team member is awarded the same prize. They vote on the prize each year and it is always their choice, personal, and something they rarely have the ability to buy for themselves. The prizes chosen this year are petticoats for the first place team and cardigans for the second place team.

Logistics

Spinning Week Encouraged Maribel to Learn to Spin and Weave

The “Semana de las Phuskadoras” is estimated to cost $1,200 which will cover the prizes, local wages, logistics, and transportation for the visits to the 2 rural communities involved. Trips to the communities are made for the mid-week Spinning Week check-in, measuring the results, and the prize awarding and annual feast. Any funds raised over the cost of Spinning Week will help meet the challenge of raising the monthly operating expenses of $175/month.

Doña Casimira Always Places in the Top 3

The two “Semana de las Phuskadoras” team captains will be Doña Maxima Cortez who is the PAZA Coordinator and manages the Club de Artesanas in Independencia and Doña Justina Vargas who does an excellent job of managing the Spinning Week logistics in the rural community of Huancarani.

Dorinda Dutcher began PAZA as a Peace Corps project in 2007 when she began working with the spinners at their request. She moved back to the U.S. in 2018, but maintains a home in Independencia and will be on hand to provide oversight of this year’s event.

Support

Doña Maxima Preparing Roving for Spinning Week

You can help to make the Spinning Week competition a success and support the Bolivian spinners in two ways:

  1. Donate by clicking on the “Donate” button above. Any amount is most welcome.
  1. Purchase a weaving which will provide cash flow to the spinners as well as building their sense of self- esteem in knowing that their skills will allow them to care for their families. Inquiries may be made by contacting Dorinda Dutcher, dkdutcher@hotmail.com. Information about the weavings: https://pazaboliviablog.com/2019/04/13/bolivian-weavings-have-arrived/

Spinning Week Provides the Women a Rare Opportunity to Socialize

Updates on the “Semana de las Phuskadoras” and the spinners and weavers will be posted regularly to this blog. Dorinda will personally respond to all forms of support as well as inquiries for further information or weaving orders. We thank you in advance for your help in keeping this global connection intact and look forward to November’s Spinning Week. Finally, thank you to the BritSpin spinners for encouraging the Bolivian team to register – maybe next year! Dorinda Dutcher, July 20, 2019, dkdutcher@hotmail.com

2019 Natural Dyeing Extravaganza

Doña Maxima & her Husband/Van Driver Collecting Masiq’o

The gatherer’s urge runs rampant during the rainy season in the Andean highlands. Clusters of the tiny misiq’o flowers wave in the breeze and each is capable of adding its tint of sunrise orange to the dye pot. Chilka bushes line the roads; their leaves washed clean by the daily rains and when mordanted with millu produce a forest green. The suyku stalks crowd together offering the dyer an easy harvest and multiple dye options by use of the leaves and flowers separately or together.

Doña Maxima and the members of the Club de Artesanas (CdA) prepared for a 3 day dyeing extravaganza last April during Dorinda’s short visit. The Huancarani weavers left 77 skeins with the Club along with requests for the color each skein should be dyed. The majority wanted cochineal reds and oranges with a few requests for the light green produced from suyku leaves when mixed with just salt and vinegar and the darker moss green when a touch of millu and sulfate of copper is added to the dye pot.

Searching for Skeins in the Suyku Leaf/Millu Mordanted Dye Pot

The dye days were scheduled so that the dye plants could be collected a day prior on the way home from the meeting with the weavers in Huancarani. As the road began it’s descent from the highest point, Doña Maxima, Vilma, and Dorinda alighted from the van with empty mesh bags and headed down the road picking the bright yellow blooms of misiq’o. The profusion of plants petered out within a narrow range of elevation. Continuing down the mountain the suyku plant began to appear, it to has a narrow altitude range where it proliferates. The tall stalks were in full flower; those buzzing with bees were left alone. The back of the van was packed within 15 minutes.

Cochineal Dye Bath Results

Doña Maxima and the Club members had been tasked with finding a place to hold the dyeing extravaganza. Vilma, Doña Maxima´s eldest and a long time Club member, offered her home. The tin roof over the outdoor wood burning oven offered the needed shelter from rain and sun.  It took all 6 Club members working on and off most of the first day of dyeing to strip the suyku stalks to continually replenish the dye bath of leaves. The flowers were soaked overnight for the second day of dyeing. A sturdy 2 burner gas range heated the heavy dye pots.

Discussing How to Resolve the Streaks of the Tumeric Dyed Skeins

The delicate masiq´o flowers provided just enough dye for the Club members to each dye a small skein. The Huancarani weavers know that masiq´o is a dye plant that each must collect on their own or with a few friends for small batch dyeing. PAZA purchases alum in Cochabamba, and it is available for sale at cost to the weavers. It is always used with masiq´o flowers to brighten and fix the dye. The Club weavers saved the dye bath to mix with cochineal.

Photographing the Day’s Labors

On the first day a cochineal dye bath was mordanted with alum to produce a range from dark red to pink. On the second day of dyeing the cochineal dye bath went from red into orange tones with the help of citric acid and cream of tartar. A dye bath of powered mixed with dried chunks of turmeric produced a bold orange. The turmeric was purchased in the health supplement aisle of Cochabamba´s huge vendor stall market. A year ago, fresh roots along with fresh ginger were sold by mobile vendors from crates on cargo dollies. No fresh roots this year. On the 3rd day the various dye baths were mixed.

Skeins Being Rinsed, Laundry Being Washed

Vilma’s house did not boast an outdoor sink so the skeins were laid on plastic sheeting in a drainage ditch and washed with a hose. On the 3rd and only sunny day of dyeing Vilma, mother of 4, lugged out a huge hamper of family laundry. She filled a washtub with soapy water and patiently scrubbed each item inside and out with a brush, using a board to support the item.

The 2 lessons learned this year were that turmeric is sensitive to the sun and cochineal needs to be properly stored. The glorious sun had finally broken through the rain clouds, and the skeins hung like jewels across the clotheslines. The sun caused streaking in the turmeric dyed skeins, and the Club discussed ways to level the color on a future dye day. The cochineal had been poorly stored in their abandoned club house in Huancarani. It was the last of 2 kilos purchased for the weavers in 2012. When it was ground in the cereal grinder the resulting powder was gray instead of the usual deep red. All the recipes needed additional cochineal. We were later told by another weaving group that it should have been soaked. We used to soak the cochineal prior to a dye day, but began skipping the step when we didn´t notice a difference whether it was soaked or not. The older poorly stored cochineal definitely should have been soaked.

Day #1 Lunch

It made sense for the Club to have a communal meal the first 2 days. On the first day the Club members provided rice, potatoes, and eggs and shared the prep work. On the second day, PAZA provided beef and chicken that were cooked in Vilma´s large outdoor gas oven. The potatoes were so perfectly roasted that the skins had blistered resulting in a crunchy exterior and a creamy tender interior. PAZA also provided morning snacks of bread and avocado to go with herbal tea. Independencia avocados are famous for their creamy buttery richness. Due to their size, they must be shared.

Huancarani Weavers Waiting Anxiously for Their Dyed Skeins

Many of the Huancarani weavers returned the Sunday after the dyeing to pick up their skeins. All were happy with the results. Well, except for Doña Felicidad who decided on the spot that she preferred Doña Alicia’s suyku dyed green skeins to the cochineal reds that she’d requested.

Angelica, the Newest Huancarani Weaver Had Spun 7 Small Skeins that PAZA Dyed for Free

The next blog posting is going to have background information that you are all familiar with having followed this blog for some time. It is to be a fundraising posting for PAZA activities especially Spinning Week which is scheduled for November 4/10. Thankfully, Liz Gipson, who was a founder of Spinzilla and instrumental in the Bolivian team participating in Spinzilla for 4 years will be lending a hand with the fundraising for, “La Semana de las Phuskadoras”.

Thank you to those who have contributed to PAZA this month, although the blog postings have appeared erratically, the expenses to support the Club de Artesanas and Huancarani weavers continue to be steady. Dorinda Dutcher, June 27, 2019

PAZA Evaluation and Future

PAZA Store/Workshop, Doña Maxima Tagging Skeins for Dyeing, Doña Narciza Finishing a Chuspa

Is there anything more wonderful than a joyous homecoming? The bus ride from Cochabamba to Independencia at the end of the rainy season is spectacular with the vivid green of wheat fields and pale green of the high mountain grasses that will soon fade to drab tans. Bright yellow flowering shrubs reaching 8’ tall line the road descending into the Palca River Valley where a growing Independencia is nestled.

Spigot by the Church, Huancarani

PAZA has been in transition since April 2018 when Doña Maxima took over management of the Independencia activities and Dorinda relocated back in the U.S. The time had come to evaluate if PAZA will continue and if so how. There was a happy reunion between Dorinda and the Huancarani weavers who had come to town for market day. Many brought handspun skeins of wool for the upcoming Club de Artesanas dyeing extravaganza.  A year ago, the PAZA workshop/store was relocated a few doors down from its former location and Dorinda´s home for 12 years. The walls of the new smaller space were lined with equipment and supplies. The little bit of free space in the middle of the room was packed with women sitting on low stools and spilling out the door.

Waiting and Spinning

A meeting of the weavers of the Centro de Artesania, Huancarani had been arranged for the following day. Doña Maxima, Dorinda, & Vilma loaded into the family van driven by Doña Maxima´s husband. The meeting was held on the church´s covered porch, and as always there was a wait. Most of the weavers had been in Independencia the day before, and had to pasture livestock before heading to the gathering. The rain gods took a break and although overcast the rain held off. The weavers arrived in ones and twos from all directions, many with their drop spindles whirling. Doña Narciza, Max’s sister, was absent. She’d been in Independencia the day before and mentioned that her goats were dropping kids. Over the next week her flock increased by 54.

Doña Maxima Chaired the Meeting with Maribel´s Assistance

The purpose of the meeting was 2-fold. The first was for the weavers and Dorinda to confirm their commitment to continue working together. The repeated statement of, “I’ll weave until I die with your support” was a strong affirmation for PAZA to carry-on.

The second topic was what to do about the lack of a Spinzilla sponsor and the lack of clarity as to Spinzilla’s future. Dorinda put forth the idea of a 16 member Warmis Phuskadoras team made up of the first 16 Huancarani spinners to sign up. A second team would be comprised of the Independencia spinners, the spinners from Sanipaya who were excluded last year, and Huancarani spinners who sign up late. The 2 teams would compete against each other. The excitement and an animated discussion of the idea went on for over half an hour.

Weaving Quality Discussion

The 4 years of official Spinzilla participation as the Cloth Roads Warmis Phuskadoras and last year’s local spinning event have turned Spinning Week into a much anticipated tradition. Spinzilla Spinning Week has always been the first week in October which is a downtime in the Andean agricultural calendar. The spinners titled Spinning Week 2019 as “La Semana de las Phuskadoras” a mishmash of Spanish and Quechua that means “The Week of Women who Spin with Drop Spindles”.

Angelica Sold Her First Weavings This Year and Her Self-Confidence Has Soared

On the return to Independencia, the van stopped a few times and the occupants spilled out to harvest dye plants along the side of the road. Not having a home any longer in Independencia, Dorinda was staying at the local modern hotel run by the Centro Cultural Ayopaya. After 4 nights and a conversation with her former landlord she rented two of her former rooms and moved back home. With biannual visits planned, it made economic sense to rent by the month while offering tangible proof of her commitment to the weavers. The larger of the rooms is the former PAZA workshop/store and will allow Doña Maxima to store unneeded equipment and supplies to free up space in the current workshop/store.

Vilma & Doña Maxima Collecting Suyku on the Way Home

The fundraising efforts for PAZA have been minimal the past year due to the uncertainty of PAZA’s future. The weavers are doing their part in Independencia and Dorinda´s doing her part in Bozeman. We appeal to PAZA supporters to do their part to support this grass roots textile preservation effort by clicking on the “Donate” button above. The budget for Spinning Week is $1,200, and the monthly budget for the Club de Artesanas in Independencia is $175 per month. Another way to support the weavers is by purchasing weavings. The current inventory in the U.S. is tying up ¾ of the revolving fund limiting PAZA´s ability to keep the orders and cash flowing to the weavers. There is woven cloth for your own projects in the form of 63” x 9.5” weavings, fajas, and straps. There are also zippered pouches with and without wrist straps and yoga mat straps in 2 sizes. Thank you! Dorinda Dutcher, May 28, 2019

2018 in Review and PAZA’s Future

In 2018, PAZA attained the goal that all development projects aim for, and that is to turn the project over to the beneficiaries. After 12 years, Dorinda´s move in late April to the U.S. left Doña Maxima with the reins firmly in hand. She managed 3 weaving orders, settled the Club de Artesanas into a new workshop space, managed the quarterly budgets for Club activities (with a 3rd grade education), increased the Club by 2 weavers, and ran Spinzillita Spinning Week. Blog postings have been erratic because she also had to figure out social media to send photos and tales to Dorinda. Towards the end of December, she

Spinning Week Spinners and Their New Mesh Bags

mastered Skype, and the calls were heartwarming and hilarious usually with a backdrop of family,Club members, or Huancarani weavers.

In mid- December, the weavers of Huancarani took a break from spring farming activities to attend the annual meeting of the Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani (CAH). The gathering also includes a feast prepared in an outdoor wood burning adobe oven and the awarding of the Spinzillita prize due all participants of October´s local Spinning Week. PAZA funds were used to purchase 25 reusable mesh shopping bags as prizes for this year´s registered participants. The team grew as unregistered spinners joined in during Spinning Week. Doña Maxima, team captain, worked with her team to figure out how to award the additional participants. The registered spinners chipped in to buy extra prizes so all who participated would be recognized for their skill.

Waiting to Feast

Although rarely seen in the hands of city dwellers, a rural woman´s ensemble would seem to be missing something without a mesh bag in hand. The bags have largely replaced the hand woven incuñas (squares) formerly used to wrap cargo for carrying in aguayos. Aguayos, the Andean backpack consisting of 1 piece of cloth if machine woven, and 2 pieces of cloth if handwoven, are still very much in use. The incuñas were organic, the mesh bags are plastic, but reusable, and alas, vendors’ use of disposable plastic bags is increasing.

Warping a Faja for Laverne´s Order

During the CAH annual meeting, the weavers voted to not raise weaving prices for 2019. A PAZA weaving order was sent in October, but lacked transportation to the U.S. until a former Peace Corps volunteer and her Bolivian husband made space in their luggage among what they had to stow for themselves and their 2 young sons. Thank you Claire and Beto for going above and beyond!

The newly arrived fajas ($38) and zippered bags ($16/$17) are available for sale. There are also a lot of yoga mat straps ($22/$23), which are no longer in production. Send inquiries to dkdutcher@hotmail.com.

In November, Laverne Waddington, placed her annual order of fajas (bands) which she uses in her weaving workshops. We’re still waiting for her annual quality report which is accompanied by photos if there are errors. Laverne’s weaving students purchase the majority of the PAZA orders and as weavers themselves their 2018 feedback in photos helped Doña Maxima with the quality control. She has difficulty rejecting a weaving and denying payment to an elder. Prior to April, she’d ask Dorinda to convey the bad news.

Sewing in the Club Workshop

Another PAZA order was sent in January to ensure the weavers could count on a payment in February when the panic of scraping up cash to purchase school supplies and uniforms peaks. Dorinda is planning a trip to Independencia in April to pick up that order, make sure the dye pots are bubbling, gather tales, and help Doña Maxima, the Club de Artesanas, and the Huancarani weavers make adjustments to continue to progress. Regardless of the future of the TNNA Spinzilla event, the weavers love love love Spinning Week, so that may morph into a local event. How that will evolve is a discussion to be had with the weavers of Huancarani who make up the majority of

New Club Member Doña Claudia with Completed Backpack

the team. The spinners of the community of Sanipaya were miffed when the budget was cut to include them in 2018.

Are we still on in this together? The weavers and Club members are carrying on, Dorinda continues to commit time and travel expenses, but you need to decide as to whether or not you will continue to financially support PAZA. Last year’s expenses totaled $4,092. The 15 donations received totaled $1,221. There is just $1,344 remaining in the general operating fund. The quarterly activity fund of $820 was wired to Doña Maxima this month. Her salary was increased $3 to $21.60/day to reflect her increased responsibilities as the Club de Artesanas trainer and PAZA.

The PAZA fundraising pleas were few and far between last year due to the unknown of Doña Maxima and the weavers’ commitment to moving forward. During the April trip, discussions about the future will stem from PAZA´s financial health. That´s up to you! I encourage you to click on the “Donate” button above and continue to support this grass roots effort of Andean weavers striving to preserve their textile heritage while at the same time empowering themselves. Thank you. Dorinda Dutcher, January 18, 2019

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

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