Ruraq Maki

Evolution of the Weavings

Textile Fair, Charahuaytu, 2007

Textile Fair, Charahuaytu, 2007

Weavings are an integral part of the farmer subsistence lifestyle. Their importance as to the identity of a woman as weaver is diminishing along with that lifestyle. Today girls spend their day in the classroom not walking the countryside hand spinning while pasturing the family’s flock of sheep. The fierce competition between teen girls to weave exquisite aguayos to debut for dancing in Carnaval no longer happens. Aguayos (the Andean backpack) are still widely used, but tend to be machine made and inexpensive to purchase. The break in the passing of the weaving tradition from one generation to the next widens with each passing year.

The Weavers' First Craft Fair, Cochabamba, 2007

The Weavers’ First Craft Fair, Cochabamba, 2007

PAZA evolved from a request from the weavers of Huancarani in 2007 for assistance to rescue natural dye techniques and market their weavings. They were intrigued to learn more about cochineal after a non-profit organization had presented a one day workshop in their community. PAZA was the name of the Peace Corps partnership grant I wrote to be able to contract trainers for our first natural dye workshops. Our first sales effort was a one day fair in 2007 in Cochabamba where we stacked the textiles on the ground for lack of a table. The weavings were crudely assembled chuspas (shoulder bags) in natural wool colors or woven from bright synthetic yarn and knitted chulos (Andean caps with ear flaps). The price tags carried whatever price the weaver had requested, which was around $7 for a ch’uspa (minimum 40 hours of labor to produce) and $3 for a chulo. Since 2011, pricing has been formula based and they approve that pricing annually.

2014 Weavings for Laverne Waddington's Weaving Workshops

2014 Weavings for Laverne Waddington’s Weaving Workshops

Years of improving natural dye techniques, listening to commentary from potential buyers at fairs, and the feedback from fair trade buyers have resulted in the evolution of the weavings. Although we still take a few ch’upsas to fairs, the majority of the products for sell are professionally assembled in Cochabamba to target an external market. The Huancarani weavers no longer weave on speculation, but weave to a specification for an order. Providing the weavers the security of a payment upon completion of an order is possible thanks to the ongoing support from Ruraq Maki and ClothRoads who sell the weavings through their online stores, Laverne Waddington who places an order annually for traditional weavings to use in her weaving workshops, and WARP members who purchase woven products at the annual WARP Marketplace.

Doña Máxima Searched Her Memory for Weaving the Bird Motifs

Doña Máxima Searched Her Memory for Weaving the Bird Motifs

Since 2011, PAZA has tried to debut 2 new test products at the annual WARP Conference (Burlingame, California, May 29-31, 2015). Our failures in new product design outrank the successes, but lessons learned aid future design attempts. The first new products were bags that paired the textiles with leather, and the results were spectacular. Unfortunately, the majority of the cost went to the leather workshop instead of the weaver. After PAZA invested in contracting a weaving instructor for our floor loom it was warped with bayeta spun yarn to weave wool cloth to back pillow covers. The yarn kept breaking which frustrated Doña Máxima and Doña Antonia who were doing the weaving. They never complained, but it took them 8 months to weave a short length of cloth. The results were poor due to the quality of the wool. Purchased bayeta had been dyed and used in the interim, but the majority of the pillow covers remain in inventory for lack of sales.

Doña Máxima´s Woven Bird Motifs

Doña Máxima´s Woven Bird Motifs

Amanda Smiles, founder of Ruraq Maki, has worked with volunteer designers in San Francisco the past few years and has brought patterns for test bags during her past 2 annual visits. Those bags can be viewed or ordered on the RM online store. Topics of conversation during her 2013 visit bounced between new product design and how to motivate pre-teens and teens to learn how to weave. Amanda hit upon the idea of a yoga mat strap after we lamented the lack in sales of guitar straps. The beauty of the guitar straps is that they require a variety of traditional woven figures and the labor is less time consuming but the price to the weaver is higher then what the market will bear for the larger weavings used to make the popular zippered bags. It is the weaving of the figures that is being lost. Rural women continue to weave functional items for the home, such as blankets (phullus), but they forgo weaving figures in order to weave quickly.

Hopefully the yoga mat straps will sell well and provide us with a product we can use to motivate the young to learn to weave, rescue woven figures that are disappearing, and encourage more rural weavers to improve their skills from functional to artistry. Dorinda Dutcher, October 6, 2014  

 

 

Zippered Bags, Photo Credit: Marissa Barnhard

Zippered Bags, Photo Credit: Marissa Barnhard

Yoga Mat Straps, Photo Credit: Ruraq Maki

Yoga Mat Straps, Photo Credit: Ruraq Maki

    

 

 

     

Noemi and Joel Updates

Noemi's June Graduation from IER

Noemi’s June Graduation from IER

Since 2012 PAZA supporters have rallied around 2 heart touching causes outside of our textile focus.
The first outside cause was to assist Noemi Chavez, a high school graduate from Huancarani, complete her training as a nursing technician. Her first year of the program at the Instituto de Educación Rural (IER) was voided because the government changed the certification process. Halfway through the repetition of the first year the management of her “scholarship” changed hands and monthly payments that were supposed to be deferred until after graduation became due. With 7 younger children at home her parents did not have the $60 a month for tuition, room, board, and expenses.

Top of Her Class, Noemi Gave the Graduation Speech

Top of Her Class, Noemi Gave the Graduation Speech

An S.O.S. went out on the PAZA blog and Noemi was sponsored for the last year and a half of the program and the costly certification process. The day after her June graduation she was on a bus headed to a job interview in Santiago, Chile. She returned to Independencia in August while her passport paperwork was processed, and spent much of her time working on the family farm in Huancarani. She commented that her new work place is more technologically advanced and organized than any of the hospitals where she interned.

Making Earrings at Ruraq Maki's Workshop Before Addressing the Women in Huancarani

Making Earrings at Ruraq Maki’s Workshop Before Addressing the Women in Huancarani

This empowered confident young woman took it upon herself to attend the annual district municipal budget meeting to represent the women of District 4 (which includes Huancarani). Since the enactment of the Law of Popular Participation in 1994 men have participated in the process and become adept at negotiating for funding for community development projects. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the rural women.
In 2007, the budget item specified for the development of women’s crafts (including the traditional weavings) in the 9 districts of the municipality of Independencia was $925. In 2008, I attended a meeting at the Centro Sindical in Independencia where a partner non-profit organization presented a workshop to guide the women authorities to plan, request, and receive a budget of 130,000Bs. ($18,731). The share of that budget for the women of District 4 was 30,000 Bs. ($4,322). Under the current political administration that has been in power since 2010, that craft budget has not been used wisely and has decreased.

Joel Helping His Dad in the PAZA Workshop

Joel Helping His Dad in the PAZA Workshop

Noemi negotiated for 20,000 Bs. ($2,880) for the women of District 4 doubling it from the 10,000 Bs. the men were set to approve. At our workshop in Huancarani in August, she appraised the weavers of the budget meeting. Following a discussion the weavers asked if PAZA could contract the facilitator from the 2008 Centro Sindical budget workshop (who has remained a PAZA consultant) to meet with them in Huancarani to help them to reorganize their Organization of Women and make a plan for productive use of the 2015 budget.
What Noemi has accomplished in a few short months since her June graduation is proof of the ripple effect of education. Identifying herself as a professional gives her the courage to stand up and speak out. A huge thank you and hug to all of you who helped her so she can help herself and others.

Taking Time Out to Play

Taking Time Out to Play

The second outside cause was to raise funds to help with the medical expenses for 6 year old Joel Cachi who underwent surgery a year ago to remove brain tumors. Joel will travel with his mother to Cochabamba when the family can afford a medical evaluation. For lack of a physical therapist in Independencia, she was taught exercises after his surgery and during subsequent visits to the city to be able to work with him daily. Although he’s improved dramatically over the year he still drags his right leg. The medical evaluation will determine what’s next including whether or not Joel will be entering kindergarten in February. I observed him last week as he helped his father restucco the Club de Artesana workshop/PAZA store and played with the Club kids. There is something special about that little boy. He has 5 siblings and the family still struggles with debt from the surgery so I put no parameters on the $650 received in support. Joel´s father informed me that he deposited all the funds in the local financial cooperative to save for the upcoming medical evaluation. He asked if I could please put out one more call for support to help with the medical evaluation and travel expenses of around $1,600. The family asked that their sincere thanks be expressed again to George and Joyce Dutcher, Sherry Yeakel, Joe Stevens, Susie Strauss, and Ruth Scharf. Dorinda Dutcher, September 23, 2014

August with Ruraq Maki

Amanda Works with the Women in the Club de Artesanas

Amanda Works with the Women in the Club de Artesanas

The day of Ruraq Maki (RM) founder, Amanda Smiles’s, much anticipated arrival occurred on August 20th and was followed by 2 weeks of whirlwind activities. This year she was accompanied by

Devin Worked with the Kids Allowing their Mothers' to Focus on Their Class

Devin Worked with the Kids Allowing their Mothers’ to Focus on Their Class

RM Board member Devin Montalto. Amanda has offered jewelry making classes for 3 consecutive years. The past 2 years she taught wire working techniques, this year the women in Club de Artesanas and weavers of Huancarani learned introductory bead weaving techniques using brick and ladder stitches to make hoop and dangly earrings. They loved ‘em. Devin worked with the little kids allowing the mothers peace and the opportunity to focus on their jewelry making.

Amanda Shares a Laugh with the Chicas

Amanda Shares a Laugh with the Chicas

There were 4 half days of classes for chicas ranging in age from 14 to 17. This year for the first time we invited a group from the Don Bosco high school. We did not plan a workshop in Chuñavi Chico this year, but Amanda offered to teach a Sunday course for anyone interested. Doña Paulina Quiroz a stalwart PAZA partner since 2008 arrived at the door with her youngest son and 14 year old José Luis who substituted for his mother who loves earrings but couldn´t make it into town.

The Huancarani Students Looking On

The Huancarani Students Looking On

Ruraq Maki generously covered the transportation expense to travel to Huancarani for a workshop. Because it’s not vacation many of the women couldn’t spend the day at the workshop because there’s nobody to pasture their flocks. Doña Eulalia recently purchased a flock of goats and we waved as she walked past, however she left them with another woman once they reached ample grazing and came flying down the hill her face alit with a huge smile to join us. The homesteads are isolated and social opportunities are rare so the women relish a chance to get together and still be productive. We met at the soccer field by the school so the kids joined us at lunchtime and after school. However, their priority was to check out the new litter of piglets over the wall from where we sat before seeing what we were up to. One young girl had the confidence to sit down, ask for help, and began making earrings.

Doña Eulogia and Doña Justina Select Their Beads for Making Earrings

Doña Eulogia and Doña Justina Select Their Beads for Making Earrings

Although I´d taken reading glasses the women weren´t comfortable using them, so Amanda and Doña Máxima spent a lot of time threading the beading needles. The staggered arrivals of the 8 participants kept them both busy as the day flew by. Two weavers arrived too late to make earrings but in time for the communal lunch.

At the final jewelry making workshop with the women in the Club de Artesanas, Amanda helped them with pricing the earring they made this year to sell locally. Doña Maxima was left with homework which is the responsibility for overseeing the production of earrings to sell at the PAZA booth at the harvest fair in May. The weavings don´t sell well so our participation at local fairs has been erratic through the years.

The Chicas Show Off the Results of a Class with Amanda

The Chicas Show Off the Results of a Class with Amanda

Amanda purchased traditional weavings during her first visit in 2011. She communicated that the weavings did not have a market through Ruraq Maki sales venues targeting young urban adults. In 2012, she worked with the leather store next to our hotel and left with exquisite shoulder bags pairing the weavings and

Bead Weaving was Taught in this Year´s Classes

Bead Weaving was Taught in this Year´s Classes

leather. Although there was a market there was a higher percentage of cost going to the leather shop instead of the weaver. She worked with volunteer designers in the Bay area and arrived with patterns and samples of 2 bag designs in 2013. One of the designs, a simple pocketed clutch that ties shut, has sold well. During a brain storming session last year she suggested yoga mat straps as a good product for a fair trade price and teaching traditional figures to motivate teenagers to weave to

Last Day´s Pricing Workshop

Last Day´s Pricing Workshop

sell. PAZA developed 2 sizes of yoga straps during 2013. Samples of two new product designs for 2014 are being made in Cochabamba by our designer/seamstress who sews all the PAZA products. These products may be purchased through the Ruraq Maki website.

Ruraq Maki held a fundraiser to raise $300 to buy an industrial sewing machine for the PAZA workshop. PAZA needs to raise the funds for training and rental of an additional room because we´ve outgrown the current store/workshop. A trainer will have to be contracted from Cochabamba, and that budget will be communicated at a later date. A huge thanks and hug to Amanda, Devin, and supporters of Ruraq Maki for all they have done for the weavers, kids, and teens this year. Dorinda Dutcher, September 1, 2014

Club, Spinzilla, and Independence Day

Vilma´s Daughters Model New Nightgowns

Vilma´s Daughters Model New Nightgowns

The women in the Club de Artesanas have spent the past few weeks finishing projects initiated by friend and volunteer Marian Leishman during her June visit. Although winter is waning the nights are still chill and young daughters can now snuggle up in warm flannel nightgowns. Doña Alberta was the first to finish the toe-up two at a time knitted socks. Vilma’s fingers have been flying as she made herself samples from, “The Granny Square Book” that Debora Petschek gifted the Club during her visit last month.

 

Doña Màxima Color Coordinating a Warp with Adviana

Doña Màxima Color Coordinating a Warp with Adviana

The women in the Club and from Huancarani have been working on two orders for weavings. Doña Máxima has been helping weavers to warp during Club meetings because it takes two to toss the balls of yarn back and she has a great eye for color coordination. Amanda Smiles, founder of Ruraq Maki will be arriving later this month and ordered weavings to make samples for three new bag designs. The local cultural center ordered 20 ch’upsas (shoulder bags), but with less than a month´s notice the order will be almost impossible to fill. Each ch’uspa takes about 40 hours to complete and the Huancarani women are busy with potato harvest. Potatoes are harvested three times a year and remain an important Andean staple and cash crop.

Doña Beatris Receives Her Spinzilla Pin

Doña Beatris Receives Her Spinzilla Pin

The majority of the Spinzilla team will be the weavers of the rural community of Huancarani. Spinzilla is an international hand spinning competition, and 56 teams with 25 participants each are registered to compete. The lengths of yarn spun between October 6th and 12th will be measured to determine the winning team. We will be visiting Huancarani on August 27th and should fill the last 8 vacancies to complete the Bolivian team. Elections take place in Bolivia every five years, and October 12th is national Election Day. All registered voters from Huancarani must come to Independencia to vote, so we will probably take the majority of measurements that day.

The team participants will be submitting balls of yarn for measurement. They traditionally spin equal amounts of yarn on 2 pushkas (drop spindles) then pair the spun strands by balancing a pushka between the big toe and its neighbor on each foot and wind the paired strands off the phuskas into a ball. It looks easy, but to the neophyte eye so does the ease in which they create and transform airy clouds of fleece into yarn. They will not be submitting plyed yarn for measurement because plying is done after dyeing the skeins. We occasionally dye fleece during Club if we lack skeins.

Adviana & Doña Màxima Preparing Alpaca Fiber for Spinning

Adviana & Doña Màxima Preparing Alpaca Fiber for Spinning

Doña Máxima informed me that the Club members signed up for Spinzilla will not be spinning the alpaca fiber we purchased in January, although they are preparing it for spinning for future knitting projects. She said it´s slippery and doesn´t spin as quickly as sheep´s wool. She purchased a white fleece and a grey fleece from the local butcher that she will wash in the river, dry, shear, and prepare for spinning prior to the October competition. The grey skeins will be left natural and she will dye the white skeins for use in future weavings. The Club holds dye days when there are a plethora of dye plants available which is February through April as the rainy season winds down.

Don Bosco´s Class of ´14 Carrying Their Float

Don Bosco´s Class of ´14 Carrying Their Float

Bolivia´s Day of Independence is August 6th. The festivities kick off the night before with a torchlight parade. The schools, professional and civic groups all march up main street and through the plaza with homemade lanterns lit with candles. It´s quite informal and a bit magical. Everyone dresses up on Independence Day and following endless speeches the parade is repeated with straighter blocks of marchers and the smiles and laughter of the night before replaced with somber expressions. The 2 local high schools compete in the creation of an appropriately themed float moved by a tractor or

Bolivia Aleman High School´s Class of 2014

Bolivia Aleman High School´s Class of 2014

a truck with a parade princess precariously balanced waving to the crowd. A teacher walks beside the floats using a long stick to prod the bird’s nests of electrical wires up and over the high points on the floats. The graduating classes also compete in designing floats out of materials that can be found or purchased locally and can be carried through the streets.

Thank you Nancy Meffe for your support which will be split between Spinzilla and ongoing Club de Artesanas expenses. I will be returning to Independencia tomorrow with additional funding for the medical expenses for 5 year old Joel Cachi, thanks Sherry.

We are trying to raise the $210 in funds to cover the remaining expenses for competing in Spinzilla and we always need help for the ongoing Club activity expenses. Dorinda Dutcher, August 17, 2014