Spinzilla

Looking Back to 2010

Dye Workshop in Huancarani, 2011

Dye Workshop in Huancarani, 2011

This posting reflects back on 2010 which was a roller coaster ride through PAZA´s darkest moments that sowed the seeds of what PAZA is today.

In early 2010, PAZA received a poorly typed letter stating that the gringa should leave Independencia because she was stealing the weaving tradition to take to her country. The author was never publicly identified but a few vocal women rallied to his cause. PAZA began in 2007 as a Peace Corps secondary project. The collaboration with the local government until 2009 made it possible to offer natural dye workshops in 5 rural communities and 2 intensive 3 day natural dye workshops in Independencia.

4 of These Weavings Went to France This Month

4 of These Weavings Went to France This Month

All local collaboration ended at a town meeting in October 2010 when the few contra-PAZA women who had been elected into positions of political authority stood on the stage shaking their fingers at Doña Maxima and Dorinda. They passionately exclaimed that they knew all that there was to know about traditional weavings and the market, so there was no need for PAZA’s technical assistance. Only the weavers of Doña Maxima´s community of Huancarani stood with PAZA. They are the only rural community of weavers in the area selling their weavings today.

Celebrating after Receiving the Official CAH Documents

Celebrating after Receiving the Official CAH Documents

The Huancarani weavers were going to hold a hunger strike to force local authorities to support PAZA. They were headed off by the Director of a local radio station. He suggested they form a legal weaving association to circumnavigate local politics. That led to 2 years of working through the bureaucratic red tape to form the Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani (CAH). It allows the weavers to seek financial support outside of the politically controlled municipal budget, which they’ve only done once as a training exercise. The members of CAH are responsible for setting the pricing for the weavings at their annual meeting each December. The Spinzilla Spinning competition is CAH´s biggest event of the year.

The Original Chicas, 2 Graduated and are Moms, 1 is Current CdA Chica Trainer

The Original Chicas, 2 Graduated and are Moms, 1 is Current CdA Chica Trainer

The Club de Chicas was born in 2010 out of the need to provide Doña Máxima with steady work and to help meet PAZA´s and CAH´s objective to preserve the local weaving tradition. The Club began during the school vacation, but when school started the 12 year old chicas didn´t have time to attend. Doña Máxima mentioned that women were interested in joining so several were invited to participate on Tuesdays and Thursdays. A few years later the Club name was changed to the Club de Artesanas (CdA). The original chicas learned to weave and were selling the weavings but by the time they turned 16 they had lost interest in the Club and in weaving. Motivating teens to learn how to weave is probably the biggest challenge facing any textile revival project. It is also the key to sustainability of any craft.

Katie was the 1st Volunteer and Made Her 4th Trip This Year

Katie was the 1st Volunteer and Made Her 4th Trip This Year

The women and chicas are highly skilled in the fiber arts, but have no resources to stretch themselves as artists. The rural communities still don´t have electricity to all homes. There are no magazines or newspapers for sale in Independencia. Few know about the postal service which is only available in the cities. Smart phones and tablets are making the Internet more accessible to youths thanks to data credit packages purchased through the cell phone companies, but the benefits for many adults are limited due to the high rate of illiteracy.

The Chicas Made Many Skirts Using the Pattern and Method Kelsey Taught Them

The Chicas Made Many Skirts Using the Pattern and Method Kelsey Taught Them

The PAZA volunteer program began in 2010 to provide technical assistance. The weavers have learned new fiber arts skills but still have not seen a foreigner weave or spin. For all they know foreigners do need to steal the Andean weaving tradition to learn how to spin and weave.

The CAH members have tossed down the gauntlet asking for a foreigner to join their 2016 Spinzilla team for Spinning Week which will be October 3rd to the 9th. The team has not had any inquiries for what will be an exceptional technical and cultural exchange for a foreign spinner. PAZA also needs a social media coordinator for the week to make the annual video clip.

The Chicas Learning to Weave, 2011

The Chicas Learning to Weave, 2011

Besides providing much needed technical assistance the volunteer program helps offset PAZA expenses. PAZA has no institutional support. Fundraising efforts began in 2010 when Dorinda attended her 1st  Weave a Real Peace (WARP) Conference. PAZA is supported by individuals (mainly women who are weavers) who understand the importance of helping women to help themselves so they can care for their families. Medical costs and school supplies are the two main uses for income generated from the sales of the weavings.

All CAH Meeting Minutes Are Signed by All But 1 Member Who Signs with a Thumbprint

All CAH Meeting Minutes Are Signed by All But 1 Member Who Signs with a Thumbprint

In 2010, PAZA sold 250 weavings for a total of $3,464 that went to 55 weavers in 9 communities. Last year PAZA sold 123 weavings for a total of $2,583 that went to 26 weavers of which 24 live in Huancarani or are members of the Club de Artesanas. Thanks to Laverne Waddington’s annual and additional orders and WARP member Susan Weltman’s February visit and order PAZA has already exceeded the 2015 sales by $300.

The saddest thing about the 2010 political brou-ha-ha is that the folly of a few was detrimental to the preservation of the weaving tradition and to all the weavers who could have been earning an income through the years. PAZA hopes that local collaboration will begin anew in the near future. The past years have been well spent training women who can take leadership roles when that day arrives.

Prepping Skeins for the Dye Pot, Huancarani

Prepping Skeins for the Dye Pot, Huancarani

It takes a village…. You don’t have to travel to rural Bolivia to be part of the weavers’ amazing journey. The purchase of the weavings, the gifting of financial support, fundraising assistance, and help to connect with potential volunteers are needed so that in 6 years we can once again look back in amazement of what a collective grass roots effort can achieve. Dorinda Dutcher, May 22, 2016

P.S. I am in the U.S. and am filling weaving orders from the U.S. inventory, please e-mail inquiries to dkdutcher@hotmail.com. Thanks for the words of comfort! My father is hale and hearty following 3 heart procedures and my mother has a new hip. Doña Máxima is doing an excellent job of keeping the CdA running and managing weaving orders in Independencia.

Doña Máxima in Charge

Ah… Technical difficulties, always a learning experience. The April posing is duplicated to connect it to this current blog.

Doña Máxima in Charge

Doña Máxima in Charge

Doña Máxima took over at the helm of PAZA following Easter weekend when Dorinda made a hasty departure from Independencia in response to a family emergency in the U.S. The women of the Club de Artesanas (CdA) will meet once a week at Doña Máxima´s house. The Saturday morning program working with the teen girls will be discontinued until Dorinda´s return in July. The chicas know they can work on their weaving skills during Club days at Doña Máxima´s house.

Thanks to Jenny These Yoga Mat Straps Found Appreciative Owners in WA

Thanks to Jenny These Yoga Mat Straps Found Appreciative Owners in WA

Doña Máxima will open the PAZA store/workshop on Sunday mornings to work with the rural weavers who will be dropping off and picking up orders. Three months was spent in 2009 to simplify an accounting and inventory system that she could manage on her own. Although daunted by the responsibility and amount of money she must account for over the next 3-1/2 months, her body language said she accepted the challenge and she would strive to excel. The weavers have been riding high on the momentum built up thanks to the weaving orders received and completed the past 3 months. The momentum will continue as PAZA uses this opportunity to figure out how to operate if Dorinda needs to spend more time with family in the U.S.

Adviana & Her 3 Kids Enjoy Their 1st Easter Egg Hunt

Adviana & Her 3 Kids Enjoy Their 1st Easter Egg Hunt

Easter weekend went off as planned so Doña Mäxima´s grandchildren who had counted down the days until the Saturday for dyeing Easter eggs were not disappointed. CdA member Adviana was invited to bring her children for their first Easter egg hunt. The prowess of those who had the experience last year was noticeable, but when the hunt was over the kids voluntarily divided up the treats in an equitable manner.

One More Dye Day Is Needed This Month

One More Dye Day Is Needed This Month

On Monday, Dorinda and Doña Máxima discussed what needed to happen over the next few months and figure out a budget. One of the sewing machines, sewing notions, material, and a table were carried up to her house so the CdA women could work on sewing wing notions, material, and a table were carried up to her house so the CdA women could work on sewing projects. Funds were left for the CdA women to buy 5 skeins of yarn for crochet or knitting projects ($7 each). They will need to haul the dye equipment up the hill to Doña Máxima´s house for at least 1 more dye day for the popular cochineal reds.

Spinzilla 2015 Prizes Being Handed Out in Huancarani

Spinzilla 2015 Prizes Being Handed Out in Huancarani

Travel expenses were figured for Doña Máxima to travel to Cochabamba to collect a wire transfer, drop off weavings for travel to the U.S., and to get cost estimates for the petticoat material that the CdA members will sew for the 2016 Spinzilla participants. All win first prize, and the weavers voted on a petticoat as this year’s prize. When Dorinda returns to Independencia in July it will be time for the Spinzilla team registration and putting together a budget for the fundraising effort. Last year $975 was raised almost covering the $1,005 in expenses.

Doña Máxima Weaving 2 Yoga Mat Straps at a Time

Doña Máxima Weaving 2 Yoga Mat Straps at a Time

To complicate Dorinda´s last day in Independencia, a transformer in the neighborhood blew mid-afternoon knocking out electricity on the block. Once the sun set the remaining chores to close down the house and pack were done by the light of 3 candles. It is never easy to leave Independencia, but it is a luxury to spend time in the U.S., and always a pleasure to return to Bolivia.

Thank you Lyn Lucas and Dorothy Thursby-Stern for your ongoing devotion and support of the weavers. Doña Máxima is ready to take on the responsibilities laid on her shoulders, but it has taken all these years of training and experience to set her up for success. Thank you Linda Switzer for your timely help. A huge hug and thank you to Susan Weltman for the donation she sent which is due to her savvy marketing of the weavings. She not only marketed the weavings but came to Bolivia to pick them up!

Warping a Faja for Laverne´s Order Last January

Warping a Faja for Laverne´s Order Last January

Thanks to Laverne Waddington, an order was received by Dorinda in the U.S., communicated to Doña Máxima in Independencia, and will arrive in the U.S. with the yoga mat straps Dorinda had ordered and originally planned to bring to the U.S. in May.

PAZA Friend Dorothy and Doña Máxima at 2013 Tinkuy

PAZA Friend Dorothy and Doña Máxima at 2013 Tinkuy

The expenses needed to cover Dorinda´s emergency trip and extended U.S. visit would have been difficult to meet without the generosity of family members. Thank you all. Her sincere gratitude goes to Nancy La Scola for the visit and the PAZA support. The past month has been a reality check as to the financial imprudence of 10 years of volunteering. More help is needed in the funding of the PAZA activities. Spinzilla 2016 is rapidly approaching. Looking further ahead the expenses to take 3 weavers to the Tinkuy International Weaving Conference in Cusco in 2017 will need to be met.  Please help by purchasing weavings, making a donation, or helping to get the word out about the volunteer program. Inquiries for purchasing the weavings can be sent to dkdutcher@hotmail.com.

The monthly blog postings will continue and feature photos and tales from the past that disappeared into a black hole in cyberspace along with the original blog site in 2013. Dorinda Dutcher, April 20, 2016

Centro de Artesania, Huancarani’s (CAH) Meeting

Doña Máxima Pounds in the Tarp Stake

Doña Máxima Pounds in the Tarp Stake

The sun smiled down as the Independencia based members of CAH loaded into the pickup truck for the +hour drive to Huancarani. The weavers had begun to gather at the site of Doña Toribia´s old house, and had a fire going in the wood burning oven. Because there was a roof over the oven, it was the only structure still standing. The other adobe structures had dissolved back into the earth.

Doña Toribia and Zoraida Washing Potatoes

Doña Toribia and Zoraida Washing Potatoes

A tarp was rigged over an aged peach tree to provide shade. An advantage to the site was that it had a water spigot, so plates and wash tubs were brought down from storage in the abandoned women´s clubhouse and scrubbed. Upon arrival, each weaver would dump fresh dug potatoes into the growing pile being washed. PAZA contributed the beef and soft drinks as part of the Spinzilla prize awarding feast. The annual meeting began as soon as the oven was loaded and sealed with mud around the door.

Approving 2016 Prices for the Weavings

Approving 2016 Prices for the Weavings

The meeting didn´t go as planned. Municipal government officials, a radio reporter, and the President of the Sindicato Central who heads up the Organizations of Women in each community crashed the meeting. They´d heard the announcement for the CAH meeting, and knowing the women would be gathered decided it would be a good day to hold their meeting.

The last item on the CAH agenda was to talk about Independencia´s “Artesanía Fair”. It had been held a few weeks prior and Huancarani´s traditional textiles were not included in the judging. The discussion on how to work with the local government could not take place in front of the very authorities who had been responsible for the “Artesanía Fair”. Instead the CAH meeting abruptly ended, the oven was unsealed, and the visiting authorities were served first.

CAH, Annual Meeting, 2015

CAH, Annual Meeting, 2015

Spinzilla was discussed prior to the interruption. The weavers love Spinning Week and Doña Alicia said, “When I die, then I will stop competing”. Three elderly women joined the CAH because they wish to participate. It is a competition in which the grandmothers excel. The women also voted to invite a foreigner to join the Team Warmis Phuskadoras in 2016. They want to see a foreigner spin, and it can be with a drop spindle or spinning wheel. They discussed and voted to have a gathering for a mini-competition among themselves which will be scheduled prior to Spinzilla Spinning Week. The final Spinzilla item discussed was to vote on a prize for 2016, and they chose petticoats, fancy ones… The petticoats will be sewn in the PAZA workshop, so Club de Artesanas members will be able to put all their training into practice and earn some income.

Doña Antonia Receiving her Spinzilla Prize

Doña Antonia Receiving her Spinzilla Prize

The awarding of the Spinzilla prizes followed lunch and was rushed because of the authorities’ request to hold a meeting to reorganize the Organization of Women, and to gift 3 knitting machines. Only Doña Alicia opened her Spinzilla prize package which included a sky blue sweater, a Spinzilla certificate, and a photo taken during the Spinzilla Spinning Week. A huge thank you goes out to Liz Gipson, Spinzilla Marketing & Communications, for printing and mailing the certificates.

A huge gust of wind blew through sending the tarp flying and all scurrying down to the school for the next meeting. Due to migration and few primary school aged children a classroom was given to the women to be their workshop. It contained 3 treadle sewing machines, an industrial sewing machine, and the 3 new knitting machines all purchased over the years with the women’s artisan budget. Unfortunately, there’s been no training provided.

Doña Alicia Admires Her New Sweater

Doña Alicia Admires Her New Sweater

The President of the Centro Sindical facilitated the meeting to elect a new Board of Directors for Huancarani´s Organization of Women. There were no volunteers so she selected 5 names from the list of members, held the election, and the new Board took a bow. Doña Maxima is the new Secretary of Relations. The women commented later about their disappointment in being rushed through a day they´d looked forward to socializing and enjoying. However, Doña Máxima´s political clout may help smooth the way to collaboration and getting the local artisan program back on track by supporting the Huancarani weavers and traditional textiles.

Please contact Dorinda at dkdutcher@hotmail.com if you are interested in being the volunteer to join the 2016 Spinzilla Team Warmis Phuskadoras. The team also needs a social media volunteer who will also film and edit the short highlight video. Dorinda Dutcher, January 13, 2016

The Annual Not an Artisan Fair

15 Year Old Dania´s First Weaving, SOLD

15 Year Old Dania´s First Weaving, SOLD

Early Sunday morning Doña Narciza stopped by the PAZA workshop to see if PAZA would buy her granddaughter´s first weaving. It was woven to the specifications for a yoga mat strap. Doña Narciza has raised her 15 year old granddaughter and told her if she wanted money to spend during the vacation she´d have to work for it. Since there are no businesses or jobs in Huancarani, the sales of crops, livestock, and weavings are the only ways to earn money.

Doña Narciza´s Weavings on Display

Doña Narciza´s Weavings on Display

Her granddaughter opted to learn how to weave so sat down on a low stool in front of the warped loom, and was instructed on how to weave the “H” figure. After observing a few passes of the weft, Doña Narciza wove a small section while lecturing her granddaughter on quality including a hard beating down of the weft for a tight weave. The granddaughter wove for 3 days. When she finished she threw herself on her bed complaining that she ached everywhere. Doña Narciza had to laugh when she replied, “Now you know”. She´s put in long hours at the loom to finish a weaving for the cash needed to cover school expenses for her granddaughter or her 2 daughters studying in the city. Hopefully, the payment envelope that Doña Narciza carried back to her granddaughter is sufficient encouragement to keep her weaving, and that she will pursue it at a slower pace.

Doñas Narciza, Paulina, Maxima, and Vilma, all Sell Through PAZA

Doñas Narciza, Paulina, Maxima, and Vilma, all Sell Through PAZA

Doña Narciza´s aguayo was filled with weavings to display at the annual Fair of Livestock and Artesanía. She´d woven a blanket with natural dyes as well as half of a second blanket which included a column of figures. Blankets are usually woven without figures and with local wool dyed with powdered synthetic dyes that run when they´re washed. She had also woven 3 ch´uspas (shoulder bags) for the fair. After 8 years of using natural dyes for the weavings they sell, the weavers are beginning to use them for what they weave for their homes and themselves.

Doña Justina with Her Weavings Including Chuspas with Embedded Double Woven Figures

Doña Justina with Her Weavings Including Chuspas with Embedded Double Woven Figures

Doña Máxima, Vilma, and I headed to the fair at midday. It is sponsored by the municipal government, and a few crude stalls are set up each year for the artesanía displays. Doña Justina, also from Huancarani, had on display a gorgeous aguayo woven from natural dyed yarn. Doña Dionicia, the eldest of the Huancarani weavers who sells through PAZA, had brought weavings and wool polleras (skirts). She takes her weavings to any fair in the municipality hoping to make a sale. Because the fairs only attract local farmers and all the women weave to some degree the fairs tend to be more of an exposition than a sales opportunity.

4 Crude Spaces for the Weavings, No Shade, Tables or Chairs

4 Crude Spaces for the Weavings, No Shade, Tables or Chairs

The municipality operates a sewing center in Independencia that has been the Clubhouse for a group of women who have made life difficult for PAZA, Doña Máxima, and the Huancarani weavers since 2010. That group is involved with the judging, and last year they gave a prize to a participant who entered unwashed alpaca fiber over Doña Narciza´s ch´uspa with embedded double woven figures. The new mayor can´t change staffing until 2016, so the same group did this year´s judging. They ignored all of the extraordinary Huancarani weavings.

Huancarani Booth at the 2009 Fair with Natural Dye Exhibit

Huancarani Booth at the 2009 Fair with Natural Dye Exhibit

Doña Máxima was furious, but it was pointed out that the Huancarani weavers are renowned for their skills at an international level through their participation in Spinzilla. The time is coming when they will be honored in Independencia for their leadership in the local movement to celebrate and preserve their weaving culture. Thanks to a non-profit organization that organized an excellent artisan fair in 2009, the women of Independencia know what the annual Feria de Artesanía could and should be.

The Judging was Done by Impartial Qualified Judges in 2009

The Judging was Done by Impartial Qualified Judges in 2009

The fair will be discussed at the annual meeting of the Centro de Artesanía in Huancarani next week. The judging over the past 2 years provides the Huancarani weavers leverage to lobby for change in the use of the municipal artesanía budget and in the organization of the annual fair. Some of our greatest leaps forward, such as beginning the Club de Artesanas, came into being by turning the negative into something positive.

Thanks to the long term support of family, Lyn Lucas, Dorothy Thursby-Stern, Irene Schmoeller, Marilyn Murphy, Laverne Waddington, WARP friends, and to Margaret Tyler who rallied to the fundraising appeal the weavers have had experiences and are organized to go beyond the knowledge that they have rights to implementing them. Dorinda Dutcher, December 16, 2015

Spinzilla 2015 is Over, Now What?

Vilma Collecting Molle Leaves for the Dye Pot

Vilma Collecting Molle Leaves for the Dye Pot

October was a month to remember! The 25 spinners on the Cloth Road’s Warmis Phuskadoras team spun a whopping 68,511 yards during Spinzilla Spinning Week, all on drop spindles. The team ranked 24th out of the 64 teams, which put Bolivia in 4th place out of the 14 countries represented.

Thanks again to all the well-wishers who helped make it possible for the women to participate. The support and words of good cheer helped them to begin to understand that they are part of a bigger world of spinners. Cloth Roads has enthusiastically agreed to sponsor the team for Spinzilla 2016 and the women are already talking about how to spin more during next year’s competition.

Prepping Sumakaya Bark

Prepping Sumakaya Bark

What will they do with the 68,511 yards of yarn you may wonder? All the women are weavers, and the spinning is just 1 step in their ancient weaving tradition they learned as girls. The yarn will be wound into skeins, washed, dyed, washed, plyed, warped, and finally woven. The weavings could be for home and farm use, cultural celebrations, or PAZA orders which help the women to generate the income they need to meet the basic needs for their families.

Winding Skeins

Winding Skeins

When the hoopla of Spinzilla dyed down the spinners in the Club de Artesanas (CdA) were ready to start dyeing. On Tuesday they collected and prepped sumakaya bark and molle leaves and spent all day Thursday dyeing. Unfortunately, the molle leaves which produce a bright yellow dye produced nothing. The notes from past dye workshops were reviewed and showed successful dye pots in August, so no bright yellow until next year. A cochineal dye bath replaced the molle pot on the 2 burner dye stove with alum added to produce pink tones. Adding a mordant to a cochineal dye bath never ceases to arouse murmurs of awe from those around the dye pot. Two weavers from rural communities had sent in skeins with requests for the colors they needed which helped the CdA members plan Thursday´s dye day.

Dye Day Results

Dye Day Results

The simplicity of the rustic loom set-up allows weavers to have more than 1 weaving in progress. Last week, Doña Máxima rolled up the aguayo half which was ¾ of the way woven and set it aside. She replaced it with a warp for a PAZA order. The aguayo is being woven for Carnaval in February. The weaving for the PAZA order helped her meet unexpected costs related to her son´s upcoming graduation from a 2 year accounting program in Cochabamba. She commented on how much easier it is to weave with the smooth synthetic yarn used in the aguayo as compared to the physical strength needed to beat down the warp of the nubby natural dyed wool.

The CdA Chicas with Their Drawings

The CdA Chicas with Their Drawings

Her weaving for the PAZA order will be used to make prototypes of a clutch and an organizer bag, which will be paired with leather. PAZA has worked with a leather store in Cochabamba for 4 years to produce the guitar straps, belts, wallets, keyrings, camera straps, and a few bags each year. Thanks to a new Cochabamba connection, PAZA will leave the higher end leather products on consignment in their shop in hopes of sales to keep orders going to the weavers.

Decorating Halloween Cookies

Decorating Halloween Cookies

The CdA chicas continue to meet on Saturday mornings, and have branched out from just crocheting. They tried their hand at soap making and spent another day drawing, in which they were so utterly engrossed they had to be asked 3 times to take a break for tea and peanut coconut cookies. The fruits of their labor adorn the walls of PAZA´s library. Halloween, which is not celebrated in Independencia, fell on a Saturday and the chicas got a charge our of wielding the cookie cutters shaped liked witches, pumpkins, cats, and bats and decorating the baked cookies with colored royal icing. It was good practice for the upcoming holiday baking extravaganza when enough cookies will be baked and decorated for all the CdA members to take a bag home to share with their families.

A hug and thank you to Lyn Lucas whose long-term support has helped keep PAZA chugging along week after week with the mundane as well as the dramatic. Dorinda Dutcher, November 1, 2015

Measuring in Sanipaya

Doña Rufina, Doña Beatris´s mom

Doña Rufina, Doña Beatris´s mom

At 8am Tuesday morning following Spinzilla Spinning Week the contracted pickup truck arrived to transport the Warmis Phuskadoras Team Captain, Doña Máxima, Dorinda (PAZA), and Shelby the social media volunteer to the rural community of Sanipaya to measure the yardage spun by 7 team members. The truck was quickly loaded with the measuring necessities including a wooden table with yard long measurement marks, 3 plastic chairs, 2 low wooden stools, 2 plastic buckets, and a bag of beverages. The truck wound its way up out of the Palca River valley and across the mountain tops past the turnoff to Huancarani and continuing on another half hour to the Sanipaya turnoff. It was another half an hour of winding down the mountain past the school and health post before finally stopping at what appeared to be the end of the dirt road.

Doña Máxima Measuring and Shelby Recording

Doña Máxima Measuring and Shelby Recording

Doña Beatris, is a Club de Artesanas (CdA) member, and divides her time between Independencia and her farm in Sanipaya. Last year she organized 2 other women in Sanipaya so the 3 of them could participate in Spinzilla, and this year she had organized 6 other spinners. She waved at us from her house which was on the other side of a wheat field that had been harvested and turned under.

Doña Beatris Winding 2 Strands Together

Doña Beatris Winding 2 Strands Together

Our driver, Don Vicente, was a great help all day. He carted the table through the field to Doña Beatris´s house, and served as a recorder to complete a third measuring team. Shelby worked as she had the day prior in Huancarani by recording for Doña Máxima and Dorinda who sat across from each other at the table calling out after every 5th yard they measured. The spinners rewound their balls of yarn as they were measured. There were breaks to stop and talk since 4 of the spinners were new to the competition this year.

The spinners of Huancarani had experienced Spinzilla last year and had a full year to think and talk about it. They also have worked with PAZA since 2007. As a Peace Corps volunteer in 2008, Dorinda had presented 2 natural dye workshops in Sanipaya. Unfortunately due to local politics a working relationship never developed between PAZA and the weavers of Sanipaya.

Rewinding Doña Rina´s Measured Yarn

Rewinding Doña Rina´s Measured Yarn

The last yarn measured this year belonged to Doña Rina. Her 2 balls of spun yarn were single ply and needed to be a double ply for measuring. Doña Máxima put each ball into a separate bucket at her feet so she could combine the 2 strands for measuring. Because the balls of yarn were different colors, they had to be separated after being measured. Doña Juana sat beside Doña Máxima to keep the measured yarn from snarling and fed it out to Doña Rina and Doña Tomaza who had formed a triangle to each side so they could each rewind a single strand. The standard practice to wind 2 drop spindles of spun yarn into a ball is to place a filled drop spindle between the big toe and the next toe of each foot and wind the 2 strands together. Give it a try….

Fleece to be Spun Draped Over Loom

Fleece to be Spun Draped Over Loom

Doña Beatris and her daughter Adviana who lives in Independencia and is a CdA member have been selling weavings through PAZA since 2012. The other spinners expressed interest in working with PAZA to sell weavings. A few workshops in Independencia will be necessary to teach natural dye recipes and how to weave to size specifications which the Huancarani weavers have been working on for 4 years. The piece missing in the government and non-profit organizations development projects concerning rural women generating income through the fiber arts is the sales and marketing. PAZA´s partnership with the local government to work with the Women´s Organizations in rural communities ended rather dramatically at a public meeting in Independencia in 2010. The results of the Spinzilla competition will be presented to the mayor of Independencia with the hope it will help open the doors to local partnerships.

Measuring Completed, Headed Back to Truck

Measuring Completed, Headed Back to Truck

In December, at the annual Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani (CAH) meeting the prizes and participation certificates will be handed out to the Huancarani spinners. Every spinner wins, and all participants will receive a sweater, which was their choice for the prize for participating. Doña Beatris will award the prizes and certificates in Sanipaya. Both Doña Máxima and Doña Beatris did excellent jobs in meeting their responsibilities for organizing the team. It´s been a joyful experience for the team and they share that joy and send their thanks to their TNNA sponsor Cloth Roads, all of you who made it possible for them to participate, and to spinners everywhere. Dorinda Dutcher, October 15, 2015

Measuring Yarn in Huancarani

Taking a Break From Selling Potatoes, Photo Credit: Shelby Deaton

Taking a Break From Selling Potatoes, Photo Credit: Shelby Deaton

The measuring of the yarn spun during Spinzilla spinning week began Sunday evening, with the measuring of the yarn of the 5 Independencia based spinners and 2 Huancarani spinners. Doña Julia and Doña Antonia had traveled from Huancarani in the back of a cargo truck on Saturday to sell their potatoes at Sunday´s market. Late Sunday morning they dropped by the PAZA store/workshop to leave their balls of yarn for measuring and asked if PAZA would buy it. Doña Julia said she had plenty of spun yarn to weave her next project, a poncho for her son, and the sales of her potatoes wasn´t going well. She was going to lower the already low price of the potatoes from $2.15 to $1.45 per 25 pounds in hopes of selling out in time to catch the truck back to Huancarani. PAZA purchased the yarn at $10 a kilo, which is double the local price. The yarn is dyed on Club de Artesanas dye days (local plants and cochineal) and sold to the weavers. Twenty-eight cents is added to the cost of the yarn per skein for the dyeing.

Doña Antonia Measuring While Maribel Records

Doña Antonia Measuring While Maribel Records

Doña Máxima did an excellent job of arranging transportation and planning for the measuring with the spinners in the communities of Huancarani and Sanipaya. She, Doña Antonia, Dorinda, and volunteer Shelby made up the measuring team. The back of the contracted pickup truck was loaded with a wooden table with measurement marks, plastic chairs, low wooden stools, plastic buckets for holding the balls of yarn being measured, and beverages for all. The measuring for 11 spinners took place on the porch of the church and a pew was used as a 3rd measuring station. Each spinner rewound their yarn into a ball as it was passed by the woman measuring who called out “cinco” or “marca” to the recorder after every 5 yards measured. Maribel, who was in PAZA´s Club de Artesanas before moving to Huancarani arrived with her baby and sister-in-law to lend a hand with the recording.

Doñas Felicidad, Justina, and Toribia Waiting to Measure

Doñas Felicidad, Justina, and Toribia Waiting to Measure

Spinners who arrived early ceded their place to those who arrived later but had left unattended sheep or goat herds nearby. Those who could linger did so enjoying the opportunity to socialize. The measuring began at 9:30am, and the measuring team was homebound at 2:30, having taken time out for 2 lunches provided by the spinners.

Doña Eulalia and Doña Narciza both have goat herds, so they were queried about where they had purchased their fleece. They said that traders pass through and trade sheepskins for dried corn kernels. Doña Justina said she´d traded for a black sheep skin and divided the fleece with Doña Casimira. The sheep skin cost each woman 25 pounds of corn kernels. Doña Justina said she filled 11 drop spindles with spun yarn from her half.

Doña Casimira was the Top Ranked Spinner

Doña Casimira was the Top Ranked Spinner

Doña Casimira spun 4,680 yards and was the top ranking spinner in this year´s contest. She is twice widowed and her 4 children have migrated. Last year she tried to live in the tropical area of the state of Cochabamba with her daughter, but that didn´t last long. She doesn´t have any livestock and is between sowing and harvesting on her land. Her spinning was fine and care had to be taken not to break a strand while measuring her heaviest ball.

Sorting Out Snarled Yarn

Sorting Out Snarled Yarn

All but 1 of the Independencia based spinners ranked low on the team. Doña Paulina spends long hours each day selling vegetables in the Independencia market. There isn´t much activity during the week, so she was probably glad to pass the day spinning. Doña Máxima´s daughter Vilma, at age 26 and mother of 4, was the youngest of the spinners. She learned to spin as a girl when the family lived in Huancarani. Doña Máxima was pleased and surprised that Vilma´s spinning was not as she remembered, but fine and consistent. Vilma is one of the top producing PAZA weavers, and usually purchases skeins through PAZA.

Dorinda Reads Comments While Using World May

Dorinda Reads Comments While Using World May

Time for hand spinning is harder to fit into the town lifestyle. Doña Máxima, the team captain, was disappointed in her yardage total which was lower than in 2014, but happier with the quality.

After the measuring a world map was laid on the table to show the spinners where supporters and other participants live. The comments that accompanied the donations to support the team were read. The idea of having “sister” spinners around the world brought smiles, and the discussion will carry on through the year. The gathering broke up and the women headed in various directions, many of them spinning as they walked away. Dorinda Dutcher, October 12, 2015

Mid-Spinning Week Check In

Doñas Julia, Alicia, and Team Captain Doña Máxima

Doñas Julia, Alicia, and Team Captain Doña Máxima

Spinzilla spinning week provides rare social occasions for the rural Andean women. Their days are normally spent lost in solitary thought as the spin following the meandering route of their grazing sheep or goats.

Team captain Doña Máxima had arranged with the Huancarani spinners to meet in 1 of 4 locations on Wednesday morning. She along with her daughter and team member Vilma, Dorinda, and Shelby Deaton a social media volunteer climbed into a contracted pickup truck to check in with the Huancarani spinners.

Horses Had the Day Off, Note Use of Weaving

Horses Had the Day Off, Note Use of Weaving

The first stop was several miles off the main dirt road that leads to the center of the community (school, Catholic Church, soccer field, and unmanned health post). Doña Julia and Doña Alicia came out from their homes spinning as they walked. Doña Máxima´s aged mother-in-law and her husband were sacking up bags of gravel and sand that a dump truck had left alongside the road. They planned to move what they needed on horseback to their home a ½ mile away for the workers who were contracted by a government development project to build outhouses at each home. The visitors and driver all looked at one another and began loading the back of the pickup, including the filled bags the elderly couple couldn´t lift.

Sisters, Doñas Máxima & Doña Narciza

Sisters, Doñas Máxima & Doña Narciza

Doña Máxima and Vilma spun and chatted with the other 2 spinners while photos were snapped. The rules were reviewed and the plan for meeting in the soccer field to measure the spun yardage on Monday was discussed. The final bit of business was to have the 2 local spinners select the color and state the size for the sweater they will be awarded for participating in Spinzilla. Doña Máxima had brought along a variety of colored markers which the women used to make their color selection.

Doña Máxima and Daughter Vilma Applying Leaves for Pain Relief

Doña Máxima and Daughter Vilma Applying Leaves for Pain Relief

The next stop was to unload the gravel and sand for the outhouse project, then walk next door to visit Doña Narciza who is Doña Maxima´s sister and the top producing weaver. She was also the fastest spinner of the spinners queried, having filled 6 drop spindles. Because she has goats she was asked where she had procured her fleece. She said she was very pleased with the length of the fiber on the sheep skins she´d purchased from a butcher in Independencia. Doña Máxima had made a beeline upon arrival to the Tartaku (Riscinus comunis L.) bushes beside her sister´s house to pluck a number of the huge red-veined leaves. She wet the leaves in a metal tub which was filled by a trickle from a hose running downhill from a spring. She and Vilma applied the wet leaves to their shoulders to ease the growing aches from their days of spinning. There was just time for a few minutes of chatting and communal spinning before it was time to move on.

Spinners: Doña Antonia Calcina and Doña Felicidad

Spinners: Doña Antonia Calcina and Doña Felicidad

The truck bumped along on its way back to the main road and then to the next stop below the center of the community. Doña Julia and her next door neighbor, Doña Dionicia, were waiting with their flocks. They spun, chatted, and picked out the color for their sweaters. Doña Julia said she plans to sell her sheep after Christmas and devote more time to weaving. Her son, who is a doctor, requested a poncho, which she will weave with the yarn she is spinning. She´d also plans to weave to sell through PAZA. Doña Antonia and Doña Felicidad were waiting on the other side of the road, and they spun and chatted with Doña Máxima and Vilma. Doña Felicidad said she would be weaving ch´uspas (shoulder bags) with the yarn she was spinning to sell through PAZA.

Spinning with Joy, Photo Credit: Shelby Deaton

Spinning with Joy, Photo Credit: Shelby Deaton

The sun was merciless, and it was a relief to find the last gathering of women sitting in the shade of eucalyptus trees. Their combined flocks of sheep were spread out in a field behind them. Doña Eulalia´s herd of goats were out of sight and hopefully didn’t wander as far as they did during the last meeting. Doña Máxima and Vilma joined the group and their drop spindles began to whirl. All the spinners were spinning to weave PAZA orders. There were a lot of smiles and a lot of laughter. There was joy. The main comments throughout the day were expressions of happiness to know that there were spinners around the world spinning with them.

Shelby

Shelby

The spinners are very appreciative of the support through Spinzilla that enabled them to participate and that made the week so special for them. They enjoyed the comments from other spinners which is a beginning in understanding that there is a larger fiber arts world outside of their isolated valley.

Shelby will be putting together a short mix of photos and video of Spinzilla 2015 in Bolivia to share via U-tube with all who are interested. We were pleased to be granted permission to use the delightful folkloric music of the musical group, “Sacambaya” whose founder is from Independencia. Its availability will be announced via the Ravelry thread soon. Thank you, Shelby, for everything! Dorinda Dutcher, October 9, 2015

Doña Máxima´s Aguayos

Doña Máxima Weaving the 2nd Aguayo

Doña Máxima Weaving the 2nd Aguayo

Doña Máxima continues to weave the regalia she and her husband need for his current year long term as mayor of Huancarani. She is weaving an aguayo in 24 vivid colors with 4 rows of figures each side to complete her attire for next year´s Carnaval. Aguayos are the ubiquitous Andean backpack, a square of cloth woven in 2 halves and stitched together. She´d planned to include a column of embedded double woven figures, but reconsidered after using the labor intensive weaving technique in her husband´s aguayo.

Don Julio, Vilma, and Doña Máxima at the Inauguration

Don Julio, Vilma, and Doña Máxima at the Inauguration

A visit to check on and photograph her weaving progress resulted in a confession as to why she is weaving a second and considering the weaving of a third aguayo. In Independencia last February she attended her husband’s inauguration wearing the only aguayo remaining of those she´d woven as a teen when she had time to weave for herself. A few days later her older sister Doña Narciza was visiting from Huancarani and informed Doña Máxima that word was circulating about the shameful state of the old aguayo including the observation that it didn´t have a single column of embedded double woven figures. Doña Narciza said she´d hoped to loan Doña Máxima an aguayo so she wouldn´t disgrace herself, but hadn´t been able to travel to town for the inauguration. As she beat down the weft Doña Máxima said she had thought her aguayo weaving days were over, with a sly smile she communicated, “I’ll show them.”

The Aguayo Still Needing the Crocheted Border

The Aguayo Still Needing the Crocheted Border

The competitive spirit of their long ago teen years is resurfacing among the Huancarani weavers. Although Doña Antonia wasn´t motivated to weave a new aguayo 2 years ago when her husband was mayor of Huancarani, she is working on her second one this year, and talking about weaving a third. Doña Justina is weaving a new Carnaval aguayo using natural dyed yarn instead of the “traditional” synthetically dyed yarn used for celebrations. Doña Narciza said she may start one in December.

Somehow Doña Máxima was managing to weave, chat, and laugh as she worked towards the completion of the first half of

Weaving and Spinning Tales

Weaving and Spinning Tales

her new aguayo. She was nearing the end of the weaving and commented that is was slow going because of the difficulty of working in the increasingly tight space. She reminisced about being at the same stage with her first aguayo when she was 15 years old hoping her mother would notice her increasing frustration and offer to help. She finally gave her loom a few hard smacks but received nothing more than a chuckle from her mother.

She pointed out colors she liked and talked of the design details she’d like to combine from the first 2 aguayos to weave the third one. She also commented on the woven figures her daughters haven´t learned because the figures are not used on the weavings for ch’upsas, which are what are being woven for the various PAZA products.

Vilma Crochets a Border on a Factory Made Aguayo

Vilma Crochets a Border on a Factory Made Aguayo

Vilma, who is Doña Máxima´s eldest, was listening and again stated she planned to weave her first aguayo. However, she had recently purchased a new factory woven one which she personalized with a lavish crocheted border. All markets feature stacks of brightly colored, inexpensive, factory woven aguayos. They filled the void due to the lifestyle change of girls studying instead of living the farmer subsistence life that incorporates weaving skills and fostered the teen competiveness to master the craft.

Aguayo in Progress

Aguayo in Progress

With an expression more eloquent than any words of thanks Doña Máxima conveyed her pride, joy, and gratitude in being able to weave a textile that has such deep meaning for her and for the older generations. It is to you dear PAZA supporters that her gratitude was directed. You have provided the means to keep the Club de Artesanas going so that she earns a wage, you have supported sales efforts of the weavings so the weavers are beginning to understand their weaving tradition is valued, and you helped purchase the yarn for her ceremonial weavings. No amount of gossip would have persuaded her to prioritize weaving over basic family needs. Thank you. Dorinda Dutcher, September 20, 2015

Spinzilla fundraising update: We´ve raised $200 of the estimated $800 needed for expenses for the event. Thank you! September 22, 2015

Ruraq Maki Visits Independencia

Amanda Working With the CdA Teens and Women

Amanda Working With the CdA Teens and Women

The Club de Artesanas (CdA) activity focus in September was learning new jewelry making techniques. Amanda Smiles, founder of Ruraq Maki, made her annual 4 day journey to Independencia from Ayacucho Peru where Ruraq Maki (RM) offers craft training workshops to incarcerated women in the Yanamilla Prison. It was her 4th year teaching wire jewelry making techniques and working with Doña Máxima as the local trainer. The 4 new chicas in the Club had looked forward to Amanda’s arrival with increasing anticipation. The earrings they´d not sold at the Harvest Fair last May were reviewed and praised by Amanda. She showed all the jewelry makers how to correct a few minor flaws in their workmanship.

Doña Máxima Modeling a Yoga Mat Strap

Doña Máxima Modeling a Yoga Mat Strap

Ruraq Maki has helped with the product design of the traditional weavings over the past 5 years. The yoga mat straps were Amanda´s idea during a brainstorming session in 2012. The yoga mat straps and zippered cosmetic bags began being assembled in-house last year thanks to the industrial sewing machine funded by Ruraq Maki. Additional training is needed to tackle the larger lined fashion bags. PAZA is searching for a Quechua speaking sewing instructor to teach a series of short intensive workshops in Independencia. PAZA needs help to get the yoga mat straps into the hands of yoga practitioners. The hope is that a climb in sales will allow PAZA to get the word out encouraging more weavers to weave and teens to learn to weave.

CdA Dye Day

CdA Dye Day

Doña Juana, the newest CdA member, was introduced to the magic of cochineal during a Club dye day. She´s already sold her first weaving, a yoga mat strap, to Ruraq Maki. She lacks natural dyed yarn for the weavings PAZA sells, so had handspun enough wool for 8 skeins to take advantage of PAZA´s upcoming dye days. A few of the Huancarani weavers had sent skeins to the CdA for dyeing. All requested an orange dye, which was easily done with the addition of citric acid to a cochineal dye bath.

Doña Juana admiring her cochineal dyed skeins

Doña Juana admiring her cochineal dyed skeins

The cochineal PAZA uses was purchased from Potosí Bolivia through PAZA´s natural dye trainer. He had the cochineal lab tested and the highland Potosí cochineal had a higher carminic acid percentage than the cochineal from Cochabamba (local). PAZA´s first purchase of cochineal in 2009 cost $14.50 a kilo, and luckily the 5 kilos purchased held out through the rise in pricing to $86.50 a kilo in 2010. When the next purchase was needed the price had dropped to $36 a kilo. Rumor had it the spike in pricing was due to the demand of the food and drug industry for an organic colorant. Perhaps the demand diminished when consumers discovered the organic colorant was a bug, or they may have found the distinctive odor off-putting.

Doñas Máxima and Beatris, Measuring Day in Sanipaya, 2014

Doñas Máxima and Beatris, Measuring Day in Sanipaya, 2014

Club member, Doña Beatris, who spends the majority of her time in her rural community of Sanipaya, was able to participate in the dye day. She sells weavings to PAZA regularly and is doing a great job in organizing the 8 spinners in Sanipaya who will be competing in the Spinzilla spinning competition. Six of the spinners are entering for the first time and will have a better understanding of the competition after spinning week. Doña Máxima will visit to measure the yardage of spun wool and resolve the lingering doubts of why it costs the spinners $2.15 each to participate. Please consider donating to support the Spinzilla Team Cloth Roads/Warmis Phuskadoras so the event doesn´t financially impact the other PAZA activities.

RM Tote Modeled by Adviana, the Weaver

RM Tote Modeled by Adviana, the Weaver

The soap making project began anew. The 3rd recipe for basic soap was made using a new recipe that includes cocoa butter and vegetable oil along with the rendered tallow that was the only fat used in previous batches. The cocoa butter was purchased in the U.S., although an effort will be made to find a Bolivian source since cocoa is harvested in the Amazon area of the country. Although coconut trees grow in Bolivia, coconut oil is outrageously expensive, so it´s possible there is no processing done in Bolivia. Such possibility, such poverty, ah, Bolivia….

Thanks to the ongoing support of WARP members Lyn, Susan, and Dorothy and new PAZA supporter Jeane PAZA can offer a variety of Club activities hoping that they will spark entrepreneurial interest for income generating activities for the teens and women. The weekly activities also allow for the continued documentation of an ancient culture in transition. Dorinda Dutcher, September 18, 2015