Nothing in the Andes is simple or predictable. To contact Master Weaver Daniel Sonqo we have to call a community phone - a landline in their community hall - when the weather is good. If someone is nearby, they answer, ask us to call back in 10 minutes, then take off running through the village to find him. Sometimes it can take weeks to be in contact! However, despite that this seems difficult, it’s no limitation for Daniel - an entrepreneur, loving father and engaged world citizen that manages a thriving family business.
Well known and held in the highest esteem throughout the Sacred Valley of Cusco, Daniel has been a driving force in the preservation of Quechua culture for over two decades and an invaluable member of our team since humble beginnings in 2009. Working alongside his incredibly talented wife, Leonarda, from their welcoming home in Parobamba, their family economy has expanded to include textiles, traditional weaving and dyeing workshops as well as cultivating perhaps the most delicious honey around. Emphasizing and embodying the values of hard work and respect for family, his two oldest sons - Efrain and Dario - are pursuing degrees at the National University of Cusco while his two youngest - Nilson and Acner - practice traditional weaving at home alongside diligent academic studies.
An expert in natural dyes - such as k'insa kucho ("three corners" in Quechua), pictured here - Daniel instructs the weavers in where to find each substance, their color properties and how to combine them with certain fixatives to produce different shades.
In the high Andean community of Chaullacocha, Daniel works closely with Demesia Sinchi Echami to match colors from our product swatches.
We know Daniel as both friend and colleague, being years indebted to him for his expertise in guiding our weaving and dyeing workshops in the communities of Chaullacocha and Rumira Sondormayo, as well as the cultural insight that he has been able to provide our pioneering team. When arriving, he greets each woman - of which there are over 40! - by name and the term of respect compañera (companion), enquiring about their families and health. Depending on the days’ itinerary, he will then patiently guide the weavers and us through natural dyeing techniques, translating paper designs to woven masterpieces and string-by-string warping of their back-strap looms.
An invaluable help at at entregas (order pickups), Daniel discusses the quality of each textile with its weaver - pictured here are Juana Huamanhuillca Cjuro (left) and Eugenia Huaman Quispe (middle).
Just this afternoon, we have had the pleasure of Daniel visiting in the office, bringing our latest inventory of Master Weaver products, soon to be featured in our online shop - check out these “sneak peak” photos below! “I work to share my knowledge of ancient weaving techniques in high Andean communities because this is a piece of cultural richness that we must value and preserve,” Daniel says. “And for some families, weaving is the only hope to achieve a sustainable income and improve their quality of life.” With many more years in our future of working together to revitalize cultural practice and provide only the highest quality artisan goods to the world market, we are thankful to have an artist as talented and inspirational as Daniel to support us!
Even tumbled and rumpled, this SONQO poncho is an awe-inspiring combination of pallays and naturally dyed colors.
Soon to be featured online! Can you guess what kind of textile these are?