We've taken you behind-the-scenes before, giving you a glimpse into the design process behind our Chaska Baby Alpaca Poncho (which now comes in 3 different colours, by the way!), and now we're at it again!
In 2017, we had the amazing opportunity to work with New York fashion designer Jennie Lyutskanov who helped us create a whole line of gorgeous women's accessories and home textiles - home decor and accessory pieces that not only look amazing but are also true to their cultural heritage, and whose sale help women, to boot!
Jennie sits with the weavers in Upis to discuss some of her design ideas. Photo by: Mariah Krey.
We're super excited to showcase our entire Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter 2018 collections online, but one of our favourites is a new series of throw pillows: the Pallay alpaca throw pillow; the Picchu chunky wool decorative pillow; the Upis frazada wool pillow; and the Tawa fine alpaca wool accent pillow. Each of these incredible pillows highlights a unique - and in some cases, threatened - weaving technique.
Some of our new pillows, in the Fall/Winter Palette. Pictured are Pallay pillow, Picchu pillow and Upis pillow, all in Cream & Coal. Photo by: Anna Watts.
In this blog post, we’re going to take you behind-the-scenes in the development of one of these pillows – the Pallay alpaca throw pillow. Pallay is a Quechua word. In this indigenous language of the Andes, it means “woven design”, or, more specifically, “to pick-up”, and refers to the intricate motifs that are woven into each Andean textile on the backstrap loom, as the weaver carefully selects each thread, line by line, during the weaving process.
>> Learn more about how Andean textiles tell stories through their woven designs!
More often that not, Andean weaving is characterized by pallay that is repeated in intricate detail throughout the length of a textile, creating a beautiful and almost mesmerizing pattern. What we often forget, though, is how complex each repeat of the pattern really is.
That’s why we wanted to bring the woven design front and centre in this throw pillow, and really highlight its beauty and complexity. The first step was to take the pattern and literally blow it up to larger-than-life size, so that it would fill the whole front of the pillow.
Inocencia examines the paper design for the Pallay alpaca throw pillow. Photo by: Mariah Krey.
The artisans then used their incredible math skills to translate the printed image to a weaving pattern, matching each warp yarn to the enlarged design. We’ll be honest – it took a few tries to get it so that design was fully centred and filled the entire pillow, but the weavers had a real blast doing it - they loved the creative challenge!
Measuring the development of an early Pallay pillow prototype; a little girl observes as her mom advances her weaving of a Pallay pillow, still on the loom. Photos by: (l) Anne Laure Camilleri; (r) Jaime Ho
The end result of this deep-dive into traditional Andean weaving is a pillow that is as rich with meaning as it is beautiful. A conversation piece in more ways than one, the Pallay alpaca throw pillow looks right at home in any living room. The soft, handspun alpaca fibre makes this throw pillow so huggable it will quickly become one of your favs!
Our Pallay alpaca throw pillow is huggably soft, literally! Shown here in Surf. Photo by: Anna Watts.
Many of our 2018 designer pillows - including the Pallay alpaca pillow - were woven in Upis, a small community tucked away at the base of the mighty Apu Ausangate mountain.
Cuddly alpacas peacefully graze in Upis against the impressive backdrop of Ausangate mountain. The yarn used to weave the Pallay alpaca throw pillow came from these very alpacas! Photo by: Alexa Jones.
In Upis, we work with an association of weavers known as Awaq Mayki, run by co-Presdidents Ruperta Condori Merma and Inocencia Crispin Gonzalo. I love to tell the story of how we met, way back in 2012, a moment of serendipity that sparked a deep relationship of trust and friendship with our organization.
Ruperta, Inocencia and Juana pose during a recent weaving meeting. Photo by: Eric Mindling.
Ruperta, for example, never ceases to inspire me. She is a leader in her community and an incredible powerhouse of personal strength. Ruperta grew up at a time when girls did not go to high school and even boys were unlikely to go beyond grade school. Nevertheless, she worked hard and learned to speak and write in Spanish on her own while raising her family of 8 children. Her dedication gave her a set of basic skills that helped her to stand apart from her peers and be an inspiration to them.
Ruperta enjoys a moment during a weaving meeting in Upis. Photo by: Eric Mindling.
Together with Inocencia, Ruperta now dedicates herself to leading their weaving association and promoting their traditional craft.
In addition to our new line of accent pillows, Ruperta and her group have been proudly making our Senkapa and Wato bracelets as well as our Tika pompoms for years.
Jennie models one of our Wato alpaca bracelets in Natural. Photo by: Mariah Krey.