Threads of Peru Blog

How We Met: Upis Weavers

In late 2012, I was on the lookout for another weaving association to add to our growing network. On a routine trip out to Ollantaytambo on public transit, I happened to notice a sign advertising an upcoming artisan fair that would be held just outside Chinchero. "Amazing!," I thought. "Perfect place to meet some new weavers."

 

Weaving women of the Upis community huddling with Sarah over patterns and designs

On the day of the fair, my partner and I headed out towards Chinchero. From the highway, we walked through the field to the fair entrance. Booths lined one side of the site, each of them teeming with weaving, knitting, and other crafts, as well as fleece and yarn. Elsewhere, we saw an entertainment stage, food stalls and animals – there must have been a livestock auction or judging contest going on. I was on a mission and so didn’t spend much time investigating!

We walked up and down the row of booths, stopping to check out a few of them. It didn’t seem to be as fruitful as I’d hoped, as the textiles I saw were either of questionable quality or else the weavers I spoke to were already too busy with their own orders and other activities to take on another partnership.

 Disappointed, we started heading towards the exit. That’s when Ruperta and Inocencia ran up to us. Somehow, they figured out what we were up to, and they weren’t going to pass up this chance! They led us to the very end of the row of booths, excited to show us their work. I was impressed! I hadn’t seen weaving quite like this before – new patterns, and such a soft texture!

Ruperta was one of the women who recognized a great opportunity when she saw one coming. Photo Courtesy of Jordan Putt.

We chatted for a bit, and I learned that they lived in a very remote community in the Ocongate region. I gave them an “assignment” to see if they’d be able to do the work that I had in mind at the time, and we made arrangements to meet in the nearest town, Tinqui, to see the results. Needless to say, their skill and efficiency blew me away, and their association, Awaq Mayki, has been an invaluable partner to Threads of Peru ever since.

 At one of our weaving meetings in Upis last year, Inocencia re-told this story. Through giggles, she told the rest of the group how she and Ruperta “stalked” me, and wouldn’t let me leave until they’d had a chance to convince me I should work with them! She said, “If it weren’t for Sarah and that fateful day, Dana wouldn’t be coming here and placing orders with us all!”

 

Circle of Weavers- Weaving together comprises a large part of the social fabric of the Upis Community

 

Today, the Awaq Mayki weavers – including Ruperta and Inocencia – produce many of the products in our Bags & Accessories collection, including the QOLQE change purse; LARES pencil case; and CALCA cosmetic pouch, as well as the SENKAPA and WATO wrap bracelets.

This fall, we are also getting ready to introduce two new products from Upis: the PIKA blanket in Coffee & Cream, woven from luxuriously soft hand-spun alpaca yarn, and the Tinkuy wool area rug. Keep your eye out for these new hand-crafted treasures, coming soon! Here is a sneak-peak of the PIKA, getting some finishing touches! 

 

New to Threads of Peru in 2016, the Pika blanket gets some finishing touches from two of the Upis weavers.