Threads of Peru Blog

A (slightly belated!) 2012 New Years Message

Thoughts at the beginning of 2012 “How did I end up writing the New Year message?” I wonder, as I ponder whether a New Year’s message is about the past or the future… and whether its even a New Years message, when you are writing it more than 30 days into the New Year.

Regardless, I forge on deciding a New Years Message can be about both the past and the future.

2011 was a big year for us, as we employed a fantastic Cusco based Project Manager, Amanda Zenick, and were blessed with the talents of two great volunteers, Fani Karaivanova, Textile Project Assistant & Community Liaison and Frankie Ginnett Assistant Volunteer Coordinator & Project Assistant who have all contributed to advancing the project considerably.

Here you can see Amanda Zenick and Fani Karaivanova working hard to measure everything at the entrega

Here you can see Amanda Zenick and Fani Karaivanova working hard to measure everything at the entrega

The idea of having more people “hands on deck” is to relieve the pressure and hours worked on the founders, who are still completely voluntary. What actually happened is that the Founders moved onto new projects, including spreading the marketing of the project further!

This year our Ebay store was absolutely beautiful, thanks to the design talents of Angie Hodder and Adam Foster Collins, and of a number of photographers in Cusco, including volunteer Lynn Dao. In 2012 we will be expanding into an Ethical Community store and hope in the not too distant future to have our own store on our website!

We also should make special note of our patient Master weaver, Daniel Sonqo who put in a sensational year’s work, enduring our requests for different styles and dimensions, and then transforming these requirements into beautiful weavings with the women of our different weaving groups.

Here you can see Daniel giving a talk to the women in Chaullacocha at the pedido, he is asking them what they would like to weave. Due to the heavy rain this talk takes place inside the greenhouse!

Here you can see Daniel giving a talk to the women in Chaullacocha at the pedido, he is asking them what they would like to weave. Due to the heavy rain this talk takes place inside the greenhouse!

As I look back over the year, there are many small and large successes, but in short – we have achieved a lot and have a lot of people to thank, not the least everyone who “put their money where their mouth is” and supported us by buying a fair trade weaving.

Each year the Project takes a weather directed hiatus for several months (January and February) as it’s difficult, if not impossible, to access the communities where we work. So currently we are busy planning, budgeting and dreaming about what we can create for the project in 2012. In general terms – we would like our women to continue improving their weavings, and for us to sell more of their weavings, which will in turn bring a better quality of life to their remote communities.

An example of one of the beautiful ponchos made this year by the women we work with.

An example of one of the beautiful ponchos made this year by the women we work with.

Happy New Year everyone!

Ariana Svenson, Co- Founder

Interview with Adam Foster Collins - a founder of Threads of Peru

1) What has been your most culture shocking moment whilst in the communities?
The most culture-shocking moment for me was when we were received in Rumira Sondormayo in the cold rain with a welcome dinner which consisted of a plastic laundry basket filled with about 20 types of potato; boiled and whole, accompanied with one hard-boiled egg; warm and still in the shell. As a special treat, we were also offered a dish of salt to add to the food. So there we all were, cold and wet. Eleven of us sat huddled in the darkened interior of a mud brick hut munching on the potatoes and eggs. And honestly, I have to admit, it was one of the greatest tasting and most memorable meals of my life.
A picture of Adam at Machu Picchu2) What inspires you to work for Threads of Peru? As a designer, I’m inspired by the idea that design thinking can be applied to any set of problems to the benefit of the situation - not only that, it MUST be applied. Even if the people involved are not “designers” as a profession. Design is the key to human beings figuring out how to move from a situation that they’re not satisfied with, to one that does satisfy them. Threads of Peru requires that we think about everything from human dynamics, to business management, to marketing and graphic design. The range of issues and the challenges they present - all aimed at the preservation and promotion of indigenous culture in Peru - is what I find so interesting.
3) What's your favourite Peruvian food?
I really enjoy the fresh salsa that often accompanies meals in Peru. I also really love coca tea with mint.
4) And your least favourite Peruvian food (and why?)
Not so much a food, but a drink - coffee. It’s very difficult to find coffee prepared the way I am accustomed to (and addicted to) at home.
5) In your opinion where is the best spot in Cusco for visiting?
The restaurants and Churches surrounding the Plaza de Armas (Central Square) in Cusco are nice to visit, and I love the square at night; the way the city lights of the residential area are visible on the mountainsides above - like stars. Also the San Blas area, which is within walking distance of the Plaza, is full of interesting shops and local art and crafts.
The Plaza at night, lit up with the Christmas decorations!6) Describe the happiest/most touching moment you have experienced in the communities? For me, it was the first time we went to the communities, which the culmination of a design class project in Canada. Eleven students made the journey, and to finally find ourselves there with the weavers in the mountains for the first time was an experience I’ll never forget. It was snowing heavily for a while, and it was beautiful.
7) Your strangest/funniest moment from living in Peru?
Trying really hard to communicate in Spanish to an elderly woman at the market about spices I was looking for, and having her suddenly get exasperated with me and huff, “No Ingles! No entiendo!” (Until then, I thought I was doing pretty well...)
8) Biggest achievement so far?
For me, it has been to see the whole structure set up; from weaving workshops and buying in the communities, to the online store and the vast internet information site,  shipping and positive customer feedback from all over the world. It has required an incredible amount of work and creative energy to set up all of this infrastructure, and to see the structure finally functioning end-to-end is a great achievement for so few people to have built.
9) Finally, whats the main thing you wish to achieve in the next five years?
To be a fully self-sustaining organisation. To see the women’s sewing skills improve so that we can introduce more contemporary product design to our inventory, which will require more complex sewing.
Adam is a Graphic and Communication Designer, living and working in Halifax, Canada. Besides working as a professional Designer, he has been a teacher of Design for almost ten years. His interest in bringing Design thinking to bear on socioeconomic issues led to the creation of Project Peru, and to the collaborative development of Threads of Peru.

Weaver Profile - Paulina Sicos Huaman

Name: Paulina Sicos Huaman

Community: Rumira Sondormayo

Position: I am the Treasurer of the community's weaving assocation.

Age: 56+ - I am not completely sure.

Marital Status: I am married.

Children: I have six children, three girls and three boys.

Favourite Article to weave: I like to weave the challina because it is less difficult to create.

What is your favourite pallay: I like to weave pallays of animals, I have a lot of experience weaving these so now I can do them more quickly and easily than other pallays.

Favourite Animal: My favourite animal is the alpaca, to eat.

What are your favourite colours for weaving: I have always liked red and white.

Do you prefer to work at home or outside: I prefer to work outside because it is calmer.

What hopes and dreams do you have for your children, will they go to school: I have two sons studying in Lima, the other is working as a labourer in the jungle. The others all have families.

What is your favourite thing about your village: I like the freedom of the countryside.

What is the biggest change to happen in your village in the last few years: There is more education, even for the girls. There is now a medical centre and roads.

N.B These interviews were conducted in Quechua and then translated into Spanish and then English so although we try and keep as close to the weavers responses as possible there will undoubtedly be some disparity.

Paulina sitting outside her house in Rumira Sondormayo

Shelter needed!

The famous images of indigenous women weaving against a stunning mountain backdrop are very eye catching and appealing. However the reality is working outside is not that enjoyable, especially in the wet season, which lasts 4 -5 months of the year starting in November and continuing through with greater intensity to peak in February.

The wet season months are also typically low season for tourists, and so as most of the supplementary income for the communities which comes from the men working as muleteers or porters dries up.

Threads of Peru would like to continue to work with the craftswomThe shelter will be constructed on similar lines to the one shown in this photoen during these months, but if the weavings get wet, they stretch and warp.  Also, if we make orders during these months we know that the women weave in their houses, which are very dark even during the day. There is no electricity so weaving during the night is out of the question. It is so dark in the houses that their eyes suffer significant strain, and as most houses do not have a chimney they fill up quickly with smoke damaging the quality of the weaving and, more importantly, the health of the weaver.

Weaving houses, which are relatively simple to construct and provide multiple benefits:
  • Shelter from elements while weaving or meeting in the long wet season
  • A meeting place for women
  • Place to host visitors to the community and put weavings on display.
  • It has potential to be a sheltered campsite for visitors to the community.

There is a temptation amongst foreigners working with these remote villagers to do everything for the community, so we have been waiting for the communities to take the lead on this project and so to encourage sustainability from within.

We are currently working with the community in Rumira Sondormayo who have now organised some land by the river for their weaving house, and fenced it off.

The land in Rumira Sondormayo currently fenced off and ready to be built upon.Furthermore, we have secured funding from some generous Canadian donors (who have trekked with our partners Apus Peru two years running) who will assist in the purchase of materials needed and which cannot be obtained in the community.

All manual labour needed to construct the Rumira Sondormayo weaving house will be from the community, in keeping with the traditional principle of ayni.

We hope to post pictures of this shelter very soon!