The twelve members of Awamaki’s newest women’s cooperative are making incredible strides in their training to become Spanish teachers! Last Friday, we celebrated the completion of their third segment of preparation with an incredible feast prepared by the women. As we enjoyed rocoto relleno, aji de gallina, and ocopa, the teachers-in-training shared their excitement and pride in their progress, and expressed heartfelt thanks to all those who have made this opportunity possible. Each participant in this capacitacion (training) has an extremely high level of commitment, and in the last month the women have even extended their class time each week to include an English course taught by Awamaki volunteers.
The women are growing in skills and confidence, and are excited for upcoming practice teaching sessions with volunteers. Additionally, plans are progressing well for the Awamaki Language Center—the name for our newly-formed Spanish school—which will be up and running in time for our high season this summer! We are certain that the demand for these Spanish courses will be extremely high, as we already have regular inquiries regarding Spanish instruction from volunteers and tourists alike.
We are incredibly grateful for your contributions to this effort; you are empowering this group of women to improve their economic and social wellbeing while providing an essential service to the Ollantaytambo community! Stay tuned for updates on the women’s progress, and keep us informed of any ideas you may have as we seek to empower this wonderful group of teachers!
In the spirit of Peruvian summer, Awamaki Lab has been abuzz with creative activity. This September, our talented Season 2 fashion designers, Andria Crescioni and Courtney Cedarholm, joined us in Ollantaytambo to begin their four-month residency. The recent Parsons graduates are working side-by-side with members of both Lab's sewing cooperative and Awamaki's new knitwear association to develop their collection. As Awamaki invests in the expansion of its Women's Cooperative Program, Lab likewise extends the scope of its operation to support more female artisans in Ollantaytambo. Season 2 reflects this holistic growth, as Andria and Courtney experiment with a greater ambit of raw materials to focus Lab's collaborative effort and showcase the handiwork of women weavers, seamstresses, and knitters.
The new design team has had an invigorating presence in the Lab studio, introducing Lab's seamstresses to a wider range of design processes and inspiring them to test the limits of their sewing capabilities. Within this setting, Justa, Florentina and Estela have mastered their second Lab garment, completing production on the very detail-oriented Season 1 tie-front jacket. Advancing their skills further, they've begun to study design and construction with pattern maker Hannah Flor. One of the core values of Awamaki Lab is the encouragement of women to develop the professional skills and self-esteem that will ultimately lead to social transformation. Engaging the seamstresses in more challenging design projects, and teaching them the skills that will allow them to contribute directly to the design process is the first step to achieving this. Hannah has therefore been both professor and mentor to Justa, Florentina and Estela. She has created a hands-on curriculum that complements the seamstresses' learning style and amplifies their skills, while tying in techniques from Andria's and Courtney's collection to bridge the design-production gap.
Just this week, Justa, Florentina and Estela finished sketching, drafting and sewing their own bag designs, which will be sold as part of the Season 2 collection next year.
Thanks to your generous support, we've been able to continue to invest in these kinds of capacity-building workshops needed to expand our program, enabling women in rural Peru to develop a sustainable income for themselves, their families and their communities.
To see further examples of our cooperatives' work and get a jump-start on holiday shopping, visit our online store to view the S1 Lab skirts.
Awamaki Lab finished up 2011 with lots of creative momentum, thanks to the passion and energy of our wonderful design and cooperative teams. Andria Crescioni and Courtney Cedarholm worked closely with sewing instructor Paula Huillca and members of the knitting and sewing coops to complete their Fall/Winter 2012 samples, which we presented this January at the Textile Arts Center in Manhattan.
The Textile Arts Center (TAC) is an educational space that provides support to fiber artists, and everyday people interested in working with fiber, by acting as a resource facility and creative meeting place. The TAC generously extended its services to Awamaki Lab, gifting us with a five-day residency to share our story with community artists, media, buyers, and fashion enthusiasts.
We began our program with a hands-on workshop to simulate the Lab design experience in Ollantaytambo. We wanted to demonstrate how the tactile production process transforms a studio space into a dynamic social environment that creates purposeful work, which helps to build confidence. Participants were guided by Lab sewing instructor Nayantara Banerjee to develop up-cycled accessories from textile remnants produced in the cutting and sewing of our Season 1 skirts.
The following night, we launched Andria and Courtney’s Fall/Winter 2012 collection with a presentation that paid homage to the local fiesta rituals of Ollanta. Our friends modeled and mingled with attendees underneath colorful Peruvian party banners, while huayno music – re-mastered and remixed by Andria’s cousin Frankie Crescioni – played in the background. Kate Reeder’s landscape and portrait photographs framed the garments, providing a point of reference for our design activity in Peru.
We concluded our week at the TAC with a three-day trunk show; a pivotal moment for Awamaki Lab as we introduced our merchandise to market. Here, we offered pre-sale orders of our Fall/Winter 2012 collection as well as sale of our Season 1 skirts and jackets. These orders, along with those placed by small boutiques, buoyed Lab and have contributed to the program's long-term self-sufficiency.
Meanwhile in Ollantaytambo, our seamstresses Justa, Florentina and Estela returned to work after a month-long holiday. They’ve begun Season 2 production with their own bag designs, each responsible for sewing their signature Q’ipi Satchel to complete our first 20-unit order. They continue to improve their computer literacy with support from Awamaki’s education program and through weekly skype meetings facilitated by our technical and quality control associate Krissa Henderson.
As we look ahead, we remain committed to promoting sustained, measured growth through our program, to honor and satisfy the needs of our coop members. If you would like to place a pre-sale order for any of the Season 2 pieces (50% off retail price for our extended Global Giving family!) please visit our site and email Annie@awamaki.org.