Hello dear supporters! We have some exciting news to share, and just in time for Bonus Day today! Our new collection for 2015 includes leather features to complement the handwoven textiles in our bags and totes. Our seamstresses are learning new skills and making higher value items that can fetch higher prices.
But there is one little detail. The machines that you all so generously helped us purchase a few years ago just aren't equipped to sew leather. The material is hard on the machines, and the seamstresses struggle to create strong, straight seams that look professional. As Justa explains,
"The leather is thick and makes the needle jump. Sometimes, we have to force it through, and it does damage on the underside of the faric. That is why our work isn't as pretty when we are sewing leather on the machine."
With our current machines, our leather goods still look a little homemade. While that is of course very charming, it limits the clients for the bags to smaller stores and individual purchases. We think our artisans' bags are so beautiful that they belong in bigger stores all over the U.S., but we can't get there without a leather sewing machine.
Today, we are trying to raise $1500 for a leather machine, and we would love your help! Please donate so that we can purchase this essential equipment for the seamstresses. Expanding our collection to leather will allow them to learn new skills while supporting more weavers and generating increased income for these artisan women so that they can lead their communities out of poverty.
This summer, two Awamaki staff represented over 100 female artisans on the west coast of the United States for two gift shows in Los Angeles and San Francisco. These shows allowed Awamaki to increase our artisans’ market access to west coast markets. During these shows, our staff managed to create over 15 new relationships with west coast retailers who will begin carrying our products this autumn.
The most popular items at the shows were baby accessories, our lace scarf, and a new hand woven scarf, all designed by our volunteers and in-house designers in collaboration with the artisans. Trade shows are also a learning opportunity for us as we work to enter international markets. At these shows, the new iPad case we brought didn't do as well as we hoped, so our lead designer is working with the seamstresses to re-envision it, perhaps as a clutch. Feedback like this from customers, as well as the relationships we can build with stores that care about fair trade and ethical sourcing, make trade shows like this invaluable to us as we connect more women artisans to global markets.
Sales Manager Callie was one of the staff members representing Awamaki artisans at the shows. "We have been working hard to build our wholesale partnerships. When our current retailers and new clients see our booth, they get to meet a sales manager who works with the women on a daily basis; this is so rare at trade shows," she said. "Most times, they have been in frequent contact with me and are excited to see a friendly face. This improves our visibility, builds trust in our quality, and most importantly, increases the orders that our cooperatives rely on.”
Seamstresses Justa and Estella weighed in on how the quality of Awamaki products has improved since we have started going to trade shows. “The drawings and colors are clear and of a higher quality,” Estella said. Justa added “The quality of the work has improved, especially with the new designs.”
Your continuing generosity will allow us to further gain entry into new markets and thus help the amazing women in our cooperatives. We are very enthusiastic about the progress of this project and are excited to see how our women and Lab evolve!
Dear GlobalGiving Donors,
Thank you for your continuous support and donations to our project of “Empowering Women Through Design in Rural Peru”. We have an exciting announcement to make!
Martha, from our Rumira knitting cooperative, has joined the Awamaki team as our knit production coordinator! Martha is a talented knitter and the treasurer of the Rumira cooperative. At Awamaki, we try to carry out our mission in all aspects of our work, and that means hiring and training staff from the communities we serve. We are training Martha to do knitting design and technical design so that she can work with volunteers to ensure their designs come out correctly. She is also doing quality control for all knit and handspun products, which means managing three different cooperatives!
By training Martha to create and teach knit designs, we are paving the way for the women artisans to keep taking leadership with product design. “I enjoy working for Awamaki and learning and sharing my experiences with others here. I’m very happy here.”
Please send us your best wishes to help us welcome Martha to our team!
Dear GlobalGiving donors,
I am writing to thank you for your generous donations to our project and to share with you the incredible progress we’ve made with the members of our Women’s Fair Trade Cooperative Program. At Awamaki, we view the exercise of gratitude as an important and humbling exchange that reminds us of how far we’ve come and what our aspirations are in the coming months. Since the infancy of this project, your donations have been used not only to preserve traditional Andean weaving methods and textile designs, but also to remind the members of our cooperatives that their beautiful, handmade, products are continuously treasured and appreciated by others.
Our work at Awamaki Lab is a collaborative effort between the resident designers, the Quechua women in our weaving cooperatives, and the local seamstresses who work in Ollanta. Every season we are challenged to reinterpret the traditional, and this coming fall is no exception. Awamaki Lab and its cooperative partners are already hard at work re-designing products from our previous collections. As Awamaki Lab’s reputation continues to grow, and the number of customized orders increases, it’s important that our growing clientele understands the integrity and traditions behind the symbols in the products they request. Awamaki has taken it upon themselves to define the symbols and patterns found within the traditional Andean designs called pallay. Pallay is a Quechua word that refers to the motions and mechanics of warp faced weaving on a back strap loom. However, pallay is also the terminology for the graphic designs woven into each product. As there is no official record or definition for each pallay symbol, the Awamaki designers are collaborating with the Quechan women to compile a “look-book” with the definitions and symbolism for each pallay design. With the help of your donations, we would like to publish a physical book to be displayed in Awamaki’s fair trade store, and to also have a downloadable version available on our website to provide our clientele with a greater appreciation for the products they order and purchase.
In other news, Awamaki Lab is entrusting the members of our weaving cooperatives with additional responsibilities. Each woman is now required to personally sew tags with the product description and her name into the items she has made. In doing so, we hope the women will feel a greater sense of empowerment knowing that their work is correctly attributed to each of the artisans. To our donors who have supported us by buying the items that are made by these talented women, you are supporting their livelihoods and providing them with a regular source of income. Of equal importance is the fact that you’re helping to preserve the beautiful Andean textiles so that they may continue to be admired and treasured by generations to come.
When you make a donation to Awamaki you help in two important ways: your contributions to the specific project of “Empowering Women Through Design in Rural Peru” help us empower talented women to realize their true artistic potential; your contributions to Awamaki as an entire organization help us to successfully run our programs while always looking for ways to expand our impact and reach within the Sacred Valley region.
The Awamaki staff, and members of our cooperatives, thank you for your interest. We look forward to keeping you updated on our progress!
Justa is a lady with gumption. She is from the community of Rumira, a half hour from Ollantaytambo. Before working with Awamaki, Justa did everything she could to provide for her son, Efraim, 4. She sold knit goods in the plaza of Ollantaytambo to bring in a little money. She even worked as a transportista, or combi driver, which is unheard of for a woman. Transportistas drive the small vans that careen down Peru's highways, stuffed to the brim with people, animals and goods, charging about 1.5 soles, or 40 cents, for a half-hour trip.
Justa now works as a seamstress with Awamaki. She takes the weavings made by women in Awamaki's weaving cooperative and sews iPad cases, tote bags and mini skirts for sale in the U.S. In her time at Awamaki, she has learned skills in sewing, pattern-making, and design.
Justa says her work with Awamaki is much more dependable than that as a transportista, and she can bring her son to work when she needs to. Justa can often be found at the office at five in the morning, getting a head start on her day's work so she can be home with Efrain during the day. "Now that I have steady work, I can give a better life to my son," she says. She is saving money from her wages to put towards his future education.
Whether it's food, health care or schooling, Justa knows what Efraim needs. Your donation allows us to teach her the skills required for her to earn money to meet those needs. In 2014, we aim to add 20 more women to our programs. We also aim to begin administration training with them so that they can progress towards being successful, independent business women.
Your donations fund this skills empowerment. As we build these skills, we can increasingly connect women to market opportunities so that they can earn income. The women do the rest. They invest in their families's nutrition, in their kids' education, in concrete floors and warm clothes for the cold Andean winter. They tranform their communities and lift their families out of poverty, woman by woman, household by household.
Please contribute to Awamaki today and give a sustainable, prosperous future to Justa and more women like her.
Thank you so much and best wishes for a new year!
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