Woven armadillo ornaments. Photo: C. Plowden/CACE
Earlier this year, our project manager Yully Rojas organized two workshops to teach artisans from our partner villages in the Ampiyacu to make some of our best-selling handicrafts. The first was a three-day gathering in the Bora village of Brillo Nuevo where veteran artisans showed sixty fellow artisans from six villages how they made popular models of hot pads and snake pattern belts. The results were very good with the exception of a group that worked with a last-minute substitute teacher who didn’t know her model as well as expected.
I attended a two-day training in the thatched roof maloca (meeting house) in Puca Urquillo Huitoto where four artisan teachers taught their peers from five villages how to make another batch of special crafts. Many women and children gathered around Siena on a large plastic sheet on the dirt floor to practice weaving an armadillo ornament. Others gathered around Ania and Angelina to begin making the more complicated shushupe and naca naca models of guitar straps. Many women said they learned a lot and acknowledged it was going to take a lot of practice to weave a high-quality strap. We were pleased that Luz Elena, an artisan from Neuvo Peru joined the workshop for the first time. She said, “I used to only know how to make bags and hammocks – now I can make a new kind of craft.” It was disappointing that no artisans came from two nearby Yagua villages. We have been trying to engage artisans from these communities in the project for a few years now, but we are learning that initial enthusiasm to get involved doesn’t always translate into long-term commitment.
There was a cluster of men sitting on a side bench of the maloca using crude awls to etch a paiche (a giant Amazon fish) and other wildlife figures onto dark brown calabash tree pods. When filled with beads, they become attractive hand rattles and Christmas tree ornaments. Guillermo from Puca Urquillo had been trying to sell his ornaments to Yully without success for over a year. He said, “I learned to make crafts 25 years ago when I was a teenager. This workshop was very important, though, because it gave me a chance to compare, practice and improve my work with others.” Guillermo was very pleased that we bought almost all of the ornaments he made during the workshop.
At the conclusion of the workshop, each of the artisan groups expressed their thanks to CACE, GlobalGiving and other foundations for their support of artisan skill sharing.
While workshops are a potent way to promote artisan learning, we are also producing a DVD compilation of veteran artisans showing and explaining step-by-step how they make a variety of handicrafts for CACE. Videographer Tulio Davila has now recorded more than 20 sessions with artisans from Brillo Nuevo and Puca Urquillo making a variety of woven belts, guitar straps, hot pads, hair barrettes, hat bands and water bottle carriers. He accomplished a lot during his recent three week stint in the field, but the factors that slowed him down were a potent reminder that many things are beyond our control.
Tulio could not shoot some craft models with black because high floods prevented artisan access to the fruit that is normally used to dye chambira this dark color. He couldn’t work with a few key artisans who were understandably distracted when the husband of one failed to return from a hunting trip in the forest, and the husband of another was accused of killing him. Fortunately the missing fellow wandered back to the village after three days – very hungry – but otherwise in good shape. Oscar initially agreed to be filmed explaining how he weaves the popular “anaconda” model belts and guitar straps, but backed out when he was worried that his creation might be shared with artisans outside the region.
We are having to carefully and repeatedly explain to our partners that we will only be able to sell a few of their crafts if we can’t offer them in larger numbers with consistent high quality. Since none of them would be able to fill an order from a wholesale buyer by themselves, they have to be willing to share their knowledge with each other if they want to increase their income from making and selling crafts. Our promise to them is that these detailed training materials will not be shared with artisans beyond the 15 communities in the Ampiyacu federation. Tulio is now busy editing the completed instructional videos into final form. We need to raise more funds to complete the process of documenting all of the most popular models once the river water level returns to normal.
Thank you for your support for this project – particularly on Bonus Days when your contribution will be partially matched by other donors on GlobalGiving.
These key dates are:
Wednesday, May 13 (match amount will depending on total amount given to all projects)
Wednesday, July 15 (50% match given to donations made before matching funds run out)
Wednesday Sept. 16 (30% match given to donations made before matching funds run out)
We would appreciate your feedback and questions about our work. Please contact me at email@example.com.
Project Leader/Executive Director
Artisan starting woven hotpad. Photo: Davila/CACE
Shushupe guitar strap group. Photo: Plowden/CACE
Weaving naca naca guitar strap. Photo: Plowden/CAC
Artisan with sun wheel hotpad. Photo:Davila/CACE
Artisan with armadillo ornament.Photo:Plowden/CACE
Artisan with doll ornaments. Photo:Davila/CACE
Shushupe group thanking GlobalGiving.Plowden photo
Calabash pod carving group. Photo by Plowden
Ornament thank you for GlobalGiving. Photo CACE
Artisan with calabash ornaments.Plowden/CACE photo
Artisan with water bottle holder. Photo:Plowden