Jun 18, 2018

Posed to Empower

“Okay, it´s time for affirmations! Find a partner!” Ginette Collin announces. The room becomes a flurry of movement as the artisans pair up and giggle. At first, some of the women are quiet, but within the next few minutes, the meeting is full of arms waving in the air and voices calling out phrases like, ¨I have energy!” or “I am incredible!” in Spanish and Quechua.

This month, Awamaki collaborated with Ginette Collin from PurpleLily, a non-profit organisation committed to “inspire and empower women and girls to thrive and shine” by providing life skills training and financial education. The PurpleLily program consists of eight interactive workshops, including building confidence, financial literacy, motivation and goal setting, and five healthy habits.

Ginette worked with Mercedes Durand and Martha Zuniga from Awamaki to adapt the workshops to the needs and culture of the rural Andean artisans. This month, the team is implementing the program in the Patacancha and Huilloc cooperatives, and Martha and Mercedes will continue the workshops in the other cooperatives this year.

“The goal of the PurpleLily program is to add value to what Awamaki is already doing. We´re supporting the technical skills that the artisans have with practical techniques to be more confident, connect with tourists, and sell their products,” says Ginette. The program supports Awamaki´s mission for the artisans to become financially independent.

“Now, we`re going to finish with power poses! Make some room!” Ginette calls over the artisan´s chatter. The women laugh as they find a spot, and then they become silent. They make a stance, put their hands on their hips, and raise their head high. The room is full of Andean superwomen. They are not only Awamaki´s heroes, but they are their own.


Interested in investing in these superheroes? Donate here.

Mar 19, 2018

Cielo y Tierra

Justina shows off her weaving on the loom.
Justina shows off her weaving on the loom.

Dear Awamaki Supporters,

We did it! We finally launched our 2018 line, Cielo y Tierra!

We’ve been telling you all about this line for months now, giving out just small sneak peeks. Now that we’ve launched, we finally get to share our artisans’ beautiful work with you, and you can hop on over to our online store and check out all our new products for yourself!

The line started as we welcomed our new head designer Alejandra Carrillo-Muñoz in Ollantaytambo back in July. The team began playing with brand new concepts and testing out natural dye recipes, and by the end of August our artisans were already hard at work making weaving and knitting samples.

We told you this line was different from anything we’ve done before, and we think that is pretty clear to see at first glance. The line includes several new products such as the backpacks, cosmetic bags, and baby headbands, not to mention new takes on several favorites, such as the shoulder bags, cowl scarves, and boudoir pillows. Nearly every product received a touch up, like zipper pulls or the pocket added to the exterior of the yoga bags for carrying your phone and keys. We added tassels, pom-poms, and textured weavings, giving everything a fresh and modern touch.

While this line is exciting for us to present, it has been a long road of learning for our artisans. When we first showed them the designs, they expressed concern at the new techniques. Our artisans have been weaving since childhood, and they practice this ancient art the same way their mothers and grandmothers did. Many had never experimented with varied textures in this way. After a good pep talk, a few were willing to take on the new designs, and then others joined them. The designs require “them to reinterpret traditional weaving motifs through different, new and unusual techniques,” Alejandra explained. In the end, their execution was beautiful. Once they got working, they proved themselves as the talented artisans that they are, and further proved to everyone just how skilled they are when it comes to textiles.

When the first samples were finished, the artisans came to the office in Ollantaytambo to see the completed products for the first time. Our staff arranged the room like an art gallery so they could walk around and see their work. The energy in the room was contagious as everyone was so excited to see what all of their hard work was transformed into: stunning bags, pillows and accessories. The women laughed amongst themselves as they tried on the bags and knitwear. They knew this was something special. “I love these designs,” Yolanda, one of our weavers from Patacancha added.

“We   are working hard to give  Awamaki a fresh take on contemporary fashion and accessories,” asserted Alejandra; “we feel it is a great time to further explore and celebrate the talent and skill-set of our Artisans and our team.” It has been a whirlwind of a year, as our artisans continued to impress us, embraced challenges put in front of them, and dedicated their time to improving the lives of their families.

We know we never could have made it to this point without your support throughout the years leading to this beautiful new line of gorgeous artisan-made goods. We hope that you admire them and their creators as much as we do!

Juliana works on a new textile.
Juliana works on a new textile.
Our new Cielo y Tierra backpack in Sky.
Our new Cielo y Tierra backpack in Sky.
A pile of new pillows from our Home collection.
A pile of new pillows from our Home collection.
Yolanda trying on our new shoulder bag!
Yolanda trying on our new shoulder bag!
Weavers from Patacancha view the finished products
Weavers from Patacancha view the finished products

Links:

Mar 19, 2018

Fresh Faces of Awamaki

Felicitas stands proudly in her hometown.
Felicitas stands proudly in her hometown.

Felicitas comes trekking up the hill, her manta woven of the brightest yarn, and her montera covered in sequins and flowers glistening in the sun. Confident, and with a broad smile she approaches me, reaches out her hand to take mine before I’m even aware she knows who I am. I’m not used to such exuberant social confidence from the women of our Quechua communities, but right off the bat I can tell something about Felicitas is different than the other women in our partner cooperative, Songuillay. Felicitas joined the cooperative this year as part of a cohort of young women who are educated and speak fluent Spanish. Awamaki requested that the cooperative add these young women to help the cooperative connect with other customers for their weavings and their community tours so that they can build a sustainable business and graduate the group from Awamaki’s program. As Awamaki’s Marketing and Communications Coordinator, I was sent to chat with her and get to know a little more about what has brought her so much success in life, so young.

Felicitas is an energetic 21-years-old, and she exudes an “I can do anything I want to” mentality, like any young adult. She was born and raised in the rural Quechua community of Patacancha, a mere 45 minute car ride away from Ollantaytambo, and yet  seemingly another world entirely. The eldest of six daughters, Felicitas explained to me the pressure she felt to be an example to her sisters, and to show them what was possible in this world.

After completing 11 years of primary and secondary schooling in Patacancha, Felicitas continued on to pursue further schooling so that she could prepare for a career in tourism. Few from this region complete high school, especially women, but Felicitas did, and then continued on to specialize in a professional field. “My parents paid for my schooling, my uniform, my materials,” explained Felicitas, “they made many sacrifices.” Her father worked long and difficult hours as a porter on the Inca Trail, while her mother worked with one of Awamaki’s partner artisanal cooperatives, weaving.

She too found herself with many responsibilities when her parents left for their farmland to care for their animals; Felicitas was left behind to care for her five younger sisters. “I did everything; I had to comb their hair, feed the animals here in town, cook the food, wash the clothes, help with their homework,” all the while attending high school herself.

Finding employment has proven to be challenging for Felicitas, like others who live in Patacancha. Felicitas hopes to contribute to the Songuillay weaving cooperative and build a career in Patacancha using her education in tourism and her proficient Spanish skills to support the group's work in tourism and weaving. “They can’t interact very easily down in the cities,” she explained, only a few of the women know how to read and write, or speak Spanish. This results in economic challenges for the community. Her success in school has already opened doors for her as her ability to fluently speak Spanish will assist the cooperative to connect to market opportunities beyond those of Awamaki.

Many of the girls from Patacancha encounter challenges along the path to graduation, and are unfortunately not able to finish school. Pressure to drop out to help at home or start a family of their own is high. Felicitas, however, has managed to overcome these challenges. “Since I was 15 I’ve had many dreams, after secondary school I thought ‘I can’t stay here;’ I’ve always wanted to better myself from my parents and be an example to my siblings.” With the support of her family she left her community for three years as she attended an institution in the nearby town of Urubamba to establish a career in tourism.

Felicitas is passionate about staying and living in her community again, and using tourism as a way to preserve their local cultural customs and traditions. “Before my goal was to finish my training program, but now that I have, I haven't earned my degree, so this year I want to do that,” Felicitas explained while talking about her goals for the future. A final project, and a presentation at the institution in Urubamba is all that stands in her way. From there she is eager to work in experiential tourism, and eventually start her own tourism business in the area.

“My mom has always had to work so hard to support for us, and I saw my siblings and I knew I wanted to someday start my own business.” Felicitas knows that starting her own small business based on the trainings she’s completed will help her to support her younger siblings and ensure that they find success in their educations in the same way that she has thus far.

This is the cycle of empowerment at Awamaki: from Felicitas’ mother, Fortunata, to Felicitas, and now continuing on with her younger sisters. As Felicitas and other young, educated artisans join our cooperatives, they will be able to increasingly connect their fellow artisans to outside markets, on their own terms and for the benefit of their families and communities. We at Awamaki are very excited to see the benefits of empowered and educated women continuing on toward the next generation, and we are honored to be working with so many women who are as inspiring and joyful as Felicitas.

Links:

 
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