Atrapasueños

By Shira Yeskel-Mednick, Marketing and Communications Intern

At Awamaki, we’re concerned with two main issues: empowerment and sustainability. Looking around the office, we found some random materials that usually get left aside or thrown in the trash, including small wooden hoops and scrap yarn. Design intern, Emma Burzycki, had the inspiration to make a prototype keychain in the shape of a dream catcher (or atrapasueños in Spanish) finding a way to repurpose and recycle, rather than toss, the materials. The next step was to teach one of our cooperative’s how to make the product, then test run a small batch in the store to monitor sales and assess the success of the design.

 

This past month, Emma led a workshop in our Huilloc Puka Rosas cooperative on how to make the keychains. As making the dream catchers utilizes a different skill set from weaving, we were a little worried that the new design could be difficult to pick up. In reality, we shouldn’t have been apprehensive for even a moment: our artisans picked up the pattern in a matter of minutes.

 

“Every pattern I use I have filed in my mind,” recounted Teresa, a member of our Puka Rosas knitting cooperative, “and any time I want to make a new pattern, I can figure it out from what I already know.” Many of our artisans start learning to weave as early as eight or nine years old. The knowledge of textiles becomes woven into every fiber of their being, and as they grow up, it grows and evolves with them. The deep familiarity with their craft becomes apparent the moment they pick up thread or needle.The object seems like a natural extension of their hand, and they maneuver it with the same fluidity as their own fingers.

The deep connection between their hands and minds transferred easily to the task of making the keychains (as I imagine it would transfer to most work done with the hands). We began the workshop by showing some basic sketches of the design. Then we got down into it, Emma sitting down with individual woman and demonstrating the process.

 

The first women who learned the skill essentially became the point people for the project, and groups quickly formed around them. Artisans taught other artisans, everyone laughing through the early stumbles and helping each other to troubleshoot. The process in and of itself helped to empower the women to quickly become leaders and experts in a new area. When I asked Teresa about broadening her horizons, she said, “I love learning new designs,” and that adding to her arsenal of designs keeps the work exciting.

 

Soon the entire cooperative was intently at work, applying the same concentration and expertise that it takes to weave an entire blanket to the little wooden hoops and yarn. Watching them work, and feeling the focus nearly palpable in the air, I finally understood the phrase “love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.” This kind of work, and the community it builds, seemed to be as much a part of the artisans as their hair or their smiles. As time wound down, the women started racing to finish their second or even third dream catcher, intent that their work be both beautiful and complete.

Just a short while later, we left laden with colorful dream catchers and happiness at the success of the workshop. The dream catchers are for sale in the store, and now time will tell how well they sell. We’re excited to see how it goes, and will hopefully be making our first major order to Puka Rosas in the near future!