The Here and Now, Kay Pacha

By Brianna Griesinger, Marketing and Communications Coordinator

     Kay Pacha, the name of our 2019 line, doesn’t have a direct translation into English or Spanish. This Quechua cultural idea loosely translates to “the present moment.” Kay Pacha can mean everything from light and heavy energy, here and now, people’s lives, Earth and Mother Earth, and this present world. While Hakaq Pacha is the world beyond, Hanan Pacha the upper world, and Uku Pacha the lower world, Kay Pacha means the world right here, and right now. Often these ‘worlds’ are depicted through the Andean Cross, or the chakana, a four sided geometric cross, formed into statues, jewelry, and of course, also textiles.

     Alejandra Carrillo-Muñoz, our head designer, kept this idea of ‘the present moment’ at heart through her design process. While she was the conceptual force behind the collection, much of the creative execution came directly from our artisans. “The initial samples originate from the creative direction I give at the beginning of the season,” Alejandra explains. “The artisans received the concept, in this case the chakana, and were requested to weave this icon from their own ancestral knowledge and experience. The result was 5-10 different representations of the chakana from three of our cooperatives that are consistently a part of the sampling process.”

     Samples came back to the office in all shapes and sizes, wide, narrow, short, tall. Alejandra took the chakanas submitted and interpreted the essence of them, playing all-the-while with the composition and color. “I put together all the traditional elements that came from the communities with these market relevant contemporary designs,” Alejandra describes.

     Next came the process of selecting the final designs of the chakanas for the line, of which three different designs made the final cut. One, the larger design will be featured on our new product, bucket bags. These cute bags will feature the chakana cross as interpreted from the Songuillay cooperative in the community of Patacancha, available in three different colors. Our wristlets and shoulder bags will feature the of the other chakana design we selected from the Awac Puña cooperative, also in the community of Patacancha. These two veteran products will be featured in five various colorways for the wristlet and three colorways for shoulder bag.

     Alejandra was sure to call attention to the process of making “sure each community has the authorship of that technique they create.” Patterns designed by the Songuillay cooperative or Awac Puña cooperative will continue to be made by those same artisans throughout the entire year. This allows them to become experts in their unique tactics required for each design. “Because it was their own making it’s only fair they receive those orders,” Alejandra mentions. From there she decides which products each textile will compliment best, whether that is a small cosmetic bag or a large tote bag, or maybe even both. “This year was quite special because not only was the direction a central ideology of Andean culture but it is also consistently represented in their textile weavings,” Alejandra comments.

     Perhaps the most exciting design of all comes from the community of Kelkanka. The launch of Kay Pacha will also be the cooperative of Wakanquilla’s debut on the world stage. Working on this line was their first time working with us to create and develop textiles for export, as opposed to our fair trade store in Ollantaytambo, Peru. This group of 22 artisan weavers have played an integral role influencing the designs of our Kay Pacha line, putting their own unique spin on things.

     “Quatro estacas” is the name of a traditional textile utilized for spiritual ceremonies. This textile, usually square in shape, is used to wrap and carry sacred coca leaves, which hold immense significance to Andean communities. Quatro estacas is a seemingly simple design made up of four color blocks, but it employs an extremely complicated weaving method. The textile itself is double sided, and has a very particular texture you don’t often see produced by other Quechua communities.

      This is a technique that we’ve found only our artisans from Kelkanka know how to weave. Kelkanka is the most remote village we work with, and we see techniques there that are no longer used in the villages closer to the mestizo towns. While some elderly women in other communities further down the valley remember how to make the cuatro estacas, women of all ages in Kelkanka are still learning and practicing this skill. The artisans of Kelkanca suggest that perhaps the reason this style continues in Kelkanka and not elsewhere in the valley is due to the extreme altitude and therefore colder climate of Kelkanka. There, everyone benefits from the extra layer of warmth provided by the thicker textile, especially during snowfall. The thickness requires both more yarn and more time to complete, making it a truly special piece of artwork.

      Some villages may also have stopped making the cuatro estacas because that textile is a part of the traditional animist spiritual practices, and used to make offerings to earth, sun god and mountain gods. This textile and weaving practice is most often found in very remote communities that have not begun to leave these practices behind, unlike those located closer to the mestizo towns. In villages like Patacancha and Huilloc, most of the weavers are evangelical Christian, which means they may not have use for the old offering cloths. In Kelkanka, more of them still practice the old religious beliefs, and therefore this textile and its unusual technique are still taught to young weavers.

     The artisans bring this rich heritage and their accompanying weaving skills to the work they do with Awamaki, and we look to this heritage to guide our design process. “It’s really important that every change we make design-wise is driven by the artisans” Alejandra explains. As head designer at Awamaki she feels passionately that the artisans share equal partnership with her in the creative direction of the designs. “As much as we give them direction, every single piece is a work of art and their own interpretation, and execution.”

     “Part of the magic of every single piece,” Alejandra explains, “is that it has every artisans stamp.” It is so important to view each item as the masterpiece of the artisan who crafted it, these items aren’t mass produced in a factory, their made on the mountain tops of the Andes, by women who carry their ancient cultural traditions with them.