Blog

  • Reflections and Resolutions with Songuillay

    Check out the 2016 reflections and 2017 resolutions of Elena, Albertina, Estefania, and Placida below!

     

    Elena Mamani Quispe

    Looking back, Elena thinks that 2016 was a success because Songuillay bettered itself as an organization. The group implemented a new tourism rotation schedule, worked on group unity, and improved their punctuality with weaving orders. She feels that overall the group became more responsible for their work with tours and weaving.

     

    Next year, Elena hopes that Songuillay continues to improve. Specifically, she wants the group to improve their hospitality for tourists in the areas of food, housing, punctuality, and responsibility. She knows that they are on their way to becoming a well-organized group if they continue to move forward with determination.

     

    For her personal goals, Elena wants her children to continue in their studies. She is thankful that income she receives from weaving allows her to better the educational opportunities available to her family. As a leader in her community, Elena also aims to unite her community with her cooperative in joint efforts.

     

     

    Albertina Yupanqui Cjuro

    For 2016, Albertina’s biggest take-away was the increased punctuality of the Songuillay group. They worked better together as a team to improve the quality and timing of their weaving orders. In tourism, the group learned many things in workshops, and Albertina is personally learning a bit more Spanish to help her in her leadership role as treasurer and financial manager.

     

    With the new year in mind, Albertina hopes that the group can improve the delivery of textiles as well as punctuality and organization for tours. She also wants them to adjust their tourism and weaving center so that it’s ready for a busy year.

     

    Personally, Albertina hopes that in 2017 her children will continue with their education and studies. She also wants them to be good people! She has taken it upon herself to be a good leader, so she plans to attend all group meetings and present new ideas that could advance the cooperative.

     

     

    Estefania Machaca Riquelme

    Estefania saw increases in the number of tours and weaving orders that the group received in 2016. Because of this, she contributed economically to her family, something that made both her and her husband happy.

     

    Next year, Estefania believes that the Songuillay leadership team will improve their confidence and punctuality for orders. The group will also work on improving tourism services through beautification and comfort. Estefania thinks tourism will be improved if the group builds a secure structure to store supplies for tours. It will also mean that they don’t have to transport everything from home.

     

    For her family, Estefania wants understanding and communication between all members. She also wants her children to continue studying. For her community, she wants to make things better by supporting community leaders and listening to others’ ideas.

     

     

    Placida Mamani Quispe

    Placida was proud that in 2016 Songuillay was able to find and establish ownership over a piece of land and build their weaving center. In 2017, she wants everyone to work together with the president to better the organization of the group. She hopes that there will be more orders for weavings and an increase in tourists who want to visit their community.

     

    2017 is also the year that Placida wants to build rooms to host tourists in her home and improve how she hosts them. Placida also wants to work with her neighbors to improve community tourism, which will in turn increase the economic support of everyone’s family.

     

    Posted on December 29, 2016
  • Featured Cooperative: Rumira

    Our featured cooperative this season is Rumira, also known as the Asociación Virgen de Carmen! Over the past year, Rumira has formed an independent client relationship with Cocoliso, the owner of a wool and knit clothing store in Cusco of the same name. They have also almost completed their community artisan center. We are so proud of the group for completing these major stepping stones towards full independence!

     

    When Awamaki heard that Cocoliso was looking for expert knitters to produce her designs, we immediately connected her with our Rumira group knowing they would be a great fit. We weren’t disappointed. Since meeting with the group to assess their skills and negotiate the details of their relationship, Cocoliso has now placed several orders of knit gloves, hats, and sweaters from Rumira, totaling S/. 10,000 in profit for the group.

     

    Rumira’s rapid progress through Awamaki’s Impact Model is what has made their client relationship with Cocoliso so successful. The group has now completed 73 percent of the Impact Model, compared to last year’s 53 percent. Through the guidance of the Impact Model they have gained skills in tax management, customer service, and salesmanship. A visit to an alpaca fashion cooperative in Puno also enabled the group to learn directly from the best practices of already successful and independent groups.

     

    Rumira’s hard work has been rewarded in more ways than one. In addition to their new client, they now have a space where they can work. The Rumira Artisan Center is almost fully completed, with only the windows and bathroom left to be installed. The completion of the weaving center is a significant moment in the growing independence of the cooperative, for the women finally have a place to call their own. They can now use the space to store their knitting and weaving equipment and take the time to improve their skills away from the distractions of home.

     

    Over the next year, Rumira will work on bookkeeping, personal branding, and sales follow-up to carry out more orders successfully, build their client portfolio, and ultimately strengthen their relationship with Cocoliso. Together, the 24 members of our Rumira cooperative can also work to put their special touch on their weaving center, a place that will represent their identity as a successful, independent business once they graduate from the Awamaki Impact Model.

     

    Members of the Rumira Cooperative at a knitting workshop
    Members of the Rumira Cooperative at a knitting workshop
    Posted on December 20, 2016
  • New Year’s Resolutions with Puente Inca

    Some of the knitters of the Puente Inca cooperative have already set goals for the new year. Read their resolutions below to find out what they personally and professionally want to achieve in 2017.

     

    Maritza Baca Espinoza:
    Maritza hopes that in 2017 the Puente Inca group will be able to work independently with a business in the Cusco region. She wants the group to finish their artisan center, especially the second floor, so that they can host visitors to their cooperative and have a permanent place to meet and work. Personally, Maritza aims to save enough to finish building her house, which still needs to be painted and furnished well. By making these improvements, she will be able to host tourists and use her extra income to buy more animals for farming.

     

     

    Claudia Ccahua Huaman:
    In 2017, Claudia wants to spend more time with her family, including her two younger brothers who have recently been away from home. Her favorite part of 2016 was working with the cooperative on knitting orders, and she hopes that there will be more work in 2017. She knows a big part of this is to keep improving the quality of her knitting, so she looks forward to participating in more Awamaki workshops next year.

     

    Claudia

     

    Silvia Escobedo Alvarez:
    Silvia aspires to a 2017 where her work benefits her children. To do this, she wants to work more as a team with her fellow cooperative members. She believes that if they have more group training sessions, then they will continue to advance as a group. Silvia looks forward to the completion of the Puente Inca artisan center next year because it will facilitate greater teamwork.

     

    Silvia

     

    Gabina Sarcca Choque:
    Gabina’s goal for next year is to work enough to pay for her daughter’s studies. She also sees the need for the group to have more trainings to improve the individual quality and collective organization of the group. By doing this, she is confident the Puente Inca cooperative will get more knitwear orders. Gabina also wants to branch out and add weaving to her workload in addition to knitting.

     

    Posted on December 15, 2016
  • 2016 Rising Star Cooperative Member: Rosa Benitez Mondaca

    Rosa cropped

     

    At first glance Rosa Benitez Mondaca doesn’t look like a risk taker. However, her secret for success is just that – she’s not afraid to try new things. This willingness to step outside of her comfort zone has paid off for Rosa, who is now producing knitwear orders for an independent client in Cusco.

     

    Rosa looks like a mom more than anything – a fact of which she is proud. Her nineteen-year-old son is in university in Cusco studying anthropology. She also has a sweet fourteen-year-old daughter who is disabled and stays home with her. When asked why she originally started working with Awamaki and the Puente Inca cooperative four years ago, she said “to help support my children more.”

     

    Rosa’s husband works full-time on their chakra, or farm. Because of this she lives far from the center of Puente Inca but is one of the most punctual members of the cooperative. Rosa doesn’t mind making the long journey for group meetings because of the chance to receive new orders and learn from the group. She is always encouraging her fellow cooperative members to learn new techniques and take on challenging orders, something they are hesitant to do. “When they don’t know how to do something, they don’t want to take the risk,” mentioned Rosa.

     

    When the owner of Hilo, a clothing store in Cusco, approached Awamaki asking if we knew of anyone who could knit custom sweaters on occasion, one candidate stood out. While the other members of Puente Inca might still be hesitant to take on a client like this, we knew Rosa was up for the job because of her consistent involvement with the cooperative and openness to new opportunities. She gladly accepted the position!

     

    Even though Rosa has found success working independently with a client, she doesn’t want to leave her cooperative behind. As the new year approaches, she hopes to help her fellow knitters learn new techniques, become comfortable with challenging orders, and work together as a group to take on an independent client.

     

    Personally, Rosa hopes to use her extra income to finish her house in 2017. She also hopes to continue to support her daughter and son in whatever they need next year. For her dedication to her family, her cooperative, and her work, we are honored to congratulate Rosa as the 2016 Rising Star Cooperative Member.

     

    120619_ACoen_003

    Posted on December 5, 2016
  • Check out our 2016 Holiday Gift Guide!

    Visit www.awamakistore.org to find these great gifts and more. All products are fair-trade and handmade by rural women in the Sacred Valley of Peru.

    Holiday Gift Guide 2016

    Posted on November 28, 2016
  • Help Awamaki Support Fair Trade This October!

    By: Alex Boehler, Marketing and Communications Intern

     

    The month of October means many different things all over the world. In the northern hemisphere the leaves are changing, nights are getting colder, and fall is in full swing. In the southern hemisphere the days are getting warmer, rain is starting to fall, and the earth is growing greener. October has one thing in common across the hemispheres; it is a time for change.

     

    At Awamaki, we celebrate this time of change in the form of Fair Trade Month. Although we highlight our artisans year round, October is a special month to focus on the principles that guide our activities with our cooperatives. So join us this Fair Trade Month in celebrating and supporting products that are fair – fair to humans, communities, women, children, the environment, and to ourselves.

     

    When you buy fair trade products at Awamaki, you are supporting:

     

    Women: When our artisans prove that they can help support their families, their partners will be more likely to share the responsibilities of the household, leading to more equality in the home. Asunta Quispe Yupanqui, a cooperative member, explained that because the women “are contributing income, they share their money with their husbands and make decisions about expenses together”.

    RESIZEDDD

     

    Families: A member of our Women’s Cooperative Program, Nicolasa, said “I now have the liberty to spend my money” and the cooperative agreed, saying that, “We no longer have to look in our husbands pockets”. When women are able to earn extra income themselves, they can spend it on what they value most like supporting their children’s education, making improvements on their homes, and promoting their family’s health by purchasing fresh vegetables and toiletries.

    101125_ARTISAN_004

     

    Communities: Members of our Women’s Cooperative Program collectively buy land for their weaving centers, making long-term investments that promote economic growth and sustain local culture. The women work together to enact change. Awamaki’s Director of Impact and International Sales, Giulia Debernardini, tells the women, “You are a team – not individuals. As an association, you must work together to improve yourselves and your products.”

    resized5

     

    The Environment: All of Awamaki’s products are local to the Sacred Valley. Awamaki’s Head Designer, Jess Sheehan, explains, “Our hand spun line is a completely integrated product. We start by shearing alpacas owned by the women’s families, which is then brought to our community in Huilloc to be cleaned and spun. After inspection, the wool is dyed using local plants, minerals, and insects and finally knitted or woven by members of the Women’s Cooperative Program into a final design.” Our unique vertical integration design model leads to a very small environmental footprint and gives you the confidence that your product is made working with the environment instead of against it.

    RESIZED5

     

    Tradition: Buying products that are unique to a culture help to preserve it. When a market is created for a traditional product, there is incentive to continue the tradition and thus preserve it. Eulogia Quispe, 13-year-old daughter of weaver Isabela Quispe, told Awamaki her dream is to grow up to “be a professional like my mother, [so] I am studying textiles”. Our traditional natural dye, color theory, and weaving workshops help sustain the growth of traditional folk art through generations.

    090306_JMacleod_007

     

    Even if you can’t visit us in Ollantaytambo this October, you can always celebrate Fair Trade Month with us online. Share with us your favorite Awamaki fair trade product on social media, or visit our store at www.awamakistore.org to purchase one of our fair trade products.

    Posted on October 17, 2016
  • Meet the Songuillay Tourism Team

    Mercedes opens the Tourism meeting
    Mercedes opens the Tourism meeting

    “Even if you are doing well, there is always room for improvement. You have to continue to work hard and seek out ways to better yourselves.”

     

    The Awamaki team and Songuillay cooperative took to heart these wise words uttered by Mercedes Durand, head of our Women’s Cooperative Program, at the beginning of our tourism meeting this past July. Our Songuillay cooperative located in Patacancha has some of the best Awamaki weavers in its group, but they can now count themselves as a strong tourism association as well. During the tourism high-season this year, the group excelled at booking and leading tours, even getting some groups from external tourist agencies aside from Awamaki.

     

    We are proud of Songuillay, but noticed that their growing success was putting stress on Elena, their current president. Because Awamaki wants Songuillay to keep moving forward and have the organizational leadership to do so, we called a meeting with the group to elect a junta directiva, or leadership board, similar to those used by our weaving and knitting cooperatives.

     

    So without further ado, Awamaki and Songuillay are proud to announce the new 2016 Tourism Leadership Team!

     

    Elena Mamani, President
    Elena Mamani is the current president of Songuillay. She is an amazing leader but was unable to handle the increased responsibilities of tourism by herself. Having a new leadership team at her side will allow her to focus on improving the tour through training sessions in cooking, homestays, cleanliness, and anything else that will improve the experience of visitors to Patacancha. She will also continue working closely with the leaders of different tour rotation groups in order to get better feedback and hear new ideas. It has been amazing to see Elena grow into her role as a standout leader and have the confidence to call on her fellow cooperative members for help.

     

    Jesusa Quispe Machacca, Vice-President and Reservations Manager
    Jesusa Quispe Machacca is the current vice-president of Songuillay, and now their new reservations manager. In addition to shadowing Elena and helping her with trainings, Jesusa will be in charge of answering tour inquiries on the phone. Her cooperative members elected her to this position because she is fluent in Spanish as well as Quechua and has the confidence to travel to Ollantaytambo and Cusco to pass out tour advertisements. Her increased responsibility will allow Jesusa to hone her skills at tour promotion and working with Spanish-speaking tour operators.

     

    Albertina Yupanqui, Treasurer and Finances Manager
    Albertina Yupanqui is the new treasurer and finances manager of Songuillay. She is one of Awamaki’s top sellers during tours and knows her way around a numbers sheet. She will now be keeping track of payments for every tour as well as training the women in how to keep track of their own finances. At the end of each month she will be responsible for reporting to Awamaki the amount we owe to each tour group and to each individual weaver. We will also be keeping track, but this is a great learning opportunity for Albertina and the other members of Songuillay to see the correlation between how much they worked on what day and their resulting payment.

     

    Rudecinda Sullcapuma, Secretary
    Rudecinda Sullcapuma is the new secretary of Songuillay and rounds out the Tourism Leadership Team. Rudecinda will accompany Elena to training sessions and meetings to take notes. It’s a smaller job but an essential one so that the cooperative can have a record of their activities. Rudecinda was elected to this position because she can write, but more importantly because she is excited to improve her writing. She cannot write perfectly yet, but this will be a great opportunity for her to practice frequently and get better.

    sabina maria
    Sabina Medina smiles during the election of her fellow weavers
    Posted on September 20, 2016
  • Success by Design for Awamaki Team at NY NOW

    Awamaki Booth at NY NOW
    Awamaki Booth at NY NOW

    “You can’t design from a distance,” explained Anny Caba, an Awamaki Design Intern, to visitors of the Awamaki booth at NY NOW, as she described our unique design model that brings young designers to work with our artisans in Peru. Members of the Awamaki team traveled to NY NOW, a wholesale products and innovative designs tradeshow, in order to network with clients from all over the U.S. and further connect our artisans to international markets. Our beautiful, handmade Awamaki products drew visitors to the booth, but many stayed to hear more about our unique model of empowering women artisans.

     

    Anny, recently returned from her experience designing alongside our artisans, chatted with potential clients not only about our designs and products but also her time in Peru. She explained that “many people were shocked that we don’t just import; they were impressed that we work in and out of Peru with the artisans directly.” Visitors also commented positively about our fair trade membership and use of natural dyes. Awamaki Executive Director, Kennedy Leavens, said that the interest Awamaki received at NY NOW was notably an improvement from the past. She emphasized that “it’s not just about the orders you place, but the connections you make. It’s about creating opportunities to connect the women to potential markets.”

    Baby Brights baby leg warmers
    Baby Brights baby leg warmers making their debut at NY NOW

    What has Awamaki done to step up our game at these tradeshows? Annie Millican, the founder of Awamaki’s design programs, then known as Awamaki Lab, stopped by our table at NY NOW. She attributed our success to the cohesiveness and color palette used in our products and collections. She noted that we had moved away from the classic Peruvian designs and colors in order to showcase traditional designs in modern colors and arrangements.  Awamaki’s transition to a more modern aesthetic that continues to display Peruvian culture impressed current and past members of the Awamaki design team alike.

     

    Giulia Debernardini, Head of Sales, attended NY NOW and worked hard to turn our connections into concrete numbers. Overall, she reports that we made 5 new retail partners, 6 on-site orders, 50 new potential clients to connect with, and over $3,000 worth of sales at the show alone.

     

    Thank you for your support in helping our artisans develop the designs that we were able to present at NY NOW. Increasing business in this way will generate more work for our artisans and in turn more income that they can reinvest into their families and communities.

    Awamaki staff and friends
    Awamaki team reunion of Kennedy, Annie, and Anne Marie
    Posted on September 20, 2016
  • A little more than just tourists…

    IMG_1845

    by Christina Parodi, Marketing & Communications Intern

    Watching mother and daughter, Tina and Olivia, interact with each other during their time with Awamaki was like watching two best friends as they completed each other’s thoughts and bonded over their new experiences.

    Tina joked that she “calls her FFB, forever first baby, because she won’t let me call her BFF,” and Olivia blushed bright red complaining about how that was, “so much worse.”

    This duo embarked on this incredible week with Awamaki hoping to experience real Andean culture by living with a family in town and joining our weaving immersion weekend, truly understanding the work that goes into a beautiful textile.

    With Tina’s husband Ben in the Inca Avalanche bike races, Tina and Olivia decided to search for a slightly different experience of Ollantaytambo while he stayed in a hotel with his new friends. After a simple internet search of the best things to do in Ollantaytambo, Tina came across Awamaki, deciding on staying in a week-long homestay while her husband bonded with his fellow competitors. Exchanging stories over dinner at the homestay, Tina and Olivia were able to compare their completely different experience of Ollantaytambo with husband and father, Ben.

    With bits of confetti still stuck in her hair from her, cumpleaños, Olivia giggled about how her homestay family had a little, fiesta, for her birthday the day before, feeding her cake and celebrating. When talking about their homestay in Ollantaytambo, Tina was amazed at how loving and drawn the women in the family were to her daughter and how positive the whole experience had been. She loved that Olivia was always asked to come back and how the women fussed over her, making sure she was always comfortable.

    DCIM100GOPROGOPR1267.

    This was the first time Tina and Olivia had ever done something just the two of them before, and being able to directly experience the rich culture in Ollantaytambo through their homestay was an incredible and eye-opening experience for the both of them. Olivia, not yet done with school, went on about how nervous she was to present her experience to her entire class in lieu of her schoolwork that week. Despite the nerves, Olivia seemed excited and definitely had a lot to say to her class, being able to “see people’s culture outside an actual hotel, living with them, and seeing exactly what they do.”

    While Tina’s husband raced in the finals of the Inca Avalanche, one of the highest bike races in the world, she decided to try our weaving immersion weekend tour to g

    et away from the craziness of the last race. It was obvious from the moment we arrived in Patacancha that both Tina and Olivia were after a real connection with the women and the culture.

    As we trudged through the mud for our first weaving lesson, they already showed signs of the women’s affection, wrapped in warm textiles by their homestay mother. They co

    uld not stop talking about how wonderful the food their homestay mother cooked was, and how they never ate the same thing twice. By the end of the weekend, after hours of practicing, Tina commented on how she was still struggling with her design and how surprised she was at how difficult it was. This was a humbling experience for the two, seeing the pride that comes from the women and their work and understanding the amount of effort the women put in each textile.

    DCIM100GOPROGOPR1260.

    Posted on April 20, 2016
  • Shear Quality: Shearing Alpacas in Rural Perú

    By Sydney Perlotto, Marketing and Communications Intern

    adam4Alpacas are renowned for their soft fleece, but few people know the intimate details of alpaca fleece harvesting like Adam Riley, a professional alpaca shearer with eight years of experience in both the United States and Europe. He has spent half his life with alpacas, and volunteered with Awamaki this past winter in order to improve our alpaca fleece processing.

    Long before Adam discovered Awamaki, he had been thinking about coming to Peru, the land of the alpaca.

    “It’s always been a dream of mine to come here and work with the Quechua people, and to see alpacas in their native environment.”

    Adam carried his expertise and equipment up into the communities that we work in, living on the alpaca farms with families for anywhere from three to nine days at a time. He worked with the men to show them his style of shearing, such as how to separate the higher-quality fleece from the lower quality. Adam normally uses an electrical shearing machine, but since there is no electricity up on the chakra, or farm, he used traditional hand shears. Most of the families use even more basic equipment, sometimes shearing with just a sharp kitchen knife.

    Adam mostly worked with the husbands to show them his techniques, since they are the ones who traditionally shear the alpacas.

    “With a women’s-based cooperative, the men often do not participate in most of our processes. Getting to work so closely with the families – particularly the men – and build relationships with them was a unique experience that I think they really enjoyed.”

    Awamaki is in the process of improving our line of hand-spun alpaca yarn. In the past, there have been problems with the cleanliness of the alpaca fiber, with debris and dirt remaining in the final product. Additionally, the type of fleece used for the hand-spun line needs to be of very high quality in order to be acceptable in European and US markets.

    adam1

    After completing the season’s shearing, Adam worked with the women in our cooperatives to show them how to sort and skirt the fiber. Thanks to Adam and another volunteer, Karina, Awamaki now has a wonderful alpaca fiber sorting and cleaning guidebook for each of the cooperatives. Overall, sharing his skills with the communities resulted in a great cultural exchange.

     

    “Living and working alongside the families gave me an inside look into life in rural Peru and the Andes – which is really basic. But the people, they have such strong family ties, they are genuinely happy, they are healthy, and they are hardworking. I think they have the right values in life, and I was incredibly humbled and fortunate to spend the time that I did with them.”

    The next steps for our handspun yarn line are to purchase alpaca fiber washing equipment for our cooperative in Huilloc and develop standardized yarn weights with the help of our expert knitwear volunteers. Each step brings us closer to the release of our 100 percent natural alpaca hand-spun yarn line! These yarns will be used by our knitting cooperatives to expand our handspun knitwear line, and they will also be for sale directly to the public for the first time. Look for them in our store in Peru and online!

    Posted on April 14, 2016