Time has proven to be a highly treasured element on this trip. In the past two weeks, we have experienced incredible progress with both Ajkem’a Loy’a and BARCO. It has been both a privilege and learning experience working with each group; and equally exciting to see what they have been creating. There is so much to be said about what we have experienced since first here, so I will try and sum everything up as best as possible.
We have been working with the women of Ajkem’a Loy’a on two different groups of bags: the first of which is a circular-shaped drawstring bag in three different sizes and the second, a handheld clutch (“wristlet” I believe is the proper term) and shoulder bag, both in the same size.
We began our work with Ajkem’a Loy’a by introducing a series of “inspiration” images for them to look at. Each of the women selected a few of their favorites, explained to us why they chose them, and began experimenting with their weaving, using the images as “reference.” The outcome was very pleasing: each of the women explained what elements they used from the images in their weaving (most of whom were initially attracted to the colors). Mayda, drawing inspiration from a picture of the ocean, not only incorporated colors from it, but also created a dotted pattern in her weave that represented the rocks underneath the water. Those of which were closer to the surface and thus received more sunlight were translated into brighter yellow dots in her weave, while the other rocks further from the ocean’s surface were more subdued in her design.
As this exercise proved to be a success, we decided to continue the experiments with each of the women over the next few days. Sandra’s experiment was also very impressive…in my opinion, hers was the most daring. You could tell that she was really trying to push herself beyond her limits, which was very exciting to see. From her experiment, we (the students and Pascale) were curious to see what she could do with incorporating leather into her weaving. So, we took a visit to the leather man, Santiago, up the street and brought back strips of leather for Sandra to experiment with. Once again, we were blown away by the progress that was made. Sandra began weaving them in very simple ways, but as time progressed, she began to very intuitively incorporate them as if they were like the rest of the threads.
We were incredibly pleased with the combination of woven and leather, and decided it would also be a nice detail in the two smaller bags (clutch and shoulder). This could very well be the beginning of something really amazing for Ajkem’a Loy’a…
We began our work with the other group of women in the afternoon. We began our workshop by having them show us what they had been making, so that we could have an idea of what kind of products would best sell. We as a group were very, very excited to see what they had been creating, and were especially amazed at how completely different their work was from Ajkem’a Loy’a. After carefully looking over everything and discussing with the women what they would like to make, we all came to the conclusion that pillow covers and scarves would be the best solution. The women were very excited that we were working with them…all of us felt their determination so much that it really felt like a true collaboration.
We were then invited over to Teresa’s home, where the women showed us the threads they used in their weaving. All of us were completely in awe at the beautiful array of colors the women showed us. As amazing as the colors were, what was even more incredible was the story behind them and how they came to be. The women explained to us that all of the threads were naturally dyed. Most of the colors they produced came from a single plant (I am forgetting the name as of now…) they find in the mountains. Depending on the cycle of the moon very much determines what colors are extracted from the plant. The women showed us two different bundles of thread, both of which came from the same plant but at different cycles so that one of them was much brighter in color than the other. Another beautiful color, a brilliant orange, was extracted from “zanahorias” or carrots. All of us were so amazed to hear this…not only were the colors beautiful, but the process in which the women collected them was beyond anything any of us had ever seen or heard.
As we continue developing products with these women (who have decided to call their company BARCO: “bar” and “co” are recurring letters in their surnames), our hopes are very high that we can produce a few different pillow covers to be sold in the states. Also, we are planning on taking back a few of their scarves that are already set for production…
So, very exciting things are happening and it’s going by very, very quickly. We have yet to see what more will come from our time here, but I am positive it will be amazing.