In 2018, we took a group of women on a life changing getaway to Peru. We wanted to create a multi dimensional experience that would enable us all to witness so many of the cultural and historical components that make this country so special. Beyond experiencing Machu Picchu and all of its mysterious wonder, one of our favorite parts of this retreat was being able to meet with the local Andean women through an amazing organization called, Awamaki.
"Awamaki creates lasting impact in the remote mountains of Peru by helping rural Andean women’s associations launch successful small businesses creating authentic, high-quality products and experiences. Awamaki invests in women’s skills, connects them to market access and supports their leadership so they can increase their income and transform their communities. Awamaki is comprised of a Peruvian asociación civil and a U.S. 501(c)(3) non-profit organization working closely together to empower women’s associations, connect them to markets and enable them to lead their communities out of poverty. Though a non-profit, Awamaki uses market strategies to accomplish its charitable goals of increasing women’s income and business leadership."
We were so fortunate to spend the day driving up into the mountains to connect with these women who are preserving their historical textile traditions while evolving their styles to attract the modern day customer. We first met with the women in the back of what appeared to be someone's home, and a translator from the organization introduced each of the artisans to us. They also taught us how to introduce ourselves in Quchuean, the native language, which felt like an opportunity to show our respect for allowing us into their community. Each of us was also dressed by one of the women in their traditional outfit, which was super fun and made us all feel like one big community.
The women then showed us the process of how they textile these intricate and absolutely stunning pieces of art. From rugs, to bags, scarves and gloves, we were able to witness up and close and personal, how they create the colors to dye their wool, how to spin the wool into a thread for weaving, and then the process of the weaving itself.
Colors for the dyes come straight from their natural environment. The women will gather materials from the mountains to create these beautiful tones and shades. Once the materials were processed down to a fine texture, the women dropped the materials into a boiling pot that was being heated over an open fire. Once the materials are in, a dye is created and they can then place the yarn that they have spun, using alpaca fur, into the dye bath. An intensive process that clearly takes mastery. We each got to get our hands dirty spinning the yarn, and boy it was not a simple task!
We then each got paired with one of the Awamaki women to learn how to weave. They passed out all different colored yarns for us to choose from for bracelets we would make. We loved this part because it was so hands on and we got to experience just how long it takes to make a small bracelet, never mind making a 5x7 rug! It was one of the most precious souvenirs we could go home with from the trip, a reminder of an incredible day spent with these female entrepreneurs.
After a picnic lunch with everyone the women of Awamaki brought out bags and bags full of their hand made goods. We were able to support each of them, and appreciated how they truly get to shine as their own vendor, with their unique styles apparent in their garments, toys and home goods.
A day so well spent, and we are so looking forward to returning back to Peru this April 18-25th to support the Andean women. We are also so very excited to announce, that every woman who signs up for a retreat will receive a special Arrow x Awamaki bag that they can cherish forever, knowing that they have supported local women and made an impact for the future generations of their community.
To learn more about Awamaki visit here.
To register for our 2020 Peru Retreat visit here!