I was bowled over by the plump red tassels on graphic black and white bars, the eggy yellow fringe onnascar checks. I stopped, mid-stride, to look, my eyes pulsing with color adrenaline. Who are you? I asked aloud to the edgy artisan with thick black glasses behind her booth piled with pillows. I had never seen her before, and something about the whole affair felt electrifying. País, she said proudly, from Peru. We are new. And fabulous, I added. Tell me more.
Turns out, Marta Castaneda’s former job as advisor to the first lady of Peru involved contact with most of the artisan projects by indigenous people in her country. She founded an organization to insure not only that those traditions survive, but that they are profitable to the artisans. Now, she and her sister, Sandra, have created País Textil to take this remarkable work to a much wider market.
They asked a master weaver of 43 years, Celis Hernandez, below, to take charge of their training. Of Celis, they say:
In some communities, the back-strap weaving tradition has been dead for two generations; Marta and Sandra revive and teach it again to those whose mother’s mothers carried the knowledge and skill for more than 1000 years. With that memory comes momentous change. Women earn fair and sustaining income as well as creative pride; their textile language snatched from near extinction grows strong; their culture returns to the colors of its past. And we, lucky ones, throw one of their dashing clutches under our arm and slip into the night.