Tag Archives: textiles

From prisoner to weaver to renowned artist: Máximo Laura

21 Jan

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Like every day in Peru, our last day exceeded expectations. We flew from Cuzco back to Lima and bused directly from the airport to the home of Peru’s most acclaimed textile artist,  Máximo Laura. A longtime friend and associate of ArtAndes owner Melanie Ebertz, Laura gave us a tour of his workshop, where he employs about 15 weavers, and his personal collection of richly colored and textured wall hangings.

Laura grew up in the same mountainous Ayachuco area as Wilbur Quispe, and he likewise suffered persecution during Peru’s civil war with the Shining Path in the 1980s and ’90s. The government imprisoned him as a suspected Marxist, but when the war wound down, he took up weaving (as had four generations of his family before him) and raised it to an artform.

Moving beyond the natural dyes and fibers of his ancestors, Laura used modern synthetic threads and bright colors to give new life to his people’s legends and dreams. Over the past 15 years, museums around the world have exhibited and honored his textile art, including the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, in Washington. Still, he was as friendly and humble with us as every other Peruvian, patiently explaining his work, selling some of the smaller pieces to us at great discount, signing autographs and posing for pictures. After weeks in the soaring Andes Mountains, we ended our trip back at sea level — yet at the pinnacle of Peru’s weaving culture.

Slide show produced by Mike Dorsher. Photos by Mike Dorsher, Sharon Kessler, Brita Dallmann and Jeff Nistler.


Taquile Island is an island away from the world

14 Jan

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The sunlight on the water shone with unparalleled brilliance as the boat came to rest at Taquile Island.  The community leader’s young daughter greeted us each warmly with a hug and a kiss on the cheek.  A colorful group of musicians led the march up from the lake to a sunny expanse of grass overlooking Lake Titicaca.  The taquileños treated us like royal guests, giving us an in-depth lesson about their lives on the island and later serving us a quite gratifying traditional meal before a beautiful hike around the island.

Taquile Island was recognized by UNESCO in 2005 for its fine handwoven textiles.  It’s an idyllic place to live, for the most part left alone by the Peruvian government.  The inhabitants are divided into six suyus, or communities, that exist for crop rotation.  The great majority of the island’s food is produced right there, meaning it’s all organic, and solar panels are used in favor of the island’s generators.  I left these warm, gentle people feeling that Taquile is exactly what myths are made of.

Slideshow produced by Brita Dallmann.  Photos by Mike Dorsher, Megan Roltgen and Lacey Weninger.

See our earlier blog post for a book review on Taquile Island.

Dancing their dance at the Minka co-op in Juliaca

13 Jan

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Through Melanie Ebertz’s ArtAndes tour, we have been able to experience what she calls “real Peru:” a world beyond beautiful hotels and popular tourist sites (though we are excited to see Machu Picchu). On the trip, many indigenous Peruvians have welcomed us into their shops and homes.

On Friday, we took a bus from the city of Puno to Juliaca, where a group of weavers awaited us.  The women of the Minka co-op (Minka means “working together” in Quechua) greeted us right after we got off the bus, complete with a four-man band and women dancing in their traditional clothes.  The dancers grabbed our hands and we joined them in their dance.

After huffing and puffing from dancing at about 13,000 feet above sea level, we met the weavers and they demonstrated their techniques. The 20 members of the ArtAndes tour left with about $1,300 worth of hand-crafted clothes, a ton of appreciation from the weavers and smiles to bridge the miles between their cultures.

Photos by Brita Dallmann, Megan Roltgen and Sharon Kessler.

Weaving a wonderful web — up close and personal in Peru

3 Jan
Wilber Quispe, by Sharon S. Kessler

Wilber Quispe, master weaver. Photo by Sharon Kessler. Click on the photo to launch a slide show produced by Lacey Weninger.

Wilber Quispe and his family were kind enough to invite us into their home in Lurín, and it was here that we were able to see firsthand how los tejadores create their art. Quispe showed us his display room first, filled with beautiful rugs, colorful table runners and unique coasters.  After admiring all of his work, it was on to the looms.

Brita and Megan sat beside Jaime and Samuel, two of Wilbur’s sons.  I joined Wilbur’s nephew David (Dah-veed) on the loom, and learned firsthand.  David has the patience of a saint, let me tell you.  The rug design we were working on is extremely intricate, and I was extremely slow.

After weaving and chatting with the weavers, Pasquel (Wilbur’s esposa) cooked us a delicious lunch, called chuño: a freeze-dried potato dish served with a spicy ají, avocados, brócoli , and arroz. Wilbur told us it is a typical Ayachucan meal.After lunch, Wilbur walked with us to Playa Arica, where we people-watched and explored.

It was wonderful spending the day with the Quispes; hopefully we can repay the kindness and patience they showed us as we continue our travels.