Immersion in Peruvian Textiles | April 2022

A journey to not be forgotten, filled with moments of joy, gratitude, vulnerability, connection and exploration. 
It was over 2.5 years ago that I experienced my first international textile tour (you can read and see photos from that trip here). I traveled alone with my 5 month old son, Dominic (see below my favorite photo from that trip). Many people from home shared their concerns; the altitude, a woman traveling alone with a new baby, not knowing anyone personally, crime, safety... all the fears of others projected on me, and yet the desire to go still held on strong.
To this day, I feel like it was one of the best decisions of my life. It was a turning point of merging my two deepest passions in life - textiles and travel. It became a way for me to experience the world in the areas I have the most yearning for and now share it with others. I do not see myself as an "artist," but rather I am a mother, a daughter, a business woman, a creative, and a facilitator. It has become clear to me, that my purpose in all of these roles is to take the things that bring me joy, comfort and healing, and share them with those who surround me. To build connections through the strength of woven and tight knit threads. 
Embarking on my first international textile journey, brought this dream to life. It brought possibility to something I had only just begun to realize was a necessity in order for me to live a fulfilling life. 
In March 2020, I was to return to Peru with a group of folks from my community, becoming the first international textile experience that I would co-host alongside Sonya of Aula Artesana. We were scheduled to leave the day after everything shut down. As the radio stations, tv, and social media were flooded with chaos and uncertainties about Covid, we made the hard decision to postpone the trip. After several failed attempts at rescheduling, hours of long conversations, discussing possibilities, concerns, and financial losses, we were finally able to secure a promising date, where half of the original group was able to attend. April 2022.
 
And so the story goes...

 - - -

This time, I brought my oldest son, Leland, who is 8 years old. He is half Latino, goes to a Spanish immersion school and is fluent in speaking the language. Over the years I've introduced him to the various areas of my work, and he has an ongoing knitting project that he picks up every so often. Not only did these pieces fit together to make it a great idea to take him, but also for the opportunity of bonding. After Dominic was born, there has been little opportunity to connect one-on-one, and this felt like the perfect experience. 

D A Y   1 ~ T R A V E L

We hopped on the plane and embarked on the 24+ hour travel day to Cusco, Peru. Our first evening we spent meeting all the participants at our first hotel - Andenia, and we all connected right away. 
Andenia Cusco Peru

D A Y   2 ~ N A T U R A L   D Y E I N G

with Dana, Angela, Santusa and Leonarda of Pichinku

Nestled in the heart of the Sacred Valley, we were welcomed into the workshop of the Pichinku family where we learned about the different types of local dye plants, and how to prepare them for the dye pots. Each participant got to prep dye materials, and help with the dyeing process. I sat back and watched the fascination and excitement on each person's face as they watched the yarn transform from these deceiving looking plants!! Q'olle, Chapi, Qaqa Sunkha, and Ch'illca to name a few!
 
naturally-dyed-yarn-textile-retreat-pichinku-cusco-peru
 
After our day of natural dyeing, a few of us decided to head out on an evening hike to a local waterfall with spectacular views of the Sacred Valley. 
 sacred-valley-cusco-peru
waterfall-hike-sacred-valley-cuco-peru
 

D A Y   3 ~ A L P A C A    C E R E M O N Y   &   S P I N N I N G

We all packed into the van (a smaller one than expected) like sardines and made the trek through Ollantaytambo to the high altitude of the Andes where the alpaca live and graze. ~ Elevation approximately 14,000 feet.
alpaca-ceremony-cusco-peru
This was the groups first time meeting with some of the artisans in the community where we'd be working for the next three days. Many of these were familiar faces for me, and seeing them made my heart swell. We spent the first 30 minutes, connecting and sharing about ourselves and the gratitude we all felt for each other, especially coming out of the last 2 years which were so isolating.
We were invited to wear their traditional hats and clothing and to actively participate in a sacred ceremony. We listened, danced, got to try our hand at shearing, and made sacrifices to Pacha Mama and the important peaks both near and far. I got to hold a female alpaca and be the Madrina for the Alpaca wedding ceremony.
alpaca-ceremony-cusco-peru
alpaca-andes-peru
Photo credit: Miguel Palomino
Upon conclusion of the ceremony, we squished back in the van for the car ride down to Juan and Elena's home in Patacancha to meet the rest of the weavers and begin our textile work. 
We were immediately greeted with flower necklaces they had made and invited us in for tea - something we found ourselves constantly consuming to beat the dizziness and fatigue of the altitude. We then watched their process of cleaning and dyeing the wool, followed by a lesson on using the pushka, drop spindle. Each student got to practice making yarn!
 spinning-wool-yarn-cusco-peru

D A Y S   4  &  5 ~ B A C K S T R A P   W E A V I N G

The next two days were focused on weaving! Each participant chose their yarn - naturally dyed and hand spun by the women we were working with. It felt magical to watch each person find their rhythm and see their pattern unfold. Many of the participants on this trip had prior fiber art experience, and some were weavers. Their fingers seemed to just find the way and it was soothing to witness their work, occasionally being directed or helped by their artisan.
 backstrap-weaving-cusco-peru
As the last day approached, there was a mixture of energy swirling where we had been working, felt by all of us. An appreciation and gratitude for the sharing of tradition and also a sadness. None of us wanted it to end. We developed comfort and ways of communicating, and even bonded during this time together. 
 weaving-patacancha-cusco-peru

D A Y S  6  &  7 ~ E X P L O R I N G    T H E    S A C R E D    V A L L E Y

As our textile portion of the trip came to an end, we explored some other must-do's in the region. We explored some ruins in Ollantaytambo that overlooked the ancient town, watched a beautiful horse show, and got to go for a ride ourselves, and wandered around Maras Salt Mines. And then it was time to say our good-byes until next time!
exploring-the-sacred-valley-cusco-peru
Throughout the trip, we faced and endured challenges of all sorts. It was through moments of concern, heartbreak, and sickness that we formed a close bond. We may not stay in touch regularly as time goes on, but I know we'll each hold this experience close to us forever. 
One of the trip participants put together a beautiful highlight of her experience. Read it here: Jennifers Experience
patacancha-cusco-peru
patacancha-cusco-peru
Photo credit: Miguel Palomino

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