Monday, February 3, 2014

On the hunt

Part of the reason I love what I do is the hunt, the adventure, the excitement.   To produce in this way (handcrafted by global artisans) can be extremely frustrating.  Things go wrong more than they go right.  Artisans disappear, cotton supplies dry up, thread companies close their doors before they've given you your threads you've been waiting on for a month, customs offices are ransacked in coups prevented your shipment from leaving West Africa, weavers go into a month long mourning over the death of their husbands, and studios are destroyed in freak Saharan floods.  WTF.  This is exhausting...and I love it. 

 The main reason for my trip to Peru was to meet and work with a group of weavers in the Northern highlands of Peru.  I have worked with them from afar to produce our Pima Fringe Totes (which I adore).  Working with an American girl who befriended these weavers, I managed to produce a very small collection of naturally dyed wool and cotton products with these badass weavers. Their work is stunning and I desperately wanted to expand on the collection and get these women more work.  I would be working with a new facilitator in Peru that has a lot of experience with artisan development, training, etc.  We would go to a small town outside of Cajamarca, a mid-size town 10 hours North of Lima and do a workshop, training, and development new product with this group, it was going to be awesome.  Upon arriving in Cajamarca things started to feel a little weird.  At over 9,000 ft the town was much colder than Lima, greyer than Lima, and the people a little harsher.  We arrived a few days before our meetings were to happen and decided to explore the town and outlying areas.  We had heard about the Incan Baths, hot springs outside of town which sounded amazing.  We were going to sit in the thermal baths and drink red wine while gazing up at the Andes.  Pretty sweet.  Sweet, until we got there and were gawked at by hundreds of Peruvians wondering why these gringas were waiting in line to go their bath house.  The beautiful baths in the picture were not accessible but the private bath tubs were. So Olivia and I basically took a hot bath together.  Lovely.  The next day my new facilitator met us from Lima to make the trek out to the town where we'd meet the head of the weaving cooperative.  

We got to the village around 1 that afternoon. The roads were super curvy and we all felt a little sick from altitude and our female cab driver driving like a bat out of hell through the middle of nowhere.  We had a few hours to spare before meeting the head of the coop so we ate some Trucha (fried trout) and rice and the obligatory bowl of corn nuts, went on a walk in the pouring rain where we were met on a swinging bridge by a group of 7 Peruvian men who had definitely not come into contact with American women and absolutely not 3 of them in the pouring rain on a swinging bridge in their middle of nowhere town, and then visited a cemetery where the doors were shut behind us.  Finally heading back to the "hotel" (not sure what it was) after our afternoon adventure to get our work things together to find out our lady wasn't back in town yet.   So 5 more hours go by, another visit to the restaurant, a village-wide search for a cold beer, and brief encounters with wifi until we finally get a call that she was back in town.  The 3 of us stroll over to her house around 8 pm. We had a really nice discussion about businesses, our working relationship, our needs, etc.  agreeing that we did want to continue to work together and develop new product but there would be no meeting the other ladies, no workshop, no weaving together...bummer.  She had not gotten everyone together and we had to leave in a day so it wouldn't be possible.  We'd come a LONG way to find this out. The next morning we met our gal again to discuss design details and new samples that I wanted to put into production asap.  This was not the way I saw this portion of the Peru adventure going but what could I do?  I'd take what I could get.  Not until returning to Lima did I realize that our gal would not respond to any of our emails or phone calls despite the fact that she had been excited to continue to work together.  I guess we scared her off...I almost scared myself off.  More of the adventure to come...

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