For the second year running, ClothRoads is sponsoring a group of twenty-five Bolivian hand spinners, named the Warmis Phuskadoras, in an international hand spinning competition, Spinzilla. (Warmis is Quechua for women, Phuska is Quechua for drop spindle, and doras is Spanish for women who spin.)
A Handspinning Competition
Spinzilla, sponsored by The National NeedleArts Association’s Spinning and Weaving Group, has challenged hand spinners to see who can spin the most yarn in a week. Learn more here. The length of yarn spun between October 5-11 will be measured to determine the winning team.
For the Warmis Phuskadoras, participating in Spinzilla is an opportunity to raise international awareness of the vanishing ancient Andean weaving (and thereby spinning) tradition. It’s also an opportunity to educate the weavers that artisans around the world are fighting the same battle of passing these skills on to younger generations. It saddens the ageing weavers that their long weaving tradition will die with them–they are at a loss as to how to preserve it because they haven’t been susccessful so far. As Bolivian hand spinner Doña Máxima Cortez said, “Who is going to remember what our hands know?”
How You Can Help Support This Team
This year the team needs to raise $800. Their expenses include participation fees, extra wages, transportation for three trips to rural communities, prizes, printing of photos for each participant, and groceries for the award celebration. So far, $390 has been generously donated. You can help by clicking the donation button on the PAZA blog. No amount is too small. ClothRoads will match your donation this week until the $800 is raised. Click here and press the donate button.
A Snapshot into a Group Meeting
Amanda Smiles, founder of Ruraq Maki, was teaching an annual jewelry-making workshop at a shady spot in front of the church bell tower which stands alongside the Huancarani soccer field. As many spinners/weavers would be attending this class, it would be a good time to discuss Spinzilla details.
Doña Máxima, the Spinzilla team captain, PAZA Coordinator, and local trainer for Club de Artesanas (CdA) traveled with Amanda. So too did Dorinda Dutcher, the PAZA founder and volunteer since 2007, who collaborates with the weavers.
Upon arrival, they spotted Doña Eulalia heading uphill from the soccer field herding her goats to a forest to forage for the day so she could join the workshop. She was the only weaver who had brought fleece to spin. Doña Narciza arrived on the verge of collapse. She had walked for over an hour carrying 25 pounds of dried corn kernels on her back in her aguayo (the ubiquitous Andean backpack, a square of cloth woven in 2 halves and stitched together). After the workshop, she pulled a huge ball of handspun yarn to ply out of her bag. She deftly tied it to the sash of her pollera (skirt) where it neatly fed off the ball onto her phuska (drop spindle). Doña Julia had filled her aguayo with her collection of natural-dyed balls of handspun and plyed yarn for the hour-long walk to the soccer field. She upended her bag sending the balls of yarn rolling. All the weavers gathered around putting three to four balls of yarn together in various combinations and discussing the results.
The main Spinzilla topic was the when and where to measure the yardage of spun yarn. Last year, the Spinzilla participants spun only five days because of Sunday´s national election and the need to travel on Saturday to a voting site. A majority of the yardage was measured in Independencia on Saturday night. This year, the participants who need to travel to sell their produce at Independencia´s Sunday market will have their yarn measured on Saturday evening when they arrive in Independencia. Others who can spin the full seven days will do so, having their yardage measured on Monday in Huancarani, at the soccer field. On Tuesday, the measuring team will travel to Sanipaya to measure the yardage of the eight participants from there.
There are plans to travel to Huancarani one day during spinning week to take photos and check in with the spinners who will be out walking their sheep and goats, all the while hand spinning just as their ancestors have done.
Ready. Set. Spin.
Team ClothRoads/Warmis Phuskadoras have their spindles ready for spinning week October 5-11. If you want to support the Bolivian PAZA group of spinners and weavers, many of whom are competing in Spinzilla, we have some handspun, naturally dyed, handwoven zipped pouches in the ClothRoads store. The opportunity to sell their weavings to an appreciative market has given the weavers an opportunity to grow as artists. Gaining recognition for their artistry has given voice to their wants, needs, and desires in their community and at a municipal level. Ongoing sales of their weavings help them to meet basic and emergency needs for their family.
Thanks to PAZA founder Dorinda Dutcher for information and images for this blog and her dedication to working with the Quechua weavers. Dorinda writes a monthly blog about PAZA.