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The Men Who Support Women Artisans Behind the Scenes
In this world of global textiles, ClothRoads works with male artisans but we also meet many men who support their wives and daughters behind the scenes. They are proud of what these women have achieved and they are humble, generally preferring to stay on the other side of the camera. They too may be artisans but you may not know it because they schlep and pack product; they drive the car; they take care of the family. So on this Father’s Day, we honor them because the work we do couldn’t be done without their loving assistance. Come meet a few.
Lola Sapalú, a Guatemalan from Santiago Atitlán, is a master artist–weaver, embroiderer, and beader. She is married to an equally well-known artist and painter Manual Reando. She fell in love with him at twelve years of age and they married when she was sixteen. Their marriage and enduring partnership is now more than forty years.
Herminia Santos and Chavelo grew up together in San Antonio Aguas Calientes, Sacatepequez, Guatemala, and have been married for fifty-five years. Herminia weaves traditional double-sides patterns. When we met them, they were both working together in their tienda stall in Antigua. Chavelo left his job in construction when he was seventy years old in order to help Herminia in the store.
When I visited the Peruvian Highland village of Huacatinco last year, I couldn’t be more taken with the passion and skills of the artisans. The men are passing their knitting skills on to their sons and daughters; the women doing similar with weaving. During the demonstration time, the officers of the youth association were seated together knitting. One of the fathers approached me and asked to have his photo taken with his daughter, Marisol, who is the group’s secretary.
Above the door in many Peruvian village homes sits a pair of ceramic bulls. They are placed on the roof for good luck, fertility (of crops and livestock) and to bring prosperity. But also to represent the strength and endurance of the married couple who live there. When I see these bulls, I am always reminded of Nilda Callañaupa, the director of the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco (CTTC) and her husband Paulino Huarhua, both growing up in Chinchero, Peru. Paulino, always good-natured, is ever ready to pick up and drop off visitors, to haul things to and fro to the villages, and surely a zillion other things. This shot was snapped on our all-day drive visiting the artisans in Huacatinco village last year.
Ana Pu Ferpuac from Totonicapan, Guatemala, supported her children from her spinning. She learned from her parents, who learned from theirs and so on. She taught her son Juan and in turn, he taught his wife Eva and their son Santiago Enrique. Santiago is the first in the family to go to school. In March, we visited their humble home, exchanged spinning styles and fiber. And now Ana knows there are other spinners in the world beyond her family.
Speaking of behind-the-scenes, I have to include a huge thanks for the endless support my husband Robert Medlock gives to me and to ClothRoads. He’s always behind the camera taking product photos for our website and travel photos during artisan visits. He packs the car and hauls artisan textiles around the country for our out-of-state shows. In return, he accompanies me on textile travels when he’d rather be hiking or taking landscape photos.
There are so many more men to give shot outs to for Father’s Day and every day. But the next time you’re visiting an artisan, take a peek to see who is in the background with camera in hand ready to snap the photo of their wife or family and feeling as proud as a peacock—and thank him.