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On the Cloth Road in Peru: An Intern’s Journey
I recently moved to the Highlands of Peru for three months as a volunteer for the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco (CTTC). CTTC is an NGO started in 1996, with a mission to preserve the textile traditions. Serving ten different weaving villages and about 450 artisans, CTTC provides them with a community textile center, training, and resources for all natural dyeing, knitting, spinning and weaving. I’m here to help them develop a new product line and find new avenues for selling it.
ClothRoads first introduced me to CTTC while I was interning with them. Five women who have a long history working with textiles and artisans own ClothRoads. Their knowledge made a huge impact on my education while going to school for Fiber Art and Apparel Design at Colorado State University. They continue to support my education even now offering their knowledge, feedback, and financial support toward my project goals here. I remember my first time at their office looking through inventory. I was in awe of the textures, techniques and processes used in the global textiles. I felt like I was in a textile museum only I could touch these textiles.
After learning more about CTTC’s textiles and meeting its director Nilda Callañaupa during the Weaving Lives exhibit at CSU, I knew I must experience it all first hand. I have a deep respect for the balance at which living things co-exist and I am committed to creating environmental change. Much of my independent time is spent researching sustainability. New product-development buzz terms like: cradle-to-cradle, triple-bottom-line, and co-design are fundamentals to CTTC and the weaving groups. These artisans go through every step required in making cloth, starting from shearing sheep to finished textile. Non-waste and low consumption are cultural. These artisans are not just following the sustainable trend, they are creating textiles at a standard that I can only strive for.
Natural Dye Day
I’ve been in Peru for about a week and have already participated in a natural dye day at the weaving center in the village of Chinchero. This experience was just one of the many I had hoped for. Having studied natural dyeing now for just about two years, I still cannot attain the intensity of colors we did on this day. Biology students from Washington State also came to learn about the natural dyes. Nilda explained that the dyes they use come from different, bugs, lichen, mold and plants. The dyeing took place outside, over open fires, surrounded by mountain landscapes. Natural dyeing is a long process and a full day’s work so teamwork and camaraderie were an important element to making this day fun.
Living in Cusco
Living in Cusco, Peru is just another highlight of the experience. It’s a beautiful city rich with history and diversity. I have just begun to explore it, walking through the cobblestone streets and visiting art galleries. I’ll share my internship adventures, the highs and lows, in the weeks ahead. And I’d love to hear your comments.