I’m in Cusco, Peru with Karen Brock and Joe Coca. We’re working on a new book with Nilda Callanaupa, Diana Hendrickson, and the weavers of the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco (CTTC). This book is beyond the conception stage, beyond the zygote stage, well into the fetus stage. It grows and changes day by day.
We start each day driving out to the village of Chinchero where we meet with weavers from many communities: Accha Alta, Huacatinco, Chahuaytire, Pitumarca, Patabamba, Santo Tomas, Mahuayapampa, Acopia, and of course, Chinchero. They have come with brains and hands full of centuries of traditional knowledge and a generosity of spirit to share their lore with the world at large.
Over the past four days we’ve photographed dozens of weavers demonstrating dozens of intriguing techniques in the realms of spinning, weaving, embroidering, knitting, and more. I’ve been doing most of these crafts for many decades myself, but most of what I’m seeing is new to me and clever and creative with the support of centuries.
Case in point: a few years ago a mummified Inca woman was discovered in a glacier on Mount Ampato in the Andes. Her clothing was perfectly preserved, and the weavers of CTTC have figured out how to replicate it. Many of the techniques involved are completely familiar to them, but some had been lost to the ages—for example, the neat, elegant border on her manta. Today we watched (and filmed) Pasquala Mesco Pumayalli create this edging in the same way it would have been done 600 years ago. This is thrilling in a way that defies the passing of time.
Working through sun, rain, sleet, bone-chilling cold, mostly out of doors—which is where Andean weavers do most of their work–we’re seeing the book take shape piece by piece. This book has a ways to go before its birth–typical gestation period eighteen months—but here you can see some of the nitty gritty of how it is growing.