As the former advisor to the first lady of Peru part of Marta Castañeda’s job was to travel throughout Peru and observe the many craft projects created by indigenous people. In 2006, after leaving her post, Castañeda decided she would focus her career in the rescue and enhancement of traditional Peruvian art, and designed and assembled development projects in textile crafts for six years.
In 2011, Castañeda founded Cumpi Camayoc with the mission of not only preserving Peruvian traditions, but also to ensure that textile activity is a profitable business venture for artisans, enabling them to provide for their children as well as leaving them legacy of their work and a potential trade to follow and making them heirs to a tradition that won’t vanish.
The company designs and implements social development projects in crafts and manufacturing in rural and urban areas, as part of Corporate Social Responsibility Policy funded by other companies in the region. In 2014, País Textil, Cumpi Camayoc’s trademark, was created in order to globally market the products designed and produced by the artisans trained by Cumpi Camayoc.
Cumpi Camayoc trains artisans in two areas: contemporary and pre-Hispanic textile techniques, along with the management of craft workshops, partnerships, commercialization and marketing. “When we talk about training in pre-Hispanic textile techniques, we also talk about the diversity that is Peru, so that each of the projects we implement requires a project design that fits the reality of the place where we want to work. With some groups of artisans we have made recovery processes of backstrap loom weaving techniques in areas where there was no more weaving tradition by two generations, teaching them again to use a backstrap looms like their ancestors; in some other areas, where weaving traditions were maintained,” Castañeda wrote in an email to HAND/EYE.
The company also enhances textile techniques and launched processes of technical innovation with optimum looms and mobile warpers. In the urban areas, where the company works with artisans who have migrated from different parts of Peru, they work in recovering and building textile knowledge. “We train in various textile techniques such as crochet and knitting, pedal loom, embroidery, tassels, etc. All the training processes in management, partnership and commercialization must also adapt to the reality of each of the places where we work,” Castañeda added.
Each project requires a design and process that fits the reality of the place and group of people Cumpi Camayoc works with. Says Castañeda, “We do not apply a pre-established mold. Peru is so diverse in people, ecosystems and cultural traditions that force us to be creative all the time. The first step is to travel to the area where we are asked to implement a development project and meet the people, their wishes, expectations, and traditions and determine viability of using certain materials and marketing channels. This first contact is what will determine the project development. We also research textiles and iconography in the area that could be lost.”
A team of designers and master weavers create the first samples of the items the company produces with artisans. “It is very important for us to recover and preserve traditional techniques and designs, but we also believe it is essential for the survival of the Peruvian textile art, that the artisans achieve good income from their work, or they will stop weaving and cultivating this, thats why we work several lines of products to access different types of markets, traditional, ethnic and contemporary design.”
Cumpi Camayoc specializes in backstrap loom weaving. Artisans are taught to use natural fibers as competitive aspect to their work. “Many artisan groups we work with have irregular textile knowledge. In other words some craftsmen are very good weavers and others are just starting their learning processes. Product design, then, requires a special effort for us to include everyone in the process. We begin with simple pieces and work through more complex weaving as a goal to which all must accomplish.”
Cumpi Camayoc will exhibit the País Textil’s home line of pillow covers, table runners and bed throws, and a small collection of accessories, such as clutches, scarves and shawls, from February 1-4 at Artisan Resource at NY NOW.