As a startup, Awamaki had passion, ideas and creative mojo, yet it lacked strategic planning. Somehow that didn’t matter, and it became an organization to watch. Case in point: Awamaki Weaving Project received two grants in 2011; First Peoples Worldwide awarded Awamaki the Keepers of the Earth grant to build a weaving center in the Quechua community of Kelkanka, and its knitting cooperative received $14,000 from the Creative Industries program, funded by the UN Millennium Development Goals fund.
Awamaki’s garments are designed in-house by a custom design team or visiting designers and interns. “The designers we work with are encouraged to research and be inspired by the amazing culture and tradition that is visible everywhere you look here. Once we have narrowed down designs, the designers work closely with usually one or two of the knitters from one of our knitting co-operatives (Puente Inca or Rumira) . . . Once the design is finalized and a pattern is created, the designer and the women who worked on each design will teach the other members of their group, to make sure that everyone understands the pattern and final product. We create all the knit products with either a commercially spun 100% alpaca yarn from Peru, or a chunkier hand-spun 100% alpaca yarn that is produced by our spinning co-operative of 10 women in Huilloc,” explained co-founder Kennedy Leavens.
The woven items are woven on a backstrap loom by indigenous Quechua women weavers. Most of the wool used by the weavers is sheared from their own sheep and alpaca. They spin the yarn tightly by using a traditional drop spindle to spin the wool, and dye the wool using natural plant dyes. From there, the dyed spun wool is woven on the backstrap loom. Awamaki specifies the dimensions and the weavers design them, using traditional figures that have been passed down over centuries. When the weavings are completed, they’re brought to the seamstress cooperative where they work closely with Awamaki’s designers and the in-house team to create fashionable garments and accessories. Each piece is hand-sewed in the studio in their office in Peru.
From February 1-4, Awamaki will exhibit new products at Artisan Resource at NY NOW™. The new collection includes bags that incorporate leather with hand-woven textiles, a new line of home decor hand-woven items such as pillow shams, table runners and placemats. Also on display new knit designs featuring handspun 100% alpaca yarn (from the organization’s cooperative spinners, as well as an expanded selection of knit products for babies and toddlers.
For more information, please visit www.awamaki.org.