High in the Sierra Nevadas of Colombia, a group of indigenous Arhuaco women pour their knowledge of centuries-old techniques and patterns into the ancient art of the mochila. These bucket-shaped totes and handbags have their roots in the needs of local communities: for centuries, everything from coca leaves to corn crops was carried up and down the hills between home and market in a mochila.
The bags are painstakingly hand crafted from 100% virgin sheep’s wool, and require between 30 and 60 days to make. Weavers use both hands and feet to tightly crochet threads in a continuous circular pattern, radiating from the center-point of the base. They're built to carry quite a lot, and they’re built to last.
Functionality and durability are only two of reasons why the Arhuaca people of Santa Maria, Colombia, still use them in spite of the availability of more modern, mundane, mass produced goods. In their remote seclusion, they continue to cherish their culture and spirituality, and to value familiar objects of their own making.
The patterns decorating the surfaces of mochilas are traditional symbols of local creation stories, animals important to the Arhuacas, and landmarks from the region.
The appeal of the mochila began to spread across Colombia in the 1960s, and it is now a much-loved symbol of national heritage.
Thanks to designer-entrepreneurs like Sandra Freay, the mochila is fast becoming a symbol of sustainable luxury across the globe. Freay’s eponymous collection of fashion accessories, founded in 2014, has the mochila at its center.
Visit the Freay booth at Artisan Resource @ NY NOW, August 16-19, 2016, at Javits Center New York City. For more information, see www.freay.com