Blog, Exhibitions

AWAMAKI

As part of the Weavers of the Clouds exhibition there is a section on the weaving of the women who make up Awamaki, a non-profit organization that connects artisan women in the Andes to global markets.

Here is some of the work designed and made by 21 weavers in the community of

Walaquilla Kelanca.

Each of the 21 weavers took images from their daily life and wove a piece that illustrates them, images include llamas, alpacas, birds, ducks, bats, turkey, deer, condors, houses, cornflowers, stars, eyes, foxes, native plants, mountains, lagoons, parrots, dogs, Andean geese Huallata, hummingbirds and owls.

Awamaki was formed in early 2009 to support a cooperative of 10 women weavers from Patacancha, a rural Quechua community in the Andes of Peru. Awamaki’s founders, Kennedy Leavens, from the U.S.A, and Miguel Galdo, from Peru, had worked together at Awamaki’s predecessor organization with the weaving cooperative for two years. When the predecessor organization floundered and finally collapsed, Miguel and Kennedy formed Awamaki to continue their work with the weavers. The organization grew rapidly to include programs in health and education, as well as other artisan cooperatives and a sustainable tourism program. In 2011, Awamaki spun its health program off into an independent sister organization, and made the strategic decision to focus on income improvement and market access through fair trade artisan cooperatives and sustainable tourism.

         It provides training in product development, business skills and leadership. Artisans have the opportunity to share their culture and sell their crafts to tourists through Awamaki’s sustainable tourism program. They collaborate with international designers to make contemporary handmade accessories throughout the world.

         Awamaki’s guiding principle is that income in the hands of women is the best way to help families be self-sufficient. In the rural Quechua villages where Awamaki is established, men leave to work in the tourism economy, while women stay in the village to care for farms, homes and children. Although highly skilled in traditional crafts, most women do not read, write, speak Spanish or have anyway of earning money. 

         Meanwhile, as the rural economy has shifted towards paid labour, traditional textile arts such as spinning, plant dyeing and weaving have experienced a decline. Awamaki was founded to give these women the opportunity to earn a living while encouraging them to continue practising traditional crafts.

         Today, the majority of artisans who have been in the program for at least seven years earn the same or more than their husbands. They invest in the health and education of their families, and are building a prosperous, sustainable future for Quecha villages in Peru.

Awaki is based in Ollantaytambo, Peru, in the heart of  the Sacred Valley of the Inca. It welcomes volunteers, tourists and other in support of its work.

Blog, Exhibitions

WEAVERS OF THE CLOUDS: TEXTILE ARTS OF PERU

21 June -8 September 2019 at the Fashion and Textile Museum London

Weavers of the Clouds brings the captivating designs of Peru to the UK, showcasing some of the world’s oldest and most colourful art and textiles. Peru has a world-renowned heritage of fibre arts and costumes, from a lineage that dates back thousands of years. Weavers of the Clouds examines the vibrant applied crafts, heritage and traditions of Peru, celebrating the culture and customs of the artisan and their influence on design, fashion and beyond.

The exhibition features rarely seen objects from private collections and national museums, including the Museo de la Nación, Museo de Arte, Museo Nacional de la Cultura Peruana in Lima and the British Museum in London, including full costumes, tapestries, adornments, trimmings and accessories. 

Highlights include a 16th century Quipu – knotted fibres that were traditionally used by the Incas as a form of communication – and a four cornered hat, dating from 600 AD. Also on display; a rare pre-Hispanic tunic created in orange, yellow and blue macaw feathers, a sequined and embroidered waistcoat, emblazoned with birds and flowers and a Shipibo costume from the Amazon Rainforest, embroidered to reflect the astrological map.

Tapestries and weaving from a private collection include a ceremonial tunic created using a Scaffold weave, one of the most unusual weaving techniques in the world, previously existing only in the Andean region of South America. Despite dating to 800 AD, the influence of these techniques can be seen across hundreds of years and in the works of many great designers, including the Bauhaus and Anni Albers. These incredible costumes and textiles are complemented by a selection of varied and engaging paintings, photographs and illustrations.

Images by highly influential photographer Martin Chambi and paintings by Indigenista Peruana – a group of painters who were active in Lima from 1890s – 1940s – are accompanied by finely drawn paintings by Pancho Fierro and Francisco Javier Cortés. A further selection of vibrant watercolours by Francisco Gonzaláz Gamarra’s will be on show for the very first time, illustrating and celebrating traditional costume.

Finally, The Fashion Studio hosts a display curated by Claudia Trosso and supported by award-winning Peruvian restaurateur and chef, Martin Morales, exploring the work of 15 contemporary Peruvian artists and makers. These ground breaking artists combine the patience and skill of traditional techniques with contemporary materials such as nylon, copper, wire, photographic paper and thread.

Encompassing many different mediums and dimensions, Weavers of the Clouds celebrates Peru’s incredible history of traditions and skills, taking us on a cultural journey from the country’s rich past, to the vibrant modernity of its contemporary arts.
The exhibition is curated by Guest Curator Hilary Simon in collaboration with Dennis Nothdruft, Head of Exhibitions and The Fashion and Textile Museum. Interviews available on request. 

  The Fashion and Textile Museum is at 83 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3XF
T: 020 7407 8664 | E: info@ftmlondon.org

Museum opening times: Tuesday – Saturday, 11am – 6pm; Sunday, 11am – 5pm; Late night Thursday until 8pm; Last admission 45 minutes before closure. Ticket prices: £9.90 adults*, £8.80* concessions, £7 students and free entry for under 12s *including Gift Aid.  Encompassing many different mediums and dimensions, Weavers of the Clouds celebrates Peru’s incredible history of traditions and skills, taking us on a cultural journey from the country’s rich past, to the vibrant modernity of its contemporary arts.

 
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Meet the Maker: Hilary Simon

 

Francescas flowers close up copy

Silk painter, curator, artist and costume designer are just some of the fields of excellence for which Hilary Simon is known. You just need to peek into her house, a riot of colour, and you know you are in for a visual treat. I went to visit her in her home to see where she works.2C2A6051

Hilary is a human Magpie, the house is jam packed with colourful ephemera picked up on her travels plus lots of examples of her own work. Oh I forgot to mention she also runs fabulous guided tours to both Mexico and Peru.

J.B. Tell me a bit about your background and how you got into Silk painting.

H.S. I trained in Costume design at Croydon Art School but I was always interested in textiles. As soon as I had the opportunity and had saved enough money I took myself off to Java to learn about Batik. I stayed for 3 months.

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J.B.Who trained you to do silk painting?

H.S. No one, I taught myself.

On my return from Java I learned about a silk painting technique practiced in France. I went to Paris and bought up the dyes and the resist gum, and with a book, started painting on silk and made cushions for Liberty’s and then Harvey Nichols bought some too. I had a fashion show with a range of silk painted clothes and a stall at Chelsea Craft Fair

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J.B. It sounds like your career was really taking off.

H.S. Although it sounds really good and they were great commissions they were not bringing in enough income. I was doing freelance costume design for films and I still do that occasionally. When I had my first baby I started doing craft fairs, selling my silk paintings. A job then came up as a Costume Supervisor at GMTV working three days a week. This was great as it gave a stable income whilst at the same time lots of time to do my own work.

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J.B. In what way was your work developing?

H.S. I started making greetings cards and had an exhibition of painting on silk. I showed at Chelsea Craft Fair.

J.B. How did you get into running workshops?

H.S. Because of the contacts I made when I was exhibiting, I was invited to start teaching workshops. The first ones were at The Polka Children’s Theatre when my children were very young. Later I worked at the Eden Project and then I taught at Art in Action for many years. I still teach at the fashion and Textile Museum and at some of the London Art Schools. I also run weekend courses at West Dean College.

I have taught at Wildfibre in Los Angeles https://www.wildfiberstudio.com/

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J.B. How do you make your contacts for work?

H.S. I am always on the look out, for example My trip to Guatemala, was from showing at Art in Action in Oxford, when someone told me about an American arts centre in Antigua called ARTGUAT http://www.artguat.org/I contacted the owner, photographer Liza Fourre, and gave a 10 day workshop there two years running.

Inspired by my time in Guatemala, I later had a Solo exhibition of 55 paintings at the Stephen Bartley Gallery, Old Church Street, Chelsea.

To fund my visits to Mexico whilst I was researching, I gave tours in Mexico for Day of the Dead. I have run a workshop in Mexico in Guadalajara at ‘Hard to Find’ arts centre http://htf.org.mx/.and at CaSa,Centre of Arts San Agustin,Oaxaca.http://www.mexicoescultura.com/recinto/57071/en/san-agustin-arts-center-oaxaca.html

J.B. How did you get into curating exhibitions?

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H.S. Having done many tours in Mexico I became aware that no one had done an exhibition about Rebozo’s that are hand woven on a back strap loom. I thought I would create an exhibition.  A rebozo is a hand woven garment ,with ikat design. Its characteristic is the hand laced fringe.The rebozo evolved with the influence of the Spanish, and the weaving skill of the artisans creating this garment. The artist Frida Kahlo wore them. It was a great idea. I just didn’t realize that it would take so long from the initial concept to the actual exhibition. The Fashion and Textile Museum in London was my choice of museums. It was there that I set my heart. It was designed by, Mexican architect, Ricardo Legorreta. I met Ricardo in Mexico City before he died. We made a shrine for him in the exhibition.

My Mexican Shrine close up copy

Exhibitions are expensive especially travelling ones. I managed to get funding and support from a number of different organizations, including the Anglo Mexican Foundation, The British Council, The Mexican Embassy and the Fashion and Textile Museum.   I bought Mexican’s over to the UK to demonstrate the skill needed to make a Rebozo. All in all it took 5 years from the initial idea to the London exhibition in 2014. It also showed in Mexico City in 2015.

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J.B. Are you thinking of running any other exhibitions?

H.S. I am currently working on an idea to exhibit Peruvian Costume. The working title is “Weavers in the sky’ although this may change.

J.B. What made you choose Peru?

H.S. They are outstanding weavers and there is currently a great interest in Peruvian crafts, particularly the weaving, culture and cuisine.

J.B. Where do you get the inspiration for your work?

H.S. My inspiration comes from my travels, decorative things such as textiles embroideries, shrines, bright colours, textures and different cultures.

J.B. Who are your design heroes?

H.S. Andrew Logan, Zandra Rhodes, Molly Parkin, Missoni Leonora Carrington. I am influenced by Mexicans including  Diego Rivera, Francisco Toledo.

J.B. If you were starting on your education and career choices again, what would you do?

H.S. I would always be an artist, but it’s a hard life.

J.B. What are the benefits and downsides about working from home?

H.S. The upside is that I love being on my own and being able to work whenever I feel like it, even quite late into the night. There are no distractions from other people and I don’t waste time travelling. The downside is I don’t get the critical information that I would if I were working with or near to other artists.

J.B. Apart from Peru what other projects are you currently working on?

H.S. I was commissioned  by the Swedish church to paint two, four feet long, panels of the tree of life. These were for the vicar to wear. I posted the finished design on face book and out of the blue was asked to come up with another Tree of Life Design for a Classical CD sleeve for musician Morgan Szymanski. I have just finished this. I have recently completed some Silk squares that I will soon be selling and I am constantly working on new designs.El Arbol de la VidaFE8A7467 copy

J.B. Thank you for a glimpse into your artistic life.

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