Saturday, December 8, 2012

Dye workshop in Chinchero with Braulia

Photo by Emerita
 Braulia, at the beginning of the day. My heart is beating fast from excitement and thankfulness that this experience is really part of my life and ... of course because we are up around ... well, I think close to 4000 meters altitude (3760m in fact) and I am only used to ..... close to 3000 meters. But we are outside, and the sun is shining, a hen is clucking around in the yard and there is firewood by the woodstove - the pots on the wall are ready to be taken down and filled with water,  dyematter and skeins of white wool ready to soak up the rainbow of my desires.
Photo by Emerita

 This is not yet my yarn, these are the examples of colourful joy which Braulia presented me with so I could make a decision as to what I fancied getting into.  And did I ever fancy - all of it! It was hard to choose - the Indigo skein was a 'for viewing only' skein, due to the long process of indigo dyeing that was not available to me but......  other dyes were -

Photo by Emerita

 Cochineal was one of those dyes - and I got to grind them by hand, sitting on my knees - when Braulia showed me how to do it, she used swift little low energy movements, I would say that I sort of had a full body experience, not being used to be on my knees, or bending over the grinding stone or holding a big round beautiful rock in my hand to crush the little creatures - it was all very zen - I had to make it zen, breathe in and out, be there, right that minute, not somewhere else - and all of me enjoyed every moment of being right there.

Photo by Emerita

The pots were stirred. In this case it is a large aluminum pot which was designated for the cochineal - the other pots were all clay pots, nice and black on the bottom from all the use they had had. Always over an open fire, always outside. Braulia had run down to get firewood shortly after we arrived. She was only gone for a few minutes and returned with her lliclla (carrying cloth) full of eucalyptus firewood. Eucalyptus is not indigenous to Peru, but it grows readily and has been planted to hold on to mountainsides and prevent erosion - and thus, this is what is used in the dye and cook stoves.

Photo by Emerita

This is .... a dried flower producing a beautiful yellow.  I have to look up the name - am not sure where I wrote it down -
for the green we used chilca - an indigenous bush/tree - with sticky leaves and a green green yellowy colour - boiled with the wool and .... this is bad - I forget if there was a mordant to start with, perhaps alum - but i know that at the end we added sulphur - and that turned the yarn a dark pungent green.
Photo by Emerita

Thinking back I am trying to remember .... what did we use for mordant and for a second or two I felt like shaking myself a bit for not taking better notes. However, then.... forgiveness came flying towards me instead for .... rather than taking notes I stayed true to what I wrote just a few lines up - I was there, I enjoyed the moment, I listened to Emerita (a most excellent adventurer and treasure finder from Apulaya, the centre which I was so fortunate to be going 'to school' at) and to Braulia. They spoke Spanish, shared information, stories etc  .... my Spanish was not and still isn't great, but... the sound of their voices was delightful and my eyes were full of wool, dye and colour, so what more could I ask.

Towards the end of the day there were many more skeins hanging in the sun and the wind. Those two yellows, two reddish ones, the one purple and the green one are all mine, mine, mine! and I brought them back with me on the bus from Chinchero to Calca. I have started to back strap weave a broader belt with some of this yarn - after I added extra twist into it, the layers upon layers of prep and knowledge needed and used in this whole process is ..... lovely, challenging and delightful.
drying wool in front of an earth pigment painting by Emerita

Originally it was 'only' a three hour morning workshop that had been set up for me with Braulia, in the afternoon I was 'scheduled' for a walk along the Inca Trail in Chinchero ..... however, there is always room for change in this life and ... thank goodness for that. I did not walk the trail in the afternoon .... we hung out here and only made it back to Calca around 7 in the evening. What a day I had had!
Emerita from Apulaya took all the photos in this post - I am thankful that she allowed me to delve into this joyful event without having to pull the camera out every other moment. It was a day of fully being.... 

Moray, Peru, spring festival and fun!

 On this fine day, where the sun came and went behind the clouds and the clouds helped by the winds shrouded and then unveiled the beauty of the mountains around us the people in the communities around the Moray Inca Ruins were celebrating the coming of spring, rain and yet another growing and grazing season. I had had the joy of being in the audience the previous day for the festival of the same celebration 'at home' in Calca by the Urco Inca site the day before, and it was a pleasure to be able to join the audience in the dance and music part in a different part of the Andes. There were no bleachers here, people were standing in a tight circle around the dance 'stage'. I was taken in by the many folks in attendance and by the magnificent backdrop to this celebration of life and living.
There was music galore and young people from the local schools performing ritual dances belonging to this springy season - it was fun and bright and ensured large smiles on the faces of the audience. Including me =-)
If you look closely at the photo below you may notice that... this young man is 'flying' - no, it is not because the air is so thin we all just bounced along up here. These dances are just highly highly energetic. They also go on for 10-15 mins at a time and all I can say it, it is a good thing that everyone is trained to do this and have lived up here for probably all of their lives. I would have keeled over in less than five minutes. The air is thin and ..... your system needs to be accustomed to such rigorous moving about. Thus... as usual I was moving at a dignified royal pace - never too fast and never quite at a full stop. 
 And the girls, not moving any less than the boys. All wearing traditional clothing - for the boys the grassy hat added to make them look more like birds - the girls yielding their stone slings to catch the boys, it is after all a dance to spring, abundant harvest and  good fortune. Each and every dance by the way is a story of some kind. For the uninitiated onlooker perhaps not so easy to interpret but... the ones who have this culture in their bloodstream it is not too hard to follow along and enjoy the story.
And a person with just the visuals ...... well, for me anyways, it was delightful and moving to watch the show.
 A hundred meters or so away from this colourful spectacle we were once again at the site of beautifully executed ruins. They are everywhere one goes in this beautiful country, Peru, - even if history and ruins may not be the main preference of a visitor it is quite difficult to not be taken in by the magnificence of the abilities and knowledge that the Incas and their predecessors possessed.
Staircases taking a person up from the bottom of this 'upside down pyramid' - once upon a time used as a climate controlled green house - depending on which level you plant your crop you can choose to give it cooler or warmer growing conditions.
 Please don't ask me to describe it further, for..... I am a weaver and am not exactly sure how it works, but... impressive, that is what I know that it is and here I am, at the top, and that is where I stayed - I watched a very little man at the very bottom lay down in the middle of the circle to perhaps feel the power of the earth (pachamama) move him, perhaps it was like a battery recharger. I certainly would not on that day have been able to make it both down and up in one go. And..... had not packed for an overnight experience at the bottom..... so instead went back to the car and then we continued to Chinchero, where the next day.... I would partake in a natural dye workshop.
Photo by Emerita

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


One of the many stops on this particular day was a salt 'mine' - on the long drive to get there I was wondering how they would get the salt out - imagining an underground mine of some sort and yet, when we got there it was all 'above table' so to speak - little ponds everywhere and once again, one of the ingenious channel systems you can find everywhere here in Peru.

Only here it was quite hot water, meandering in a controlled fashion from pool to pool, leaving salt crystals along the sides of the little stream. The temptation to taste the water was great and irresistible however I am very glad that I did not just bend down and stick my face into the stream. The water was quite warm and one tip of a finger went in ......when I carefully tasted the wetness on my finger I was mightily surprised for it was very, very salty.

 I am not sure what I had expected but was more than whatever measurement I had visualized. We walked along the salt pools for a little bit, marveled at the great number of pools and I was wondering how the feet of these workers feel come end of the working day - all that salt on the skin and the wetness all day long seems to me might make for some pretty sore and cracked feet. But who knows maybe ....they have a discount for foot balm.

What caught my attention last were the beautiful reflections in the salt pools, now I have to think about how to work those into a tapestry - plans for the future, wonderful challenge and thought.

Shepherd - at a very young age.

We are on a two day excursion, it takes us higher up into the Andes, still fairly close to where I live in Calca, but never the less up higher and it to more remote terrain. The mountains and the view around us is breathtakingly beautiful.
Enormous mountains with their peaks covered in duvets of clouds, some with snow caps at the very back,  and in the middle of all this nature little dots, first to be recognized as fourlegged creatures, sheep, donkeys and a few alpaca and then....Something small and two legged - on one side of the road far in were two boys together herding their flock. The moment we stopped the car to take a better look and perhaps a photo they were coming towards us at full speed. I was unsure how to react and after a question to Emerita decided to hand them a coin - I did after all take a photo of them as they were springing towards us.

On the other side of the dirt road was this little girl, she was shy, keeping her back to us most of the time, but when I rolled down the window and waved at her to come closer and when our driver also encouraged her to come closer she did, and I gave her a coin as well after which she placed herself ... how can I say it, she just stood there and looked at us patiently waiting for me to finish taking my photos. Her universe so enormously large and to me incomprehensible - there was so much which was 'foreign' to me and yet, she was so at home, wandering alone, with no adult supervision at her tender age and with the responsibility for her family's flock of sheep - their well being during the day and their safe return home when darkness fell.

A universe full of texture of beauty which quieted my brain and stilled my imagination. At that moment in time it was my 'job' to observe and be a sponge.   I did the best I could.