I have fallen in love with Ecuadorian tapestries, handmade on wooden looms in the Andes. Lately I have had the opportunity and privilege to get to know a lovely weaving family. Raul has been weaving since he was a young teenager, learning to weave under the tutelage of a weaver in Peguchi, a nearby town renowned for its tapestry and weaving. After marrying Blanca and starting their family, Raul moved back to the small village of Morochos where his extended family lives.
Raul and Blanca have two wooden looms, both of which operate without electricity. On the smaller loom they create tapestries that are about 12×14 inches in size. On the larger loom they create larger tapestries, up to 2 feet by 3 feet in size. They use traditional designs often incorporating symbols and patterns that have long held meaning to the indigenous people in the area. Some of my favorites are the Incan warriors and the condors, bringing boldness and strength right into my living room.
Raul and Blanca cannot make a huge amount of these tapestries in a month, only about 25-30, depending on the sizes. Here in Ecuador, they sell them in the local market, in Otavello, to the middlemen that control distribution and prices. The middlemen keep the prices that are paid to the artisans extremely low, with an artisan lucky to clear $5 on a tapestry. Meaning that they are paid less than a dollar an hour. I have also noted that the family is moving away from artisanship and starting to make money in other ways, such as making food for the community. The loss of this special type of crafting is a loss to the whole world.
A Tapestry Opportunity
I am hoping someone comes forward soon who would like to form an exclusive relationship with Raul and Blanca, buying their tapestries and selling them in a store, and working with them on a fair trade basis where they can earn a living wage from their work. I have attempted to sell the tapestries myself online, but I think a customer needs to see them in person, so that they can really appreciate the work. It’s also difficult to imagine them on a wall from a small online photo. Let me know if you are that person!