Peru, Oct. 24 2015

I haven’t said much about the tour group – perhaps I should. Peru was not on my bucket list – but when the trip to Paris/London fell through I googled to see what other textile trips I might find. That’s when I happened across Puchka Textile Tours.

They do two tours – a 22 day with eight days of hands on weaving / knitting / embroidery, etc. (and including a visit to Machu Pichu); and a 12 day tour with visits to the artisans of Ayacucho. I chose the 12 day tour simply because I find at the end of two weeks I’m usually ready to return home.

This tour has been well organized, all I had to do was arrive in Lima, and our Peruvian guides and driver have taken care of the rest. So today was a typical day – we began with a visit to Marcial Berrocal – he paints “tablas”.

Tablas are traditional in the community of Sarhua. Originally tablas were paintings depicting a family’s story, done on slabs of agave wood (planks cut from the tall woody flower stalk of the agave plant) and affixed to a beam in a new house.

Sr. Berrocal paints tablas in many sizes, each depicting aspects of Peruvian life.

He spent some time explaining his tablas to us then invited us to paint a small one ourselves. This may look like folk art, but having tried my hand at painting one, I can tell you there’s skill and technique involved!

This is the tabla I painted – filling in the outline created for us by Sr. Berrocal.

Following our visit to the Berrocal workshop we went to the Museo Historico Regional housing an exhibit showcasing artifacts from the Wari empire.

The pottery is highly developed with lots of intricate detail. The Peruvians with whom we are spending time seem to have a strong connection to their  Wari past, incorporating Wari iconography into their work.

Although the Wari fell to the Inca, the Inca to the Spanish, the Wari influence still seems strong in contemporary Peru.

Today was Saturday – on the weekend the bustle in the square where our hotel is located increases. First thing this morning the “ice cream” ladies were out in full traditional dress making fresh ice cream. They were busy the entire day.

They have a tub filled with ice, in which sits a large pot filled with the ice cream custard. They spin the pot in the ice till the custard is the right consistency – one of our ladies tried spinning the pot – it was hard work, she reported!

After lunch we visited the Fortaleza Textile workshop where we were able to see the beautiful embroidery this family does.


The Fortaleza are constantly innovating in order to build a market for their work.

Here we got a lesson in braiding – I am able to do a 4-thread flat braid, a square braid, but for the life of me I could not figure out the sequence of moves to create the round spiral pattern woven here in Ayacucho. I think I will have to get some plastic lacing that I braided as a child and see if I can figure out this braided lanyard design.

In addition to traditional hand embroidery techniques, this family produces complex, machine embroidered reverse appliqué designs derived from designs used in the women’s skirts from their ancestral town.

Tomorrow we have a “down” day – I’m looking forward to a slower pace and a return visit to the market where I can browse more widely. Then Monday we’ll be back on a tight schedule – more archeological sites and visits to artisans. This trip will be over before we know it.

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