April 20th, 2021 / posted by paularath

My treasured Sumaqkay clutch, which is always a conversation starter.

Many textile scholars claim that the art of textile weaving began in Peru. Having heard several lectures in Santa Fe in the ’90s, and read a few magazine articles on the subject, I have come to believe this may well be true.

So when our Antarctica cruise stopped at the Peruvian port of Pisco, I was determined to see some Peruvian weaving, preferably in an authentic workshop or studio.

A young Peruvian weaver in the Sumaqkay workshop.

When we’re on a cruise, sometimes the local port sends a representative to the ship to give passengers directions or help them find tours or restaurants they might enjoy. In Pisco we got lucky. A nice young man from the Chamber of Commerce, who spoke okay English, lit up when I asked my question: “Where can we see local weaving?” He answered with great enthusiasm: “Ah! Sumaqkay!” We asked him how far away it was and he said, “It’s in Paracas – not too far.” He then wrote down the name and suggested we hire one of the local taxi drivers who were waiting just outside the port.

Many frequent cruise passengers will say you should not walk off the ship and hail a taxi. But, honestly, Jerry and I have had some of our most perfect days just winging it with a driver we met in the port. (Valparaiso, Chile on Valentine’s Day was one fabulous occasion!)

We handed the driver, Julio, the name we were given. He looked a little puzzled at first, but then said “Yes, Sumaqkay,” and got on his phone. He drove and drove and drove, and then stopped and asked a woman making coffee, then a guy pumping gas, then another woman making tortillas on a barrel. No luck. Finally a motorcycle policeman came to our aid and pointed across the street at a green door. Apparently there is no address for the Sumaqkay Studio, just a green door.

Just two of the looms at the Sumakquay studio.

We entered into a beautiful garden and elegant shop. However, it was a Sunday and there was only one person there, running the shop, and no weavers. They put out a call and suggested we take a stroll in their farm and gardens while awaiting the arrival of a weaver. It was a lovely experience to wander through a Peruvian farm.

Jerry and I began our Sumaqkay experience with a walk around the family farm.

Sumaqkay is a mother-daughter design team. They combine leather with pre-Colombian patterns on hand woven fabrics to create well-made, unique hand bags.

Sumaqkay means “the most beautiful” in native Peruvian Quechua. They have taken the traditional form of weaving and taught young weavers contemporary approaches to color and design. The company honors Peru’s rich textile heritage by giving back ten percent of their revenues for the Sumaqkay Education Fund that helps support young weavers.

The Sumaqkay showroom.

I’m afraid there aren’t any more bags like my fabulous clutch. But you can see some of their work online at www.sumaqkayparacas.com

Paula Rath

 

 

 

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