Every trip to Ecuador we have three mandatory stops on the schedule, Imbabura, Bolivar and Azuay, provinces in the Ecuadorian Andes.
Here you will find the associations and families with whom we are proud to say we work as partners, building relationships and creating opportunities for women artisans.
On one of our trips we met a family that sells their handicrafts in the poncho market, Otavalo.
They are specialists in wool tapestries made on wood looms and hand-woven in natural cotton. There are 13 children in their family, 8 of them are women, they have learned the art of weaving from their grandmother and mother since they were very young.
As a joke, one of them told us, "I learnt to sew and weave at the age of 7, much earlier than I learnt to write and read."
You can see the passion in her eyes, she is now 21 years old, has started her own family and continues to weave and market her products to foreigners who visit the park as tourists. She is one of our artisan partners, we keep in touch regulary as we do some sampling or testing of materials.
Most of the indigenous women in this province are semi-literate.
Their main work is agriculture, livestock care and the elaboration of handicrafts, that are made with endemic materials such as páramo straw and cabuya fiber.
Wednesdays are special days in Simiatug. Many farmers from the surrounding villages come to sell their agricultural products, livestock and medicinal herbs. Along with them, the women also come to sell their crafts.
The women associated with the cooperative that we work with deliver their products under a fair trade concept. This association was created with the initiative to offer personal development to the indigenous women, receiving training in handicraft techniques that promote their improvement.
A few years ago it was very difficult to talk to each woman independently, you had to talk to the man of the house to leave them a message. Their opinion was not taken into account in any area, they could not express what they thought, felt or wanted, they lived in a world where the man was the only one who mattered and took the important decisions.
This is how the association found a way through handicrafts to give them a voice of their own. They learned to communicate by expressing their ideas through weaving, choosing the colours they wanted and the patterns inspired by nature.
Today the cooperative has started to give the craftswomen independence in the collection, processing and management of their products. It is strongly believed that this is the next step for their development, learning leadership and marketing of their own work.
Our journey ends in Azuay province, where we meet the association of women weavers of toquilla straw hats. These women have been weaving around 50 years ago, they learned it from their parents and now they pass this knowledge on to their daughters.
For them it is a joy to meet people every day who admire their manual skills and their ability to invent designs and combine colours.
The association was born with the aim of enhancing the art of toquilla straw weaving, which has been named Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by Unesco.
Every thursday they meeting in their minga* at the collection centre, all of them come from their localities to share a morning together receiving material, instructions and weaving as a team.
The minga (minka in Quechua) is an ancient tradition of communal or collective work for social utility; certainly the meaning of the minga derives from the knowledge of the aborigines that by doing shared work for the common good, it is done faster and better.
At Cabuya Handmade we work under direct conversations and fair trade pacts to ensure that they benefit from our association, this is our way of creating commitment with each one of them.
Thanks to each one of them for preserving with love and dedication our Ecuadorian legacy.
Each craft has its own unique collaboration and process. They have creative control of their natural products, however we have to make sure that they appeal to people like you.
Therefore we work as a team with each association to add value to each product under our concept, so we can create unique pieces for you and a fair payment for them.
Become part of our community and help us preserve their legacy.