On the first day of Amazon Ecology's Artisan Facilitator Training workshop in Amazonas village, we gave each person a set of designs that showed different parts of a bird. One sheet gave an overview of the whole body while others showed the different types of beaks, wings and tails.
The artisans were certainly familiar with such differences, but since they often made generic looking bird ornaments in the past, we wanted their new woven birds to reflect the features of the species they were making.
We divided the 30 participants into 4 small groups and gave each group photos of a different bird. These included the chestnut-eared aracari, a great blue heron, a marvelous spatule-tail hummingbird and a cardinal.
We then asked each person to draw a profile of their bird that they could use as a guide for the model they would weave next. It would ideally be drawn so they would know the shape and size of each part of the bird. They would next analyze the colors of the bird in the photo and decide what color or combination of colors they would use to make each part.
This was not an easy task. Many drawings were too small to be useful. A few drawings were beautiful but had more detail in the drawing than could be replicated with the fiber.
After several tries, each group chose one drawing to guide their group. They then presented their work plan to the whole group to practice an introduction they would make to a group of artisans meeting in a workshop to learn how to weave a bird ornament.
Artisans examine illustration of the parts of a bird
Artisan makes a drawing of a northern cardinal
Artisans choose drawing to be template for woven bird
Artisan group presents design and fiber colors for weaving cardinal ornament
"While concepts like punctuality, mutual respect, no put downs of self or others, and listening when someone else is speaking may seem like obvious guidelines to form a positive community, a commitment to actually practice and hold each other accountable to observe these agreements is profound in a culture where showing up late, malicious gossip, and interrupting a speaker are painfully common."
"Artisan facilitators should of course share what they know, but beginning and experienced artisans all benefit by remaining humble, enthusiastic about learning, and committed to encourage and affirm their fellow artisans. So many artisans said that the thing they most wanted to bring back to their communities was this spirit of working in a mutually supportive environment."
"Both men and women wore garb made with bleached llanchama tree bark painted with graphic figures from Bora clans. Several wore headdresses made with the feathers from macaws and parrots. They discussed the importance of nature and craft-making in their culture and then launched into a lively dance where the men chanted and pounded sticks into the ground to the rhythm of moving around in a circle. Visitors joined the undulating lines to share the vibrant energy."