GISELA AND THE GROWH OF THE BUTTERFLY ARTISAN GROUP
November 23, 2022
by Campbell Plowden
October 8, 2022
I remember meeting Gisela at her house in Brillo Nuevo in 2009 when it was full of artisans from teenagers through her 70+ year old mother-in-law weaving something. Gisela was rather shy and had a witty self-deprecating sense of humor, but she showed great creativity by weaving a novel four colored model of a belt with finely spaced diagonal lines.
Ten years later, Gisela was the first woman in her village to bring together a group of artisans in a formal way. Two years ago, she got a grant from the regional government to support her group’s marketing. They contracted Amazon Ecology to give them some basic training in the use of their new computer and social media.
While Gisela was very sad with the recent passing of her father Don Manuel, she came by our house in Brillo Nuevo one night to chat. It was amazing to hear about her group’s progress. Her group is called the Butterfly Artisan Association of Brillo Nuevo. It has 15 active members who make different types of crafts. Pamela learned to make butterflies in our workshops and now guides others in her group to fill large orders for the Ministry of Culture. It’s a good deal for them because this buyer pays well for simple one-color models with fewer demands about the quality.
Lucio learned to make woven birds with us and now makes new models of other Amazon species. He also has filled an order to make placemats and tapestries with multi-colored cane strips for a hotel and restaurant. His son Jhimi makes hundreds of calabash rattles and maracas for us. The rest of the group make unique models of chambira hot pads and placemats and sell belts and guitar straps to us.
Gisela recently won a national design contest for a large oval placemat with colors from the Peruvian flag which she will make to present when she receives her prize in Lima next month.
We of course want our artisan partners to keep working with us, but I feel a nice sense of accomplishment that our multi-discipline trainings are launching artisan groups to create and find new markets for crafts through their own initiative.
"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."