Peru collection – memories woven in the Peruvian highlands
High up in the Andes, in the heart of Peru, thousands of metres of thread are spun each day. Whole village communities gather to work together and pass their skills on to new generations.
Each hand-crafted item is the weaver's personal tale, the manifestation of his or her unique life experience and the story of a community. Spellbound by the communal spirit of the Andes, Anna Orska decided to add her own chapter to these incredible stories. She found a workshop in the Holy Valley of the Incas, where her latest travel-inspired collection was born.
The designer has been travelling the world in search of endemic crafts and exotic materials. Her portfolio includes travel collections created with local artists in Nepal, Vietnam, Mexico and Bali. Her search for Peruvian crafts led the artist to areas which are as rough and demanding as they are pure and unpolluted.
'In the peruvian highlands, people wake up and go to sleep with the sun. Because the villages are located at such high altitudes, the sky seems closer than ever before. Life in the small, mountain communities has a different rhythm than the life we know' – reminisces Orska.
The Peruvians' life and work is organised according to the climate and environment. Before the weaving can begin, the materials have to be prepared in a time-consuming process which requires expertise passed down from generation to generation. The artisans obtain everything they need locally – they breed their own animals for wool and shear them by themselves. They then spin the wool and collect natural dyes, which they use to dye the skeins by hand. Each piece of cloth has its own life, which reflects the creator's spirit, skills and personal stories.
Peruvian cloths can be distinguished by their distinctive geometric symbols and intense, contrasting colour schemes. Some designs are simple, consisting of one or two symbols; others are complex patterns of multiplied motifs. These patterns can then be placed side by side, forming a wide, intricately decorated piece of fabric. Each village has its own, unique style within the peruvian aesthetic. They often return to the same set of motifs, such as plants or animals. Some cloths refer to historical events, scenes from everyday life or religious and cultural symbols.
In order to create a particular pattern, the weaver must posess the skills of an engineer. The ornament has to be planned beforehand, as each pull of a thread, called the weft, affects its form. One tiny mistake in counting the warps, or vertical threads around which the weft is woven, could ruin the whole pattern. Andean weavers master the art of creating extremely complex designs through practice only. There are no diagrams or guidebooks they can copy. This makes their work seem almost magical.'The craft requires a combination of artistic sensitivity and technical finesse, which allow the weaver to achieve the desired effect – an imaginative yet precisely executed marvel. Mastering this skill to match the level of the local artists would have taken years, which is why I had to settle for weaving simple patterns', says Orska.
The Peru collection was created in three villages high up in the mountains. Over twenty weavers were involved in its creation. Each of them put a bit of his or her energy into the pieces. Thanks to their rich symbolism and the personal touches of their creators, the Peruvian cloths become colourful tales of life surrounded by awe-inspiring nature and embody the histories and beliefs of entire communities.
ORSKA added her own chapter to the tales woven into these soft fabrics by bringing them back home to Poland and using them to create her latest jewelry collection. A dozen embroiderers worked on decorating the fabrics with beads, using natural stones such as sapphires, rubies, garnets, aquamarines, onyxes and pirytes. These delicate beads, chosen to compliment the colours of the fabrics, enrich and decorate them. Their many tiny facets sparkle with every move, bringing the Peruvian motifs alive.
Each piece took several to a few dozen hours to make and traveled over ten thousand miles before it reached the jewelers bench.
The meticulously prepared compositions needed nothing more than a finishing touch, provided by the jewelers back in the ORSKA workshop. Each part of fabric was framed in elements decorated with Incan-inspired patterns. In addition, decorative metal tags informing about their country of origin were added to all the pieces woven in Peru. All the stories need now are epilogues, which we leave to the future owners of the ethnic necklaces, earrings and bracelets. By wearing jewelry woven in the Inca Valley and adding their own meanings to the pieces each day, yo can continue the stories woven from the threads of other places and cultures.