What does "Handmade" Actually Mean?

Have you ever thought about the process of a handwoven textile? Do you have a favorite textile that was completely made by hand? Perhaps a pillowcase, or a favorite clothing item?

We as consumers love the concept of “handmade.” However, oftentimes, unless you are an artist yourself, it is nearly impossible to comprehend the process of handmade, handwoven textiles. That is why we sent a photographer to Chawaytiri, Peru, to document the labor of love our friends Hilaria and Felipe pour into each one of their traditional weavings.

“Chawaytiri”, the name of their pueblo (village) means “Eye of the Llama.” Their families have been caretakers and protectors of the llama for centuries. To them, the llama is life. The sacred alpaca animals literally provide their livelihood, and so they honor and revere these animals tremendously.

The process of making one of these textiles begins with the caretaking of their alpacas. Making sure they are happy, well-fed, and well taken care of is imperative to make sure their wool is silky soft.

As safeguarders of the weaving culture, everything is a prayer. The day that the wool is ready to be taken from the alpacas, offerings are made to the Earth Mother, with Mama Coca Leaves, as well as other seeds and plants, giving thanks to Pachamama for her abundance, protection, and for her holy animals. Only after this offering is made does the wool get harvested.

Then, when their alpacas are ready for their haircut, they are lovingly sheared and go off to roam happily, free of the weight that is a full wool coat! Now, Hilaria and Felipe can begin their work.

The processing of the wool takes many days. First, it is washed and cleaned, and dried in the sunlight. Next, the family sits in song and prayer, hand spinning the wool into yarn (an incredibly lengthy process). While this is done, Hilaria’s daughters harvest the plants that will be used for the plant dye. They use the plants that are in abundance on their sacred mountain. This is very important because synthetic dyes are very harmful to the environment, creating tremendous pollution to the waters.

Some of the sacred plants that they work with are the cochineal, the kohli, the chilika, and the kakasungka. When the plant dyes are ready the white yarn is then dyed, dried, and spooled, ready to be woven into glorious works of art.

Then Hilaria and Felipe are finally ready to sit down to weave. Keep in mind, it’s already been about 10 days since the shearing of the wool. They sit and begin to pray, the looms click click clicking away, harmonizing the colors with the threads of life, taking the weaver on a journey to the origin of life, where all of Creation is singing the most beautiful song of life.

The symbols they weave into these pieces are of the mountains, the sky, the Earth. They call upon the spirit of the waters, the eagle, the butterfly. Every symbol has a meaning, every weaving its own prayer.

Like this, after weeks of preparation, prayer, and hard work, these masterpieces are ready to be shared.

And then of course they take their long journey from South America to our tiny warehouse in California. Once a year, there is a festival in Hilaria and Felipe’s community in celebration of their sacred Alpaquitas (little alpacas, as they lovingly call their animals), where they will be celebrating in dance and song, praising the Creator for the gift of their llamas. And, we wanted to share with you, our Four Visions Family, a little bit about their story. So If you are inspired by the brilliant torch that Felipe and Hilaria are carrying, safeguarding the weaving traditions of their ancestors, you can support them by purchasing one of their incredible pieces through this link.

Oh, and the video, from our day with them! We can’t forget about that. Watch this incredible short video about the whole process here.