“Ama Qhella” Quechua for “Don’t Be Lazy”
By Stephanie Edwards for The British Tapestry Group
The Puchka Peru tour was all it promised and more! A textile tour that gave both insight into the cultural heritage and skills that support the current art and craft forms, and us, ‘turistas’, a glimpse into how hard they work to make it all possible.
There was so much to see and do we had no chance to ‘be lazy’ but the time spent with Maximo Laura was most precious. Eight days of cool rooms full of colour; Maximo’s tapestries lining the walls for inspiration, the floor heaped in a colourful pile of alpaca yarn of every conceivable hue, and four looms set up ready to go.
Aruna and I, having slightly more experience, were encouraged to try more complex designs, although you’d hardly realise it judging by the quality of the other’s work. All of us followed images and colour-ways detailed from Maximo’s own designs; the intent being that we would learn the key techniques he used including working with a double warp known as Anilado - vertical binding, colour blending through hatching, soumak, pick and pick, outlining, wrapping and use of supplementry warp and wefts, with lots of variations besides.
Planning was key to optimising the time available to us, to allow for as much weaving as feasible. Colours were sorted into ‘butterflys’ bundled together to correspond to sections of the design - everything worked out in advance as much as possible although there were always final decisions at the point of weaving, as ever!
Maximo and Jimi showed us, with infinite patience and fingers that seemed to dance over the warps, how to transform jumbles of threads into mounds of colourful texture. Maximo writes “Tapestrymaking requires a progressive, slow and irreversible system of work that allows for the miniscule, patient and intimate meeting of technical and visual solutions” but wow at what speed! We really did need to watch closely to be able to take it all in. however both of them were willing to repeat, over and over again, those techniques that were both familiar yet different to us.
Technically the emphasis was always about evenness of technique, control of line to ensure it worked visually, that blending of colours flowed seamlessly, and the contrasts in textures balanced and unified the design as a whole. Emotionally it was about the magic of sharing with Maximo the pleasure (and occasional pain) of the technical and visual; the practical and the aesthetic elements of tapestry and those particular techniques that make his work so special.
Finally our experience of the tour was also about the generosity of all those who shared their knowledge and pride in their culture and skills with us, and who put in enormous amounts of time and effort into making sure we had a journey of a lifetime!