Designing Between the Lines in Kelkanka


Qué estás haciendo?” What are you doing? a local man asked. We admit it was a unique sight. At 13,000 feet, our staff members were hiking towards the Kelkanka weaving cooperative toting bags brimming with colored pencils, markers, and paper. We understood why the man was a little confused, but to us our mission was clear: to bring art supplies up to our weaving cooperative for a design workshop and weaving contest.

The workshop taught design, color, and weaving concepts through an interactive trend and fashion presentation. The specific goal of this workshop was to improve design skills and quality control, followed by a fun, competitive way for reviewing concepts covered. So after the design workshop concluded, we brought out the colored pencils, markers, and paper and announced the design contest. We passed out the supplies to the women, and each was given the task of drawing their own design that they would later weave into a textile. The women were given parameters to focus on, such as size, color palette, and aesthetics. And then, with paper and colored pencils as their tools and our parameters in mind, the women started coloring.

Jess Sheehan, our Head Designer, was excited to see the design results. “Our goal in having the contest after the workshop was to test the effectiveness of our training and to foster new designs created within certain parameters; something we like to call, ‘designing between the lines,’” she said.

The contest was held in three of our partner weaving cooperatives located in the communities of Kelkanka and Patacancha. In the end, we selected three winners, one from each cooperative, as well as first and second runners-up. The winners were chosen using a rating scale from one to five based on things like color composition, motifs, neatness, length, creativity, and punctuality. When all of the scores were averaged, the woman with the highest score was the winner from that cooperative. The prize: 50 soles and the pride of having your original design named among the top in your cooperative.

In the end, the design workshop and contest meant more to Awamaki than just selecting a winner. The workshop and contest were a tangible way to see our mission of fostering women’s empowerment by investing in their skills and leadership and connecting them with global markets in action. Furthermore, the contest showed us just how influential our design workshops could be. At Awamaki, we are constantly amazed and inspired by the work of our partner women’s cooperatives!


About Awamaki

Awamaki is a nonprofit fair trade social enterprise dedicated to connecting Andean artisan weavers with global markets. We collaborate with women artisans to support their efforts towards educational and financial independence by co-creating beautifully handcrafted knit and woven accessories using hertiage techniques.