The Huarmi are a group of indigenous women living in the region of Imbabura, Northern Ecuador. This region of Ecuador is famous for its indigenous traditions, art and gastronomy.
TMAC works with Casa Maqui, a cooperative of female artisans who weave colourful scarves and use the income to support their families and the local community. This family run cooperative is made up of six Huarmi women all of whom work together to support each other.
Over time the prices for the products made by the Huarmi have been driven down. With the largest artisanal market of Latin America not far from their homes, many factory produced products are being sold, products of a much lower quality and without the intricate work involved that the women of Huarmi have learnt from their ancestors. Mass commercialisation has made it difficult for these women to earn a living from their handicraft.
Within the Huarmi Collection you can find hand woven scarves, designed by Mathilda - the designer of Casa Maqui. Mathilda draws everything out by hand and her designs come from memory inspired by moments within her life. As with many indigenous communities, a conscientiousness of the environment is the core to much of their work, including the importance of looking after the local forests and land used for farming. Many of her designs come from the earth; flowers, plants and the intricate details found throughout nature.
Originally inspiration for their work was taken from art, brought over by the Spanish and taught to the local communities who at the time were enslaved on the farms. They were so highly skilled that the farm owners started giving the artisans land in exchange for their work. Over time the art of weaving and embroidery changed and the designs produced were dominated by the indigenous traditions and the environment around them. The artisanal skills have since been passed down from generation to generation.
The raw materials are all brought from local producers and then spun into the yarn. Each set of yarn is then naturally dyed using local plants and berries, after which the wool is ready to be woven. Depending on the complexity of the design it can take anywhere from one to two days to produce a scarf once the material has been spun and dyed.
The reason that Casa Maqui was started was to ensure long term income opportunities for Huarmi women, whilst also ensuring that their long rooted indigenous traditions are kept alive. They run workshops to educate visitors and to train younger Huarmi women in these weaving techniques.
“It is our mission to empower indigenous women through creating fair economic opportunities”