By Campbell Plowden
Four years ago, musician Gary Geykis asked me if the Peruvian native artisan who made the anaconda design belt he wore to hold up his pants could weave chambira palm fiber into a longer and wider strap to hold up his 12 string guitar. The resounding answer was yes and led to a whole series of snake pattern guitar straps. The women have continued to refine and expand these designs and adapted the strong weaves to make bracelets as well as collars and leashes for dogs.This past spring, a white-haired gent named Chuck Barbour bought three bracelets at the Caln Quarter Quaker gathering, tied them together and wrapped them around his fashionable white summer hat.
Thus was born the idea for the Amazon hat band and four women from the Bora village of Brillo Nuevo wove the first models this summer.
See photos of these.
The prototypes are 1 ½ wide, 23 inches long, with a 3 inch tassel at both ends to secure the band around the brim of any standard size hat. Some designs are the same as the popular snake patterns used in the belts and guitar straps – others are new such as the striking geometric combo of black and purple made by veteran artisan Segundina Silva. See all photos of artisans with hat bands.
Another new accessory that we hope will be popular with girls and women is the Amazon hair barrette. We passed around a dozen blanks for straight and ponytail holder barrettes to interested artisans from Brillo Nuevo and asked them to weave any design they thought would be pretty. Within days they started coming by our house in the village in the morning, afternoon and night to show off their creative efforts. See photos of artisans with Amazon hair barrettes. The designs ranged from simple two-colored bars or stripes to elaborate flowers and multi-colored butterflies. See photos of these at: http://tinyurl.com/AmazBarrettes and http://tinyurl.com/AmazBarrettes2.
As always happens when developing a new product, we’d see an element in one design that we would then suggest to another artisan to incorporate in her next one. At the end of the week, Yully and I selected the ones we thought were the most interesting to attach to the first batch of barrette blanks to test market.Our Amazon Field Volunteer Amrit Moore had a particularly sharp eye for one very promising design. She bought one of the two butterfly barrettes at the CACE craft display at a large Quaker gathering in Frostburg, MD. The other one was snapped up quickly to the chagrin of seven other girls who apparently wanted one of these fanciful flying critters to adorn their hair as well. We’ve already ordered a new batch of these and other popular designs.
To purchase or order any of these Amazon hat bands or hair barrettes, please contact us at: email@example.com.
GETTING STUFF DONE IN IQUITOS
While it can be very hard to get certain kinds of things done in Peru in an efficient way (like standing in line for hours to pay a bill at a bank), it’s a fun adventure to get other stuff done in a fun, timely and affordable way. I went out on Sunday to get some basic supplies for our house and got most of them at a modern store called Quispe, but right around the corner I found a fellow named Elmo who is the owner of one of the typical mobile micro-stalls (about 3 x 2 x 5 feet) that is his shop for his business to make copies of keys and help people with other kinds of locks. He first used one of those simple machine to make a rough cut of the key copy from the original. He then used a narrow grinder to fine-tune the copy.
I was really impressed that he used a hand caliper to measure the depth of each notch in the original key and the copy he was making. He eyeballed any minute differences because the calipers had no graduated lines on them. Elmo had been doing this work for 30 years so I felt pretty confident that his keys that cost me $1.25 each to make would work. He gave me his phone number to reach him just in case. His copies got me in my house just fine, but I’d like to see him again just to learn more about his life.
While the lease that we signed to rent our new house for CACE in Iquitos said everything was in good working order, we’ve discovered a few things that needed fixing to make the place more comfortable, safe and functional for our needs. As soon Tulio moved into the house, he met our neighbor Jorge who quickly became our go-to motorcar driver. When we mentioned to Jorge yesterday that we had a few plumbing issues that needed tending to, he said he had a friend who could handle them.
Julio showed up ten minutes later. They quickly determined that the threads in the faucet in the kitchen sink were stripped, the sink in my bathroom was leaking because the pipe under it was totally rusted through, and the sink in Tulio’s bathroom was clogged and just needed cleaning. After several trips to the hardware store to get various new pipes, glue, and tape, Julio donned my headlamp and used his and Jorge’s collection of old saws and wrenches to replace or clean all of the degraded items.
Julio returned this morning and spent the better part of the day doing four more tasks: 1) installing new pipes connecting our elevated water tank in the back patio to faucets in the work sinks so we could distill our rosewood material with an abundant supply of cooling water, 2) installed a new section of mosquito netting in my bedroom, 3) installed a new section of mosquito netting in the space above my bathroom, and 4) fixed up a wire in the back patio that was loosely connected by duct tape that was hanging out of a busted piece of PVC pipe.
We paid a total of about $25 in materials and $50 in labor for all seven jobs and everyone felt good about the tasks that were done. Julio looked around the house as he was leaving and said “please call me if you need anything done. I can fix your roof, put up a wall…….” Tulio told me tonight that Julio is someone who is referred to here as a “mil oficios” – someone who can do a thousand things. I know we have handymen in the US, too, but I’m awfully glad that I met Julio here.
STINGLESS BEES AT CHINO One of the houses I also visit first at Chino belongs to the veteran artisan Romelia and her husband Jorge. Jorge is one of the folks in the village who has maintained several wooden box nests with stingless bees as part of a honey producing project developed under the guidance of German Perilla from George Mason University in Virginia. While these bees don't produce as much honey as their stinging honeybee counterparts, their honey is highly valued for its strong flavor and medicinal properties.
During my last visit, Jorge's nest boxes were in his back yard. This time, he had placed both at opposite ends of his kitchen to keep a closer eye on them. I took several shots of bees coming and going out of the entrance tube as well as the guard which is always on duty to prevent the entrance of unwelcome visitors (other bees, flying ants, etc.) who might wish to invade to prey on their young.
Check out the video Beekeeping in the Amazon (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ca2kYBJN4tI) focused on a stingless bee project developed with Maijuna native communities by OnePlanet.Org and its director (and CACE board member) Michael Gilmore.