Whilst browsing through the ‘Special Offers’ on the Traidcraft web site I came across a rather stylish Alpaca scarf which had been reduced to £16 from its original price of £25. “Good bargain”, I thought so I investigated a little more to find out where and by whom it had been made. This is what I discovered :-
It is produced by Allpa. Allpa (means ‘earth’ in Quechua; one of the indigenous languages in Peru)
Allpa is a private company set up by a developmental NGO in 1986. Its main objective is to sell high quality Peruvian handicrafts to the international market. It is therefore a key link between artisans and buyers. An important part of this process is to find possible new buyers through an active annual programme of participation in International Trade Fairs, and design and quality innovations.
Allpa works with around 65 producers from different parts of Peru. These producers will make/use quite a wide range of products such as jewellery, ceramics, textiles, stone, wood and glass. Allpa supports the producers with different training such as design, quality control, and cost analysis. Also they provide technical assistance to facilitate innovation and good practices. Allpa has a ‘Revolving Fund’ which the producers can access to improve their workshops; or acquire new tools or equipment.
In the last six years Allpa has developed a programme to promote a better understanding by producers of fair trade standards and practices. As part of this process Allpa started a support programme that focus on working conditions and H&S at the workshop level in 2012.
Traidcraft has been working with Allpa since the second part of 1980s; actually their second partner. Recently Traidcraft has been involved in supporting the ‘working conditions and H&S’ project led by Allpa with their artisan groups.
Sirci Marquez and her husband, Alberto, have made a successful life for themselves through their ceramics workshop just outside Lima, but they have never forgotten the life and the people that they left behind.
It was the threat of the Shining Path extremists which led to their families fleeing their homes and brought them to Lima in the 1980s.
Now the couple make ceramic figures and models which they sell through Allpa, one of Traidcraft’s Peruvian suppliers. And as well as providing work for others, they also support schools in Alberto’s home town.
Alberto came from a family of potters and during his first years in Lima he worked in his brother, Romulo’s, workshop. Then in 1990 he began working on his own and made his home and workshop in Santa Clara, which is where he and Sirci live. The couple met in 1995 and married a year after they met. When their first child, Alberto, was born, Sirci stopped working in textiles and got involved in the workshop.
Alberto taught Sirci the art of ceramics and little by little her skills developed until she took charge of the workshop. They expanded their line of products and developed a new technique for making the popular nativity scenes (also in the Traidcraft magazine), which raised production from 50 to 200 a day.
The couple work in partnership: Alberto creates new models and carves the moulds while Sirci deals with clients, administration, buying materials and supervising workers.
“My inspiration is nature,” Alberto said. “I like to preserve nature. The relationship between mother and baby is a good thing.”