DIY Peruvian Craft Tour with Annie Millican

kollabora crafting workshop

Annie Millican invites you to join a DIY craft tour that will take you to the heart of the vibrant crafting culture in the Sacred Valley of Peru. 

Be one of 10 participants to travel across the Peruvian Andes this May on a collaborative crafting expedition that will introduce you to the amazing indigenous craft culture of the area. The tour, organized by online DIY platform Kollabora, will be a total cultural immersion that will expand your horizons and tap deep into your inner adventurer. Living with a Peruvian host family, visiting an alpaca farm, dyeing yarns with local natural dyes, learning how to use a back strap loom and visiting the sacred site of Machu Picchu are all part of this unique and enriching experience.

Tour organizer Annie Millican first immersed herself in the rich crafting heritage of Ollantaytambo, Peru in 2009, leading her to establish a product development initiative called Awamaki Lab. The four-year project brought (and still brings) designers to Peru to work alongside local artisans to create beautiful products for international sale, creating a sustainable and accessible way to share the gorgeous craft heritage of the region. She’s now teamed up with Kollabora for this tour in order to provide more designers and crafters with the experience of working alongside local artisans and establishing meaningful relationships through the art of making. We caught up with Annie to hear more about what this exciting adventure has in store for its crafty participants.

 ollantaytambo craft

Leena Oijala: How did you decide that a tour would be the next step after Awamaki for sharing the Peruvian craft heritage?

Annie Millican: I wanted to figure out how to concentrate the benefits of the Awamaki Lab experience and open up the opportunity to other designers/makers/knitters.  The greatest benefit of Awamaki Lab was fostering meaningful connections between skilled designers and artisans and so I was interested in creating a similar model that speaks to the Kollabora crafter.  The tour is really a cultural immersion program and pairs designers with local artisans in mini, non-competitive teams.

The idea is that these teams will come up with their own unique solution to a pattern challenge, making it a very hands-on experience. The tour will be a journey into discovering every step along the way of how the product is made; we’ll visit an alpaca farm, we’ll study hand spinning on a local drop spindle, and we’ll learn about design and the back strap loom under local weavers.

ollantaytambo finishing textiles

LO: Who would you say this tour is meant for?

AM: Anyone who has an adventurous spirit, who wants to disconnect from the daily grind in a beautiful, idyllic Andean town and collaborate with crafting counterparts across the globe. It’s for someone who is excited about a rustic, cultural immersion that involves living with a host family, eating traditional Peruvian cuisine and experiencing how traditional crafts have been maintained in more rural areas.

LO: How strong do participants’ craft skills need to be?

AM: Having basic knitting skills will help a lot. We’ll be working with a chunky, handspun alpaca yarn, which will be easier for beginners, as the yarn knits up quickly and is easier to handle.

LO: How did you come to work with Kollabora for the tour?

AM: I’ve known the Kollabora folks since they started burdastyle and have maintained a friendship with them ever since. They reached out to me last year inquiring about tour opportunities and I responded with an idea for a concentrated design experience.

It’s great to work with an online community that connects DIY makers across the world to a skill sharing board. The platform allows individual crafters to go online the post their own DIY projects, network with like-minded crafters and find inspiration, materials and tutorials for new projects. The tour personifies this, as its really about relationship building and capturing the Kollabora essence by taking the online community offline and into a hands-on experience.

 kollabora crafting workshop

LO: What are your goals for this tour?

AM: The goal is to introduce crafters from around the world to crafters in Ollantaytambo and foster relationships that tour participants and local crafters can maintain by their own volition.

We’re  working with the Asociacion Virgen de Carmento, a self-organized artisan association from an outlying community called Rumira. So the tour will support their organization tremendously and will be feeding back into the community by supporting the women we’ll be visiting and working with.

LO: How do you hope to see the project evolve?

AM: If the tour is successful there will be another tour in November, which we have scheduled around the local ramie harvest season.


LO: Collaboration is a key concept in a lot of the work you’ve done. How important do you think collaboration is in creating a sustainable textile and fashion industry?

AM: I think collaboration nurtures relationships and those relationships support increased transparency.  All links across the value chain in the production of retail goods ultimately rely on the relationships that people build with one another. This process is underscored by clear and open communication between different members of a process. In terms of design, cross-cultural collaboration is an area that should be explored more because it really fosters mutually beneficial skill-sharing.  There are such incredible high art traditions in some of the most remote corners of the world that can both inform and benefit designer interfacing.

 ollantaytambo crafters

LO: Will we see more artisan work in the mainstream during the next 10-20 years?

AM: I hope so! I think there are a lot of logistical constraints to insuring that artisan groups can fulfill deadline situations that brands have. So there is still a lot of infrastructural support that needs to be established to make that working relationship more realistic.

However, there is a renewed interest in seeing a greater story embedded in the clothing and other items that people buy and own. Seeing the meticulous handiwork in an item that you own creates a very meaningful connection.

The tour dates are May 25th to June 2nd, 2013 at a total cost of $1,799 excluding flights. Check out Kollabora’s website for a full itinerary  and fill out a brief questionnaire for registration. This is an amazing opportunity for a completely unique and engaging experience, so get on board quick to secure one of the last 5 spots!

Images: Kate Reeder