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Carmen and Felipe

Artisan Organization: Carmen and Felipe

Country: Peru

"Our lives changed suddenly when my husband, Felipe, was in a serious accident. I had to take on the entire responsibility for the children. It so happened that I had just begun to learn to embroider and this led to a way to support my family. Felipe's magical creativity helped and we've been able to give our kids a good education and get ahead together through sacrifice, unity and love.

"I had been wanting to make my own traditional Chivay outfit for Carnival and the fiestas for the Virgin in Caylloma. To do so, I had to learn to sew and embroider and that's when I signed up for classes. With 40 other women, we found a teacher and almost everyone in the community began learning together.

"We all were seeking an activity we enjoyed that could bring in some money for our families.

"To master the art, we all had to practice a lot so, after every class for eight months, I took the kids to stay with someone while I worked on my embroidery. Learning the craft was a lot of fun but it was also tiring because I had so much to do in the home. Even so, I practiced. After three years, I became skilled and my work was elegant and attractive.

"While Felipe was recovering, I taught him, too, and he developed his own creativity with designs he composed based on the fabrics I found. He became really good at it.

"We love how we're able to innovate, play with shapes and colors, and with our traditional designs. We depict the flowers here, the animals, the colors of nature. I especially enjoy embroidering, and Felipe designs the figures and motifs. For me, it's challenging to achieve a symmetrical and elegant finish but we both strive for quality in our work. We are a team. We resolve problems together and put our very best effort into each piece we create.

"I think our best qualities are the effort we make to meet our family's needs. We are constant in our work, no matter the circumstances, and we face the world each day with honesty and integrity.

"The earth itself inspires us. We live in Arequipa, Peru's 'White City,' with changing weather, a variety of flora and fauna, of mountains and canyons of dazzling natural beauty. All this inspires our work.

"We want to share our art with people around the world and to build a future where our children can achieve their dreams. We want them to see that with hard work, you can achieve anything.""