Somos importantes- We are important. This is what one of the women said after I told them how impressed the people at the International Folk Art Market were with their products. But I’m ahead of myself.
Today I had a meeting with a group of women who produced items for the Folk Art Market and are interested in being part of a long-term production group. We began with a recap of the Folk Art Market. Here I explained the logistics, costs, and told them about the volunteers who joined me. I also explained how the 20,000 people who attended the event saw their artwork and how these 20,000 people now know there is a group of women in prison in Peru who create beautiful embroidery. The women laughed gleefully at this, exclaiming, “We are famous!”.
At the market, many people asked me to pass on a message to the women: “You all are so talented and an inspiration to us.” When I told the women this, one exclaimed, “Somos importantes!” (We are important!). What is incredible about this moment is that it demonstrates the connection between how when the women’s work is valued, their self-esteem and sense of importance in our world strengthens. This is crucial for a group of women who are marginalized and looked down upon by society.
I also explained to the women which products sold best and why. The women were really interested in this topic and said they were, in some respects, grateful for the products that didn’t sell because they learned what to focus on in the future. This is such a powerful example of the women’s willingness to learn and push themselves to do better (Ser Grande).
The next topic we discussed were the areas in which we had problems with the order. From pieces not being completed to small details being left unfinished (like loose threads), I pointed out all the areas we fell short. One area was in the quality of the embroidery. Some of the embroidery was incredible, other embroidery was unskilled. I brought a few examples and the group was outraged by what I showed them. They picked the pieces apart, pointing out all the reasons the embroidery wasn’t good enough, including a few points I had missed. What we they realized is that they are the experts in embroidery. They decided that they need to carefully review all the products (even those that are not their own) so that their work as a group is the very best.
The next part of the talk was about how they envision their production model. This process was really generative and I will write a blog post about it tomorrow, as it warrants its own post!
Finally, I distributed reading glasses that I received at the Folk Art Market’s Artisan Resource Fair. This was the fun part because the women were trying on glasses, reading the eye exams I brought, and laughing at how each other looked. It was rewarding to see them finally get glasses, as many of them complain about not being able to see well.
Before I left I was admiring one of the women’s earrings. They were from a store that belonged to another woman (yes, they have small booths that are shops in the prison). The earrings are really silly- the front is the animal head and the back the animal’s behind. The women insisted that I pick out a pair as a gift. As the women gave them to me, one hugged me and said, “I love you so much.” Sweetness, silliness, and authenticity were all bundled into this single moment, which made such a treasure to experience.