Allpa

Allpa is named for a Quechua Indian word that means "earth." Allpa is a Peruvian craft trading company providing marketing assistance to artisan groups and family workshops throughout Peru. In addition, Allpa provides technical help, product development advice, skills training, tools and appropriate equipment to artisans. Artisans can access short-term and mid-term loans to improve infrastructure and their workshops. Allpa works with families located in Cusco, Ayacucho, Chulucanas, Cajamarca and Huancavelica as well as Shipibo people living in the Amazon rainforest area of Pucalepa. For most of these people, craft production is a sole source of income.


Allpa began active work as an alternative trading organization in 1986. Ten Thousand Villages has purchased products from Allpa since 1988.


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Ancient Heritage of Chulucanas Pottery

The distinctive Chulucanas pottery pieces sold by Ten Thousand Villages are not only striking home accent items; they derive from ancient ceramic traditions of northern Peru. Thousands of years ago, potters of the Vicus culture of Peru’s coastal deserts were known throughout the land as the finest ceramic artists. Using the clay beneath their feet and natural symbols around them, and guided by a strong religious inspiration, these artisans fashioned elegantly shaped, subtly painted ceramic pots.



Hand-burnished with volcanic rock, decorated with earth colors of naturally-dyed slips, and based on ancient cultural motifs, Chulucanas pottery is made by the descendants of these artists. Chulucanas pottery can be considered a true inheritance from the pre-Colombian art of the Vicus, not only because of its quality, but also because its artists have captured the same techniques developed more than 2,000 years ago on the northern coast of Peru.



Chulucanas is a town in northern Peru, near the foothills of the Piura highlands and not far from the border with Ecuador. In the 1960s, the Moncada and Sosa families of Chulucanas began a serious study of early decorative ceramic methods. They began by making fruit and animal shapes, and later added human figures typical of the local cultural environment. These included "chicheras”—women and children, families, dancers, birds and a variety of animals from the desert.



These modern-day artisans also researched the “negative-positive” technique that is characteristic of Chulucanas pottery, and its renewed use has now evolved into a wide variety of shades ranging from light to a dark, almost black ocher. Artisans create the designs on Chulucanas pottery using clay-based natural substances called "engobes." First they coat the entire piece with an off-white engobe and fire it in a kiln. They then place the piece in a special pit fueled with smoldering mango leaves. This causes the engobe’s coated survace to present a light gold appearance.



In a next step, artisans draw designs and paint them with slip, a diluted clay mixture. Then they return the piece to the pit for additional exposure to the smoke created by the smoldering mango leaves, creating the piece’s dark color. Finally, the piece is burnished with a stone, and finished with wax.



The Tradition Continues

Jorge Alexander Calle Sosa, an artisan working with Allpa, is a native of Chulucanas, Piura. Despite the fact that most members of his mother’s family were devoted to the production of ceramics, as a young adult Jorge had not himself directly participated. It was only after completing school, and working in a candied fruit factory that he started working at the ceramics workshop of his uncle, José Sosa.



“When I started, I knew nothing about the production processes. Little by little, I discovered a whole new world in the workshop. I stayed after working hours to see how the decoration and smoking was done, and began learning all the processes. I frankly liked it, and did not mind staying up all night at the workshop.”



In 2003, Jorge decided to start his own workshop. ‘The history of my workshop began with less than $200 U.S., because it was the only thing I had. The land had no facilities, not even electricity, and the time was running against me. I informed my client of this situation, and was given an advance on an order. With that money I contracted the electricity company and bought even the street light poles and straw mats for the lot. I leveled out the land because it had mounds, and in these conditions I began the production. I knew people [skilled in this craft], and so I was able to hire workers. That is how I got out my first big order.”



Allpa is named for a Quechua Indian word that means “earth.” Allpa is a Peruvian craft trading company providing marketing assistance to artisan groups and family workshops throughout Peru. In addition, Allpa provides technical help, product development advice, skills training, tools and appropriate equipment to artisans. Artisans can access short-term and mid-term loans to improve infrastructure and their workshops. Allpa works with families located in Cusco, Ayacucho, Chulucanas, Cajamarca and Huancavelica as well as Shipibo people living in the Amazon rainforest area of Pucalepa. For most of these people, craft production is a sole source of income.

Growing Success in Peru

Luz Camara and her husband, Antonio, are the founders of the Creaciones Camara workshop, located in the hillside neighborhood of Ciudad y Campo Santa Rosa in Peru’s capital, Lima.



A former industrial engineer, Antonio started their business producing inexpensive stamped brass and alpaca jewelry items—for the “hippie types,” he said with a smile. Creaciones Camara has since expanded its line of jewelry to include distinctive pieces crafted from silver and semi-precious stones.



Antonio continues to manage the logistics of Creaciones Camara. Luz is the “energy source” fueling the business; she provides design input, and works closely with Ten Thousand Villages trading partner Allpa, based in Lima. The workshop has collaborated with Allpa for 10 years, gradually increasing their production to the point where they are now Allpa’s number two jewelry producer.



Allpa has assisted Creaciones Camara with developing sound business practices, encouraging them to reinvest profits into the business. With Allpa’s help, the workshop has been able to lower their costs, enhance their efficiency, increase their wage levels and improve working conditions. Their newest products are a necklace and earrings (see sidebar) to be introduced in February. The necklace is a strand of mixed clear and stained alabaster stone chips, with a pendant of Peruvian aragonite, named for the province in northern Spain where it was first found. Aragonite is believed by many to have healing properties, grounding physical energy and calming emotional stress.



Allpa is named for a Quechua Indian word that means “earth.” Allpa is a Peruvian craft trading company providing marketing assistance to artisan groups and family workshops throughout Peru. In addition, Allpa provides technical help, product development advice, skills training, tools and appropriate equipment to artisans. Artisans can access short-term and mid-term loans to improve infrastructure and their workshops. Allpa works with families located in Cusco, Ayacucho, Chulucanas, Cajamarca and Huancavelica as well as Shipibo people living in the Amazon rainforest area of Pucalepa. For most of these people, craft production is a sole source of income.



In 1982, a group of economists, anthropologists and sociologists of the Universidad Católica of Lima created Allpa to improve living standards of handicrafts producers. Allpa began active work as an alternative trading organization in 1986.



Ten Thousand Villages purchases pottery, jewelry, ornaments, nativities, painted wood and glass pieces from Allpa. Ten Thousand Villages has purchased products from Allpa since 1988.

Peruvian Artisans Offer Alpaca and Silk Shawls

Allpa staff began working with artisans in the village of Paucara in the Huancavelica Department of Peru because they recognized the beauty of the traditional weaving in that part of the country. By incorporating artisans’ traditional skills and available industrial materials, Allpa Executive Director Maria Del Carmen de La Fuente and Executive Art Director Nelly Canepa found a way for weavers to create unique alpaca products.



Allpa, named for a Quechua Indian word that means “earth,” works with approximately 2,000 families from 100 artisan groups and family workshops in different parts of Peru. In addition to marketing assistance, Allpa provides technical help, product development advice, skills training, tools and appropriate equipment to artisans.



In addition to Paucara, Allpa works with families located in Cusco, Ayacucho, Chulucanas and Cajamarca as well as Shipibo people living in the Amazon rain forest area of Pucallpa. For most of these people, craft production is their only source of income.

Modern Folk Art Reflects Ancient Tradition

Jorge Chavez, originally from Ayacucho, Peru works with his family and relatives to recreate the art of their past. For the past 12 yrs Chavez has specialized in traditional Ayacucho style retablo and imagery art. The paper star ornaments are a modern interpretation of this famous folk art. Chavez cuts the star shapes out of cardboard, and he and his family members paint each star shape by hand. A string is placed between two star faces before they are joined with glue to create the three- dimensional star shape, which is brushed with a coat of lacquer for shine and durability.



Ten Thousand Villages artisan partner, Allpa, has worked with the Chavez family for the past ten years. The family is one of many who relocated from their lush village lives to the dusty concrete streets of "young towns" or squatter communities in the capitol city of Lima. The Chavez family has great reason to hope; after years of hard work, Jorge will be receiving a loan from Allpa to improve his living conditions and workshop. As you display these bright and festive painted star ornaments you can know that you are giving hope to the Chavez family and to countless others that they may touch in return.

Providing Income for the Future

Eulogio Medina and Guillermina Salome live in the central Andes town of Cochas, Peru, where they work as gourd artisans. Early gourd artisans engraved with live embers. Today most artisans use a pirograbador, an engraving instrument with a hot wire tip.



Medina Handicrafts exports gourd ornaments and musical instruments through Allpa and Manos Amigas, long-standing Ten Thousand Villages artisan partners.



Medina, Salome and their son, Tito Medina, employ up to 20 artisans in their engraving workshop. Artisans working at Medina Handicrafts have a source of stable income and are able to send their children to school. Farmers in the northern coastal town of Chiclayo plant and harvest gourds for Medina Handicrafts, giving them a local market and job stability in their home community.



Manos Amigas is a nonprofit organization connected with an Assemblies of God church in Lima. Manos Amigas, which means “hands joined in friendship,” works with small family cooperatives that make ceramics and jewelry in the marginalized communities or “young towns” of Lima and in the Andean highlands. Manos Amigas offers artisans training in technical skills, quality control and accurate costing and pricing.



As a community outreach program, Manos Amigas donates 20 percent of their proceeds to Ninos Felices, a Sunday morning feeding program held at the local church, which feeds up to 400 children from the surrounding community. The money donated to Ninos Felices also helps to pay for uniforms and school supplies for the children in the community.



Ten Thousand Villages purchases ceramic ornaments, retablos, ceramic jewelry and other ceramic decorative pieces from Manos Amigas.



Allpa is named for a Quechua Indian word that means “earth.” Allpa began work as an alternative trading organization in 1985. Its marketing assistance reaches approximately 2,000 families from 100 artisan groups and family workshops in different parts of Peru.



In addition to marketing assistance, Allpa provides technical help, product development advice, skills training, tools and appropriate equipment to artisans. Artisans can access short-term and mid-term loans to improve infrastructure and their workshops. For most of these people, craft production is their only source of income.



Ten Thousand Villages purchases ceramic objects, jewelry, painted wood, scarves and glass pieces from Allpa.

The Art of Chulucanas Pottery

In Chulucanas, a small town on the north coast of Peru, local potters have been creating unique clay items for centuries. The inhabitants of the town descend from the Tallanes, the ancient pre-Columbian people that inhabited this region. They developed the negative, or reverse technique, ceramics displayed today in some museums under the name of Vicús pottery.



Chulucanas pottery is uniquely created through a multi-step process. First, the piece is formed using several techniques: paddling, rolling, tableting and using a wheel or an extruder. Once shaped and in a leathery state, the piece is painted with a slip made from clay and pigment. Then comes one of the most important steps in the process: the burnishing or polishing which includes rubbing the entire visible surface with river stones of several forms and sizes to obtain a fully satin and homogenous surface. This operation is repeated three times and requires great skill so that the piece will not be damaged or cracked. Once dry, the pot is stacked in the wood-fired kiln and heated to a temperature of approximately 700 to 900 degrees centigrade.



The next stage is the decoration, or slip casting, in which liquid clay is used to cover the areas that are to be kept intact, while the areas the potter wishes to darken are left uncovered. This method is known as “reverse.” The decorated piece is then loaded into the smoke kiln where burning mango leaves will produce smoke that will darken the piece. A resin is also applied that adheres to the pot giving it the characteristic brilliance of the Chulucanas style. This firing is done two or three times until the desired shade of brown or black is obtained. The pieces are then cleaned to remove the slip and a final finish wax is applied to highlight the impeccable satin characteristic. Product care: A waterproof solution is applied to completed utilitarian pieces such as bowls and flower vases to give them a 95 percent water retention capacity. When completed, each item is signed by the artists who created it.



José Sosa is one of the artists in Chulucanas who creates the beautiful pottery. He began working with pottery in 1975. In 1997 the couple began sending samples to Allpa. Today, José and Rosita’s workshop provides 90 percent of Allpa’s items. José completes the paleteado process, or the shaping of the pottery by using a small stone, a wooden paddle and the inner sole of his foot. Rosita specializes in burnishing, giving the finishing touch to the pottery.



In 1999 Allpa decided that substantial support should be given to José, to enable him to increase his production and accept larger orders. Because of this support, José now has a larger workshop, one that includes four pottery wheels, two kilns for firing and two kilns for smoke. He recently presented a new collection of pottery at the Frankfurt Fair with great success. José and Rosita are also involving their children as they grow older.

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