Travel to Bolivia – May 8th

Travel to Bolivia – May 8th

Exciting news.  I’ll be traveling to Bolivia for a short visit to oversee production, labeling and review construction details so the KUSIKUY glitten truly is the best glitten ever!  I will also be  documenting the knitting lifestyle.  Right now we’re deciding which technology is best – DSLR or Mirrorless for capturing small videos and photos of the women’s life on film.  What do you think?

mask 2I am amassing face masks, head lamps and reading glasses to help make knitting a more comfortable endeavor for our elite artisans.  We’re looking for donations!  Please mail items to PO Box 2293, Brattleboro, VT  05303 or contact me.

I’ll be returning with supplies for our Kickstarter campaign – bringing back Bolivian gifts and prototype glittens to offer to the folks who support the re-launch.  What would you want to receive with a kickstarter?  Charango guitars?  Pan flutes?  Chairo soup?  Dried llama meat?  Bolivian coffee?  Chocolate?  Backpack?gifts 2

Graduating the Mentorship

Graduating the Mentorship

Wow!  6 months ago, the KUSIKUY relaunch was an idea.  I was going to mom & pop – DIY the glittens along with the knitters, struggling ceato keep prices low and quality high, squeezing corners and still not getting it to work out.  Selling KUSIKUY as “eco ethical” and trying appeal to the amorphous “eco friendly” market.  Then I met John Sorontino of the Cambridge Entrepreneur Academy and he changed my life.  “These are the best mittens in the world!” he exclaimed and then went on to show me how they were, and he was right!

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KUSIKUY mittens are hand knit by Bolivia’s elite knitters, descendants of the clothiers of great pre-Incan kings.

 

Made of the finest fiber in the world – Bolivian alpaca is scientifically proven to be of the highest quality there is and a direct lineage from the original herds of Incan kings.  With production by elite knitters, and descendants of Incan courtiers,  And a rich, deep history of dating back to the world’s greatest ancient empire, KUSIKUY brings the heritage of Andean luxury to today’s royalty.

Working with Valley Venture Mentors and the many other folks who helped along the way: Jennifer Williams of Verilliance, Amy Shapiro from the CDC,  Rob LaPorte of 2Disc, and many more.  KUSIKUY is now emerging as a leading Sustainable Luxury Brand.  Even more awesome I just graduated from the VVM mentorship program with a great cohort of 8 other entrepreneurs looking to make a difference and bring amazing products and services to the world.  Now it’s actually happening…

1000 stitches

1000 stitches

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KUSIKUY – hand knit with love by 20 generations of royal Inca artisans.

Each KUSIKUY glove is knit with at least 1,000 stitches.

Blogger Brandie wrote this beautiful poem about knitting 1,000 stitches and it so perfectly echoes the sentiments the KUSIKUY knitters share with me as they knit, imagining who the busy person in a far away land wearing their knits will be…

And as I knit each stitch for you,
I knit in prayers of happiness and joy
I knit in wishes of a life of lots of laughter
I knit in hopes of goodness and lots of smiles
I knit in hugs and love for the moments you need them, despite hoping you never will
I knit in thoughts that you will have a well-knit community around you.
This is what I knit for you.

As I knit, my anxiety slips off like a stitch being dropped
As I knit, the sadness I carry lightens
As I knit, worries about my health disappear
As I knit, I feel like I’ve found my place in the world
As I knit, I am filled with joy and happiness as I picture you with the finished product
This is what I knit for me.

I knit for you
I knit for me
As the yarn is joined together, for a moment, so are we
Just for a moment. 
As I knit each stitch for you

Thank you, Brandie and all of the world’s  amazing knitters.

Day 14 – Are Bolivian women growing quinoa like the women growing coffee or knitting?

Day 14 – Are Bolivian women growing quinoa like the women growing coffee or knitting?

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KUSIKUY´s La Imillia Fair Trade knitters. Arani, Bolivia

As I get ready for my research with women quinoa growers, I think back to my work with Bolivian knitters and coffee farmers. In 2010 I arrived in Bolivia asking the Fair Trade knitters with whom I had been working with for 12 years, why they always joked about Fair Trade, asking if it was really fair. This become the basis of my doctorate thesis and enabled me to develop my own ethnographic research method to find out the answer. The result was a surprise! The women benefitted more from the leadership, time management, project planning, and organizational skills they learned while managing orders, than from the actual product earnings, which fluctuated unpredictably. Fair Trade, it turned out was a step for them to learn to work together, bring new projects to their communities, and (sometimes) move on to more steady, desirable work.

I was curious about the women working in Fair Trade coffee and two years later, embarked on a similar study of Bolivia’s Fair Trade coffee. Here I found a completely different story! The women worked very closely with their husbands to grow a few acres of coffee. There was a complex and well established system of cooperatives with ample technical assistance, credit, market access and steady earnings. The community of Caranavi, Bolivia’s coffee capital, reminded me of an industrious little anthill (turned upside down since Caranavi was more of a valley than a hill). These women had what the Fair Trade knitters lacked; steady income. But they lacked what the Fair trade knitters had; a voice, representation and a sense of self-importance. The men ruled the farms and often made decisions without consulting the women. New programs were springing up to help build more gender equity, but these were just beginning when I was there.

Though the rules of Fair Trade are basically the same worldwide, the experiences of the people working within these rules vary tremendously. I wonder what I will find next as I enter into the study of women quinoa farmers…