Handicrafts in Cusco and Puno by:Gary Sargent
Styles of Pottery Design in Cusco and Puno
The works of Peruvian artisans display weaving with a harmony of geometric designs, the cultural elements blending with the retalbo boxed scenes, miniature pictures of peasant life on carved gourds. Sculptures produced include stone, wood and gold and silver relics as well as many forms of pottery. The Inca tradition has heavily influenced the pottery of Cusco. The Inca Renaissance was a movement that helped to revitalize Cusco art and resulted in a great many pieces of pottery, including flower motifs, dishes and a variety of types of crockery. Another style of Cusco pottery is known as the grotesque tradition, a design created by Eriberto Merida and derived from the figurines in Quinua pottery. This style tends to display rough characters such as peasants and picture of Christ with facial features that are deformed and hands that are over sized.
A Load of Bull
One of Peru's most well-known pieces of pottery that is created by the artisans of Puno is a ceramic bull. It originated as a sacramental element during the branding of cattle ceremony. Shaped as a flask, the bull figure was used to hold something known as chiha, a mixture of the blood of cattle, which was then drunk by the high priest conducting the ceremony. Churches, country chapels and homes are also created by Puno potters and their humble designs are typically covered by a white glaze. In addition, potters include figurines and designs depicting dancers, musicians and different types of flora and fauna from the area around Lake Titicaca.
Textiles of Cusco and Puno
An important source of income for many mountain communities, including Cusco and nearby markets such as Pisac and Chinchero is the production of textiles. In these areas can be found a great number of weaving cooperatives and exhibitions of native textiles. Weavers have been creating textiles for many generations. The region from which the textile comes plays a large part in the color and quality of the designs and defining a personal and community identity.
The weaving display symbols that are visual metaphors of the relationship between the spiritual and world and the Quecha people. Cusco textiles are primary woven by hand from the wool of alpaca or sheep. The process starts with the yarn being spun by hand on drop-spindles and then colored using natural dyes from extracts from plants, insect larvae or mineral oxides. A loom is then used to weave. It may take up to several months to produce larger items such as shawls or ponchos. The weavers more often than not sell their pieces directly to the public, giving them an opportunity to discuss the significance of the design and symbolism and for the buyer to praise the work.
Each textile is a unique and beautifully made item and purchasing such textiles directly from the community serves to help the local economy and preserve local self-esteem as well as contribute to a tradition and culture that has remained unchanged for hundreds of years. If you are on a trip to Peru, be sure to include a visit to a handicrafts market in either the Cusco or Puno region to be amazed by the cultural legacy on display, and even have a chance to take a piece of it home with you.
About the author
Gary Sargent is the Managing Director of the tour companies Escaped to Peru and Escaped to Latin America and has lived in South America for over 10 years. Gary is passionate about life here, the people, customs and places. To learn more or to book your next adventure please visit http://www.escapedtolatinamerica.com