the impetus for this most recent trip to bolivia was a desire to grow our partnership with the community of women that makes l’aviva home’s incredible hammocks. i was introduced to these hamacas atadas on my last trip to bolivia and have been captivated by them ever since.
each requires a month of careful work to complete. the process – which has slowly evolved over centuries – is totally unique, not only to the country or region but to the work of this specific group of women. hand-spun cord is woven on horizontal looms to create a kind of fused macramé. a crocheted lace pattern is added to line the sides while braids and tassels are attached to finish the traditional hanging beds, used throughout the region since the pre-columbian era.
the women who make the hammocks are guarayos - one of the indigenous groups in tropical bolivia – and they live in the remote town of urubichá. the village lays alongside the rio blanco, on the approach to the bolivian amazon. it takes six hours by car over mostly unpaved roads to get there from santa cruz.
working with these ladies over the course of the last year via remote, i became increasingly intrigued by their story. i wanted to learn more about who they were and how they were creating something so refined and elegant in such an isolated spot. i felt drawn to forge a deeper connection, to visit them and work with them in the hope that we could make something new together.
so i set off for urubichá, with friend claudia mercado (a bolivian jewelry designer) in tow, to see how we might be able to build on the foundation of these designs as we created other outlets through which these talented women could carry their tradition into the future.
peering through the open doors of the town’s thatched-roof homes, one sees looms for weaving hammocks at almost every turn. this used to be a common sight throughout the region but today it’s almost wholly unique to urubichá - a vestige of the community’s heritage that’s been protected by its isolation.
unfortunately, very few women still use the looms to create the hamaca atadas. there just hasn’t been a demand for them, given how challenging and expensive they are to produce. raw materials are scarce. the cotton needs to come from brazil. it’s incredibly time-consuming. and, due to cost, the ladies are not able to find a local market for the products.
working together in urubichá, our project was at its core one of translation — to come to understand the process and tradition of the women’s craft enough to match the structure and spirit of the hamaca atada to the construction of some original pieces.
we set about defining those elements that made these hammocks and their design so distinctive. in doing so, we focused on the bold graphics of the patterning, the heft of the threading, and the knotted style of weaving.
and drawing on these elements, we developed the outlines for luxe oversized bags and bedcovers/throws that really embody the spirit and sensibility of their inspiration. they retain the bold design and relaxed refinement that make the hammocks so special to begin with.
to work with these women to evolve such a longstanding tradition was inspiring and i’m excited to see how the seeds that we’ve planted will come to be.