Ursula Yraola

I floated around the Byron Bay festival of design drooling over all of the handmade, ethically made treasures like clothes, art, jewellery. My little family traipsed behind me ( I say traipsed because my little tribe is all boys – including a teenager and a pre-teen, this was not their idea of a good time, in a town with surf beaches). With my eldest boy glued to my side (only because he thought, he could annoy me into leaving if he followed me around, while his father and brother left me to exploring and sat on the hill under an umbrella and listened to live music). When my boy and I were making our way around, the creators, designers and artists, I had the opportunity to meet the lovely Ursula. The brunette with softly spoken voice, sitting amongst her unique handmade handbags questioned me if I really did want to do an interview. “Really it may be hard because of my language? My accent is thicker, as I have recently returned from home.” Ursula is one half of the mother/daughter partnership of Warayana – textiles, handbags, and leather goods handmade using traditional techniques by women in small communities in the Andes, Peru, who are working at keeping this ancient tradition alive. My boy and I were fascinated by her story, her passion and her accent.

“Three year I have been in Australia for! Actually it was when I came to Australia, I started to appreciate my country, all the handmade things, the communities, the traditions, the woman.

So since I have been back, I have been showing the world these amazing textiles and helping the women at the same time. Our workshop is in Peru, me and my mum design the bags. So my mum she’s been working with leather for thirty years, so she knows how to work with-it you know. I had this idea to start working with the communities because I used to live in Cusco, I lived and worked in Cusco for 7 years. So I have been in contact with all of these communities in the communities and I am friends with all the artisans. So special watching these amazing textiles being made, they are made by the women in the traditional way. So each pattern can represent each season for the Inca’s, each pattern has a story behind it, it represents all the traditions in the Andes from Peru. It takes about 3 days to weave.

So the people there, they are losing these traditions, of the weaving, the natural dyes. So me and my mum we are trying to encourage the communities and the women and trying to work with them to keep this tradition alive. This is a tradition that is handed down from mother to daughter, through the women. Only the women in the Incan communities do this, it is the women that are the weavers. And the males work in the, in the agriculture. The women they stay at the home weaving and dyeing as well. Llama and alpaca wool is used, depending on the bag and the dye is made from plants and seeds they are all natural dyes. We are trying to keep everything natural. Now they are having this problem where people are trying to bring in the synthetic dyes, we are avoiding that and keeping everything natural. They are losing this traditional method because now young people just want to go to the city, with all the technology and leave all the natural beautiful world behind. So we are trying to keep them working there and happy. That is why we pay a fair price for the textiles. So that they are happy staying there and being paid.

Mum, she ships the traditionally made bags to Australia. A few months ago we started to sell them in Sydney, Byron, Mullumbimby, Sunshine Coast, Hawaii.

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