Woven Tuna is
the lifework of Master Weaver
Wilber "Mario" Quispe Huaman
in collaboration with
textile artist Gwendi Raymond
“Todos los diseños que tenemos son llenos del espiritu del arte. Cada trabajo esta hecho con mucho amor, según la inspiración del momento, con la esperanza de seguir adelante con el arte.”
(All of our designs are full of the spirit of the artist. Each piece is created with love, in the moment’s inspiration, with the hope of moving forward with art.)
Wilber has led a rich artistic and spiritual life, beginning almost four decades ago when, at the age of 13, he first learned to weave with his older brother, Charly. He was a very talented student of Peruvian textile art, who designed acclaimed weavings that were sold in Europe at 16, opened his own weaving studio at 17, and won his first national prize in his native Peru at 21 years old – the first of a long series of honors and awards, in Peru and internationally.
Wilber’s weaving journey has always been filled with inspiration from his personal history and the rich Andean traditions and history handed down from his ancestors.
Today, all of Wilber’s artwork continues to derive from his deep dedication to maintaining Ayacuchan textile traditions, rather than relying on the many shortcuts that have become practice among Peruvian textile in recent years.
This immensely laborious process begins with hand spun organic wool from sheep who are raised high in the Andes mountains. He combines three strands of this hand spun yarn into a beautiful, durable three-ply yarn which is then worked into skeins, washed and prepared for dyeing. Plant dyeing begins with collecting plants materials, and takes place in a large metal vat over a wood fire. With the advent of easily acquired chemically dyed yarn, the natural plant dyeing method is fast becoming a lost art, but Wilber is a dyeing master who is able to achieve an incredible palette of natural colors, using pure plant materials and combinations.
Plant dyed yarn is durable and colorfast, and the rich colors make a wonderful base for Woven Tuna weavings. Each hand-woven piece requires many hours at the loom – from a couple of days for the smallest pieces to several months for Wilber's masterpiece, “El Niño Perdido”.
Inception of Woven Tuna
When Gwendi and Wilber met, they immediately recognized their mutual appreciation for the exchange of art, language and ideas between their two cultures. (They also laughed a lot.) Their plans to create a business to showcase Wilber’s mastery of his art, and to provide him complete freedom to follow his artistic and personal desires, were formed during the most restrictive period of the pandemic in 2020. As soon as she was able to travel, Gwendi went to Ayacucho to learn about the process of producing the wool, prior to weaving, at Wilber’s side. They also exported six traditional Ayacuchan looms and many kilos of hand dyed wool, to Florida and Minnesota. Since then they have worked and lived together, dyeing, weaving and traveling to art fairs around the US.
Time with Art Andes
Wilber traveled from 2003-2019 to Minnesota in the Northern United States, working for Art Andes, a Minnesota-based business. During these years he showed his artwork at farmers markets and some of the major Midwestern art fairs, demonstrating his deep knowledge of weaving and dyeing technique to a growing clientele.
Through his relationship with Art Andes, Wilber’s financial situation improved tremendously, providing him the ability to not only support his large extended family but also to provide support to his home community of Paccha in the Ayacucho region of Peru, in the Peruvian Andes. Along with his work for Art Andes, Wilber and the owner of Art Andes developed "Comunidad”, an organization that worked to raise the standard of living and made great progress in improving the lives of the people of Paccha. (Learn more about Comunidad here.)
Art Andes was a wonderful step for Wilber’s artistic journey and there arrived the moment that, as an acclaimed, mature artist, he had the desire to work on his own, independently creating his art and following his own destiny. The mutual decision for Wilber to stop working with Art Andes occurred at the beginning of 2020. He left his Lima workshop in the sure hands of his oldest son, who continues to work with Art Andes up to the present time, with the help of many other artistically talented family members.
Why Woven Tuna?
Tuna in Spanish means Prickly Pear Cactus!
The tuna plant has tremendous value in the Andes, providing food, powerful medicine, and a habitat for the cochineal, an insect which is the source of cochineal dye, the revered vibrant red carmine dye that is known to have been used for thousands of years.
In weaving tuna, we weave the stories of our lives.
Wilber with tuna and cochinilla, at the ruins of an ancient Wari city above Huamanga, in Ayacucho. Look closely to see the cochinilla, which appears white and turns red with just a finger rub.
Colores en molle 2020
Weaving Journeys Together
We dream of creating an Artists Community
Our dream is to create a worldwide community of textile artists and plan for a beautiful, creative future where weavers and dyers come together in our studios, now in Ayacucho, Peru, and in Melbourne, Florida, and here in dialogue on the Woven Tuna website.
Please join our community of members and participate in the weaving forum.