As Marta Castaneda explains it, she was born into a large and happy family. One that was privileged in a poor country. “But a country rich in culture and color and contrasts,” she says of her native Peru. After she lost her job as a journalist, she thought to herself, “What if I only worked on what I really wanted to do?” For Castaneda, that meant focusing on crafts—something she was fascinated by since a young age. She started designing and implementing development projects in rural and urban areas, helping women set up textile-focused businesses. This eventually led to her designing her own goods—ones inspired by the fabrics she collected as a 19 year old, all woven on cintra looms in the Colca Valley in Arequipa where she grew up. And with that, Pais Textil was born. Today, the brand specializes in bright, bold pillows and handbags, woven on backstrap and pedal looms with cotton and alpaca. As Castaneda explains below, Pais Textil is the embodiment of Peru itself.
You were born and raised in Peru. How does your region impact your work?
I don’t know if I could do what I do now in another part of the world. I don’t know if I would be the same if I was born in another part of the world. The city where I was born is called the White City, because of the white volcanic stone with which it has been built. And that contrast of black/shadow and white/stone is in the designs of Pais Textile. I think colors are also very influenced by the Andean world. And tassels are indisputably Andean…and universal.
It’s been a tough year - How have you grown during the pandemic in ways you might not have expected?
I try to always be positive—though, I don’t always succeed. But I think that all darkness brings light, and by this I mean that facing so much death and disappearance from this pandemic, I think it will lead us to look more at life, to create. The great crises have generated fantastic creative movements. I don’t see why this time it won’t be like that. Will we look massively towards a more ecological, healthier, more supportive, less consumerist world? I do not think so. But I think there are more followers.
Any silver linings from the past year?
It’s all about trust. And to build trust, you need to build open and transparent relationships. In the world of retail, this is becoming a fundamental part of the process. Consumers are demanding unique, high quality products but more than that, they want origin transparency. They want the story of the product and the story of the maker. They want authenticity and assurance: the who, what, where and how.
How do you try to incorporate sustainability into your life on a daily basis?
I believe that our greatest contribution to sustainability is having worked with backstrap looms, pedal looms and hand finishes. If we can make younger generations want to learn to weave, make pompoms or embroider, we will have succeeded.
What’s the key to the handmade industry continuing to grow and thrive?
If you could have one wish for the handmade sector, what would it be?
Inspire everyone to want to have handmade objects.
Do you employ a lot of women? If so, how has it changed / affected their lives?
95 percent of the people we work with are women. A woman who receives money for her artisan work is respected in her home. And respect for women is learned. All money that a woman earns goes to her home, to improve the quality of life of her family. I love working with women; also with men. But the impact with women is always greater.