August 01, 2013

Northwest Connections to Empowering Women

To accompany our new Empowering Women: Artisan Cooperatives that Transform Communities exhibit, the Burke Museum created a special display featuring local entrepreneurs, organizations, and committed global citizens who are supporting artisans and transforming communities around the world.

From Wallingford to Mongolia, from the Skagit Valley to the Valley of Oaxaca, each of these efforts uses traditional arts and crafts to address contemporary social issues.

Here's a peek at the stories behind the Burke’s Northwest Connections display.

Haiti Babi: Helping Haitian Mothers

Kaitlin Jackson and Kari Davidson walking in Haiti.
Photos courtesy of Haiti Babi.
Seattle residents Katlin Jackson and Kari Davidson met at a social entrepreneurship start-up event. Both were looking for a meaningful way to “give back” through their work. Both had volunteered at orphanages and they shared a passion for reconnecting separated families

Now, they run a socially conscious business together. Haiti Babi hires Haitian women to knit and crochet artisan baby blankets. With a source of steady income, the mothers who work for Haiti Babi are empowered to care for their families and their communities.

Awamaki: A Seattleite in Ollantaytambo, Peru

Awamaki’s co-founder Kennedy Leavens recently finished a
Masters in Public Administration from UW, where she specialized
in non-profit management. She loves the pace and quality of life in
Ollantaytambo, Peru. Photo courtesy of Awamaki.
Seattleite Kennedy Leavens first visited Ollantaytambo on a high school service trip. The trip inspired her to study Latin America and international development in college and, after graduating from Georgetown, Kennedy moved to Ollantaytambo to volunteer with a non-profit organization working with local weavers. When that organization began to dissolve, Kennedy decided she would stay in Peru and found a new organization. She currently serves as the executive director of Awamaki.

Awamaki’s Women’s Cooperative Program supports weavers, knitters and seamstresses by teaching income-building skills, such as weaving for custom orders and financial management. By developing a local livelihood source, Awamaki’s work is allowing women to negotiate the modern cash economy on their own terms, without leaving their communities to find jobs in large cities.

From the Skagit Valley to the Valley of Oaxaca

Pastora Gutierrez, founder Vida Nueva, with a tapete.
Photo courtesy of Vida Nueva.
Ginny Darvill is a Skagit Valley resident with friends in the local Oaxacan community. After she traveled to Oaxaca in 2010, she brought home a beautiful rug from the rural village of Teotitlan del Valle. When buying the rug, she was impressed not only by its quality and beauty, but by the feisty attitudes at the women’s weaving cooperative where the rug was made.

When friends admired her rug, Ginny took it as opportunity to help her new Oaxacan friends by acting as a broker for rug sales. Four trips to Oaxaca and 150 rugs later, she is immersed in helping to further Vida Nueva’s mission to create economic opportunities for women, serve their community, and preserve the members’ Zapotec heritage.

Snow Leopard Trust: Reaching out from Wallingford to Northwestern Mongolia

These decorative items, called Kazakh centerpieces, were handcrafted in herding communities
in northwestern Mongolia. Photo courtesy of Snow Leopard Trust.

Visit the Good Sheppard Center in Wallingford and you’ll find a number of women hard at work to protect Central Asia’s snow leopards. They work for Snow Leopard Trust, a conservation group that simultaneously works to protect snow leopards from harm and to improve the lives of people who share habitat with the leopards.

Through the “Snow Leopard Enterprises” project, herding communities have an opportunity to augment their household incomes by making and selling felted wool handicrafts. Snow Leopard Trust was founded by Seattleite Helen Freeman; today it is the leading conservation group focused on protecting snow leopards.

Campus Connections to a Lao Locale

Alicia Akins wearing a Tai Deng cotton scarf.
Photo courtesy of the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre.
The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC) is an inspirational grassroots organization that promotes pride and appreciation for diverse cultures in Laos. Despite being located 7,021 miles away from Seattle, in Luang Prabang, Laos, TAEC has two strong connections back to the University of Washington.

Linda McIntosh, a founding member of its Board of Advisors, attended Museum Studies classes at UW and Alicia Akins, who currently serves as TAEC’s Programmes Director, graduated from the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies and took Museology classes at the Burke. Both Linda and Alicia used the skills they learned at the Burke Museum to help women raise their standard of living through cultural preservation.

Earthues: A colorful bond between Ballard and Cusco, Peru

Eathues founder Michele Wipplinger with staff member Tee Meh.
Photo courtesy of Earthues.
Michele Wipplinger is an author, educator, photographer, master dyer and designer. Through her Ballard-based business, Earthues, she helps create a larger market for naturally-dyed woven goods.

The Burke is fortunate to have an item from Michele’s personal collection, a piece by master weaver Nilda Callanaupa, on display. Callanaupa is the founder of the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco, one of the cooperatives featured in Empowering Women, and one of Earthues’ many worldwide partners.


The Empowering Women: Artisan Cooperatives that Transform Communities exhibit will be open at the Burke Museun now through October 27, 2013. Visit our website for more information.